how smoking impacts the skin

Smoking is one of the most controllable causes of disease and death today. It is also a major contributor to many skin conditions and complications, such as skin discoloration, breakdown of collagen and elastin, deep wrinkling, skin aging, poor wound healing and abnormal skin growths.

Our skin relies on oxygen in order to function properly. Air is pulled into our lungs, travels down to the smallest air sacs in the lungs, and is then carried throughout the body via the tiny and intricate network of capillaries. Without sufficient oxygen, the body and the skin suffer.

Nicotine in cigarette smoke causes vasoconstriction or blood vessel contraction, which limits the actual size of the vessel. Carbon monoxide in cigarettes bonds with oxygen, greatly reducing the amount available to the body. This combination of nicotine and carbon monoxide not only limits the size of the vessel, but also the amount of oxygen flowing through them.

some not so fun facts

  • Just one cigarette restricts blood flow for up to 90 minutes.
  • The body produces more blood vessels to compensate for the oxygen restriction due to smoking.
  • De-oxygenated skin often exhibits a grey or yellow tone.
  • It only takes 15-20 seconds for cigarette smoke to impact each part of the body.
  • Blood circulation is significantly decreased due to the vasoconstrictive nature of nicotine.

The sooner a smoker decides to quit, the sooner the vital organs and the skin start to heal. However, the breakdown of the dermal layers is not easily recovered by simply putting out the cigarette. Rebuilding of collagen, repairing elastin and improving the overall function of the dermis must be instigated.

Regular chemical peels will improve not only the production of collagen, but will also improve the tone and texture of the skin. Daily use of collagen-building topical products is also a vital component to reversing the signs of aging due to smoking. Integrating ingredients like vitamin C during the morning and retinoids at night, along with advanced peptides and epidermal growth factor, will prolong the benefits gained from monthly chemical peels.

The effects of cigarettes reach nearly every organ of the body, including the skin. The sooner a smoker puts down the cigarettes, the sooner the body will begin healing from the damage of the nicotine and various chemicals contained within. The skin, however, typically requires more attention. With monthly chemical peels and a comprehensive collagen-building daily care regimen, the skin can begin the recovery process.

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4 Responses to how smoking impacts the skin

  1. Alise says:

    Alise Hassler here, PROUD educator for PCA…Thank you for this edition of skin smart! I just came from a team meeting at the wellness clinic where I practice and we had an in depth discussion regarding smoking cessation assistance. We have a wonderful new MD on board who is passionate about this issue! I will share this posting with my team and THANK YOU PCA for consistently helping me IMPROVE PEOPLE’S LIVES!

  2. stephieestie says:

    Love this article and the education PCA Skin provides for estheticians. One question: What’s your take on E-cigarettes? I see a lot of people using them now and I am curious as to the effects they can have.

    • At this point there’s not enough research regarding the safety of e-cigarettes, even with nicotine-free versions. There is still nicotine in most e-cigarettes, not to mention added chemicals for flavor. We cannot take a firm stance due to a lack of research, but assume that many of the same negatives regarding the skin and nicotine inhalation remain.

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