Tobacco products can cause wrinkling and thinning of your skin, as well as premature hair loss. Here's how.
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Not only can smoking shorten your life but it can speed aging, causing changes in your skin, hair, and teeth that may be irreversible.
Cigarettes can restrict oxygen and blood flow in the body, causing the cells on the outer layer of the skin to die, explains Sandy Tsao, MD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.
In fact, a study published in 2013 in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that just five years spent smoking is enough to cause changes to a person's face. The researchers, who examined nearly 80 pairs of identical twins, one of whom smoked and one of whom didn't, found that the twin who smoked had lower eyelid bags, more lip wrinkles, deeper "smile lines," and droopier cheeks than the sibling who didn't smoke.
These are some changes that can occur in your skin, hair, and teeth because of smoking:
1: Dry, dull skin
Because smoking "starves" the skin of oxygen, smokers' complexions can appear gray, yellow, or dull, says Dr. Tsao. Smoking can also restrict the blood flow in the capillaries, causing skin to become dry and coarse, while the nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco products constricts blood vessels, limiting the supply of vitamin A, which helps keep skin healthy.
2: Wrinkles and sagging
Smoking furthers the breakdown of elastin and triggers the release of an enzyme that degrades collagen, processes that can cause wrinkles and thinning of the skin.
Moreover, habitually smoking can actually contribute to wrinkles: When you smoke, you pucker your lips, which creates wrinkles around the mouth that, over time, can become deeper and permanent, says Tsao. And although most smokers don't realize it, they squint too, creating more wrinkles around the eye area.
3: Hair loss
People who smoke can have thinner, more fragile hair than those who don't smoke, says Tsao. Although experts aren't exactly sure why cigarettes cause hair loss, it's thought that smoking might cut off oxygen to the hair in the same way that it does to the skin.
4: Stained teeth and nails
The nicotine in tobacco products can leave yellow stains on your teeth and nails, says Tsao. Quitting will prevent staining, and you may be able to whiten your teeth with professional or over-the-counter teeth-cleaning treatments.
5: Bags under your eyes
Because nicotine is a stimulant, smoking before you go to sleep can keep you awake or reduce the quality of your shut-eye, which can cause dark circles and bags to form underneath your eyes. Luckily, quitting will probably lead to better sleep overall.
6: Skin cancer
The biggest danger that smoking poses to your skin is an increased risk of skin cancer, says Tsao, especially squamous cell carcinomas that tend to form around the mouth.
The good news is that it's never too late to stop smoking. Although some of the damage smoking causes might be irreversible, once you quit, your skin will look healthier and you'll prevent more stains from forming on your teeth and fingernails.
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