How Does Smoking Effect the Skin?

Some of my best friends smoke despite that they know how bad it is for them. While smoking is a very tough habit to break, it is worth the pain. But as we get older smokers start seeing the affects of smoking on their skin. In this blog we explore how does smoking effect the skin and what can be done to reduce the damage. The simplest answer is, smoking effects the skin dramatically by starving of skin which resulting in dull, sallow, heavy wrinkles around the month and eyes plus premature aging.

Simple facts about How Smoking effect the Skin. 

  1. When exposed to smoke the MMPS Collagen-destroying enzymes is increased, This enzyme attaches the collagen the very important skin ingredient that keeps us looking young and glowing. This is why the area around the eyes and mouth is the most affected area, due to collagen damage.
  2. Not only smoke destroys collagen it also up to 40% of production of Fibroblasts which is the collagen-making cells production every time the skin is exposed to tobacco smoke.
  3. Lipid Peroxide which is part of many of the 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke is a free radical that destroys the skins cells and results in dry, parched skin by increasing the free radicals.
  4. Not only smoking staves the skin of important oxygen it also affects the ability for the body to absorb vital vitamins and minerals. Smoking affects the skin with the reduction of Vitamin C and B which are very important as anti-oxidents and nutirician for the skin cells.
  5. Several studies have suggested that it decreases the capillary and arteriolar blood flow which leads to the possible damage to the connective tissues that helps to maintain healthy skin.
  6. Also found in some studies that tobacco smoke is phototoxic. This means that a smoker is more sensitive to UV light – (Sunlight) which causes a greater damage to skin cells than than either smoke or UV would cause on their own. This increase sensitivity will lead to higher levels of pigmentation and sun damage.
  7. Also sad news to female smokers your skin will be infected greater than a man’s skin.

Changes to physical appearance of the Skin.

How Does Smoking affect the Skin’s appearance and is more noticeable from 30 years on wards? You will see the following damage.

  1. The skin will have a slightly gray appearance which is due to the capillaries are dying and thus reduces the blood supply and oxygen to the skin.
  2. Smokers will suffer from more blackheads around the tops of the cheeks, sides of the nose, upper lip and forehead.
  3. The skin will also be dull due to the  increase free radicals and reduction of the anti-oxidants. 
  4. Premature development of wrinkles, especially  around the eyes, mouth and cheeks and around mouth.
  5. Increase of sagging of the skin around the cheeks and jowl and jaw line area.
  6. Finally smokers will suffer from under eye puffiness and bags due to the collagen damage from smoking.

So what can be done to reduce the damage smoking has caused to the skin.

Aside from the obvious – quitting smoking altogether – asap, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the affects of smoking.

  1. Increase your intake of anti-oxidants – green vegetables and also look at taking super vitamin C and B supplements.
  2. Use skincare products that feed and increase collagen. The two best ingredients that you are looking for in a serum is Vitamin C (10-20% strength with pH less than 4) and the second serum needs to contain one or both of these fabulous peptides – Caprooyl Tetrapeptide and Matrixyl 300. Read the blog on peptides
  3. To reduce the Lipid peroxide skin care products containing White Tea Extract at levels of 2%-5% have shown to  help to neutralize lipid peroxide by 55-75%.
  4. To combat the dryness and pigmentation use a hydrating moisturizer with vitamin C and E and B3. These ingredients will moisturize the skin, increase the the level of anti-oxidents and the B3 will help lighten the pigmentation and discoloration caused from smoking and heighten UV sensitivity. Plus it is very important to use a high quality Zinc based sunscreen everyday.
  5. Use a good quality encapsulated vitamin A cream at night time. Vitamin A used during the day will also increase the skin sensitivity to UV light – very important to only use at night so it has time to penetrate into the deeper levels of the skin and stimulate the collagen fibers.
  6. Use products that will increase the blood flow to the skin which can include ingredients like ginseng, peppermint and rosemary. Increase of blood flow will increase the oxygen level to the skin cells.
  7. I normally only recommend once a week but for smokers I recommend exfoliate the skin twice a week with either a physical (grandule) or Chemical Peel (AHA/BHA) exfoliater to help remove the dull thick dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.  Follow by a hydrating mask to give the skin a fighting chance to glow.

Professional Treatment to reduce the damage smoking has caused to the skin.

Home skincare products will help greatly but to accelerate the reversal of how the smoking effect the skin then enlist the professional help from you Skin therapist. By having the following professional treatments over several months you will seek the reversal of the damage and a younger and healthier skin.

  1. Series of Chemical Peels and microdermabrassion to remove the dull, pigmentate dry skin and reduce wrinkles
  2. Series of IPL, skin needling or Fractional RF to increase collagen production
  3. All these treatments should also include an Intense hydrating facial.

Need expert advice from a Medical Esthetician?  To get customized advice in person make an appointment with Debra Spence. Coming soon you will be able to schedule a virtual consultation over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.


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Debra Spence is a Qualified Medical Aesthetician, Cosmetic Scientist, Lecture and Author. Owned of an Australian National Award Winning Medi Spa. Now is concerntrating on Education of Skin and Skincare plus provideing advance treatments to her private patients. Plus developing Zen Dejour a Result Based Cosmeceutical Skincare Range and Dermal Solution Private Lable Professional Skincare.

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