That tobacco consumption has side effects on your cardiovascular system, lungs, and overall lifespan are well-known. Smoking has been described by the World Health Organization as the single greatest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death globally. It is estimated that tobacco kills more than 7 million people every year and only in the EU is responsible for nearly 700,000 deaths every year. Around 50% of smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).
If this is not enough and you need an additional reason to motivate you to quit smoking, add premature skin aging to the list.
Smoking negatively impacts the health of the skin as it does every organ system. The relationship between cigarette smoking and skin aging is supported by epidemiological studies and in vitro and in vivo mechanistic evidence studies.
Smoking accelerates the aging process in the skin, by extracellular matrix breakdown following induction of MMP-1 expression, reducing blood flow and oxygen and increasing the cells oxidation. Smoker’s skin is characterized by prominent facial wrinkling particularly around the mouth and upper lip and eyes. In several studies performed in twins, smoking was associated with increased wrinkles, tissue laxity, up to 40% thinner skin and pigmentary changes in humans. One of these studies estimated that 10 years of smoking corresponded to a difference of appearance of roughly 3 years older (See picture below).
Right and left profiles of 52 years old twins. Smoker twin’s facial skin exhibited extensive deep wrinkling, widespread lentigines, scattered hypopigmentation, and moderate skin laxity. Source: Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(12):1543-154
Also, data suggest that smoking is associated with a darker skin colour by modifying the melanocyte activity. An epidemiological study performed in Japan revealed that female Japanese smokers have darker skin colour compared to non-smokers. Moreover, it has been proven that smoking alters skin radiance, which has been shown to improve with smoking cessation.
Besides premature aging of the skin, smokers also are more prone to have psoriasis, as well as other inflammatory skin diseases. Particularly, female smokers are more susceptible to what is known as ‘smoker’s acne. Also compared to non-smokers, cigarette smokers have twice the risk of developing a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.
But if you are a smoker, it is not too late for you. A recent study conducted in Milan for 9 months has shown that quitting smoking rejuvenates the skin. At the end of the program, an average reduction of about 13 years in the biological age of the patients’ skin was found, while, at the beginning of the study, patients presented an average biological age of 9 years older than their chronological age.
Some scientist’s studies and public health advocates believe that for many people, warnings about tobacco’s effects on the skin would be more effective than statistics on smoking, cancer and heart disease. So, if you are one of these persons I hope this reading will help you to quit smoking.
Nuria Caturla, PhD
New Product Development Manager
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