Besides being dreadfully detrimental for your overall health, smoking can (unsurprisingly) also have some nasty effects on your skin.
The first thing you think of when someone mentions is how smoking can take a huge toll on your skin causing premature skin aging. While this is true, smoking can also change the skin, and unfortunately, not for the better.
Besides aging, smoking can even cause changes in texture, the thickness of your epidermis, the color of your complexion, and yes… even acne.
It doesn’t do so in a direct, inflammatory way but it rather subtly triggers several reactions that can potentially lead to the formation of non-inflammatory acne.
In this article, I will explain to you:
- What causes acne
- How smoking causes acne
- Why smoking is terrible for the skin – and
- Several ways on how to quit smoking.
What Causes Acne?
Your skin has tiny holes or passages called pores.
Each pore of your skin is the opening to a follicle and the follicle is made up of a single hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland.
The oil gland releases an oily substance called sebum, which travels up to the hair, out of the pore, and remains onto your skin. This is the natural moisturizer that keeps your skin soft and smooth and protected from bacteria.
Acne develops when the pores on your skin become blocked with excess oil, accumulation of dead skin cells, and bacteria buildup.
When the mixture of dead skin cells accumulation and growth of bacteria clogs the pore this prevents the oil from escaping, therefore it remains inside the follicle, causing acne breakouts on the skin.
Does Smoking Really Cause Acne?
While smoking is not the main guilty factor behind full-blown, inflammatory acne, it has its own and rather complicated way of triggering several reactions that can lead to non-inflammatory acne such as open comedones (i.e blackheads).
Smoking is notoriously known for destroying the antioxidants in our body.
It also narrows the small blood vessels which transport macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals that work together to maintain the barrier functions of the skin.
This means that the nutrient and oxygen supply to the skin reduces.
The skin then becomes drained of nutrients and dehydrated, which makes it challenging to fight against harmful pathogens.
This can then lead to the overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands in order to lubricate our skin and replenish the lack of moisture as well as maintain the barrier function.
The excess sebum can then become trapped inside the pore and harden due to exposure on air through a process called oxidation and make a small sebaceous plug which is essentially called comedone (or a blackhead).
These can occur anywhere on the body but they tend to be most apparent on the face because this is the most exposed area.
What Does Smoking Do To Your Skin (& Why)?
The lack of nutrients and oxygen can furthermore have a drastic effect on our skin.
Here are some other changes you may notice if you are a smoker:
Smoking can cause wrinkles.
Smoking is notoriously known for destroying antioxidants such as vitamins E and C in our bodies.
While vitamin E is an essential antioxidant for our immune system, vitamin C is the antioxidant necessary for the support of collagen production.
Chemicals present in tobacco attack proteins that hold collagen and elastin fibers together and when the production of collagen is ceasing, this will inevitably lead to sagging and wrinkling of the skin.
Moreover, wrinkles known as “smoker’s lines” start appearing around the mouth and this comes from pursing the lips to draw on a cigarette over and over again.
Crow’s feet are a common type of wrinkles that develops at the outer edges of the eyes. For smokers, this damage usually starts much earlier than it does for non-smokers, who get crow’s feet as they age.
This is because smokers tend to squint often to prevent cigarette smoke from getting into the eyes.
Smoking can change the color of your complexion.
Carbon monoxide that is released from cigarettes is the main factor that deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients.
While healthy blood supply is recognizable by rosy cheeks and an overall nice complexion, the same cannot be said for long-time smokers whose complexion takes a grey-ish appearance.
Some smokers may appear pale, while others develop uneven coloring. These changes can begin at a young age and develop dramatically over the years.
Smoking can cause vasculitis.
Vasculitis is a type of condition involving inflamed blood vessels in some part of the body.
Smoking affects blood flow and constricts blood vessels. Blood vessels in certain areas can become blocked, resulting in pain and tissue damage.
Extreme forms of vasculitis can lead to ulcers on the skin which in even more severe cases can turn into gangrene (tissue death) and loss of the appendage can occur.
Smoking stains the skin on your fingers.
Tobacco contains chemicals that are dangerous and toxic and smokers are well familiar with these through stains on their fingers and nails.
While it is almost impossible to remove these stains with soap and water, luckily they tend to fade after you quit smoking for some time.
Smoking can trigger psoriasis.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by red, itchy, and scaly patches on the skin. It can be hereditary, or stress-induced, but smoking is also a risk factor.
This can be blamed on the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine affects the immune system, can trigger skin inflammation and can affect the growth of skin cells.
This can contribute to the development of psoriasis.
Smokers are prone to a form of psoriasis called palmoplantar pustulosis.
Speculation that stress coping techniques smokers employ (smoking cigarettes) may put smokers at additional risk of developing psoriasis.
If you are a smoker, have you noticed that cigarettes (or the lack of cigarettes for the matter) can make you extremely anxious and nervous?
7 Ways To Quit Smoking (& Achieve Healthy Looking Skin)
I am not going to go ahead and be ignorant by saying that you could easily quit if you wanted to.
Quitting cigarettes after being a long-time smoker can cause immense shock and stress to the system as it is. After all, physical addiction and a psychological habit.
Eliminating the regular nicotine fix can throw you into experiencing physical withdrawal and you may find yourself becoming more and more nervous and anxious as you are trying to quit.
The temptation will always be there for the first couple of months, but here are a few ways you could try that can help you quit smoking.
#1: Set a date.
Choose a date within the next two weeks. This will give you enough time to prepare yourself without losing your motivation to quit.
If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend, so you have a few days to adjust to the change.
#2: Identify your smoking triggers.
You can help yourself by identifying the things that make you want to smoke.
Be it specific situations, occasions, activities, feelings, and people. It is important to identify and accept these things as this will help you resist temptation easier.
#3: Tell your family and close friends.
Let the people that are around you on a daily basis know about your plan to quit smoking and ask for their support and encouragement to stop.
Look for someone who wants to stop smoking as well so you can have someone to talk to when cravings kick in.
#4: Avoid alcohol.
Many people smoke when they drink.
Alcohol and cigarettes go hand in hand and while moderate amounts of the first one can be tolerated, the second one is clearly detrimental to your health.
Try switching to non-alcoholic drinks or drink in places where smoking inside is prohibited.
Alternatively, get some snacks to keep your hands and mouth busy and the thoughts of having a cigarette away.
#5: Coping with nicotine withdrawal.
Once you stop smoking, you will likely experience a number of physical symptoms as your body withdraws from nicotine.
This withdrawal begins quickly, usually starting within an hour of the last cigarette and peaking two to three days later.
Withdrawal symptoms can last up to several weeks and slightly differ from person to person. These may include:
- Frustration or anger
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite
- Increased coughing
Withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, but it is important to remember that they are only temporary. They will get better in a few weeks time as the toxins are slowly but surely flushed from your body.
#6: Distract yourself.
It is important to manage to distract yourself from cigarette cravings. You can do this by performing the simplest of chores like doing the dishes, turning on the TV, taking a shower, or simply calling a friend.
#7: Remind yourself why you quit.
Focus on your reasons for quitting, including health benefits. Chances are that you will notice positive changes in your health and even improvement in your appearance so you will definitely have something positive to keep you going.
Think of the money you are saving, enhanced self-esteem, smelling good, lowering your risk for heart disease, and lung cancer.
I too am an ex-smoker and I can tell my skin did improve greatly once I kicked this nasty habit.
What helped my quit is the best selling book from Alan Carr, The Easy Way To Stop Smoking.
I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling with quitting smoking.
Thanks for stopping by! My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.