Although many of these issues are not noticeable to you or others, smoking does have visible effects on your appearance that everyone can see. As an ex-smoker, I am a bit passionate about ensuring people realise the damage smoking does, here’s some ways that smoking affects the body to encourage you to kick the habit and begin your stop smoking journey.
Smoking and your skin
Your skin can age prematurely by between 10 and 20 years from smoking. This occurs as smoking reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your skin, with the result being aging skin that looks dull and grey.
The nicotine in cigarettes can cause vasoconstriction – a condition that causes blood vessels to become narrower and limits the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your skin. The problem of this condition will be seen if you suffer a wound, as vasoconstriction will take it longer to heal and result in scars appearing bigger and redder than those who aren’t affected by the condition.
Elastin and collagen also becomes deconstructed as a result of smoking due to many of the 4,000 chemicals present in tobacco. These are fibres required to give skin its strength and elasticity — lose them and sagging skin and deeper wrinkles will be the consequence, which will be seen especially around the inner arms, breasts and face.
Smoking also causes the appearance of what is known as a ‘smoker’s pucker’ – a cluster of wrinkles around the mouth due to certain muscles being overly used. Combined with a loss of elasticity to the skin, the result will be deep lines around the lips.
Smoking and your eyes
Similar to the lines that occur around the mouth, smokers are prone to wrinkles around the eyes, this is called crow’s feet. These develop earlier in smokers than in regular individuals due to the heat from lit cigarettes and as a result of smokers squinting to keep smoke out of their eyes.
Research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggested that those who smoke cigarettes are four times as likely to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep and therefore more prone to bags under the eyes. The study, which involved the analysis of the sleep architecture of 40 smokers and a matched group of 40 non-smokers who all undertook home polysomnography, also suggested that smokers spend less time in a deep sleep than non-smokers.
A quote from Naresh M. Punjabi, MD, PhD, FCCP, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD and the study’s author stated: “It is possible that smoking has time-dependent effects across the sleep period. Smokers commonly experience difficulty falling asleep due to the stimulating effects of nicotine. As night evolves, withdrawal from nicotine may further contribute to sleep disturbance”.
Smoking and your hair
Smoking can affect the thickness of your hair as it affects the strength of hair follicles. These follicles need oxygen, essential nutrients and vitamins/minerals in order to function correctly and trigger natural hair growth but, as previously discussed, smoking reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your skin. Follicles that aren’t functioning properly result in a disruption of the normal hair growth and loss cycle, which in turn causes hair thinning and eventually hair loss.