Tobacco affects the skin of both those who smoke but also those who are exposed to smoke. It should be noted that tobacco contains about 4000 toxic components, of which at least 300 are very dangerous and can have effects on the skin.
First, tobacco affects the skin by causing unwanted aesthetic effects. Although it causes skin problems all over the body, its effects are more visible on the face. There is even a pattern that defines the “smoker’s face”.
However, tobacco affects the skin more than just the aesthetic effects. In some cases, it causes serious diseases such as skin cancer.
Despite this, the good news is that if a person stops smoking in the short, medium or long term, the effects are reversible.
Tobacco affects the skin in these ways
The first biological effect of tobacco on the skin is caused by the increase of free radicals. These are chemical elements that damage cell mucosa. They even alter the genetic information and cause anomalies in the arterioles of the dermis and epidermis.
Under these circumstances, the skin’s circulation and nourishment are affected. The skin is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients, which lead to dehydration and dryness. Nicotine also contains a component called vasopressin, which increases blood pressure and decreases estrogen. At the same time, low estrogen levels lead to dryness.
On the other hand, the use of tobacco reduces the uptake of vitamin A and alters elastin and collagen. The result of all this is dry skin with diminished glow and prominent wrinkles.
One of the obvious manifestations of how tobacco affects the skin is premature aging. It is more visible in women than men and is most visible after the age of 39 years.
The wrinkles that smokers have are different from those of non-smokers. The furrows are narrower, deeper and more prominent. The contours are more prominent. One study points out that the wrinkles of some smokers aged 40 to 49 are similar to those of non-smokers aged 60 to 70.
Wrinkles are also often more prominent around the eyes and upper lip. It is common because of the facial expression the person has when they smoke. Early aging is primarily due to tobacco causing elastin debris to accumulate in the dermis , leading to the deterioration of collagen and the formation of wrinkles.
Tobacco affects skin healing
Healing problems represent another way in which tobacco affects the skin. Smoking weakens the tissues’ oxygenation, reduces circulation and poisons the blood. The consequence of this is that the wound, in particular surgical wounds, takes longer to heal.
Smokers with chronic stomach ulcers have a more unstable development and problems with healing. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are three times more likely to develop necrosis compared to non-smokers.
Other problems associated with how tobacco affects the skin
Tobacco use can trigger or aggravate many skin conditions. Some of them are:
- Alopecia or hair loss.
- Hydrosadenitis suppurativa
- Chronic hand eczema, among other things.
Tobacco also causes yellow nails and fingers, as well as teeth, as it increases bacterial plaque. The heat from the cigarette in the mouth produces repeated aggression, which can result in lip cancer. 80% of people who develop this type of cancer are smokers.
Tobacco is also a potential trigger for non-melanoma skin cancer. It can also lead to oral cancer and increase the risk of metastases.