An ode to the smoking victims – By a Dermatologist
“It did not keep him warm in the cold
It just made him look old
It was a fine way to become ugly
While still believing that it felt so lovely
Not just on the outside
But a good way to rot you inside
In time, more he would know
Of the cancer and so much woe
But for now his skin began to wrinkle
And his eyes lost their twinkle
His lips and eyes were a shade too black
His nails began to crack and his mane had receded back
He thought of the devil in the cowboy hat
For he had made him believe smoking was cool
But now he knew he had been taken for a fool.”
How to look terrible while dying..
That is how I had thought of christening this blog post, but thought it was a bit too ominous. But I guess it is as truthful as it gets. Besides the very well-known effects of smoking like increased risk of heart attacks, lung disease, cancer etc. one of the first thing that actually happens to smokers is the fact that their skin, nails and hair get seriously affected.
Lets get through a few things that happen to your skin and hair when you smoke:
#1 – Pre-Mature Ageing
Want to look older than you are … start smoking. There is no better way than to look old and terrible than smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more skin wrinkling you’re likely to have — even though the early skin damage from smoking may be hard for you to see initially. Aside from pre mature aging, smoking is the strongest predictor of facial wrinkling in men and women.
For the proof seekers, here is the science to it:
The nicotine in cigarettes causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. This impairs blood flow to your skin and with less blood flow, your skin doesn’t get as much oxygen and important nutrients. Results are for all to see.
Carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco smoke also damage the collagen and elastin (the fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity) As a result, skin begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely because of smoking. Not just the face there is increased wrinkling and sagging of under arms too.
And one of the things about smoking is that it not only can cause cancer of the lungs and oral cavity but prolonged exposure can lead even to skin cancer.
#2 – Pigmentation
Smoking increases pigmentation on the face especially around eyes and lips. Not just this, it even increases pigmentation inside the mouth linked to an increased risk of oral cancer.
The science to it:
Nicotine from cigarettes gets accumulated which in turn increases melanin in the skin.
#3 – Cracking of Nails
Just like you skin, smoking deprives your nails of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in brittleness, dryness, slow growth, discoloration, cracking and peeling. This ofcourse is after every smoker goes through stained finger nails because of tobacco usage.
#4 – Hair Thinning
The toxins in cigarette smoke speed up that thinning process of hair this leads to an earlier onset of male and female pattern balding.
The science to it:
In addition to the direct damage to hair follicles and the toxins affect hormones that regulate hair growth. In addition to this the decreased blood supply and lack of nutrients to the scalp also accelerates thinning.
#5 Accelerated Skin Conditions & Delays Healing
Smoking flares up certain skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, lupus, acne etc. It increases susceptibility to infections and delays wound healing.
#6 Increased risk of Infections
Smoking increases the risks of infections in the oral cavity. These may include fungal infection, white patches on tongue, lichen planus, dry peeling inflamed lips, oral and lips cancer.
So what happens if you quit smoking?
When you quit smoking, blood and nutrient flow to the outer layers of your skin improves almost immediately.
Though your skin will never fully return to its original pre-smoking state, most of what’s damaged can be vastly improved, including collagen and elastin renewal.
Also risk of heart attacks decreases, lung functioning becomes better and there is a substantial decreased risk of cancers.
So don’t be taken for a fool. While I understand the toll it may take to quit a habit like smoking, there really is no choice.
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This article is one in a series of articles on skin conditions by Dr. Sejal Saheta – MD, DNB – Dermatology and Venereology. The objective of this series is to educate the reader and help them take precautions against various skin conditions they come across on an everyday basis. These articles are not meant to be used by patients for self-diagnosis or for avoiding proper medical treatment.