It’s no secret that cigarette smoking is hazardous to our health. The long-term effects are numerous, causing a wide variety of diseases that ultimately lead to death. Smokers are reminded of this every time they pick up a pack of cigarettes, with the words “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.” plastered across every pack of cigarettes in the United States. How effective these warnings are in deterring prospective smokers and inspiring current ones to quit is not exactly known, and efforts are constantly in the works to make warning labels larger and more prominent in order to aid in smoking cessation. Perhaps a more effective warning for today’s society would be something like this: “WARNING: Smoking Ruins Your Looks and Makes You Look Older.” Here’s how:
Your body’s blood flow, or circulation, is an essential component for the maintenance of the skin’s healthy skin tone and color. Normal blood flow delivers oxygen and essential nutrients to the skin preserving its natural color and tone. Smoking affects your body’s circulation by chronically reducing the amount of blood flow to the skin. This deprives the skin of the oxygen and nutrients it needs in order to retain its vibrant color and tone. Chronic smokers will often appear pale or have uneven skin tones. These changes may become apparent at a young age.
Color and tone are not the only components that contribute to beautiful, healthy skin. The foundation of skin is its strength and elasticity, which are provided by connective tissue fibers such as collagen and elastin, respectively. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and many of them trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin. The result is sagging skin and deeper wrinkles. These include deep wrinkles around the lips, the so called “smoker’s pucker”. Everyone develops the “crow’s feet” wrinkles on the outside of the eyes eventually, but these wrinkles develop earlier and go deeper among smokers. Heat from burning cigarettes and squinting to keep smoke out of the eyes contribute to visible crow’s feet. Meanwhile, chemicals from inhaled tobacco cause internal damage to the skin structures and blood vessels around the eyes, leading to the development of bags under the eyes.
The face isn’t the only part of your physical appearance that is damaged by the effects of smoking. Your figure can also feel the premature effects of aging caused by chronic tobacco use. As skin loses its elasticity, parts that were once firm may begin to droop. This includes the inner arms and breasts. Smoking can also accelerate hair loss in both men and women.
There is still some good news though. The effects of smoking on your appearance can be reversible, and quitting smoking can improve your appearance. The restoration of improved circulation and blood flow to the skin provides more oxygen and nutrients. This can help develop a healthier complexion. The longer you stay smoke-free, the better your chances of staving off premature aging.
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