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How does tobacco affect the skin?

Tobacco affects the skin of those who smoke, but also of those who passively receive smoke. Keep in mind that tobacco contains about 4000 toxic components, of which at least 300 are highly dangerous and can have dermatological effects.

In the first instance, tobacco affects the skin because it generates undesirable aesthetic effects. Although it causes damage to the skin of the entire body, the effects are more visible on the face. There is even a whole pattern that defines ” the smoker’s face “.

However, the way tobacco affects the skin is not reduced only to its aesthetic effects. In some cases, it causes serious diseases such as skin cancer. The good thing is that if someone stops smoking on time, in the medium or long term the effects are reversed.


How tobacco affects the skin

The first biological effect of tobacco on the skin is given by the increase in free radicals . These are chemical elements that damage the cell membrane. They even alter the genetic information and generate abnormalities in the arterioles of the dermis and epidermis.

Under these conditions, the irrigation and nutrition of the skin are compromised. This is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients, which leads to dehydration and dryness. Nicotine also contains a component called vasopressin that increases blood pressure and lowers estrogen. Low estrogens increase dryness.

On the other hand, tobacco consumption decreases the absorption of vitamin A and alters elastin and collagen. The result of all this is dry skin , with low luminosity and more pronounced wrinkles.

The face acquires a gray-yellow color and the cheekbones become more prominent. Sometimes purple spots appear. Also, the hair becomes dry and brittle.

Premature aging

One of the most obvious manifestations of the way tobacco affects the skin is premature aging. This is more visible in women than in men and is evidenced with a special intensity after 39 years.

The wrinkles of smokers are different from those of non-smokers. The grooves are narrower, deeper and more pronounced. The contours of them are marked much more. A fact indicates that the wrinkles of some smokers between 40 and 49 years are similar to those of non-smokers from 60 to 70 years.

Wrinkles are usually more marked around the eyes and on the upper lipalso because of the position the face adopts to smoke. Premature aging is mainly due to the fact that tobacco causes elastin debris to accumulate in the dermis, which leads to the degeneration of collagen and then to the formation of wrinkles.

Tobacco affects skin healing

Healing problems are another way in which tobacco affects the skin. Smoke alters tissue oxygenation, reduces circulation and intoxicates blood. The consequence of this is that wounds, particularly surgical ones, take longer to heal.

Smokers with chronic ulcers, especially in the lower limbs, show a more unstable evolution and difficulty healing them. People who smoke a daily pack of cigarettes are three times more likely to develop necrosis in a wound versus non-smokers.

Other problems

There are a lot of dermatological diseases that are triggered or worsened if the person consumes tobacco. They are between them:

  • Alopecia or hair loss
  • Psoriasis
  • Suppurative Hydrosadenitis
  • Chronic hand eczema 

Tobacco also causes yellow pigmentation to occur in the fingernails and fingers, as well as in the teeth, in which the bacterial plaque increases. The heat of the cigarette in the mouth produces a repeated microaggression that can eventually lead to lip cancer. 80% of people with this type of cancer are smokers.

Tobacco is a potential generator of non-melanoma skin cancer. Specifically, it can cause squamous cell carcinoma, a condition that is doubly common in those who smoke. It can also lead to oral mucosal cancer and increase the risk of metastasis.

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