WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SKIN WHEN YOU QUIT SMOKING?
Your skin will start to improve and look and feel healthier when you quit smoking, though the effects of smoking can’t be entirely undone. As your body recovers from smoking, blood circulation improves and blood cells can carry more oxygen and nutrients to the skin. The elimination of harmful chemicals improves production of collagen and reduces the breakdown of elastin, both of which give skin its tough, elastic qualities.
We are all aware that smoking has many negative effects - the primary focus tends to be internal health and organ function, rightfully so as these are essential for your body to work - but with all the talk about the impact on lungs and heart, it can be easy to forget the multitude of other parts of the body that smoking negatively impacts - and that quitting would improve! Our skin condition is often related to our internal health, so what happens to your skin when you quit smoking?
BENEFITS OF QUITTING SMOKING
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease - when you stop smoking, the body starts to function better because it starts to get rid of carbon monoxide which sticks to the red blood cells, stopping them from binding to oxygen that is needed all around the body. Having stopped smoking, the stress on the vascular system is reduced, improving blood pressure and circulation. After 5 years of smoking cessation, the risk of heart attack is reduced by around 50%.
The lungs start to function better because they aren’t being obstructed by tar - the cilia that line the airways begin working again to clear debris from the lungs. This leads to breathing easier, better, and more efficiently because more oxygen starts to get into the blood. After 10 years of not smoking, the risk of lung cancer is reduced by 50%.
These effects improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients around the body, encouraging healthier cells everywhere. The skin is one of the beneficiaries of this.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SKIN WHEN YOU QUIT
Skin contains fibrous collagen and elastin, and these keep our skin from sagging. Tobacco smoke causes skin damage by causing elastin and collagen to break down, reducing its springiness, resulting in sagging skin.
DAMAGED CAUSED TO SKIN STARTS TO HEAL
The constricting effect that smoking and nicotine have on blood vessels starts to let up when you stop smoking, improving the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells, allowing them to repair properly. As nicotine also increases the stickiness of the platelets in the blood, it can lead to obstructions, further reducing oxygen delivery to the cells. Combined with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide - both found in tobacco smoke - they inhibit the transport and metabolism of oxygen in the blood and in the cells, making wounds heal slower and less effectively. Quitting tobacco will see your body taking care of skin much damage faster, and reduces the risk of scarring.
IMPROVED CIRCULATION AND BLOOD FLOW
Having reduced the stickiness of platelets in the blood by quitting cigarettes, blood flow to the skin should improve. Smoking also increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels - yet another obstruction and contributory to pressure on the vascular system - so stopping will further improve blood flow. The improved blood flow in addition to an absence of vasoconstricting factors means that blood easily gets to the smaller blood vessels in your skin, giving it more life and colour than your former smoking self.
One of these proteins, known as matrix metalloproteinases or ‘MMP’, encourages the degradation of collagen and elastin fibres - those things that keep your skin springy and plump. Stopping smoking will reduce production of MMP, therefore reducing the breakdown of elastin and collagen. The improved blood flow by the vascular system will help get the oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells, allowing them to renew with healthier elastin and collagen, resulting in a reduction in the visibility of wrinkles, and an improvement in the structure and behaviour of skin.
REDUCED RISK OF SKIN CANCER
Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common forms of skin cancer, and smoking has been linked to increased rates - a study in the Netherlands conducted in 2001 demonstrated a significant increased risk for current smokers, with a less significant increased risk for former smokers. That means giving up tobacco reduces your chance of getting skin cancer, and the study suggested the risk is reduced by a third.
REDUCED RISK OF OTHER SKIN CONDITIONS
QUITTING SMOKING CAN REDUCE ACNE
One of the other effects of smoking on the skin that has been investigated is acne in adults. Acne is typically an inflammatory condition but the form that appears to be induced by smoking is a non-inflammatory version of the condition. This form of acne is called ‘atypical post-adolescent acne’ or APAA.
Smoking increases the production of free radicals in the body, and these oxidise sebum - a coating that protects the skin - reducing the amount of oxygen in it. The bacteria that causes acne is an anaerobic bacteria, so it thrives in low oxygen environments. Vitamin E is another compound that smoking depletes, and as an antioxidant it helps clear up free radicals that might otherwise cause oxidative damage elsewhere.
Giving up the cigs will reduce the number of free radicals in the body - reducing oxidative damage - and will increase the amount of vitamin E (and other antioxidants) to help deal with the free radicals - this will help any smokers with APAA.
QUITTING SMOKING MAKES YOU LESS PRONE TO PSORIASIS
Psoriasis is a recurring inflammatory skin condition that makes skin itch and turn scaly in patches. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning it is the body’s own defences attacking its own tissue. Psoriasis appears to be made worse by smoking, though it is not certain exactly what causes it - it could be nicotine’s effect on the immune system, it could be the oxidative nature of some of the compounds in tobacco smoke. It is often triggered by stress, and smokers self medicate at stressful times, so even if smoking isn’t the root cause, it certainly won’t be helping!
REDUCED RISK OF VASCULITIS
Vasculitis is the name given to a group of autoimmune diseases that negatively impact blood vessels. The vessels become narrow and swollen as the body’s defences attack the healthy blood vessels. A particular form of vasculitis, known as AAV (ANCA associated vasculitis), affects the small blood vessels, and has been linked to cigarette smoking. It is a serious condition that can result in death.
QUTTING CIGARETTES REDUCES CHANCE OF GUM DISEASE
Smoking negatively affects oral and gum health too - it encourages bacterial plaque build up which can lead to gum disease, and the free radicals in tobacco smoke take the oxygen out of the bloodstream, preventing the healing process.
TIPS TO TAKE CARE AND HEAL SKIN AFTER QUITTING SMOKING
So you’ve decided to quit tobacco for a multitude of reasons, how do you go about encouraging your body to get back to top form? After your quitting date, the body will begin clearing the rubbish from your system; from the tar in your lungs, to the plaque build up in your blood vessels. All of this will lead to more oxygen in the blood, and improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to everywhere in the body - and this includes the skin.
This can be further improved by exercising! Exercise is not only a great way of getting rid of toxins through sweating and improving blood flow, it will help you sleep - this is when much of the repairing of the body takes place, so good sleep means the body has a good opportunity to heal itself.
Other ways to help out your skin include staying properly hydrated - this helps maintain the skin’s elasticity and improves blood flow too. It also means you have plenty of water for sweating and urination, which helps to eject toxins from the body.
Vitamin C is an essential part of your diet if you want to arm your body with the tools for great skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so helps deal with free radicals that cause damage by oxidation. We obtain these free radicals not just from smoking, but from exposure to UV rays from the sun, too. Vitamin C helps with skin pigmentation as well, reducing melanin production which results in a more even skin tone, the lightening of areas affected by hyperpigmentation (patches of skin that are darker than the normal surrounding skin), and more radiant skin.
QUITTING SMOKING TIPS
The great thing about quitting smoking is that there are lots of positive changes to keep track of, other than just an improvement in your skin health. Progress is a great motivator, so tracking your progress is essential for maintaining momentum and staying positive in the more challenging times. Applying this to smoking is a must - financially speaking, quitting tobacco makes a huge difference, so putting some details into a spreadsheet or one of the many mobile apps available that gives you a physical number to look at to mark your efforts - but that is more than just a number, that’s money in your pocket!
Nicotine Replacement Therapy, or NRT, are products that deliver nicotine into the body without the harmful company it finds in tobacco smoke. These come in the form of dermal patches, chewing gum, mouth and nasal spray, lozenges, inhalator and pills - all with their own advantages and disadvantages, and often two forms of NRT are used simultaneously for maximum effect. All forms of NRT appear to give better results when used in conjunction with behavioural therapy. Check out our guide on *products to help you quit smoking* for more information!
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR SKIN WHEN YOU QUIT SMOKING CONCLUSION
Skin really is a wondrous material - you force it out of shape and it springs back, you cut it and it mends, you burn it and it heals. It also happens to contain all the vital bits and bobs for a living human being, so not only is it amazing, it’s also pretty important. Aesthetically it often reflects the internal health of an individual, but practically it is the barrier that stops all the harmful grit from entering the complex machine we know as the human body. Looking after your skin is a good way to look after yourself - it is your first defence against pathogens, after all.
If you smoke, then giving up tobacco is one of the best things you can do for your health, and that includes your skin. Whether using nicotine replacement products or e-cigarettes, stick with it and the results will make themselves known every time you look in the mirror!
So if you are ready to quit smoking and want to improve your health, well-being and the appearance of your skin, why not check out these popular e-cigarette and vape starter kits that may help you to kick the habit!