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4 Sep

A guide to skincare for cigarette smokers

A guide to skincare for cigarette smokers

Cigarettes are terrible to your health and your skin – listed below are some skincare tricks to make it easier to minimise the damage done until you might be ready to quit

Wellness is out, sleaze is in – not less than in some grungy corners of popular culture. On the one hand, we’re still a society very much obsessive about achieving skin so hydrated it resembles a dewy glazed donut. Nevertheless, the past 12 months has seen a kickback against the infatuation with optimised health that the age of wellness ushered in: trends like indie sleaze, and the controversial “return” of heroin chic. An unmistakable smell of smoke can be within the air, as cigarettes appear to be back. Celebrities are smoking in real life and on-screen, from Jenna Ortega, Kylie Jenner and Anya Taylor-Joy, to Lily-Rose Depp’s Jocelyn in The Idol. Last 12 months, The Latest York Times declared that “smoking is back”, after cigarette sales increased in 2020 for the first time in twenty years.

Smoking is terrible for you. It’s bad to your lungs, bad to your mouth and bad to your skin. One of the best thing you may do to your health is to quit smoking. But should you are a smoker, you may do a couple of things to assist minimise the impact in your skin until you finally quit.

But first, we want to know why smoking is bad to your skin. “Smoking affects the blood supply to our skin resulting in poor wound healing and causes wrinkles, skin sagging, sallow pigmentation, skin, lip and mouth cancers, and might flare conditions like psoriasis,” explains dermatologist Dr Cristina Psomadakis. Once you smoke a cigarette the blood vessels near the skin’s surface constrict, reducing blood flow and consequently depleting the skin of oxygen and other essential nutrients transported in blood. This interruption to your blood flow leaves the skin more vulnerable to broken capillaries and veins which may result in scarring and discolouration.

Tobacco smoke can be extremely toxic and incorporates over 3,800 chemical components that produce free radicals like lipid peroxide and deplete our natural antioxidant defences. Exposure to tobacco smoke decreases fibroblasts’ production of collagen and elastin (accountable for the skin’s plump and youthful appearance) whilst concurrently increasing the production of a collagen-destroying enzyme called metalloproteinase (MMPs). Mix this lack of collagen with repetitive eye squinting from the smoke and the sucking motion to inhale, it’s little wonder that, according to the NHS, smoking prematurely ages your skin by between 10 and 20 years and makes it 3 times more likely you’ll get facial wrinkling.

The one thing worse than smoking for accelerated skin ageing is UV exposure (and smokers typically spend more time outside for smoke breaks), so Dr Psomadakis’ key skincare advice centres around sun safety. “Reduce exposure to other things that speed up skin ageing, akin to UV exposure and pollution by wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 50 on daily basis,” she says, and follow other sun safety measures akin to wearing a hat and taking breaks within the shade. 

Aesthetician and skincare influencer Tiara Willis also emphasises the importance of SPF for smokers and encourages using a sun cream lip product. “Smoking causes oxidative stress which damages cells and accelerates ageing,” she explains, which may contribute to “hyperpigmentation and darkened lips.” Her favourite lip protection product is Paula’s Choice SPF50 Lipscreen.

But for Willis, essentially the most essential element in a smoker’s skincare routine is the antioxidants. “These are essential in your eating regimen and your skincare,” she says. “Antioxidants quench free radicals by donating an electron to stabilise the molecule,” helping protect your skin’s collagen production and youthful appearance. This implies using creams or serums with ingredients like vitamin A, C and E. Dr Psomadakis echoes this recommendation, also suggesting the routine use of a great every day moisturiser to combat any dryness from smoking-related vitamin depletion.

Paparazzi photos of glamorous young celebrities smoking cigarettes, whether that’s  Lily-Rose Depp or Cindy Kimberly, and the increased representation of smoking in films and TV have the counter-effect of those scary images you discover on the cigarette pack. Teenagers who’re exposed to smoking in movies are two to three times more likely to start out smoking themselves. Young people see gorgeous, glowing figures who can have all of it – cigarettes and clear skin and think surely they’ll too. In fact, that is just as fictitious because the plot.

“All the cash and beauty on this planet won’t make you proof against the damage attributable to long-term smoking but there may be just no option to realistically compare ourselves to celebrities,” warns Dr Psomadakis. “They’ve access to the most effective products, facialists, make-up artists, dermatologists, surgeons, etc. and the money and time to go to these services commonly to take care of and repair their appearance. A part of their job is to look their best in any respect times.” She lists injectables (Botox or filler), radio frequency ultrasound, micro-needling, laser and even facelifts as “anti-ageing” procedures celebrities might turn to counter the results of smoking. Add all of this to the ever-rising cost of tobacco and also you’re taking a look at a really expensive habit.

The excellent news is, it only takes a couple of weeks to your complexion to brighten after quitting smoking. And (though this varies from case to case) it can take just a few months for collagen and vitamin C production to resume at a traditional rate and return your skin’s vitality. So should you quit now you’ll be glowing by Christmas.

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