"For smokers, middle-age starts in their early 30's as the tell-tale wrinkles around the mouth and eyes begin to appear. Young female smokers are likely to be wasting their money on anti-aging face creams if they continue to smoke." Amanda Sandford, Action on Smoking Health
There's no question about it, we are constantly striving to look as young as possible and the proof that looking young is a multi-billion dollar industry can be seen in the ever-increasing growth of creams, potions, and surgeries available to strip away the years. Call it what you will, an obsession with youthfulness and the appearance of youthfulness, has women doing all sorts of things to never grow old - or at least never look old. We're all aware of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun but there seems to be a block when it comes to an even more dangerous method of aging the skin - smoking.
The Equal-Opportunity Addiction
Despite the fact that we all know how dangerous smoking is to the health of a human being, people continue to indulge in the habit. Although the overall number of smokers world-wide is declining, the US alone can be credited with over a million startups a year. Many of these beginning smokers will be females and the unfortunate truth is that they won't see the toll it takes on their looks until the damage is done.
This equal-opportunity-addiction affects both sexes, however many different bodies of research conclude that women are more severely affected than men. Isn't that usually the way? The net effects of smoking take a higher toll on women in areas like smoking cessation. It is far more difficult for a woman to quit smoking than it is for a man to quit. The reason is that nicotine is more addictive to women than to men. Heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer risks are two times higher in women smokers than in men and three times the number of women who die of breast cancer meet their demise through lung cancer. The number of women who die of lung cancer is currently at about 70,000 per year. Additionally, women who smoke tend to enter into menopause five years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.
On top of all of these horrible repercussions of smoking, women also experience far worse damage to their skin from lighting up than men do. "Smoker's Face" is an expression that was first coined in 1965 with a study that identified the consistency of people with the habit as having gray, pale and wrinkled skin. The British chief Medical Officer recently noted that smoking adds 10-20 years to your natural age - an obvious connection between smoking and skin damage.
The How-To's of Skin Damage
The way smoking damages the skin is by the formation of free radicals in the body that result from exposure to tobacco smoke, considered to be an environmental toxin. There is no shortage of educational information on the effects of free radicals and their negative impact upon the DNA of cells. When free radicals attack the cells of the skin they become erratic and damage follows close behind. The flow of blood through the capillaries is restricted choking off oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Collagen, the natural ingredient vital to skin suppleness and elasticity is broken down by an enzyme that is multiplied through free radical damage. The antioxidants that protect the skin in the form of vitamins A and C are blocked and absorption is reduced. The classic smoker's wrinkles around the eyes and lips are caused by the pucker power of drawing on a cigarette and are perhaps the most obvious signs of skin damage. Broken capillaries make the skin on the face blotchy and dehydration causes flaking. Not pretty at all.
Although you will never have the skin you might have had if you didn't smoke at all, by quitting now and applying excellent skin care, it is possible to prevent further damage.