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Smoking And Your Skin

Girl smoking cigarette

The effects of aging and excess sun on the skin on otherwise healthy skin are well known but there is one pollutant that can have a detrimental effect too. Smoking.

Healthy skin comes from the inside through nutritional health but in the case of smoking damage comes from inside and outside too.

Of course there has been a lot of negative propaganda about smoking in recent years so it would be too easy to see this article as another annoying campaign to stop smoking. Nonetheless, I will try to set out how smoking affects the skin as a reasoned argument for healthy skin.

The primary role of the blood is to transport oxygen to the vital organs in the body including healthy skin. One of the byproducts of tobacco smoke is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is absorbed two hundred times more quickly than oxygen and displaces the oxygen in the bloodstream thus starving the vital organs. In excess carbon monoxide kills.

Carbon monoxide also creates extra free radicals in the body, which attack various areas, particularly the skin.

One of the roles of the liver in the body is to neutralize harmful chemicals. If it has to deal with too many it will have to switch from its usual functions to deal with the threat. Just to summarize the livers important functions, it helps process digested food and turns it into energy, controls the level of fats, glucose and amino acids, combats various infections in the body, cleans the body of infections, stores essential chemicals and vitamins, manufactures proteins and enzymes essential to the bodily functions, manufactures bile and of course neutralizes drugs and toxins. Pretty useful then.

Cigarette smoke contains several harmful chemicals including hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, cadmium and prussic acid. Overworking the liver in combatting these threats leads to healthy skin turning yellow: a condition that can get worse the more cigarettes smoked.

Smoking also damages the nutritional health of the skin by restricting the formation of vitamin C. This vitamin is itself an anti-oxidant so is unable to attack the extra free radicals produced by the act of smoking.

Vitamin C also helps in the production of collagen, which helps plump the skin. Reduced vitamin C begins the change from healthy skin to the dry, wrinkly and saggy skin seen in experienced smokers.

We all know smoking produces nicotine, another of the harmful chemicals, and this acts like an adrenaline, restricting the blood vessels to the skin. This further restricts the flow of nutrients and oxygen. Another consequence is wounds are slow to heal.

But it is not just the chemical effects that damage healthy skin. Think about the physical reactions to smoking. Firstly, smokers purse their lips to draw the smoke and this repeated action promotes extreme wrinkles around the mouth. Equally, the eyes are more frequently squeezed shut, both in the action of smoking and in avoiding smoke getting into the eyes. Again, this repeated action creates wrinkles around the eyes.

All of us probably know someone who has spent too long in the sun on a regular basis and is showing premature aging of his or her skin. If you look at a heavy smoker you will see similar effects, except the skin will also look sallow.

Clearly smoking tobacco has a detrimental effect on otherwise healthy skin. Natural supplements and natural beauty products can reverse the signs to an extent but the better option is to not smoke at all.


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Man smoking a cigarette

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