We know smoking is bad news for our health. And, if you are living with psoriasis, you are well aware of how delicate (and temperamental) your skin may be. Before we dig into why you should put down the cigarette, let’s be clear: Quitting smoking will not cure your psoriasis, but, smoking has a huge impact on the skin…
You don’t even have to inhale for cigarettes to mess with your complexion. When tobacco burns it releases a cocktail of around 7000 chemicals (including carbon monoxide)1 into the air, which bombards the skin and dries it out.2
Sadly, all the anti-ageing creams in the world won’t make a difference if you puff regularly. Experts agree that smoking accelerates ageing, so that smokers look 1.4 years older than nonsmokers.2 One reason for this is that the chemicals in tobacco damage collagen and elastin, which are fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. helps maintain skin’s structure and elasticity.3 There’s also the fact that the repeated ‘chain smoking’ (smoking one cigarette after another) action causes the formation of deep lines around the mouth, while squinting one’s eyes from smoke can exaggerate crow’s-feet. In fact, the physical signs of ‘Smoker’s Face’ were so obvious in one study, experts were able to identify half of the regular puffers by their facial features alone.4
Nicotine in cigarettes constrict blood vessels,3 reducing blood flow to the surface of the skin and depleting it of nutrients. The tiny capillaries in the face are then forced to widen in order to receive enough nutrients and in time become permanently dilated, giving rise to angry red capillaries.5 So, if you smoke, and your face is red even when you get no sun, this may be why.
Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke displaces oxygen, while nicotine reduces blood flow – two effects that deprive the skin of vital nutrients like vitamin C, which is associated with skin healing.2 Little wonder then that some research indicates that smokers are more likely to suffer from wound complications.2
Exposure to the sun and ultraviolet rays isn’t the only thing that can cause skin cancer. One study found smokers have three times the risk of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma than non-smokers,2 which might be thanks to the harmful effect smoking has on the immune system.
Like we mentioned before: If you have psoriasis, then there’s even more of an incentive to stub out your nicotine habit. According to a 2007 study, if you puff a pack a day for 10 years or less, psoriasis risk goes up 20%; 11–20 years and your risk is 60% higher; and for those who pass the two-decade mark, the psoriasis risk more than doubles.2
Quitting tobacco isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it. Some promising reports have shown that when people quit smoking, their psoriasis may become more responsive to various treatments.6 In fact, you may see an improvement in your skin in as little as 3 months, as blood flow improves and levels of nutrients are restored.7 For added encouragement, speak to your doctor about being referred to a smoking cessation clinic for helpful advice on quitting. If nothing else, it could save you a fortune in wrinkle cream!
1National Cancer Institute, Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
2Health. 15 Ways Smoking Ruins Your Looks. Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20340112,00.html
3Mayo Clinic, Is it true that smoking causes wrinkles? Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/expert-answers/smoking/faq-20058153
4Model, D. Smoker's face: an underrated clinical sign? Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1419177/pdf/bmjcred00479-0020.pdf
5Skincity. 5 Ways Smoking Affects The Skin. Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.skincity.co.uk/blog/2013/10/5-ways-smoking-affects-skin/
6Healthline. The Negative Effects of Smoking with Psoriasis. Accessed 17 July 2019 https://www.healthline.com/health/psoriasis-after-quitting-smoking#research
7Young, HC et al. Changes in Skin Color after Smoking Cessation. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, 2012 Mar; 33(2): 105–109. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3383505/
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