The Effect of Smoking
on The Skin
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In 1985, a Dr. Douglas Model added the
term "smokers face" to the medical dictionary after conducting a study
(published in the British Medical Journal) where he found he was able to identify smokers
(who had smoked for ten years or more) by their facial features alone. The distinctive
characteristics of a smokers face which tend to make people look older than they are
were called "smokers face" and were present in roughly half of the smokers
he surveyed, irrespective of the patients age, social class, exposure to sunlight,
recent change in weight and estimated lifetime consumption of cigarettes.
Face" was defined as one or more of the following:
- lines or wrinkles on the face, typically
radiating at right angles from the upper and lower lips or corners of the eyes, deeplines
on the cheeks, or numerous shallow lines on the cheeks and lower jaw.
- A subtle gauntness of the facial features
with prominence of the underlying bony contours. Fully developed this change gives the
face and atherosclerotic (sic. A bit like choked up blood vessels) look;
lesser changes show as slight sinking of the cheeks. In some cases these changes are
associated with a leathery, worn, or rugged appearance.
- An atrophic, slightly pigmented grey
appearance of the skin
- A plethoric, slightly orange, purple and
red complexion different from the purply blue colour of cyanosis or the bloated appearance
associated with the pseudo-Cushings changes of alcoholism"
"The fact that so many of the
people with smokers face were fairly young indicate that smokers face is not
simply a symptom of age. The changes in the colour and quality of the skin suggest a toxic
In my experience, many people notice the ravages of smoking for the first
time when it is pointed out to them that they can be identified as smokers by their faces
alone." Dr Douglas Model, British Medical Journal (1985)
What the toxins in
cigarette smoke are doing to your skin now!
Cigarette smoke contains
more than 4000 toxins many of which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and are
taken by the blood right into the structure of your skin.
Smoking cigarettes reduces the efficiency
with which the skin can regenerate itself smoking causes the constriction
(narrowing) of the blood vessels at the top layers of the skin which in turn reduces blood
supply (to the skin). It is the reduced blood supply which causes a reduction in the
availability of oxygen (which is necessary for all living cells) and the removal of waste
products, dead cell fragments etc
which provide the necessary environment for
Cigarette smoking causes the blood
vessels at the top layers of the skin to constrict and so reducing the oxygen level in the
blood there. This thickens the blood and reduces the levels of collagen in the skin (it is
actually because of this that smoking is also associated with slow or incomplete healing
In fact, smoking a single cigarette can
produce cutaneous (pertaining to the skin) vasoconstriction (decrease in the calibre of
blood vessels) for up to 90 minutes. One study suggests that blood flow in the thumb
decreases about 24% after smoking one cigarette and by 29% after two cigarettes. Another
study suggested that digital (finger) blood flow fell by an average of 42% after smoking
one cigarette. A further study found that smoking for 10 minutes decreases tissue oxygen
tension for almost an hour and concluded that the typical pack-a-day smoker would remain
hypoxic* for most of each day. (Smith and Fenske, Journal of the American Academy of
*hypoxic a reduction of oxygen
supply to a tissue below physiological levels despite adequate perfusion of the tissue by
your skin thinner
A recent British study took 25 pairs of
identical twins where one twin was a lifelong smoker and the other had never smoked. The
doctors used an ultrasound technique to gauge inner arm skin thickness. The smokers
skin was a quarter thinner than that of the non-smokers and in a few cases there were
differences of up to 40 per cent. (Twins study, St Thomas's Hospital)