25 effects of smoking on your appearance and your life

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Which twins smoke?

Twin smokers and non-smokers.

There is no proven way to reverse time, but there is one known way to look older than your years: start smoking. Smoking can change your appearance by altering your teeth, hair and skin. Aside from your appearance, smoking weakens your heart, lungs and bones; and reduces fertility. Look at these two photos. One of these identical twins is a smoker; the other is not. Can you spot the difference?

Signs of a tobacco smoker

Close-up of smoking and non-smoking twins.

The twin on the right smoked for 14 years (half a pack a day); his counterpart on the left is a non-smoker. One of the hallmarks is sagging skin under the eyes, making her look years older than her twin sister. It is a sign of damaged skin from smoking. The twin on the right further damaged her skin over time from repeated exposure to the sun.

Uneven skin tone

A woman who smokes.

Smoking affects the blood vessels, which supply oxygen and nutrients to the whole body. When the skin is deprived of these essential nutrients, changes begin to develop, even at an early age. Smokers may appear pale or have an uneven complexion due to their nicotine habit.

Sagging skin and wrinkles

A woman who pinches her skin.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, many of which are carcinogens (known to cause cancer). Others are known to damage collagen and elastin, two components of the skin. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can cause skin damage. Sagging skin and deeper wrinkles are two consequences.

Saggy arms and breasts

A woman crossing her arms.

Smoking can also affect the skin elsewhere on the body. Damage to elastin fibers can cause sagging and sagging. Vulnerable areas include the breasts and upper arms.

Wrinkles and wrinkles around the lips

A woman with lines around her lips smoking.

Damage to elastin in the skin is just one of the ways that cigarette smoke affects the skin around the mouth. Another way is the development of wrinkles around the mouth due to the act of smoking. These two factors together lead to signs of early aging around the mouth.

Age spots

Twin smokers and non-smokers showing a difference in age spots.

This photo again shows identical twins, half of the photo from each individual. The twin on the right had a long history of smoking and tanning, unlike her sister. The difference is obvious. Age spots can develop in anyone after prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun, but studies suggest that smokers are more susceptible to the development of age spots.

Damaged gums and teeth

Photo of teeth damaged by smoking.

Yellow teeth are a clear sign of smoking. But smokers also experience other oral problems. Gum disease, bad breath and tooth loss are more common in people who smoke.

Stained fingernails and fingers

Smoke-stained fingers.

Tobacco stains the skin of the fingernails and hands. This can be a telltale sign of a chronic smoker. Fortunately, this discoloration usually fades after you quit smoking.

Hair loss

A bald man who smokes.

Smoking can worsen the natural thinning process that occurs with age. Some research shows that baldness is more common in men who smoke; studies from Taiwan show that the risk of baldness in men increases in Asian men who smoke.

Cataracts

Ocular cataracts.

Cataracts are opaque areas on the lens of the eye that interfere with vision. Effective treatment may mean that surgery is needed. Smoking increases the likelihood that you will develop cataracts.

Psoriasis

Woman with psoriasis on the elbows.

Smokers are also at increased risk of contracting psoriasis, an unsightly and often uncomfortable skin condition. Psoriasis is characterized by thick, scaly patches of skin that are most commonly seen on the elbows, scalp, hands, back, or feet.

Eye wrinkles (crow’s feet)

A smoking man with crow's feet and wrinkles.

Outer eye wrinkles, affectionately known as “crow’s feet,” develop earlier in smokers than in non-smokers. These wrinkles also tend to be deeper in those who smoke. Squinting to prevent smoke from entering your eyes only makes the tendency to develop wrinkles around the eyes worse. In addition to all this, the internal components of the skin are damaged due to the lack of nutrients and oxygen in the skin.

Improve Your Appearance By Quitting Smoking

An illustration of the skin.

After quitting smoking, blood circulation improves. As a result, your skin begins to receive more oxygen and to appear healthier than before. Your teeth may become whiter, and the tobacco stains should disappear from your fingers and nails.

Fight skin damage: creams

A man applying skin cream.

Every time you quit smoking, you’ve taken a healthy step in resisting the signs of aging skin. Topical retinoids and antioxidants are some of the products you can use to improve the appearance of your skin. Wearing sunscreen whenever you are outdoors also helps prevent further damage.

Combat skin damage: procedures

A woman having laser therapy performed on her face.

Some ex-smokers opt for cosmetic procedures to improve their damaged skin. Laser skin resurfacing and chemical peels can remove the outer layers of the skin where the damage is most evident. Some doctors recommend that patients treat themselves with this type of procedure after quitting, which suggests that it is a strong motivation for them to stay tobacco-free.

Brittle bones

An illustration of osteoporosis.

While the effects of smoking on the lungs are widely understood, some smokers might be surprised to know that they also damage their bones. Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Fractures of the spine can cause abnormal curvature and a “hunchback” appearance.

Heart disease and ED

A photo of the coronary artery.

One of the most dangerous consequences of smoking is the narrowing of the coronary arteries of the heart. Since smoking also increases blood pressure and makes the blood more likely to clot, the risk of a heart attack is greatly increased. Smoking can also affect blood circulation in other ways. Erectile dysfunction is a consequence of the change in blood flow in men who smoke.

Reduced athletic ability

    Runners on a timed track.

With all of its effects on the heart and circulation, it’s obvious that smoking and athleticism don’t mix. Increased shortness of breath and poor circulation will not improve athletic performance. Quitting smoking is one way to improve performance in any sport.

Reproductive issues

An ultrasound image of a baby.

Not only do smokers have a harder time conceiving, but their risk of problems during pregnancy also increases. Women who smoke have a higher than normal risk of miscarrying, having a premature birth, or having a baby with low birth weight.

Early menopause

A depressed woman who smokes.

Women who smoke also reach menopause earlier than women who don’t, the researchers say. Studies show that smokers reach menopause about a year and a half earlier, on average, than non-smokers. This is especially true of women who have smoked heavily for a long time.

Mouth cancer

Oral cancer.

The risk of oral cancer is also high in people who smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Adding alcohol to the mixture intensifies this risk; those who smoke and drink a lot have a 15 times higher risk of oral cancer. Oral cancer usually starts with a sore inside the mouth that will not go away. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of oral cancer.

Lung cancer

Illustration of cancerous lung.

Nine in ten lung cancer deaths are due to smoking, which means that 90% of lung cancer deaths could be prevented. Smoking causes other lung problems, such as emphysema, and increases the risk of getting pneumonia.

How to quit smoking improves your health

Image of human lung.

Blood pressure and heart rate drop to normal levels within 20 minutes of quitting! The risk of a heart attack begins to decrease after the first 24 hours. During the first few weeks, the lungs begin to heal and the tiny eyelashes (visible in this enlarged photo) begin to clear the lungs of pollutants. Your risk of developing heart disease drops to half that of current smokers after just a year of quitting. After ten years, your risk of dying from lung cancer is the same as that of a non-smoker.

Cigarette stench

A man smoking and shrouded in smoke.

Quitting smoking also has cosmetic effects. The smell of cigarettes is eliminated from your hair and clothing. Only the smell attached to a smoker can be harmful to others. Others may be exposed to toxins that make your hair and clothing smell. This has been called “secondhand smoke” and is considered particularly harmful to children.

Can you stop?

A woman breaks a cigarette in half.

Of course, giving up any addiction is difficult, but quitting smoking is possible. There are more former smokers (48 million) than current smokers (45 million) in the United States. This means that quitting smoking has worked for 48 million people! Your doctor can recommend medications and other strategies to help you be successful.

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