In our increasingly health-conscious society, more and more people are awakening to the negative effects of smoking on all areas of the body. Yet, despite the number of smokers throughout the UK demonstrating a gradual decline in recent years, there’s still a little under 20% of people lighting up on a regular basis – which equates to over 7 million people!
As an experienced dental professional with a proven history of delivering many dermatological treatments to patients, Dr Sharon Kaur is passionate about educating people on the detrimental effects and impressions that cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine can leave on the skin, as well as how quitting can raise the confidence and wellbeing of those individuals looking to give up. This is why she’s pledging her support to Stoptober 2019, a month-long public health initiative designed to offer support, encouragement and motivation to people who require some extra help with stubbing out their cigarettes for good this October.
How smoking can affect the skin
When quizzed on how smoking can affect the skin, most people are quick to point out one of the most visible after-effects of extensive cigarette smoking: wrinkles. And these can take on many forms. Frequently pursed lips can lead to exaggerated lines around the mouth, with crow’s feet also often appearing around the eyes of those who partake in smoking regularly. The toxins and chemicals present in cigarettes can interfere with the skin’s production of collagen and elastin, naturally-occuring proteins that contribute to how the skin retains its shape and suppleness.
With these proteins already shortening in supply as we age, smoking can speed up the natural ageing process of those with this particular vice, leaving them with not just premature wrinkles, but sagging skin, most notably in the jawline, breasts and upper arms. In addition to depleting collagen and elastin supplies, smoking can also be responsible for the constriction of blood vessels. This occurs when oxygen and blood flow supplies to skin cells are interrupted, and can not only lead to early signs of ageing but also telangiectasia, a condition characterised by the appearance of purple blotches across all areas of the skin.
The symptoms of many common skin conditions, such as acne inversa and psoriasis, can also present themselves on certain areas of smokers’ skin. Acne inversa is an inflammatory disease wherein nodules appear on parts of the skin. Mainly present under the arms, the groin area or under breasts, these nodules can be incredibly painful and last anywhere between a few weeks to a few years.
The development of psoriasis in smokers can also be attributed to the nicotine present in cigarettes. As nicotine can be detrimental to the immune system and interfere with skin cell growth, this leaves smokers prone to developing a condition defined by sore, red patches of skin.
Whereas all of the above conditions are relatively harmful if treated correctly, with some being purely cosmetic concerns, those who smoke also increase their chances of developing a form of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma. An immune system lowered by nicotine is again accountable for this, with symptoms of the disease affecting the lips of many smokers.
Stoptober is easier to take part in than ever due to the range of support options and networks available for those deciding to give cigarettes the boot this October. Participants can benefit from a series of resources, such as face-to-face support and the specially-created Stoptober app, in order to boost their chances of quitting for good. And whilst it can be hard to undo a lifetime’s effects of smoking on the skin, giving up cigarettes can help ex-smokers recapture the radiance of their pre-nicotine skin, with oxygen and nutrients being reintroduced in healthier numbers to stimulate skin repair and encourage the body’s natural process of collagen and elastin production.
As an advocate of how better physical health can contribute to an improvement in mental health, Dr Sharon advises smokers to give Stoptober a try this year as a way of boosting their overall happiness, confidence and wellbeing. Stoptober, with its message of positivity and change, holds true to Dr Sharon’s philosophy of self love and self care. Treating yourself with love, respect and patience can often be the biggest step to take in transforming your life.