There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking. And, we know, you've probably heard most of them already. Like, for instance, these little factoids from our pals at DoSomething.org: That the lungs of teens who smoke will not develop fully, which puts them at higher risk for lung disease, or that about 30% of teen smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease. Yes, of course, you're not stupid. You know these things. But did you know this naughty little habit is also poisoning your complexion?
"In addition to being bad for your overall health, smoking has a negative impact on the skin, including bags under the eyes, premature aging, a loss of natural glow, and a susceptibility to psoriasis," says renowned dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler. "Additionally, smoking depletes your body of nutrients like Vitamin C, which has been linked to sun protection."
All of this bad stuff mainly happens through suffocation. "Smoking one cigarette constricts blood flow for up to 90 minutes, which means you're starving your skin from oxygen for an hour-and-a-half," says Dermalogica's director of education Annet King. "By doing so, you're inhibiting circulation and breaking down collagen and elastin." Plus, because the blood isn't flowing properly, you're more prone to broken capillaries and veins, which can cause very dark scarring on the face.
Not to mention, every time you take a drag, you're pursing your lips and furrowing your brow. Those repetitive motions make you a prime candidate for early onset anti-aging creams...if they can help at all. "Smokers typically show deep lines around the mouth, as well as vertical lines in between the eyebrows," King notes.
But wait—there's more! It's not until you exhale that most of the immediate damage will be done. When you breathe out, you're releasing what King calls the "toxic cloud": All of the nicotine, chemicals, and tobacco are now floating on top of your face and the faces of others around you. "This will cause an increase in blackheads around the mouth and cheeks, since the skin is more likely to be congested," she explains.
Furthermore, we know (thanks to science) that smoking affects the immune system. But many people overlook how critical healthy immunity is to gorgeous skin. "Smokers heal much slower than non-smokers," Dr. Wechsler points out. "Because of that, breakouts will take longer to clear up, which makes the risk of acne scarring much higher." And, PS: If you've got a toxic cloud hanging over a breakout, guess what could happen? Those little zits can reproduce to other areas of the face. And if your immune system won't be able to adequately heal today's post-acne marks, you won't be able to get rid of them later in life without expensive dermatological procedures.
And then there's that sweet nothing you tell yourself—that weed doesn't really count as "smoking." That means it won't hurt your pretty face, right? "Actually, marijuana has been linked to an increase in testosterone, which may lead to acne," Dr. Wechsler adds. "Chronic smokers can also experience hair loss, psoriasis, and rosacea."
Of course, there's also the munchies! Normally, pot-smokers aren't reaching for a bag of skin-healthy hummus and veggies. More enticing snacks, like desserts and potato chips, will inevitably cause breakouts.
Finally, there's one other common excuse for "not really smoking": the e-cigarette. "It's still nicotine!" King points out. "And there's still smoke involved. Sure, it's not as bad for the skin as tobacco, but there are still chemicals inside an e-cigarette, and those will envelop the skin when you exhale."
Even if you're not a smoker of any kind, your health can be seriously compromised from second-hand smoke. For both smokers and non-smokers, King recommends a prescription of antioxidant-heavy moisturizers and a very thorough double-cleanse regimen. (You'll really want to wash away all those nasty chemicals!)
But the most important piece of advice is this: Quit already! "Once you stop smoking, your body gets to work immediately, attempting to heal itself," Dr. Wechsler explains. "Your lungs will clear, the level of oxygen in the blood increases, a healthy flush will return, and skin will be more hydrated and even." And since you're still young, you might get away scar-free!
So if you're searching for that summery, model-y, glowing complexion, maybe the answer is as simple as kicking a nasty habit. No makeup necessary! Your face (and your lungs) will thank you.
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