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Smoking and Skin Aging

吸煙與皮膚老化

During a recent gathering with friends, a female acquaintance was smoking in a confined space, making it difficult for me to breathe. In addition to increasing the risk of cancer, smoking also accelerates skin aging.

It’s common to see women who smoke with dull, lackluster skin and more wrinkles. Studies have shown that smoking affects the skin on a biochemical level by increasing the activity of matrix metalloproteinases, which accelerate the breakdown of skin proteins. Smoking also inhibits the ability of fibroblasts to produce collagen and elastin. Additionally, smoking increases the presence of free radicals in the body, which slows down the body’s ability to repair itself. These factors combine to accelerate skin aging.

Interestingly, a study comparing the smoking history and skin changes of 79 pairs of identical twins found that smoking had a noticeable effect on the skin. The smoking twin had more sagging upper eyelids, eye bags, sagging cheeks, marionette lines, sagging jawline, and more pronounced lip lines than their nonsmoking twin. This is due to the acceleration of collagen and elastin loss, which leads to increased sagging. Smoking also weakens the orbital septum, causing the fat layer and swelling inside the orbit to protrude, making eye bags more noticeable. When collagen is lost from the cheeks, they lose their ability to support themselves, leading to sagging, marionette lines, and a sagging jawline. Smoker’s lines, which are more pronounced wrinkles around the mouth, are caused by the repeated mouth movements of smokers and skin aging. Smoking also thickens the epidermis, making the skin lose its radiance.

In addition to accelerating skin aging, smoking also reduces the effectiveness of skin treatments such as acid peels and radiofrequency treatments. Therefore, for all the beauty-conscious women out there, it’s best to avoid smoking!

*Facial changes caused by smoking: a comparison between smoking and nonsmoking identical twins. Okdada et al 2013