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How does smoking affect the skin?

How does smoking affect the skin?

It is widely acknowledged that smoking is a bad habit with severe and profound effects on our health. Besides proving that smoking is strongly associated with several internal diseases, scientists have observed its significant impact on various cutaneous conditions, linking smoking to dermatological issues such as premature aging, wrinkling, acne, psoriasis, and delayed wound healing.

Skin composition.

The skin comprises three distinct layers: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.

  1. The epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin composed of epithelial tissue, comprises several layers of cells that waterproof the skin and protect it from UVs and bacteria. It consists primarily of melanocytes and keratinocytes that constantly shed and are replaced by new cells from deeper layers. Melanin and keratin protect the skin from UV rays and give cells structural support.

  2. The dermis, the thick middle layer composed of connective tissue, provides the skin with structural components such as collagen and elastin. It also consists of a network of blood vessels that regulate temperature and ensure the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to epidermal cells.

  3. The hypodermis (also known as subcutaneous tissue) is the deepest layer of the skin, and It is an insulator and energy reservoir because of its fat-cell and connective-tissue consistency.

These three layers work harmoniously to provide the skin’s overall health and appearance. Any damage or compositional changes to the layers can impact the skin’s function, leading to various dermatological conditions.

Tobacco smoke : Chemical composition and effects.

Tobacco smoke is a cocktail full of harmful chemicals with the potential to directly or indirectly interact with skin cells. As well as various carcinogenics, some of the most significant components of tobacco are tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine.

Smoke indirectly interacts with the skin through the circulatory system, causing vasoconstriction on capillary blood vessels. The reduced blood circulation to the skin deprives skin cells of essential nutrients and oxygen, ultimately impairing their ability to regenerate and heal. In addition to vasoconstriction, studies have shown that cigarette smoke is a direct cause of skin inflammation because of the prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide that irritates the skin.

Last but not least, tar can be very toxic to skin cells. Its adhesion to epithelial cells causes blockages, leading to blemishes, but its most prominent effect is altering the cell’s oxidative balance. Tar contains large amounts of Radical Oxygen Species (ROS), highly reactive and redox-active atoms that cause cellular damage by altering protein structures by abstracting their electrons. Exposing our skin cells to more ROS increases oxidative stress levels, and structural damage to proteins occurs. In this case, the oxidative imbalance promotes the breakdown of collagen and elastin through the induction of metalloproteinases by excess extracellular ROS.

In conclusion, cigarette smoke contributes to an evident physiological change in the skin. Still, it also contributes to the molecular destabilization of the skin by promoting the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two essential molecules to avoid premature aging: wrinkles and sagging skin.

Avoiding premature aging.

Skin elasticity is determined by two proteins: collagen and elastin. Elastin is a protein secreted by fibroblasts in the dermis, and it confers the skin with stretch and recoil abilities. These abilities are essential because they allow the skin to return to normal after stretching or poking promptly. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, providing all types of cells with strength and structural stability. Collagen is vital to the skin because, besides giving it elasticity and structural resistance, it also ensures tissue regeneration.

The synthesis rates of both collagen and keratin decrease over time, with keratin synthesis stopping after puberty and collagen synthesis reducing by 1% yearly. As previously mentioned, tobacco smoke only accelerates the degradation of both proteins. However, to aid the keratin and collagen loss in the skin, you can externally provide active forms or boosters of these proteins found in cosmetic products or directly in your food.

Collagen can be found in animal products such as meat, eggs, dairy, and legumes. Extracts of animal or plant collagen and Vitamin C, a very effective collagen synthesis booster, are used for cosmetic purposes. Our Serum for Wrinkles and Loss of Firmness uses Vitamin C and vegan collagen as its principal active ingredients.

Our serum features active plant fragments of type I collagen that stimulate fibroblasts to synthesize more collagen, helping strengthen the skin and reduce wrinkle depth. Additionally, this serum also contains Vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties that neutralize the excess ROS from tobacco smoke, impeding the degradation of collagen and elastin fibers by ROS-induced metalloproteinases. Vitamin C enhances collagen synthesis, leading to a better skin complexion.


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