Have Years Of Smoking Caught Up With Your Skin – Only After You've Quit?
If you began smoking cigarettes as a teenager or twenty-something, you may have taken little notice of warnings that this habit would eventually take its toll on the appearance of your skin, hair, and teeth. However, the most noticeable damage may begin to reveal itself only in your forties and fifties – sometimes well after you've stopped smoking and committed to a healthier lifestyle. Are there any options to roll the clock back? Read on to learn more about your dermatological options after you've begun to notice smoking-related damage to your skin.
Is the damage from smoking reversible?
Unfortunately, as many former smokers discover, once smoke damage has revealed itself, it's much more difficult to reverse. The carcinogens in cigarette smoke can attack the body's ability to produce new collagen (the tissue that gives skin its bounce and elasticity), causing fine lines and wrinkles to become more pronounced, especially around the mouth and eyes. You may also find yourself dealing with dark spots on your face or hands, often caused by an imbalance of melanin in combination with your decreased collagen production.
Because the aging process can also impact your body's production of collagen, this damage may only reveal itself once you've hit your fourth or fifth decade and your ability to regenerate new collagen has slowed down (even though some cells were likely first damaged years or even decades earlier).
What can you do to minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other skin damage attributed to smoking?
Although you can't really "reverse" this smoking damage, there are some steps you can take to reduce wrinkles.
First, you may want to consider having a facial peel with glycolic acid or another alpha hydroxy acid. This can remove any dead skin cells that may be causing your skin to look dry or dull and make room for the healthier skin beneath. (Sticking to a fruit- and veggie-heavy diet and drinking lots of water during the weeks prior to and after your chemical peel can also help improve the appearance of the skin that reveals itself.)
Following up this treatment with the daily application of a retinoid cream can also reduce the look and feel of wrinkles. Be sure to use plenty of sunscreen while using retinoid cream, as it can make your skin much more sensitive to sunlight. You may also want to consider the use of injectable fillers to give your face a smoother look; while these fillers are usually absorbed after a few months, they can provide effective wrinkle reduction in the interim.