By now, the majority of people know about the dangers and nasty effects of smoking. It causes several forms of cancer and plays a part in heart disease. Smoking and tobacco use also have negative effects on the way you look. In fact, smoking is one of the leading external causes of aging, just behind excessive sun exposure.
While it might be easy to understand the damage smoking and tobacco use can cause, it can be more challenging to kick the habit for good. Every November since 1977, the American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout. On the third Thursday of the month, people are encouraged to quit smoking, even if just for the day. The yearly event has also led to the passage of laws restricting smoking.
If you want to quit smoking for any reason, this November is the perfect time to do it. Find out what smoking does to you and ways you can get help kicking the habit.
Smoking and Aging
It’s really no secret that smoking accelerates the aging process. Nicotine, the main drug in cigarettes and other tobacco products, constricts the blood vessels. Blood isn’t able to flow as well as it could, so nutrients, such as vitamin A, aren’t delivered to your skin. The result is more wrinkles and earlier wrinkles. It doesn’t take much for your skin to feel the effects of smoking, but the more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the worse off your skin will be.
Tobacco use also affects your skin and contributes to the signs of aging by damaging collagen. Collagen is a protein found in the dermal layer of skin. It naturally breaks down and decreases as you age; smoking speeds that up. A reduction in collagen makes your skin sag and reduces its elasticity.
On top of affecting the quality of your skin, the physical act of smoking can also contribute to the development of wrinkles. Some lines, such as the two vertical wrinkles that form between the eyebrows, develop as a result of repeated movements. If you regularly furrow your brow when you smoke or pucker your lips, you might see more wrinkles in those areas. Studies involving twins, one of whom smoked while the other didn’t, found that the smoking twin was more likely to have lines and wrinkles than the non-smoker.
Smoking and Surgery
It can be easy to shrug off the effects of smoking on your skin. You might assume that you can have a surgical procedure, such as a facelift, to undo the damage done by tobacco and nicotine. While a facelift can take years off of your appearance, it’s important to understand that smoking can interfere with its results and with the healing process.
Smoking can increase your risk for complications from the surgery or slow down healing. Since nicotine impacts blood flow, it affects the results of your surgery in several ways. If the procedure involves cutting away a piece of the skin, the skin can die off during the surgery, as there isn’t enough blood flow to sustain it. Smoking and tobacco use can also make scars more visible after surgery.
For that reason, the majority of surgeons advise patients to quit smoking for at least two weeks before and after their surgery. A surgeon might refuse to perform the surgery on you if she believes that you are still using tobacco.
Getting Help Quitting
When it comes to quitting smoking, it can often be easier said than done. The annual Smokeout offers an ideal springboard to a smoke-free life, as it provides help and resources to people who want to give up the habit. One way to stop smoking is to start using a nicotine replacement product, such as the patch or gum. But, if surgery is in your future, you’ll want to be completely weaned off of the replacement a few weeks before, as it’s the nicotine that affects your surgical results.
Support groups and advice from your surgeon can also help you quit and stay smoke-free. Get your friends and family to support you, too. Ask a friend to be there for you when cravings hit. If you have a craving, call up that friend and talk it out or agree to meet up for coffee, to get your mind off of smoking.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health and your appearance. If you want to quit, or have already quit and are thinking about plastic surgery, Dr. Jessica Kulak can help. Dr. Kulak specializes in facial plastic surgery and in treating the signs of aging. She can evaluate your face and neck and recommend the appropriate treatment. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kulak in Maryland, call (301) 222-2020. For an appointment at her practice, the Naderi Center, in Virginia, call (703) 481-0002.