You’ve probably heard that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, kidney, pancreas, colon, and many more.
You may also know that smoking can cause heart disease, reproductive health issues, breathing disorders such as bronchitis and emphysema, and other health problems. But did you know that cigarette smoking affects the way you look?
Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop premature facial wrinkles than are nonsmokers. Smoking causes skin to lose its elasticity and moisture, take on a gray appearance, and form lines and grooves. While this is caused largely by the tightening of blood vessels and the drying effects of tobacco smoke, the motion of smoking itself—squinting of the eyes and tightening of the mouth—is thought to contribute to wrinkling around the eyes and upper lip. Because smokers repeatedly suck on cigarettes, they may also develop hollow cheeks, leading to a gaunt appearance.
These premature aging effects of cigarette smoking are even more dramatic than those resulting from sun exposure. The aging effects of smoking can become noticeable when a smoker is as young as 20–30 years old. By the time a smoker is 40 years old, he or she could have as many wrinkles as a 60-year-old nonsmoker.
Poor oral health
Smoking can wreak havoc on a person’s mouth. Cigarette smoke is well known to cause bad breath as well as stained teeth and gums. The darkening of the gums by tobacco smoke is called “smoker’s melanosis.” Another cosmetic effect of smoking, “smoker’s tongue,” is characterized by white spots or patches on the tongue. A similar effect is “smoker’s palate,” also called nicotine stomatitis, a gray-white patch with red bumps on the roof of the mouth.
Because cigarette smoke weakens the ability of gum tissue to fight infection, smokers have an increased risk of periodontitis (an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth), which can cause swollen gums and loss of teeth. Not only are smokers more likely to develop periodontitis in the first place, they also tend to respond more poorly to treatment than do nonsmokers.
Smokers who require dental implants are more likely than nonsmokers to have complications. And the more someone smokes, the more likely it is that dental implants will fail.
Not only do dental problems affect appearance, they can affect a person’s ability to speak and eat. Even when the problems can be repaired, they can require many trips to the dentist.
In addition to premature aging and dental problems, cigarette smoking is linked to several conditions that affect your appearance.
Compared with nonsmokers, smokers are about twice as likely to develop psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterized by an uncomfortable and unsightly scaly rash. Also, psoriasis tends to be more severe in smokers than in nonsmokers.
The chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the body to store fat around the waist and upper torso instead of the hips. As a result, smokers often have a higher waist-to-hip ratio than nonsmokers. This not only causes belly flab but also increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Compared with nonsmokers, smokers have more frequent and severe acne breakouts, which then take longer to heal.
Cigarette smoke affects the hair by decreasing blood circulation and changing the DNA of hair follicles. The result can be a lackluster appearance, discoloration, thinning, and premature graying of the hair.
Smokers tend to have yellowing of the fingers and fingernails on the hand used to hold cigarettes.
For many smokers, the effect of smoking on their appearance plays an important role in their decision to quit. Quitting smoking reduces their likelihood of developing life-threatening conditions like cancer and stops accumulating damage to their appearance.
– E. Nielsen
For more information, talk to your physician or call askMDAnderson at 877-632-6789. MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program can be reached at 713-792-QUIT or 866-245-0862. You can also visit www.mdanderson.orgor www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco.
OncoLog, November-December 2016, Volume 61, Issue 11-12