A Deeper Look at Extrinsic Aging

In a study compiled by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids during the fourth quarter of 2010, 46.6 million U.S. adults and 3.4 million high school students regularly smoke cigarettes. The negative effects on the cardiovascular system and the lungs are widely recognized, but many who choose to smoke have little or no awareness of what smoking does to healthy skin.

Smoking is a major contributor to many skin conditions and complications, such as skin discoloration, ECM breakdown, deep wrinkling, premature skin aging, poor wound-healing and the formation of abnormal skin growths. Smoking one cigarette restricts blood flow for up to 90 min. If a person smokes more than one cigarette during this time, skin goes without proper oxygenation exponentially longer. The telangiectasias—small, dilated blood vessels near the skin’s surface—that are characteristic of a smoker’s skin are a result of the body attempting to get more blood to the skin by producing more vessels. In addition to the vascular effects on the skin, exposure to the pollutants present in cigarettes accelerates the degradation of the ECM by increasing MMP—specifically MMP-1—production, causing the unwanted breakdown of healthy and necessary matrix components, such as collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkling and laxity.

Once someone has quit smoking, professional detoxifying and oxygenating treatments can promote increased circulation and oxygenation of the skin cells. These types of treatments, as well as superficial chemical peels, can make a visible improvement in skin tone. In addition, L-ascorbic acid, retinoids and peptides can increase collagen deposition and help reduce wrinkling. Some ingredients, such as capparenols from caper bud and certain types of algae, also can support and strengthen capillaries to reduce their hyperpermeability.

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