I hate to admit it, but I still smoke (pauses to light up) and I know there are still a lot of smokers out there. Are you like me, using smoking as a crutch to get you through stressful times (“better to kill myself than someone else”); or like my mother, who claims to enjoy smoking while hacking up gobs of brown-colored mucus? Either way, unless you’re illiterate (in which case, you’re not reading this blog), you’ve known smoking is bad for you for at least 46 years: the first Surgeon General’s warning hit cigarette packs in the US in 1966.
Ignoring for the moment all the damage we’re doing to the inside of our bodies, which is not inconsiderable, let’s look at what we’re doing to the outside … our skin.
If you’re of a certain age [ahem], your skin is dry yet you still get blocked pores and the occasional zit, amirite? You may be in your thirties but you’re starting to get wrinkles around your mouth and eyes, yes? All this is caused by that damned cigarette you’re sucking on as you read this.
That yellow film of nicotine you keep washing off your windows? There’s an even thicker layer on your face, which is right in the middle of the cloud of nicotine-laden smoke every time you take a puff. It’s clogging your pores. (Any other exposed parts of you, too … those yellowed fingernails!) Pursing your lips each time you take a drag or squinting as smoke gets in your eyes stretches the skin and over time, creates wrinkles. Cigarette smoke constricts the top layer of the skin, reducing oxygen and causes the blood to thicken; it thins the skin and reduces the level of collagen (the “plumping” stuff). It also reduces the body’s ability to make and store Vitamin A, which is crucial to good skin health.
Everyone will tell you to quit smoking, even me. And we all will at some point … even if it’s the cigarette that kills us. In the meantime …
- Drink copious amounts of water. A lot of pundits for a long time have been touting eight glasses each day. I was taught something different in school. To what I said in that post, I’d add even more to flush out all the toxins you’re building up.
- Keep your skin clean. I’m not too particular about my looks and rarely wear makeup. This makes it easy for me to clean my face more than once in the morning and once at night. I use a mild soap (goat’s milk) when I wash, and swipe my face a couple more times a day with a witch hazel-soaked cotton pad. Those of you who wear makeup every day should wash it off the minute you walk in the door – despite claims of “good for your skin” stuff, none of it really is.
- Add foods high in Vitamin A to your diet: most dairy products, liver, salmon, green vegetables, almonds or fortified orange juice.
- Get outside into the fresh air and get some sun (but not too much). Closeting yourself in the house/office with all the crap you’re exhaling into the air isn’t doing you any good. A little sun is good for the skin and the rest of you – helps you manufacture Vitamin D.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Do a little research to find out what types of oils are good for your particular skin type. Now that my skin has changed, I made a cream with shea butter, a green tea infusion and a couple drops of Geranium essential oil. Although most of the antioxidant benefits of green tea disappear when it’s exposed to air, some does remain. (This was my first attempt at using an herbal butter. This ain’t your dairy butter, folks. It’s hard.) It’s not quite the consistency I like so the next batch, I think, will be shea butter blended with camellia seed oil instead of the infusion. Camellia seed oil is from a plant in the same family as the green tea I drink, just an oil instead of water.
- There are some other skin care suggestions here.
Until you can quit, take as best care of yourself as you can. Adequate sleep, a reasonable amount of exercise, and eating healthy foods will go a long ways toward at least ameliorating the effects of your habit.