Creatures Of Habit: How We All May Be Sabotaging Our Lips (Pt 3)

COML Staff

Part 3: Puff, Puff? No, Just Pass

We all know by now that smoking is bad for us. It’s not just that it’s deadly for any given smoker. It’s not just that it makes any given smoker smell bad. There’s a whole armada of negative effects in between the superficial and the fatal that impact smokers with every cigarette consumed.

The one we’re concerned with here is the negative effect of cigarette smoke on your lips — and oh, boy, is it a lulu. If you remember our previous post — and this one is something of a follow-on to that very post — you remember that too much breathing directed over the lips can sap them of their all-important natural moisture. Smoking does the same thing, but instead of doing it through the evaporative mechanism of your own breath, now that same mechanism has hot, dry gasses full of toxins and carcinogens to work with.

A Google image search for “smokers lips” will show you the results of smoking on your skin, but we’re betting you can remember having seen it for yourself at least once: lips without luster or natural fullness, with vertical lines above the upper lip and some degree of sagging skin under the lower lip and at the corners of the lips. If you can picture it, you’re picturing the result; in anyone under 50, smoking is the likeliest culprit.

But exactly how does smoking cause the premature aging of skin? No one is one hundred percent sure, but there are a few solid theories that work together to form a fairly airtight explanation:

1. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor. A vasoconstrictor narrows blood vessels.
2. The smoke itself causes oxidative stress on the skin of the lips, mouth, and throat. This oxidative stress causes more localized but more immediate deprivation of oxygen to those tissues.
3. Smoking also stimulates the formation of an enzyme called metallo-proteinase MMP-1, which specifically degrades collagen — and collagen is the compound in the body which keeps skin full, supple, and pliable.

Please take this to heart: If you smoke, please find a way to quit, or even simply find a way to consume nicotine that’s less harmful than smoking. Your skin will thank you — and so will your loved ones.