TAMPA, Fla. — Women: Want to postpone those fine facial lines, stave off unsightly crow's feet? The advice from two dermatologists is to stop smoking.
They cite studies indicating smoking causes certain skin conditions and, perhaps worst of all, premature aging of the face. It all translates into wrinkles, and it happens more often with women than men.
For many smokers, "it doesn't seem to impress them that they may die of lung disease or heart disease. If you say it may make you look older, it may attract their attention," said Jeffrey B. Smith, a University of South Florida dermatologist.
Smith and Neil A. Fenske, chairman of the university's dermatology department, reviewed 311 reports of smoking-related, disfiguring skin conditions, including wrinkles, blisters, rashes and splotches.
They describe a condition known in the medical community as "smoker's face." It makes people appear much older than their age and is characterized by wrinkles, gaunt facial features and dull grayish skin with purplish and red blotches.
"Wrinkles aren't going to kill you, but most people don't want to look older than they really are," said Smith, who with Fenske wrote an article on their findings in last month's Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Just how smoking contributes to facial wrinkles isn't fully understood, but Smith noted a number of factors may play a role in tissue damage.
Women seem to be more susceptible to the wrinkling effects, possibly because smoking decreases estrogen levels, and lack of estrogen has been linked to aging.
As with sun exposure, smoking thickens and fragments the skin's resilient fibers and depletes levels of protective vitamin A.
Smoking also appears to cause or worsen some forms of skin cancer. Some itchy, scaly rashes are more likely to strike smokers than nonsmokers, and some mouth lesions appear to be linked to cigarettes.
Wounds heal quicker in nonsmokers than smokers. As a result, some doctors urge patients not to smoke for a few weeks before and after surgery.