Poor Skin Tone
Smoking chronically deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients. So some smokers appear pale, while others develop uneven coloring. These changes can begin at a young age, according to dermatologist Jonette Keri, MD, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "In young nonsmokers, we don't usually see a lot of uneven skin tone," Keri says. "But this develops more quickly in people who smoke."
There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and many of them trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin. These are the fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. Smoking or even being around secondhand smoke "degrades the building blocks of the skin," Keri says. The consequences include sagging skin and deeper wrinkles.
Sagging Arms and Breasts
Smoking doesn't only damage the appearance of your face, it can also take a toll on your figure. As skin loses its elasticity, parts that were once firm may begin to droop. This includes the inner arms and breasts. Researchers have identified smoking as a top cause of sagging breasts.
Lines Around the Lips
Smoking delivers a one-two punch to the area around your mouth. First, you have the smoker's pucker. "Smokers use certain muscles around their lips that cause them to have dynamic wrinkles that nonsmokers do not," Keri says. Second, you have the loss of elasticity. Together, these factors can lead to deep lines around the lips.
Age spots are blotches of darker skin color that are common on the face and hands. While anyone can develop these spots from spending too much time in the sun, research suggests smokers are more susceptible.
In this image, the twin on the right spent decades smoking and sunbathing, while her sister did not.
Damaged Teeth and Gums
Yellow teeth are one of the most notorious effects of long-term smoking, but the dental damage doesn't stop there. People who smoke tend to develop gum disease, persistent bad breath, and other oral hygiene problems. Smokers are twice as likely to lose teeth as nonsmokers.
Both men and women tend to develop thinner hair as they age, and smoking can accelerate this process. Some studies even suggest people who smoke are more likely to go bald. Researchers in Taiwan have identified smoking as a clear risk factor for male-pattern baldness in Asian men.
Even the eyes are vulnerable to tobacco's reach. Smoking makes you more likely to develop cataracts as you age. These are cloudy areas on the lens of the eye that keep light from reaching the retina. If they cause serious vision problems, they are treated with surgery.
How Quitting Improves Your Looks
Quitting smoking can improve your appearance. As blood flow gets better, your skin receives more oxygen and nutrients. This can help you develop a healthier complexion. If you stay tobacco-free, the stains on your fingers and nails will disappear. You may even notice your teeth getting whiter.
Everyone knows the lungs take a beating from smoking, but research has pinpointed additional, surprising ways that tobacco affects the body, starting with your bones. Smoking raises your risk of developing weakened bones, or osteoporosis. This condition increases your risk for bone fractures including those of the spine, causing it to curve and leaving you hunched over.
Women who smoke have a tougher time getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby. Cigarettes have been linked to fertility problems. And smoking during pregnancy raises the odds of having a miscarriage, premature birth, or delivering a low-birth-weight infant.
It's something all women have in common: menopause, the phase when female hormones decline and the menstrual cycle stops for good. Most women experience this change around age 50. But smokers reach menopause an average of 1 1/2 years earlier than women who don't smoke. The effect is strongest in women who have smoked heavily for many years.
Compared to nonsmokers, people who smoke or use smokeless tobacco products are more likely to develop oral cancer. Smokers who are also heavy drinkers are 15 times more likely to develop this form of cancer. The most common symptoms include a sore patch on the tongue, lips, gums, or other area inside the mouth that doesn't go away and may be painful. Quitting smoking lowers the risk for oral cancer substantially within a few years.
Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of men and women in the U.S. Of those who die from the disease, 9 out of 10 deaths are due to smoking. Cigarettes can also damage the lungs in other ways, making people more vulnerable to breathing problems and dangerous infections like pneumonia.
How Quitting Improves Your Health
In just 20 minutes, blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. Within 24 hours, your heart attack risk begins falling. In the first weeks after quitting, tiny cilia (seen here) start back to work sweeping irritants out of the lungs. Within a year, your risk of developing heart disease drops to half that of people who still smoke. And after 10 smoke-free years, you're no more likely to die of lung cancer than someone who never smoked.