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Twin Study Finds Smoking Ages the Skin

Update Date: Oct 30, 2013 01:50 PM EDT

Due to several studies that have found mounting evidence against smoking, it is safe to say that most people know that smoking is bad for one's health. Even though smoking might not lead to cancer or other illnesses immediately, it plays a huge factor in causing them to develop later in life. Now, in a new study, researchers reported that not only is smoking bad for one's health, smoking can age the skin a lot faster, leading to eye bags and wrinkles.

"Smoking makes you look old. That's all there is to it," commented Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, a dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and George Washington University Medical Center. She was not a part of the study. "Besides lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes, just one more good reason to stop smoking is that it's definitely making you look a lot older."

For this study, the team headed by Dr. Bahman Guyuron from Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland, used pictures of 79 pairs of identical twins. The pictures were standard photos taken at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, OH. On average, the twins were in their late 40s with around 75 percent of them being women. Out of the 79 pairs, 45 of them included pairs with one smoker and one nonsmoker.

The researchers found when they asked judgers to rate the faces based on signs of aging, the difference between the twins was small. For example, when the researchers asked people to rate from zero to three, zero meaning no wrinkles, in the upper eyelids, they found that smokers had an average rating of 1.56 and nonsmokers had an average rating of 1.51. For jowls, which are the skin of the cheeks, smokers had a 1.0 rating and nonsmokers received a 0.93 rating. The researchers found no difference in the ratings for crow's feet or forehead wrinkles.

Even though the study found small differences, the researchers noted that people who have smoked longer had higher ratings. The longer a person smoked, the heavier their eye bags were and the more wrinkles they had in their lower lip area. Smoking causes the skin to break down because the toxins lead to the deterioration of collagen, which are the protein fibers that keep the skin together. The team noted that they did not record how many cigarettes the smokers had each day. They also did not take into account fat distribution and how it could have affected facial appearance.

"It really just kind of confirms a lot of stuff that most people believed," commented Dr. Alan Boyd, who was not a part of the study. Boyd is a dermatologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.

The study was published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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