Smoking Breaks Down Skin Proteins

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Image-conscious people who smoke because it looks cool may be dismayed to find out that the habit helps break down skin proteins, causing smokers to have more wrinkles. Researchers in Germany and Britain studied compounds found naturally in the skin that break down collagen, for at least 70 percent of the skin. Human skin normally produces these chemicals when triggered by ultraviolet rays from sunlight. The investigators looked at smokers' skin from a place that the sun usually does not shine upon -- the buttocks.

The scientists found that smokers had significantly higher levels of the skin-degrading chemicals than normal. The researchers add that the volunteers never used ultraviolet tanning beds, which suggests that smoking is a likely cause for rapid skin aging. The research team reported their findings in the journal Lancet. An editorial in the journal adds that nicotine replacement products may help wean smokers from quitting if fears of deteriorating skin quality do not.