Surgeon Discusses Study on Smoking and Facial Aging

New research on identical twins with different smoking habits details specific ways that smoking accelerates facial aging. Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a La Jolla cosmetic surgery and facelift specialist, says the results are not surprising.

La Jolla, California (December 2013) — Dr. Richard Chaffoo says the results of a recently published study of identical twins confirm what he has observed for years at his La Jolla cosmetic surgery practice: Smoking accelerates the signs of aging. The triple board-certified plastic surgeon says the research goes beyond that, though, detailing the extent of the damage smoking causes.

“The difference is really very stark when you look at the side-by-side photos of these twins,” Dr. Chaffoo says, “and the researchers have done a good job of breaking down exactly what cosmetic consequences smokers undergo.”

In the study, published in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, researchers from Case Western Reserve University surveyed 79 pairs of identical twins at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, from 2007 to 2010. In each set, 1 twin smoked and the other didn’t, or 1 twin had smoked at least 5 years longer than the other.

When a panel of judges examined photos of the twins, the results were clear. The judges rated the smokers as looking older because of pronounced jowls, wrinkles around the lips, nasolabial folds (the lines running from the nose to the corners of the mouth), and other signs of aging on the lower portion of the face. There were also some signs around the eyes, but these weren’t as statistically significant.

Dr. Chaffoo, who has decades of experience as a facial plastic surgeon in La Jolla and extensive training in the structures of the face, says the lower portion of the face is affected by both the act of smoking and the chemicals in cigarettes.

“Many of the wrinkles around the mouth and ‘lip lines’ that we see in smokers are caused by the repetitive action of puckering the lips around a cigarette thousands of times over many years,” he says. “Additionally, smoking breaks down collagen, reduces circulation, and thins the skin, all of which contribute to an aged appearance.”

Researchers and doctors have long known the physical harm smoking does to the body, but this study is among the first to analyze cosmetic damage.

“Cosmetic surgery can help people whose faces look older than they’d like,” Dr. Chaffoo says, explaining that some of his La Jolla facelift surgery patients are former smokers. “But quitting smoking – or better yet, not starting – is the real message here.”

When he performs facelift and other surgical procedures, Dr. Chaffoo says he requires patients to stop smoking, since smoking can have a negative impact on healing, surgical results, and general health.

“The cosmetic damage this study explores is yet another reason to quit smoking,” he says. “People place a lot of value on their appearance, so there’s a good chance these results might hit home for some smokers out there and motivate them to quit.”

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