Tell us about the new stop smoking campaign you’re working on?
The campaign is called Stoptober and has been launched by the Department of Health to help encourage the eight million smokers in the UK to quit smoking throughout October. Stats show that if you stop smoking for 28 days you are five times more likely to quit for good. The campaign focuses on three core areas - Health and the benefits of quitting - led and championed by footballer Ian Wright, Wealth and the money you save if you quit - led and championed by Kate Walsh- and Self - led and championed by myself - to show the aesthetic impact smoking has on your skin and looks. Young people in particular don't always want to listen if you only talk about the risk of future heart attacks but they do think twice about something that may impact on their image.
Why did you want to get involved?
This campaign is very personal to me. My mother had a heart attack at 27 years old, caused in part by the fact that she had smoked 60 a day for years. The smell of smoke was always around in the house and I hated it. To this day, I have never even tried a cigarette.
The campaign is hoping to highlight the effects of smoking on the skin, teeth and hair so starting with skin what does it do? Then teeth, and hair.
Skin: With over 4,000 harmful chemicals in every cigarette, each time you breathe smoke in and out of your lungs you’re aging your body, your face, your teeth and your skin. Additionally, cigarette smoke releases a chemical called acetaldehyde that causes aging by breaking down the connective tissue that holds skin together so everything starts to sag. The ageing effects of smoking will have add 10 years to a person’s complexion and by the time they reach 30 the effects of crows feet, wrinkles, discolouration, the grey sullen, leathery and yellow tone, plus abnormal skin growths will be visible.
Teeth: Smoking causes teeth discoloration and stains, bad breath, teeth loss, gum disease and oral cancers. A great smile is an intrinsic part of a beautiful face and smoking is detrimental to this. My non-professional tips would be to first get a check up at the dentist - after years of smoking they will put you on the right path. Thereafter, follow their advice but common sense dictates that it won't harm to floss daily, brush using an ultrasonic toothbrush twice a day and use an alcohol free mouthwash with an anti-bacterial agent to combat bad breath. The 4,000 toxic chemicals found in tar deposit a "sticky residue" on the surface of your teeth. If you couple that with the fact that the same chemicals coat your teeth with plaque and you can understand how your (formerly) pearly whites wouldn’t stand a chance.
The discoloration caused by tar and other chemicals in the tobacco are harder to remove than other stains because the smoke actually penetrates the tooth enamel, so it might be an idea to consider cosmetic whitening at a reputable cosmetic dentistry practice.
- Dullsville: Smoking can cause your strands to turn brittle and dull-looking. This is because smoking constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen flow into the scalp. Essentially, your hair ends up lacking the nourishment it needs. This needs intensive conditioning - I would invest in a professional conditioning treatment at the hair salon for the first few months after quitting to help replace lost nutrients.
- Hair loss: Smokers, especially ones who smoke more frequently, are more likely to experience balding and thinning of the hair. This is most likely attributed to the fact that smoking damages the hair follicle and interferes with circulation and hormone production in the scalp. In this instance it is all about great advice - see a trichologist - the sooner you stop smoking the sooner you limit its effects
- Premature graying: A report in the British Medical Journal proved a link between smoking and premature graying. This can be attributed to the fact that the toxins contained in cigarettes do not only cause damage to hormones, but to hair follicles as well. Also, once hair does start to go gray, it can take on an unwanted yellow hue thanks to tar and nicotine contained in cigarettes. So, get investing in a great hair colour - or go to the salon!
For those who have been smoking for years what tips do you have to help cover up these effects?
Smoking makes your lips dark and unattractive. The cells situated in the bottom of the epidermis are affected by smoking causing your lips to darken. Conceal using a lighter foundation, which will also set your lip colour. Apply usual lip colour over the top.
Conceal tar stained fingers and fingernails with clever body make up - like a Dermablend - but hopefully this will fade over time. Smoking can also create an imbalance in women's hormone levels, which can lead to changes in body shape.
You may have heard the saying that smokers tend to be thinner than non-smokers. However, smoking actually affects the endocrinal system - the glands that secrete hormones - and changes body shape, increasing the waist-to-hip ratio. Quitting means your body can hopefully get back to normal and recover from the effects of smoking. Go to the gym or leisure centre and with the help of an expert, create your own personalised get fit programme. You will feel beautiful head to toe.
Premature ageing is also a big effect of smoking, how can people rectify the damage that’s already been done?
Quitting smoking improves the blood supply to the skin and gives previously pale skin a more 'natural' appearance. A smoker's skin is more prone to wrinkles because the skin's vitamin A content is low compared with that of a non-smoker. Vitamin A protects the skin against strong chemical substances that may damage or destroy it. Smoking also gets in the way of absorption of vitamin C - a vital antioxidant for skin protection and health. By quitting, you will improve your skin tone and colour. You are less likely to get wrinkles around your eyes and mouth which is caused by squinting when smoke gets in your eyes and puckering up when you draw on a cigarette. You also must ‘attack’ the problem internally. Eat fruits rich in vitamin C and foods containing zinc. They stimulate the formation of collagen, which is important for the skin. Eat wheat, oat flakes and fish - they are the main source of zinc. To replenish the lack of vitamin A, eat lettuce and carrots. Vitamin E is “responsible“ for the youth of your skin. Exfoliate, get facials, use nourishing creams and always a night cream. Also take supplements and multivitamins. Skincare products should contain retinol, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Gary Cockerill is supporting Stoptober by encouraging the nation's smokers to take part in the 28-day stop smoking challenge. If you go 28 days without smoking you are five times more be able to stop for good. For more information visit smoke free.nhs.uk/stoptober.
Femalefirst Taryn Davies