Skin aging: a synergy between cigarette smoke and sunlight

 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)
Combined exposure of the skin to cigarette smoke and UV rays could accelerate premature aging.

Research has already shown the consequences of cigarette smoke and sunlight separately. A team from Laval University and the Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-Université Laval has now investigated the harmful interaction between cigarette smoke and UV rays, as humans are rarely exposed to a single environmental factor.

Led by Roxane Pouliot , professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy, and Patrick J. Rochette, professor in the Faculty of Medicine, the scientists tested several combinations and levels of exposure on skin substitutes. "Our model is reconstructed from human cells, without the addition of collagen. It seems to be the most relevant model so far for this type of research", says the researcher.

By imitating real-life exposure conditions, the research team discovered a harmful synergy at the structural and molecular levels of the skin. "By studying the skin’s layers, we noticed that cigarette smoke combined with UV rays led to a more rapid reduction in type 3 and 4 collagens, responsible for the skin’s elasticity and youthful appearance, and a sagging of the dermis," summarizes Professor Pouliot.

Doctoral student Alexe Grenier, who led the study, adds that the combination of the two factors increases the amount of metalloproteinase, an enzyme that degrades collagen when in excess. In addition, a decrease in collagen precursor was observed, which could lead to reduced collagen production.

To further understand the consequences of cigarette smoke on the skin, the team will continue their research by analyzing the effects of its many compounds. "We could identify the products that are most harmful to the skin and, if possible, use compounds to counter their effects. This is particularly relevant with young smokers," emphasizes Roxane Pouliot. "We could also test creams or other cosmetic products capable of countering the effects," she adds, pointing to another avenue of research.

In addition to cigarette smoke, wood smoke from forest fires, for example, could also be tested. Patrick J. Rochette’s laboratory has adapted a cigarette smoke capture technique that can be used to capture wood smoke.

The study was published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports. The authors are Alexe Grenier, Mathieu C. Morissette, Patrick J. Rochette and Roxane Pouliot.