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How Soon Do Bad Decisions Show Up On Your Face?

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    I once had a friend who was a big-time cigarette smoker — so much so that she'd cycle through at least a pack-and-a-half of Marlboros on any given weekend. She'd quit over and over again; inevitably, a few weeks (or more like days) in, I'd find her outside whatever bar we were imbibing at puffing away. Then, one day at brunch, she ceremoniously declared she'd finally be quitting for good. Her reason? "I had my first cigarette in over a month last night, and I woke up with a huge zit on my chin," she alleged.

    I raised an eyebrow. Not because I expected her to fall off the wagon as quickly as she had in the past, but because I was super-skeptical of her reasoning. "I don't think a zit would show up on your face that quickly after a single cigarette," I argued. "There's, like, bodily functions that need to go down first." But she persisted. The cigarette she smoked 12 hours ago had caused the breakout. I was the one who was wrong.

    Eventually, she did quit for a while, and then started smoking again, and our friendship eventually fizzled the way these things do. But our argument continued to nag me: Could things really go south so quickly on your face?

    So I polled dermatologist Jessica Weiser, MD, about how quickly certain stressors impact your skin — everything from smoking to sugar to fast food. Read on to learn how bad habits really affect your face.




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  2. Illustrated by Maria Ines Gul.

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    Sleeping In Your Makeup
    We get it — sometimes you're just so sleepy that washing off your makeup can seem like the ultimate chore. But snoozing in your makeup has both short- and long-term effects. "Makeup should be removed every night to allow skin to repair and regenerate overnight," says Dr. Weiser. "Leaving it on can lead to clogged pores, oil buildup, and bacterial growth, causing breakouts."

    Those zits can start brewing as early as the morning after — especially if you fall asleep in heavy makeup. But your skin will also immediately look uneven and dull, even after you finally wash off the makeup.

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    Fast Food
    I have gone on my fair share of late-night McDonald's runs. (Double cheeseburger with Big Mac sauce, please.) And while the occasional burger won't do too much harm, over time your face will start to look sallow, thanks to an avalanche of chemical processes.

    "Exogenous glycation happens when the sugars in food react with fats or proteins exposed to high temperatures, such as those incurred during the cooking process of fast food," Dr. Weiser explains. "Glycation is the first component in a set of reactions that forms advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs." Those AGEs trigger inflammation, which causes collagen breakdown, skin laxity, fine lines, and more. So, basically, the way fast food is prepared leads to the creation of nasty, inflammation-causing chemicals.

    You won't see this after a single juicy bite — effects compound the more you nosh. But just like your nutritionist, your derm will likely steer you away from too many Whoppers or In-N-Out for the sake of your skin. Damn!

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    Traveling On An Airplane
    Anyone who has ever stepped foot on a long-haul flight knows the immediate reaction your skin has to that craptastic air. "Airplane air is recycled, pressurised, and without humidity," says Dr. Weiser. "Therefore, it causes skin dryness and irritation." But what you may not realise is that parched skin can lead to other problems. "That excessive dryness triggers oil-gland productivity, resulting in breakouts," she says. These can crop up two to three days after air travel, which is why you might see a zit make an unwelcome appearance during your vacation.

    The easiest way to combat all of this is to ensure you stay nice and hydrated. Sip water during your flight, apply a moisturising serum and cream before you board, and use a mild facial scrub once you land to remove dead skin cells. In-flight mists with hydrating sprays are also a refreshing option.

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    Cold Air
    Funnily enough, cold air and airplane air aren't all that different — they both lack humidity, and your skin loves it some humidity. But chilly temps are actually worse than airplane air. "Cold air is so depleted of moisture that it pulls it from the skin surface, causing dryness and irritation," says Dr. Weiser. If your skin is exposed to cold air for long periods of time, this can actually lead to eczema.

    While redness and dryness are immediate (especially after a brutally cold or windy day), more serious side effects are cumulative. The best way to combat ice-climber face? Cover up as much as possible, and ensure your skin is getting enough hydration. Plug in your humidifier, and double down on moisturiser.

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    Humidity
    After our last two slides, you're probably thinking that humidity is like manna from heaven for your complexion. Well, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. "Humidity is excessive moisture, and it can trigger excessive oil-gland production, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts," Dr. Weiser says. Things get especially icky when that humidity triggers sweat, which can lead to epic irritation. These sorts of breakouts and rashes are quick to flare up, but easy to soothe. Just make sure you're washing and exfoliating well.