What does smoking do to the skin?

What does smoking do to the skin?

May 13, 2018

There are so many health warnings about smoking, most of us are aware of what cigarettes can do to your insides.

But it’s much easier to ignore the risk when you can’t actually see any harsh results.

However, when it comes to the skin, the damage is written all over your face.

Smoking deprives the skin of oxygen, accelerates the ageing process, and depletes bodies of the vitamins needed for healing.

Aside from age, smoking is the strongest predictor of facial wrinkling in men and women.

And smoking doesn't cause wrinkles only on your face. It is also associated with increased wrinkling and skin damage on other parts of your body, including your inner arms.

You can prevent worsening of wrinkling by quitting smoking as soon as possible.

Nicotine causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outer layers of the skin. This impairs blood flow and the skin doesn't get as much oxygen and important nutrients, such as Vitamin A.

Most of the 4,000+ chemicals in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elastin, which give skin its strength and elasticity. This leads to premature sagging and wrinkles.

Exposure to heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions you make when smoking - such as pursing the lips when inhaling and squinting the eyes to keep out smoke - cause even more lines on the skin.

Other effects on your skin include:


Eye bags

Smokers can struggle to get a good night’s sleep, possibly because nicotine withdrawal causes them to toss and turn. And that can lead to heavy bags under the eyes.



According to a 2007 study, if you smoke for 10 years or less, your risk of getting psoriasis goes up 20%. For 11–20 years of smoking that figures is 60% higher, and once a smoker goes beyond two decades the psoriasis risk more than doubles.



Wounds take longer to heal and scars are bigger and redder than they would otherwise be if they weren’t exposed to cigarette smoke.



A 1985 study came up with the term Smoker’s Face. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide which displaces oxygen, and nicotine which reduces blood flow, leaving skin dry and discoloured.



Smokers are prone to infection with human papillomavirus, a large family of viruses that can cause warts.


Skin cancer

Smokers are three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer, than non-smokers.


Stretch marks

Anyone can get stretch marks with rapid weight gain - but cigarettes can be a contributing factor, as nicotine damages the elasticity of the skin.


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