January 20, 2017

Smoking and Skin Aging

Smoking Ages by Flickr Yug_and_her

Smoking cigarettes ages skin faster than anything else, apart from sun damage.

There is no gentle way of saying this but if you smoke cigarettes, then you need to stop smoking.

Aside from the many health issues associated with smoking – if you care at all about wrinkles and you want to look younger for longer – then smoking is out.

One million new smokers light up each year in the U.S. alone and many of them are young women who may later come to regret what smoking does to their looks.

As far as the effects of smoking on skin aging and health, it is much worse for women. That is official and it is supported by many years of research by reputable medical bodies.

  • The nicotine in cigarettes is more addictive for women who, as a result, have much more difficulty quitting smoking than men.
  • Women who smoke have twice the additional risk of heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer than men who smoke.
  • Lung cancer kills three times the number of American women than breast cancer – currently around 70,000 per year.
  • Smoking is also linked to early onset of the menopause in women.
  • Most devastating of all from a looks point of view – the aging effects of smoking on the skin are worse for women who are much more likely to develop “smoker’s face” than male smokers.

For women smoking and aging are inextricably linked.

In 2001, the special risks of smoking for women were recognized by the US Surgeon General in a report warning women of the dangers from smoking cigarettes.

European government bodies and other world authorities made similar statements.

Even if you dismiss the health risks, the effect of smoking on skin may give you some pause for thought.  It is worth taking time to consider how smoking cigarettes will damage your skin and accelerate skin aging.  Do you really want this to happen to you?

“For smokers, middle age starts in the early 30′s as the tell tale wrinkles around the mouth and eyes begin to appear. Young female smokers are likely to be wasting their money on anti-aging face creams if they continue to smoke.”
 ~ Amanda Sandford, Action on Smoking Health

old woman smoking by Flickr twicepix

The effects of smoking on skin aging have been recognized for a long time. A 1965 study first identified what came to be known as “smoker’s face” – gray, pale and wrinkled skin.

In recent years, much research has focused on this area and it is now broadly accepted that smoking, making smokers look much older than non-smokers, damages smoker’s skin.

It is not just smoker’s skin that ages quicker. Research in recent years has proved conclusively that passive smoking is damaging to your skin and to your health. Unfair though it seems, whether you smoke or just breathe in other people’s smoke, your skin will suffer the same symptoms of smoker’s face.

The Chief Medical Officer of the U.K. recently highlighted the link between smoking and skin damage saying that smoking adds between 10-20 years to your natural age.

A 2007 study found that smoking is associated with increased wrinkling and skin damage on many parts of the body, not just the face. Inner arms, neck and decollete are likely to show wrinkling and sagging as a result of having accelerated skin aging from smoking.

Smoking speeds up skin aging in a number of ways. It all starts with the free radicals formed in your body by the exposure to cigarette smoke.

Free radicals are highly unstable and powerful molecules that can cause disease and damage to cell DNA. The cells of your body start behaving erratically producing a range of responses that make your skin age faster.

So, how does smoking affect the skin?

  • Smoking restricts blood flow through the capillaries (tiny veins near the skins surface) preventing oxygen and nutrients getting to the skin.
  • Smoking increases production of an enzyme, which breaks down the supply of collagen to the skin’s structure. Collagen supply is vital to the skin’s elasticity. It decreases with age but smoking cigarettes accelerates this process.
  • Smoking reduces the body’s store of vitamin A, which provides protection from skin damage.
  • Smoking gets in the way of absorption of vitamin C – a vital antioxidant for skin protection and health.
  • Smokers continual puckering from drawing on a cigarette and squinting in reaction to the cigarette smoke results in deeply wrinkled skin around the eyes and mouth – classic signs of “smoker’s face.”

Smoker's Face by Flickr Shendeluth

Smoking statistics will clearly tell you the risk of death and disease from your smoking habit. If that is not sufficiently frightening, then this is what you might expect your skin to look like if you continue to smoke:

  • Dull appearance to the skin – loss of skin glow and vitality
  • Discolored skin (an ashy look on white skins)
  • Deeper wrinkles around the mouth and eyes
  • Loss of tone and elasticity more than with the normal aging process

A key question from most smokers is, if I stop smoking can I reverse the skin damage? The simple answer is that you won’t be able to completely reverse the damage that smoking has done.

But, with a good diet, skin supplements and great anti-aging skin care you can do a lot to get your youthful skin back and prevent damage from getting any worse. Why wait only to stop smoking later when even more damage has been done to your skin?

When you look at your skin, remember that some damage won’t appear until 10-20 years after you began to smoke. So, if you haven’t been smoking that long and you don’t see much skin damage yet – then don’t assume it won’t happen. 

Smoking exerts such a noticeable effect on the skin that it’s often possible to detect whether or not a person is a smoker simply by looking at his or her face. Smokers have more wrinkles and their skin tends to have a grayish pallor compared to non-smokers.”  ~ Professor Young, Head of Dermatology, Guys School of Medicine, London

The important thing for your skin and your looks is to stop inflicting continued damage on yourself. If you quit smoking now, then you will stop your skin aging any faster than it normally would. With proper anti-aging skin care and nutrition your skin will look much better into the future than it will do if you carry on as a smoker.


Smoking can add years to your face. Not only can it wrinkle the face and turn it yellow, but smoking causes superficial skin problems, creating adverse changes to the skin’s ability to function and heal. Does this make you want to quit?



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