FYI: What smoking does to your skin

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Look, we know you know you need to stop smoking.  We know you know it’s bad for your lungs and for your heart and for your sex life and for your teeth.  We know you need a vice, and smoking may be a lesser evil than other vices.  We know you will quit when YOU want to quit, not because of anything we say, but because you’re ready to.  We pretty much know everything there is to know about you and your smoking, but did you know what smoking does to your skin?  Even if you did, have another read.  And even if you’re not a smoker, here is why you shouldn’t enable your smoker friends by standing in the smoking areas with them – second hand smoke is equally damaging!

The reason you may not know what smoking does to your skin is because it takes time for these things to appear.  If every time you took a drag of your cigarette you developed a blister on your face you may be more compelled to quit, but the effects take years to develop so they creep up on you without you even noticing them.

The first and simplest reason for smokers looking older than they should (any smoker will on average look 1.4 years older than a non-smoker of the same age) is the face you make when you smoke:  brows furrowed, lips pursed and cheeks hollowed as you suck on that glorious little cancer stick.  Over time those wrinkles will not only appear when you are taking a drag, but All. The. Time.  The constant sucking in of your cheeks will cause fat loss in this area, leaving you gaunt and looking older than your years too.  In fact vertical lines around the mouth, whether or not the patient is/was a smoker, are called Smokers Lines because they are so common on the faces of smokers, and they may even be influenced by the heat coming directly off your cigarette, damaging the proteins in your skin and causing further wrinkling.

The second reason you may not look as good as your non-smoker friends is that your sleep is disrupted by your nicotine addiction.  Sure, you don’t get up in the middle of the night to smoke, but if you are smoking at regular intervals during the day and then sleeping 8 hours a night you can imagine how many cigarettes your body wants/expects while you are snoozing.  This short-term withdrawal can mean that you don’t sleep as deeply as you should, and therefore do not have all the benefits that sleep has on your skin and amongst other things may find you have dark circles or bags under your eyes, dehydrated and dull looking skin, and that your blemishes take longer than average to heal.

On top of that, your skin’s healing is certainly hampered by your nicotine addiction.  The nicotine in ONE cigarette causes vasoconstriction for up to 90 minutes, and in lieu of diverting too much blood away from your essential organs like your heart or lungs, you skin’s blood supply is sacrificed, meaning that your skin will appear grayer in colour than a non-smokers, that you may develop small broken blood vessels or “telangiectasia” on your nose or cheeks, and that any blemishes or sores on your skin will take longer to heal than in a non-smoker.  This longer healing time leads to more and deeper scarring, which can be particularly devastating in cases of acne.  The starvation of oxygen your skin experiences also causes the breakdown of collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkled and weaker, thinner skin, meaning that injuries happen more easily and then take longer to heal.

On top of that, the carbon monoxide you exhale in cigarette smoke saps your skin of oxygen and vitamins, further debilitating its healing potential and making its colour look even more off.  Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that promotes collagen synthesis, protects your skin against the sun and promotes healing.  Smoking depletes the Vitamin C in your skin, as well as Vitamin A which increases cell turnover and keeps skin wrinkle and blemish free.  The cloud of smoke you exhale into your own (and everyone else’s) face each time you smoke is also damaging to your skin.  It’s not really difficult to imagine that the nicotine and tar and filth you exhale clogs your pores, causing and worsening breakouts – you wouldn’t imagine that standing behind a truck’s exhaust pipe is good for your skin, and your smoke cloud unfortunately is equally harmful.

As if all of that isn’t enough, smoking damages your hair too.  Smoke damages the DNA in your hair follicles and generates free-radicals that ultimately result in thinner hair that greys sooner than non-smokers’ hair.  Men who smoke have about double the chance of going bald than non-smokers do, even after taking into account genetics and other factors that influence hair loss.  Imagine having no hair left to help hide your smokers skin? Devastating!

Lastly, smokers are up to 3 times more likely to develop squamos cell carcinoma, a life threatening skin cancer, than non-smokers.

The bright side of all of this is that if you quit smoking, most of these things will reverse themselves over time – within only 6 weeks of quitting you will see the benefits of having an undisrupted supply of oxygen to your skin.  The bad news is that the longer you wait to quit, the more entrenched the damage will become and the less likely they are to disappear.  Of course, if you are determined to keep smoking there are methods of treating your wrinkles, like Botox and fillers, that may help you to appear younger for a few more years.

If you would like to find out more about reversing the effects of smoking on your skin, make an appointment for consultation on (021) 6833048 extension 1, or send us an email on


  • […] “Smokers lines” in the upper lip do not always occur due to smoking, and in fact many people who have these have never indulged in a cigarette in their lives! Tiny amounts of Botox® can help to reduce the appearance of these lines, however it is important to note that if you do have this treatment you may have difficulty pursing your lips afterwards, making tasks like drinking through a straw difficult.  This treatment is usually optimized by combining it with a filler to strengthen and redefine the border of the lips. […]

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