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What does smoking do to my skin?

Jul 26,2019

Smokers exist all year round, and with the arrival of summer, social smokers drastically increase their consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products1,2. Smoking and drinking often go hand-in-hand; the warmer weather and longer days are associated with day drinking, and more smoking among smokers and social smokers. Unfortunately, our summer habits come at a cost: smoking and other related activities are harmful to the skin and lead to premature ageing.

Cigarettes and tobacco smoke contain around 7000 chemicals, many of which are harmful2. Nicotine and tar are two of the most widely known chemicals, but also include carbon monoxide, arsenic, ammonia and many more3.

Why is smoking bad for the skin?

We are all aware of the many potential risks and effects of smoking, including heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. However, smoking does not only impact us internally but also causes noticeable impacts on our appearances.

Tobacco has a wide variety of effects on the skin:

  • Up to 3-time increased likelihood for facial wrinkling4,5,6,7
    • Particularly around the eyes and mouth (smokers line or bar codes)4
  • Nicotine discolours teeth4
  • Gum disease – increases risk of tooth loss10
  • Hair damage5
    • Hair thinning and hair loss more prevalent among smokers vs non-smokers4
  • Vasoconstriction; narrowing of the blood vessels and thickening of blood4
  • Reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your skin (and other organs)4
    • Gives a dull and grey appearance4
    • Increases difficulty of healing can lead to scarring5,7
  • Reduces the production of collagen and new collagen formation in the skin7
  • Interference with normal skin barrier function8,9
    • Has been linked with atopic dermatitis (eczema); itchy, red, dry and cracked skin9

Reducing the amount a person smokes has suggested some promising results in reducing the impact of smoking, and increase your likelihood of stopping smoking all together11. Taking vitamins such a vitamin C can help reduce the depletion of key nutrients and vitamins protecting the body from certain toxic chemicals.

The best way to stop the harmful effects of smoking is to stop smoking entirely.




  1. Del Bono E. et al (2014) Seasonality in smoking behaviour: re-evaluating the effects of the 2005 public smoking ban in Italy. Institute for Social & Economic Research
  2. Momperousse D, et al. (2007) Exploring the Seasonality of cigarette-smoking behaviour. Tobacco Control 16(1):69-70
  5. Morita A. (2007) Tobacco smoke causes premature skin aging. Journal of Dermatological Science 48(3)169-175
  6. Mortia A, et al (2009) Molecular Basic of Tobacco Smoke-Induced Premature Skin Aging Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings 14(1)53-55
  7. Knuutinen A, et al (2002) Smoking affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin. The British Journal of Dermatology 164(4):588-94
  8. Xin S, et al (2016) Heavy Cigarette Smokers in a Chinese Population Display a Compromised Permeability Barrier. BioMedical Research Institute
  9. Kim S Y, et al (2017) Atopic dermatitis is associated with active and passive cigarette smoking in adolescents. PLOS|ONE
  11. Begh R (2015) Does reduced smoking if you can’t stop make any difference? BMC Medicine 13:257
  12. Oregon State University. (2006) Study With Smokers Shows Vitamins Combine For Benefits. ScienceDaily.



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