Smoking and Skin Aging

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

There’s no gentle way of saying this. If you smoke cigarettes you need to stop.

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.

Whilst the number of cigarette smokers is dropping world-wide, there are still one million new smokers lighting up each year in the US alone – many of them young women who may later come to regret the irreversible effects on their looks.

“For smokers, middle-age starts in the their 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.”

Smoking is not an equal opportunity addiction. That’s official – and it’s supported by many years of research by reputable medical bodies.

You may not be aware that:

  • The nicotine in cigarettes is more addictive for women and women 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 linked to early menopause in women.
  • The aging effect of smoking on the skin is worse for women who are more likely to develop “smoker’s face” than male smokers.

In 2001 the special risks of smoking for women were recognized by the US Surgeon General in a special report warning women of the dangers from smoking cigarettes. Similar statements were made by European government bodies and other world authorities.

Even if you dismiss the health risks for whatever reason – take time to consider how smoking cigarettes will damage your skin and accelerate the aging process. Do you really want this to happen to you?

Skin Aging and the Smoker’s Face

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

In recent years much research has focused on this area and it’s now broadly accepted that the skin of smokers is damaged by smoking making them look older than non-smokers.

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

How Does Smoking Speed Up Skin Damage?

It all starts with the ‘free radicals’ formed in your body by the exposure to tobacco 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.

The most serious damage to skin is caused by:

  • Restricted blood flow through the capilliaries (tiny veins near the skins surface) preventing oxygen and nutrients getting to the skin.
  • Increased 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.
  • Continual puckering from drawing on a cigarette and squinting in reaction to the cigarette smoke create deeply wrinkled skin around the eyes and mouth – classic signs of  “smoker’s face.”

What Does a Smoker’s Skin Look Like Over Time?

Smoking statistics will clearly tell you the risk of death and disease from your smoking habit, but what about how your skin will look like if you continue to smoke?

This is what to expect of smoker’s skin overtime :

  • 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.

Or you can simply listen to the words of a senior dermatologist – Professor Young of Guys School of Medicine in London was the leader of the team that demonstrated in 2001 how collagen loss was accelerated by smoking.

“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 greyish pallor compared to non-smokers.”

Can Skin damage From Smoking Be Reversed?

There’s no doubt 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.

By quitting smoking you can stop the damage getting any worse. Why wait and then quit 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 ten to twenty years after you began to smoke.

So if you haven’t been smoking that long and you don’t see much damage yet – don’t assume it won’t happen.

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


10 thoughts on “Smoking and Skin Aging

  1. Rhea

    My mother smoked a ton and I don’t. My skin is much better than hers. Don’t know if I can attribute it to not smoking, but there it is.

  2. Ed

    Rhea, if you had worse skin than your mother, you’d be the first. It’ll happen to you too,baby. The aging process is inexorable, smoker or not.

    George Burns –who smoked 20 cigars a day– was asked at his 100th birthday party what his doctor said about all that smoking and replied “My doctor’s dead.”

  3. robbster


    Mayo Clinic dermatologist Lawrence Gibson, M.D., and colleagues state:

    Yes. Smoking can accelerate the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. These skin changes may occur after only 10 years of smoking and are irreversible.

    How does smoking lead to wrinkles? Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin. This impairs blood flow to your skin, depleting it of oxygen and important nutrients, such as vitamin A. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity. As a result, skin begins to sag and wrinkle prematurely.

    In addition, repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — may contribute to wrinkles.

    I hope this helps!

  4. Kirk VandenBerghe

    Ed, there are always counter-examples like George Burns, who defy the odds. My grandpa on my Mom’s side was one of those. But playing those odds is too risky for me. I would so hard on my health and wellness program, voluntarily poisoning myself with smoking would be self-destructive. No smoking for me, and I recommend that all smokers quit today.

  5. LadyG25

    This article seems at first read to be contrived and fear-based. That said, the evidence of health risks about smoking and what it does to accelerate the aging process cannot be denied.

    I smoked my first cigarette when I was 14. My best girl friend’s older sister delivered four marlboros in a plastic baggie and my friend and I were feeling all to rebellious at that young age…I still light up to this day. I’ve quit several times but the extension of my abstinence has rarely exceeded a couple of months, then I am tempted and swayed all too easily by the ever easy to justify excuse of “Just one for old time’s sake won’t hurt me”- a lie I tell myself again and again to satisfy my addiction.

    Well, to be frank, this ex west texas prom queen with asthma is scared. I’m already developing premature bags and dark circles under my eyes. Besides being detrimental to my looks, I fear for cancer, which although every variation but lung runs in the family (my mother passed from cancer in the ovaries, and I’ve had a grandmother pass and two other relatives and various acquaintances diagnosed with this horrible disease since), I surely am doing myself no service in continuing to smoke. It is a a horrible, disgusting habit.

    Adjectives most would assign and ones that I try to remind myself are true even when most days I flat out just don’t give a shit. The stress from daily life does nothing to aid my addiction, and while I am thankful to not be addicted to a drug that affects my psyche, the physical detriments of smoking should be enough to warrant a wake up call.

    What of the Europeans? They puff and puff away and have lower incidence of disease and dare I say, look younger than the rest of us nicotine advocates. I can blame and blame all I want- the economy, American’s stressful over-achieving lifestyle, my jealousy of a healthy and beautiful smoking Spaniard, but none of it really makes a difference – not unless someone reads this and recognizes a little bit of their smoker-selves in this comment. If that happens to be you, perhaps you’ll write me back and give me a little motivation to try once again and quit-for good.

    Or at least, take solace in the fact that there are others out there who are suffering in nicotine addiction and want to do something about it. Whatever you take away from this ubber-long comment. I hope that this day finds you well and encourage more of an AWARENESS about the dangers of smoking.

    Thanks for reading and God Bless, if you believe in God like I do, or a simple goodnight for my close atheist companions in this fight. I would like to leave this final note:

    “Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from indomitable will.” -Mahatma Ghandi

    Best of luck to you all! (I kn ow you are not suppose to post your name on these things, but I figure a comment this long warrants a signature!
    Warmest Regards,

  6. admin

    Thank you Claire, for sharing. We do hope that you find the strength to quit smoking and please post anytime. We are happy to be your cheerleaders. Go for it!

  7. Christopher

    I have smoked for fourteen years and somehow pulled a magic trick of looking much younger than I am, until the last year. It all seems to have caught up with me in a matter of a year to a year and a half. I am going to quit, but given the length of my habit is there truly any chance that any of these aging signs will reverse, and if so how long will it take? Please will someone who knows what they’re talking about just be brutally honest and level with me on this question. I just want the truth. Thank you very much. I am quitting even if the answer is not what I would like to hear.

  8. Sandy

    Hi Christopher. Your best bet is to visit a Naturopath who specializes in anti-aging. Yes, the skin quality can improve over time with proper supplements. There is also a company that has remarkable science based studies on diminishing wrinkles and improving skin quality with nanotechnology patches. They recently released an Y-age Aeon Patch, when combined with two other anti aging patches has surprised even the scientists and researchers. You can learn more at: Anti-Aging Patches After visiting this website, please let us know if you have any other questions.

    1. Karma

      Does anyone know for a fact that even after quitting your skin will become noticeably more damaged from when u smoked 10-25 yrs later?

      1. Sandy Post author

        Hi Karma. I think you meant would your skin still show signs of damage from smoking that occured at a prior age, many later after you quit? … If so, once you skin is damaged it can be quite difficult to undo the damage. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and the antiaging industry keeps seeking ways to improve the lessening of wrinkles, age spots, and such …including damage by the sun. But so many of the products are costly and only show slight improvements. I have heard of one direction, which is a supplement that can extend the life of the telomeres which are a part of our dna, thus improving skin quality. One company who produces this supplement charges close to $600 a dose, which lasts 6 months, and claims are that it greatly improves the skin quality, helping to bring it back to a more youthful state. This may or may not repair skin that has been damaged by smoking.


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