Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)r  on 28th Oct 2020

Smoking is generally injurious! But how can it impact your skin specifically

Smoking is generally injurious

The damage smoking can cause on the skin appears to be superficial compared to lung cancer and heart diseases.

As per the Centers for Disease Control, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to undergo heart diseases, lung cancer, and stroke. It turns out that smoking can affect your skin too.

Smoking hampers the smooth blood flow in your skin, keeping your skin away from essential nutrients and oxygen and develop unsafe free radicals and contaminations that do additional harm to your skin. We all know the horrifying harms of smoking on our respiratory system, but we are here to tell you about how smoking damages your perfect skin.  

How does smoking damage your skin?

Cigarettes cause oxidative pressure, which leads to insufficient oxygen supply to the skin bringing about blood vessel occlusion and tissue ischemia.

It lessens immunity responses and prompts metalloproteinase MMP-1, an enzyme that explicitly debases collagen. It promotes the harm of skin strands of collagen and elastin that causes the skin's loss of elasticity and integrity.

Nicotine substitution is more secure for the skin than smoking, even though nicotine itself instigates vasoconstriction, irritation, slows wound healing, and quickens skin aging.

Smoking prompts the creation of free radicals, brought about by the toxins in cigarettes. It can cause transitory and permanent harm to your skin. Free extremists can likewise build the smokers' odds of oral cancer, hair loss, and gum sickness.  

How does smoking damage your skin?

What are the effects of smoking on your skin?  

There are many ways your cigarette can affect your skin, but here are some fundamental skin issues that directly link to smoking. 

1. Premature aging

"Smoker's lines" are the vertical wrinkles around the lips that originate from tightening lips after drawing cigarettes consistently. Crow's feet are a typical sort of wrinkling that creates external edges of the eyes. For smokers, these wrinkles ordinarily begin significantly sooner than on others, who get crow's feet as they age.

As referenced above, elastin and collagen impairment is a significant factor in skin aging. But, vascular tightening by smoking plays a part too. Clogged blood vessels interrupt blood flow and oxygen from arriving at skin cells, bringing about skin aging.  

How does smoking cause skin aging?  

There isn't one stated theory that defines that smoking causes skin aging. Some include:  

  • Skin burning by the heat of the cigarette. 
  • Narrowing of blood vessels (vasoconstriction), which decreases blood supply to the skin and can cause changes in skin elasticity and loss of collagen  
  • Changes in the elastic fibers of the skin known as elastosis  
  • Reducing moisture and vitamin A levels in the skin.  

2. Skin sagging 

Smoking-related skin harm can cause sagginess in different parts of the body, especially the skin. Additionally, upper arms and breasts are often influenced by the loss of skin elasticity because of smoking.  

3. Acne Inversa  

Hidradenitis Suppurativa, commonly known as acne inversa, is a fiery skin infection in the body's zones where skin rubs against itself, for example, groin, armpits, and under the breasts in ladies.

Commonly misdiagnosed, acne inversa causes bubble-like knobs that channel discharge. The condition is unbearable and can take up to a month or even years to cure.  

4. skin tone and staining  

The skin tone of smokers can be crooked and off, inclining toward a grey or orangish tone. The absence of proper oxygen to skin cells defines why this happens alongside the negative impacts of various synthetic chemicals in the cigarette.  

How does smoking lead to wrinkles?

Indeed. So, if you need another motivation to quit smoking, add untimely wrinkles to the list.

Smoking can accelerate the typical aging cycle of your skin, adding to wrinkles. These skin changes may happen within ten years of smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke, the more skin wrinkling you're probably going to have — even though the early skin damage from smoking might be difficult for you to see at first. Other than age, smoking is the most grounded indicator of facial wrinkling in people.

Dr. Loretta Ciraldo says,  

Smokers have much worse lip lines and deep wrinkles. Also, these wrinkles appear on the face and the back of your hands with stained fingers

Those cigarettes don't cause wrinkles just on your face; it brings your whole body under the radar, including underarms. While the skin wrinkles may not be reversible, you can forestall exacerbating wrinkling by stopping smoking at this point.  

How does smoking lead to wrinkles?

The nicotine in cigarettes tapers the blood vessels in the peripheral layers of your skin. It destroys the blood flow to your skin. With less blood flow, your skin doesn't get as much oxygen and effective supplements, for example, vitamin A.

More than 4,000 chemicals in cigarettes likewise harm collagen and elastin, which are fibers that invigorate your skin's elasticity and strength.

Also, too much warmth from consuming cigarettes and the outward appearances you make when smoking —, for example, pressing together with your lips while breathing in and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — may add to wrinkles. 

Severe skin disorders caused by smoking 

1. Infections 

Smoking is related to a more apparent seriousness of:  

  • Viral infections, particularly human papillomavirus (HPV), including genital warts.  
  • Candida albicans infection, especially in the mouth. 
  • Bacterial wound infections caused by streptococcus pyogenes and staphylococcus aureus. 

In case you have genital warts and smoke, there's a higher possibility of wart-virus-related cancers, including vulvar intraepithelial cancer, vulvar cancer, penile intraepithelial, or cervical cancer. 

2. Skin cancer 

Compared to non-smokers, individuals smoking cigarettes develop a specific type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. It is the second most common skin cancer and frequently shows up on smokers' lips.

Likewise, there is an expanded danger of oral cancer and oral leukoplakia (precancer); 75% of lip cancer and oral cancer instances happen in smokers.  

3. Palmoplantar Pustulosis  

Palmoplantar Pustulosis is a chronic, treatment-resistant, and impairing dermatosis portrayed by erythema, pustules, and scaling on the soles and palms. It essentially influences middle-aged ladies, >90% of whom smoke. The component identifies with nicotine with acetylcholine receptors in the sweat organ and duct to change their structure and incite aggravation.

The end of smoking steadily brings about progress, and the bumps may inevitably clear up in numerous patients.  

4. Psoriasis  

Psoriasis is a skin condition that produces irritated, red textured patches. Stress is also one of the causes; however, smoking also involves a risk factor. Smokers are more inclined to a type of psoriasis called palmoplantar pustulosis.
Several expositions have been made that smokers will, in general, have more severe and extensive psoriasis than those that don't. Individuals with chronic plaque psoriasis smoke more than patients without psoriasis. These theories are jumbled by those with metabolic syndrome and obesity and life choices.

The mechanism behind it seems that smoking advances keratinocyte proliferation and actuates inflammatory mediators. Nicotine itself ties to t-cell, dendritic cells, and keratinocytes.

Doctors feel that the connection between psoriasis and smoking might be the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine influences the resistant framework, skin aggravation, and skin cell development, all of which can add to psoriasis development.  

5. Hidradenitis suppurativa  

Most patients with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) are smokers, and smokers have a more prominent weight of malady than non-smokers. There is a hereditary inclination to HS, and it is especially predominant in ladies with obesity. The pathogenesis includes nicotine/acetylcholine-incited follicular occlusion, immune dysregulation, and follicular rupture. Smokers react inadequately to current treatment choices.  

6. Vascular diseases  

Nicotine causes hypercoagulability and vasoconstriction, expanding the opportunity of blood clots impeding blood vessels.

smoking can bother or start:  

  • Thromboangiitis obliterans, in which blood clots happen in thin blood vessels  
  • thrombosis by thrombophilia, antiphospholipid syndrome, or medications — including oral contraceptives.  
  • cholesterol emboli related to atherosclerosis
  • ulceration in patients with sclerosis  
  • chilblains  
  • frostbite  
  • primary or optional vasospastic sickness  

7. Cutaneous lupus erythematosus  

More than ten times, the danger of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (particularly discoid lupus erythematosus) in smokers contrasts with non-smokers.

Smoking increments the autoimmune system by initiating the lymphocytes. There is additionally doubt that therapy of ongoing cutaneous LE is less successful in smokers.

Treatment of cutaneous lupus erythematosus with hydroxychloroquine and different drugs is less compelling in smokers. 

8. Wound healing  

Most specialists will firmly suggest, or even require, smoking patients to stop before surgery due to the effect cigarette poisons have on recovery. Smoking likewise builds the danger of tissue demise, wound infections, blood clot formation, and skin graft failure.

Scars will, in general, be more articulated too. There is additional proof that smoking may build the danger of stretch marks, which are likewise scars sometimes brought about by fast weight gain, smoking, and wound healing.  

If I quit smoking, will my skin be better?  

What upgrades to your epidermis would you be able to make once you quit smoking?

While wrinkles that have created may not vanish totally, the arrival of typical blood flow to skin cells will bring oxygen and nutrients to a safe space, and your skin will start looking healthy again. Elastin and Collagen creation will help, as the poison no longer hampers them in cigarettes.

Tar stains will vanish in time as well. The risk of health conditions that can affect skin will likewise be diminished once you quit smoking.
Your loved ones will most likely see that long gone shine on your beautiful face. It might require some time. However, the advantages to your health and beauty will be substantial and worth the work.  

Can I reverse the effects of smoking on the skin?

The principal approach to switch the harming impacts of cigarettes on the skin is to quit smoking. When you stop or continuously lessen the number of cigarettes, it is conceivable to switch the effects of smoking with the help of these habits: 

  • to obliterate the free radicals, a diet rich in antioxidants is a must. Intake of food ingredients like tomatoes, mackerel, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, spinach, citrus fruits, kiwis, and mangoes high in folic acid Vitamins A, B, B5, C, K. 
  • Drinking carrot juice can likewise help in flushing the hints of toxins from the body.  
  • Eating berries helps in eliminating tobacco poisons from the body.  
  • pomegranate improves blood circulation, supporting the creation of elastin and collagen. 
  • Drink lots of water to remain hydrated and invert the drying out impacts of nicotine.
  • For cosmetic assistance, pick skincare items that have glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid.  


Quitting smoking can be troublesome, but your doctor can assist you in making a plan. There is an assortment of prescribed and non-prescribed drugs that can help you to stop. You can likewise take the help of your friends or family and get rid of the habit.

There are both short- and long-term advantages of not smoking. Since smoking hampers each body framework, figuring out how to stop is the most important mechanism. You might not feel the adverse effect of tobacco now, but it corrupts your body from the inside. If you are a smoker, check your skin thoroughly.