How Smoking Harms Your Skin and Makes You Look Older

man smoking skin

Does Smoking Age Your Skin?

Smoking accelerates the aging and degeneration of your skin in many ways. It’s not just your face that suffers. Smoking increases the number of wrinkles on your body, increases your chances for contracting skin diseases and discolors your hands and inner arms, as well.

It’s a compound effect with one problem cascading into another. Nicotine, tar, and up to 4,000 chemicals are wreaking havoc on your skin – all at the same time. Here’s some facts you might not have known about how smoking is harming your skin.

I’m going to walk you through all of the ways puffing on those nicotine sticks ages you. Here’s what I know – if you are reading this article you are probably a current smoker and looking for motivation to quit. My hope is to provide exactly that in this post. And just so you know, I am a former smoker.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in.

How smoking harms your skin

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death and detriment to your overall health. When you consider the sheer number of non-habit-forming, healthy options for taking the edge off, it’s hard to justify picking up a cigarette or cigar. Yet, as of 2016 nearly 38 million people smoked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of that number, 17.3 percent were men. The statistics on how harmful smoking can be to your cardiovascular health are legion. Yet, what’s lesser known are the dangers of smoking to your skin. That’s right, your skin can be severely damaged by smoking.

Here are just some of the effects of smoking on your skin:

Yes, smoking makes you look older.

It’s the elasticity in our skin that gives us such a youthful appearance. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals that adversely affect collagen and elastin – the materials that make your skin strong and vibrant. These are fibers in the skin that break down naturally over time, but that breakdown is accelerated when you smoke.

Smoking produces collagen-destroying enzymes that actually increase the amount of elastin in your skin, (which might sound like a good thing at first), but that increase is due to breakage. Your skin will start to sag, wrinkle, and you could even develop red or discolored lines.

Related: Does Quit Tea really work?

The effect is more noticeable in older men, but men in their 20’s and 30’s will also begin to see changes in the healthy appearance of their skin.

Smoking reduces blood flow to your skin.

Smoking produces carbon monoxide. It significantly reduces blood flow and even lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood by 30 percent – a two-pronged effect. Nicotine has an interesting effect on the skin, as well.

It narrows the blood vessels and causes broken capillaries. A restricted blood flow to the outermost layers of your skin reduces the amount of oxygen that your skin receives.

You miss out on essential nutrients like Vitamins C, A and E that help remove waste and revitalize your body.  The cosmetic signs of reduced blood flow include redness, paleness, uneven skin tone, and slow-healing wounds.

older man beard
Smoking ages your skin

Smoking causes deep lines in your face

Older smokers suffer from smoking lines – deep furrows in the skin around their mouth and eyes that come from repeatedly pursing the lips together when you take a drag from a cigarette or a cigar.

Related: 10 ways you horribly age yourself

These lines also reveal themselves around the forehead and eyes because smoke irritates the eyes. Essentially, it’s muscle memory. Each time you flex the muscles around your mouth and eyes, those muscular contractions cause lines to form in the skin.

The absence of oxygen, collagen and elastin deepen those lines because the skin takes longer to heal itself and loses its elasticity.

Smoking dries out your skin

As mentioned earlier, smoking reduces the amount of nutrients that reach the skin. Vitamin A and vitamin C in particular are key in maintaining moisture in the skin. Without them, your skin starts to break and look dry.

Another factor is lipid peroxide, it’s one of the thousands of chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Lipid peroxide is a free radical that severely aggravates the skin’s protective barrier, making it more susceptible to wind and sun damage. The damaging properties of UV sunlight are amplified by smoking.

Smoking yellows your finger tips

You can often tell if someone smokes by simply looking at their fingertips and fingernails. You’ll notice that their fingers are yellowish in color and they have broken, or damaged fingernails.

This isn’t a mere coincidence. Smokers who normally use non-filtered cigarettes or began smoking at an early age suffer from nicotine and tar-stained fingertips.

The process is compounded by the lack of oxygen supplied to the extremities. By depriving the fingernails and fingertips with oxygen and due to repeated exposure to smoke, the fingernail bed is highly susceptible to nail fungus, as well.

If you suffer from yellowing fingertips, try soaking your fingertips in lemon juice and taking a B-12 supplement.

black man smoking
Smoking is terrible for your skin

Smoking aggravates psoriasis

A series of clinical trials published by Tobacco Australia noted that smoking produces a high-risk factor for psoriasis. Smoking also reduces the effectiveness of treatments for the auto-immune disease.

Psoriasis is characterized by the appearance of red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

The form of psoriasis known as palmoplantar pustulosis has the strongest correlation with smoking. At least 95 percent of diagnosed patients are smokers.

Skincare for Smokers

Aside from quitting altogether, there are some skincare products that can help slow down and reverse the detrimental effects of smoking. For starters, you should use products that stimulate blood flow in the skin.

Gingko Biloba, ginseng, peppermint, and rosemary are known to increase circulation when applied topically or taken orally.

An infused toner or gel will work quickly to rejuvenate the skin on your face. Another option is finding a skincare product such as a face mask or cram that contains retinol. Retinol penetrates deep into the pores and helps to produce more collagen.

Related: 10 best anti-aging rituals for guys

This will help to take away the grey, dull tone that is characteristic of men who smoke. You should be using a sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 on a regular basis for general skin health, but especially so if you are a smoker.

Lastly, you can target the areas around your eyes, forehead and mouth with moisturizers that are rich in vitamins A, C and E.

Another thing to look for in your moisturizer are Caprooyl Tetrapeptide and Matrixyl 300 in the list of ingredients. These are peptides, amino-acids that can rebuild collagen fibers when used consistently over time.

The Takeaway

Most people don’t think about the dangers to their skin when they casually light up for a smoke. That’s because most of the literature and advertisements about the dangers of smoking focus on the cardiovascular risks that ultimately lead to death.

Yet, the cosmetic detriments can be just as strong of a deterrent for the right person who is concerned about their appearance. A recent study conducted at Oulu University Hospital in Finland found that smokers appear up to 2 years older than non-smokers and whether the participants were smokers or not was successfully determined by a group of panelists 68 percent of the time by just photographs alone.

That means that someone can just look at you and tell if you’re a smoker. Quitting isn’t easy. In fact, I’ve struggled with smoking myself. You can check out my journey and how I quit smoking in four weeks

About Freddy Blackmon 68 Articles
Freddy Blackmon is a freelance writer and journalist who has a passion for cars, technology, and fitness. Look for articles on these topics and more. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.