How Smoking Can Damage Your Skin


While it is common knowledge that smoking is not good for you, still many people engage in this activity every day. According to the CDC, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States, resulting in about 480,000 deaths every year. Some of the most known side effects of smoking include heart disease, stroke, COPD and cancer. But, did you know that smoking can have serious effects on your skin? 

It isn’t just the sun that can dramatically impact your skin. Smoking cigarettes can change the way your skin looks, from wrinkles to sagging skin. However, the real issues come when smoking affects your body in much more serious ways, like skin cancer and infections. If you smoke, read on to learn about how your skin can be damaged by smoking. 

How Smoking Can Affect Your Skin 

Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, toxins and carcinogens, including carbon monoxide. When you smoke, the consistent inhalation of these toxins can impact your skin in the following ways: 

Premature Aging 

Smokers frequently experience wrinkles and fine lines on the face due to the motions of the facial muscles during the act of smoking. For example, smokers can develop crow’s feet when they crinkle their eyes to prevent smoke from entering their eyes. 

Smokers can also develop wrinkles around the mouth due to the sucking action on a cigarette. These appear as vertical lines between the lip and nose. Discoloration is another issue that tends to age the skin prematurely. People may find that their fingers turn yellow after years of smoking cigarettes. 

Sagging Skin

Nicotine restricts blood flow and can have a negative impact on collagen and elastin production in the skin. These two proteins contribute to the elasticity of the skin, making the skin droop and sag. Those who experience sagging skin report that their skin makes them appear older than their actual age. Sagging skin can also affect your arms, breasts and neck. 


Studies have shown that smokers have an increased chance of developing psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition in which the cells of the skin multiply at a high rate, resulting in skin build-up. Psoriasis presents as red, scaly bumps that can appear anywhere on the body, but usually on the elbows, scalp and knees. It is an autoimmune disease that can weaken the immune system and cause inflammation, two factors that can increase the chances of developing psoriasis. 

Slow Healing of Wounds 

Smoking can constrict blood vessels throughout the body. As a result, smokers tend to heal more slowly from wounds and surgeries. The risk of infection is also higher. Many smokers experience dangerous skin infections, ulcers and other perilous side effects related to reduced blood flow. 

Skin Cancer

Perhaps the most serious impact that smoking can have on the skin is the development of skin cancer. A type of cancer known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of cancer. Smoking can suppress your immune system and increase your risk of developing SCC.

If you are a smoker, you may be experiencing some of the above skin conditions. Apart from quitting the habit, you may seek the assistance of a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate your skin and any issues that have presented themselves. Infections and skin cancer that go unaddressed can have serious negative effects and may even be lethal. 

Do you live in the Atlanta area and require the help of a dermatologist? Contact the office of Buckhead Dermatology today to schedule your appointment. Dr. Straughn can help you understand your current skin conditions and put you on a course of healing. If you smoke and need help quitting, review some free options from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.