Smoking Prematurely Ages Your Skin

In an article titled, “Smoking Effects on the Skin,” published online on the website Aesthetics, Dr. Martin Godfrey, head of research and development at MINERVA Research Labs Ltd, reviewed the research and described what smoking actually does to the skin. Research has proven that smoking 1) causes a decrease in capillary blood flow to the skin caused by vasoconstriction, 2) releases an abundance of free radicals into the skin tissues, 3) increases keratinocyte dysplasia, 4) decreases keratinocyte migration, and 5) decreases the production of erythrocytes (red blood cells). These effects cause a chain reaction in the skin, which ultimately leads to dry, coarse skin; blotchy, sallow, yellowy-grey coloring with prominent telangectasiae (spider veins); facial wrinkles and furrows (crow’s feet around the eyes, vertical ear creases, the infamous smoker’s lines around lips); baggy eyelids; and slack jawline.

Beyond the cosmetic, there are also many other serious effects that smoking has on the skin, as excerpted below from Dr. Godfrey’s article:

Impaired wound healing.

Smoking delays wound healing, including skin injuries and surgical wounds. It increases the risk of wound infection, graft or flap failure, death of tissue, and blood clot formation. The reasons for this are unclear but involve lack of oxygen reaching skin cells, delayed migration of keratinocytes, decreased collagen synthesis, and also delayed growth of new blood vessels within the wound.


Smoking contributes to the development and persistence of leg ulcers, particularly arterial ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, and calciphylaxis. This is because smoking reduces blood flow and thus increases the likelihood of skin breakdown in areas that already have poor perfusion, such as in the lower leg in smokers.

Skin cancer.

Smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, compared to non- smokers. There is also an increased risk of oral leukoplakia (pre-cancer) and oral cancer; 75 percent of cases of oral cancer and lip cancer occur in smokers.


Research suggests that smokers tend to have more extensive and severe psoriasis than those that do not. Patients with chronic plaque psoriasis appear to smoke more than patients without psoriasis (although this is possibly linked to the stress associated with the disease).

Peripheral vascular diseases.

Nicotine causes vasoconstriction as well as hypercoagulability, increasing the chance of blood clots occluding blood vessels. Smoking can therefore aggravate or initiate chilblains (painful, itchy swelling of the skin), frostbite, primary or secondary Raynaud’s disease, ulceration in patients with systemic sclerosis, and Buerger’s disease.

To access the complete article, visit ng-s-effects-on-the-skin. NHR

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