The skin can absorb nicotine from cigarettes. This may cause adverse effects such as premature skin aging, delayed wound healing, and increased infections. It may also lead to skin diseases like psoriasis, acne, eczema, and skin cancer.
Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. Tobacco smoke also contains thousands of harmful substances that are toxic to cells, including skin cells.
In the United States, nearly
Most adults who smoke want to quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
This article explores the harmful effects smoking can have on the skin and the rest of the body. It also considers the benefits of quitting smoking for the skin and overall health.
The body absorbs nicotine into the intestinal mucosa, skin, and respiratory tract.
Keratinocytes are specialized cells that
Additionally, nicotine changes the structure and function of skin fibroblasts. A fibroblast is a type of skin cell that contains collagen proteins. These cells are
- wound healing
- maintaining skin firmness
- keeping skin tight
Below we will look at the 16 effects smoking has on the skin.
1. Skin aging
Smoking affects collagen and elastin, which are elastic fibers that keep the skin plump and firm.
Tobacco smoke extracts cause oxidative stress in skin fibroblasts, impair collagen formation, and increase the expression of an enzyme that degrades collagen.
Smoking also narrows blood vessels to the skin,
Collagen supplementation can help restore skin hydration, elasticity, and collagen density. Research suggests it may have promising results for short- and long-term wound healing and skin aging.
Read more about the general effects of skin aging.
Smoking is an
- eyelid skin redundancy
- forehead wrinkles
- nasolabial folds
- upper lip wrinkles
In a 2017 study focusing on pairs of twins in which one twin smoked and one did not, researchers noted that people find nonsmokers more attractive based on appearance.
Pursing the lips and squinting as the smoke irritates the eyes when inhaling also likely
Learn more about treating wrinkles.
3. Skin tone and pigmentation
People who smoke also tend to have dull, pale skin that may appear bluish or gray. This can be due to restricted blood flow to the skin, which can deprive it of oxygen and other nutrients. This may cause uneven skin pigmentation in some people.
Find out more about ways to even a skin tone.
4. Sagging skin
Chemicals in cigarette smoke increase transepidermal water loss and degeneration of collagen and elastic fibers. The loss of these building blocks, which give the skin its strength and elasticity, causes the skin to droop and sag.
Find out how to firm up sagging skin.
5. Delayed wound healing
According to the World Health Organization, smoking promotes wound opening and slows down healing by decreasing the body’s inflammatory process and immune function.
- delayed healing
- dehiscence, which is partial or total separation of previously closed wound edges
- postsurgical site infection
- wound complications
- lack of bone healing
Stopping smoking at least 4 weeks before surgery can reduce postsurgical complications.
Learn more about open wound care.
Immune cells in the skin help
Adults who smoke also have a
Current and former smokers have higher human papillomavirus viral load. They are also at an
Keep reading to learn more about general infections.
7. Skin cancer
Current and heavy smokers have a
Smoking increases a person’s risk of psoriasis and may
Current and past smokers are
Learn more about the possible links between smoking and psoriasis.
Experts link active and passive smoke exposure to an increased risk of atopic dermatitis.
Read more about eczema from our dedicated hub.
Smoking may have an association with acne. A 2017 study suggests that higher nicotine dependence may worsen acne pimples.
Find out more about acne here.
Buerger’s disease is a type of vasculitis. Experts
Symptoms of Buerger’s disease include the presence of the following in the upper or lower extremities:
There is a
Smoking also has an association with an autoimmune type of vasculitis called antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis (AAV).
12. Palmar telangiectasia
Telangiectasia, or spider veins, are dilated blood vessels near the skin surface or mucosal surface. Telangiectasia on the palms is a symptom of prolonged smoking.
Smoking is a risk factor for developing systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There may also be a dose relationship between cutaneous SLE and smoking.
Experts suggest that smoking may
According to a 2021 study, stopping smoking has the following benefits:
- improved host defense
- reduced disease activity
- lower systemic inflammation
Learn more about lupus prevention and treatment.
Males who smoke 10 or more cigarettes per day have a
- DNA damage
- blood vessel constriction
- free radical damage to hair follicles
- enhanced effects of hormones and aging
15. Polymorphic light eruption
Polymorphic light eruption is a type of itchy rash that
16. Palmoplantar pustulosis
Palmoplantar pustulosis is a rare, chronic inflammatory disorder characterized by pustules on the palms and toes. It has a strong association with tobacco smoking and tends to occur in current and past smokers.
In a 2015 case study, researchers found that stopping smoking and applying an emollient cream led to the cessation of the skin condition within 3 months.
Smoking remains the
It is toxic and harms nearly every organ in the body.
Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure can cause:
Age spots and redness may decrease as early as
Quitting smoking can also help reduce signs of skin aging. A 2010 study found that quitting led to an average
After a person quits smoking, the body will restore its collagen production. This can lead to visible changes, including brighter and smoother skin, as a result of improved circulation and a
Learn more about other ways to stimulate collagen production.
Stopping smoking can also help prevent a person from developing skin conditions associated with smoking.
Quitting smoking can improve a person’s general health in the
- enhance the quality of life
- add as much as 10 years to a person’s life expectancy
- reduce health risks, including cancer, respiratory diseases, and heart disease
- reduce the financial burden on families and society
- benefit the health of pregnant people, fetuses, and babies
Stopping smoking can
The American Cancer Society outlines
- Decide to quit.
- Plan and manage each day without smoking.
- Talk with a doctor or pharmacist.
Approaches that can help with quitting smoking
- reading self-help information
- attending individual or group counseling
- setting up a reward system
- asking a friend for help
- doing a physical activity such as walking
- downloading apps or signing up for services that provide support in quitting
- taking medications to help with nicotine withdrawal
Aside from prescription medications, a person can talk with their doctor about nicotine replacement products such as over-the-counter lozenges, patches, and gums.
Each year, 50% of people who smoke try to quit, and 3 in 5 who ever smoked have quit.
The overall benefits of quitting smoking start to occur in as little as a
Smoking can adversely affect the skin, leading to premature skin aging, skin cancer, and other conditions. Quitting smoking can help improve skin health and overall appearance by promoting better blood circulation and collagen production.
Quitting smoking also has overall health benefits, such as reducing the risk of other physical and mental health conditions.
A person who wishes to quit may benefit from a variety of approaches. It is best to seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist to learn about the options available for quitting smoking.