Tobacco smoke carries several harmful toxic chemicals that can damage skin cells. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the skin, resulting in increased inflammation, delayed wound healing, and skin disorders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that cigarette smoke harms almost all organs in the body, reducing the health of smokers overall. Smoking can result in a wide range of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

Additionally, smoking restricts blood flow and increases collagen breakdown in the skin, inducing skin aging.

This article will discuss how smoking can affect physical appearance, including the face, skin, eyes, and more. It will also explain how quitting smoking can improve the skin.

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Over time, exposure to cigarette smoke can alter physical appearance. It contains various carcinogenic chemicals, which are substances that contribute to the formation of cancer.

These toxic chemicals can cause several chronic conditions and diseases, as well as damage to the skin, teeth, eyes, and hair.

Smoking cigarettes can cause:

  • premature skin aging, such as baggy eyelids and a slack jawline
  • delayed wound healing
  • skin disorders such as psoriasis
  • inflammatory skin diseases such as acne
  • facial wrinkles, such as lines around the lips
  • dry, dull, and gray skin
  • yellowing fingers and fingernails
  • stained teeth

Cigarettes also contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that can also lead to dermatological diseases such as:

  • psoriasis
  • chronic dermatoses
  • alopecia
  • lupus erythematosus
  • skin cancer
  • tobacco-associated oral lesions

When a person smokes cigarettes, they take in more than 7,000 chemicals, carrying toxins to every organ of the body, including the skin.

Smoking also affects blood flow by making the blood vessels narrower. This reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin.

Collagen, a protein produced by the body, plays an important role in the structure and function of skin, tendons, connective tissue, and more. It gives the skin its elasticity and decreases with age, resulting in wrinkles and further signs of aging.

Tobacco smoke can induce metalloproteinase MMP-1, an enzyme that can break down collagen, decreasing skin elasticity.

Decreasing skin elasticity can produce:

  • wrinkles
  • sagging
  • loss of firmness

Read more about skin and how it works.

Wrinkles induced by smoking tend to be more prominent earlier in life than wrinkles in non-smokers. It is unknown exactly how smoking induces premature aging. However, some theories include:

  • changes in the elastic fibers of the skin
  • vasoconstriction, which is the narrowing of blood vessels, reducing blood supply to the skin
  • reduced moisture in the skin

Smokers’ wrinkles can be particularly noticeable around the mouth, as smoking encourages constant puckering of the lips when taking a drag of a cigarette. Additionally, the eyes develop “crow’s feet” around the outer corners.

A person’s oral health may reflect their general health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research highlights smoking as an important cause of periodontal or gum disease in the United States.

The condition can affect a person’s bone structure, supporting their teeth. In severe cases, this can result in tooth loss.

A 2018 systematic review in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that smoking increases a person’s risk of developing gum disease by 85%.

Smoking can have similar effects on both a person’s skin and hair. A 2022 study reported that smoking is a potential cause of hair loss. This is because it:

  • forms DNA adducts, which are pre-cancerous substances
  • causes free radical damage to the hair follicle
  • causes narrowing blood vessels

Read more about hair loss.

Smoking can damage the blood vessels of the eye, causing a bloodshot appearance and irritation.

Smoking also changes the eyes in ways that can lead to vision loss. According to the CDC, if a person smokes, they are twice as likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, a common condition affecting the middle part of a person’s vision.

Smokers are also twice or three times as likely to develop cataracts, which are when cloudy patches develop on the lens of the eye. These statistics compare smokers with people who do not smoke.

Read more about common eye problems.

According to the CDC, 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. Some of these conditions include symptoms that can affect how a person looks or moves.

For instance, smoking may cause cancer of the lip, tongue, or gums, altering a person’s looks.

Read more about the effects of smoking on the body here.

The CDC says quitting smoking can be more beneficial for your skin than some products. Blemishes clear up, and premature aging and wrinkling can reduce. A person who quits prevents further smoking-related damage to their skin.

They also remove the harmful effects of smoking on their skin mentioned above, which means improved:

  • skin elasticity by allowing collagen production to normalize
  • blood flow to the skin as the vessels widen, allowing nutrients to flow more easily to the skin
  • symptoms of pre-existing skin conditions, such as acne, that smoking made worse

Benefits to quitting smoking

No matter how long a person has smoked, quitting always brings health benefits, according to the CDC. These benefits include:

  • improved general health
  • improved quality of life
  • reduced risk of early death, adding 10 years to life expectancy
  • reduced risk of a range of smoking-related health problems

A person who quits smoking reduces their risk of health issues related to the reproductive, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems and a wide range of cancers.

Learn about 11 tips for quitting smoking here.

Taking care of your skin is always important and can help slow the progression of skin damage alongside stopping smoking.

Vitamin E

A study from 2016 looked at the effect of cigarette smoking on human skin. The authors found that certain skin cells called keratinocytes with long-term exposure to cigarette smoke contained too much of some proteins and too little of others.

These proteins were mostly related to oxidative stress, skin integrity, and the inflammatory response. As vitamin E is a commonly used antioxidant, the authors concluded that this nutrient could help to reverse the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on keratinocytes.


Additionally, a 2021 study suggested that future treatments for smoking-related health problems, including skin problems, could involve balancing the bacterial populations in the gut with probiotic supplements.


The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) includes eating a healthy, well-balanced diet on its list of ways to reduce premature skin aging. This can mean eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and limiting sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

A person considering taking supplements should always seek guidance from a qualified professional.

Below are some commonly asked questions about smoking.

What does smoking do to your face?

Smoking can affect the face in the following ways. It can cause:

  • premature skin aging, such as baggy eyelids and a slack jawline
  • inflammatory skin diseases such as acne
  • facial wrinkles, such as lines around the lips
  • dry, dull, and gray skin

Does smoking cause thinning hair?

According to a 2022 study smoking may cause thinning hair. The reason for this is smoking could increase androgens, which are hormones linked to hair loss.

Do smoker’s lips go away?

Smoker’s lips, also known as perioral rhytids, refers to vertical lines around the mouth that can develop with smoking.

A person might consider quitting smoking, laser treatment, filler, or Botox to help reduce or prevent smoker’s lips from worsening. However, the lines are likely to soften rather than go away entirely.

Learn more about smoker’s lips here.

Smoking links to various health problems, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to dental problems and skin conditions.

It also affects a person’s looks by causing physical signs such as sagging skin, bloodshot eyes, and hair loss.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things a person can do to improve the condition of their skin and their overall health.