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- Smoking is harmful to your heart, your lungs, and your skin.
- Puffing on cigarettes can cause premature aging, wrinkle development, scarring and pigmentation, and darkening of the lips.
- Smoking can also delay wound healing, increase your chances of developing skin cancer, and dry out your skin.
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By now, it’s been confirmed that smoking causes harm to your heart and your lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. But there’s more. Turns out, smoking impacts your skin as well.
“Smoking causes constriction of blood flow to your skin, depriving your skin of the necessary oxygen and nutrients, and also leads to harmful free radicals and pollutants that cause further damage to your skin, said Dr. Michael Kassardjian, a dermatologist in California.
What’s more, tobacco smoke reduces immune responses and induces metalloproteinase (MMP-1), an enzyme that specifically degrades collagen. “This leads to damage of skin fibers of collagen and elastin that causes the loss of integrity and elasticity of the skin,” Kassardjian said.
How else does smoking affect your largest organ? INSIDER spoke to board-certified dermatologists to find out.
Smoking can cause premature aging because of the break down of collagen
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Smoking accelerates the aging process, said Dr. Papri Sarkar, a Massachusetts-based dermatologist. “Cigarette smoke causes the formation of oxidative stress or free radicals,” she said. “These processes cause less collagen to be made and more of it to be broken down.”
Sarkar added that smoking also makes your skin more sensitive to UV light, decreases blood flow, and decreases elastin. Decreases in collagen and elastin cause your skin to look looser since they help skin keep its structure and bounciness.
Cigarette smoking can lead to wrinkles and fine lines
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Puffing on cigarettes can also cause wrinkles and fine lines.
“The nicotine from smoke leads to constriction of blood vessels and therefore leads to a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients to the skin, Kassardjian said. “This causes the appearance of visible fine lines and wrinkles to develop more quickly.”
Kassardjian added that smokers are especially susceptible to developing wrinkles around their mouths, which are aptly called “smokers lines.” “Smokers tend to use the muscles around their mouths when they pucker to inhale,” he said. “This repetitive motion can lead to a quicker development of fine lines and wrinkles in this area.”
Smoking compromises blood flow, causing scarring and hyperpigmentation
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If you’re a smoker, it’s difficult to get clear smooth skin, Kassardjian said. “Since blood is not flowing properly due to vascular constriction, the skin is more susceptible to broken capillaries and veins – leading to discoloration, hyperpigmentation, and scarring,” he said.
Exposure to heat while smoking darkens your lips
Sucking in and puffing out consistently can also change the color of your lips, Kassardjian said.
“Constant exposure to heat from smoking can lead to darkening and pigmentation of the lips, which also can become dry and coarse,” he said.
Skin grafts, wounds, and flaps take longer to heal
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Normally, skin is good at healing. But Kassardjian said that smoking changes things.
“The deficiency of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients cause skin to take much longer to recover or heal following trauma, surgery, or other medical procedures,” he said. “Smoking can delay healing in general. Ulcers can persist longer, and the risk of wound infection and scarring increases significantly.”
He added that following skin cancer surgeries, skin grafts, and flaps have a higher rate of failure in individuals that smoke.
Your skin becomes more sensitive to UV light, making you more susceptible to skin cancer
Speaking of skin cancer, Sarkar said that smokers are more at risk for skin cancer than non-smokers. “You know how UV light has been shown to cause skin cancer?” she said. “UV light is more damaging to the skin in the presence of smoking. In addition, it’s not only the sun-exposed parts of your body that are sensitive to cigarette smoke. Cigarettes also increase the risk of cancer of the mouth, anus, and genitalia.”
Your skin dries out because moisture is harder to retain
Sarkar said that smoking can also impact your skin’s levels of hydration. “Cigarette smoke decreases moisture in the skin, so the skin of smokers is generally drier than non-smokers,” she said.
Kassardjian added that smoking can cause flares in other skin conditions, such as psoriasis. “Overall, smoking can contribute to general dryness and coarseness of the skin,” he said.