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How smoking can change your skin's appearance

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Concerned about how smoking is affecting your skin? Dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos explains the impact cigarettes have on your complexion’s appearance.

We know smoking is bad for our health - but what about how cigarette smoke affects the skin? In order to find out more about how smoking can influence our skin’s future, we asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos to explain how tobacco smoke can change your complexion’s overall appearance.

Stage 1: Lighting up

Did you know that smoking could also be causing your spots? As well as changes to the body’s hormone levels (see below), cigarette smoke settles on the face immediately after exhaling, resulting in blackheads, clogged pores and blemishes.[1] To fight this, Nina recommends thoroughly cleansing pores with a charcoal masks to remove any grime that may have built up as a result of your environment, including smoke and pollution.

Smoking is also a leading cause of premature skin aging. Over time, the action of puffing on a cigarette also results in fine lines forming around the nose and mouth, as well as around the eyes.[2]

Nicotine contracts the blood vessels of the epidermis, making it more difficult for key vitamins and nutrients to reach the surface of the skin

Dr. Nina Roos, Dermatologist

Stage 2: While you’re smoking

Nicotine - the substance responsible for making cigarettes so addictive - doesn’t just affect your brain, it also alters a number of physiological processes below the surface of the skin.
Nina explains: “Nicotine contracts the blood vessels of the epidermis, making it more difficult for key vitamins and nutrients to reach the surface of the skin. This also reduces the skin’s ability to repair itself, including wound healing.” This blow to the skin’s circulatory processes is also what causes the grey or yellowish tone associated with smokers’ complexions.

Stage 3: Long-term consequences

Finally, Nina explains how tobacco affects the skin long-term, revealing that chemicals found in cigarettes have been linked with degradation of the skin’s collagen stocks.
Studies have found that women who smoke have higher androgen-to-estrogen levels than those who have never smoked.

What’s more, studies have been carried out on identical twins, where one sibling smoked while the other did not. Results showed that the twin that smoked - defined in the study as a pack of cigarettes a day over 40 years - appeared, on average, 7.4 years older than their non-smoking counterpart.[3]

The chemicals found in cigarettes can affect the body’s hormone levels, with consequences including hair loss and an increase in acne or blemishes

Dr. Nina Roos, Dermatologist

Nina confirms: “The chemicals found in cigarettes can affect the body’s hormone levels, with consequences including hair loss and an increase in acne or blemishes.”

What’s more, smokers may need to alter their lifestyle to compensate for increased demands on the skin by nicotine.

Nina particularly recommends including sufficient vitamin C in your diet to ensure skin’s levels remain optimal while smoking.


[1] Capitanio, B. et al, ‘Acne and smoking’ in Dermatoendocrinology 1.3 (2009) pp. 129-135 [Accessible at:]
[2] Chauban, V. et al, ‘Tell-tale signs of a chronic smoker’ in Lung India 30.1 (2013) pp. 79-81 [Accessible at:]
[3] Guyuron, B., Rowe, D. J., Weinfeld, A. B., Eshraghi, Y., Fathi, A., & Iamphongsai, S. (2009).‘Factors contributing to the facial aging of identical twins’ in Plastic and reconstructive surgery,123.4, pp. 1321-1331

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