Dr Clare Morrison

Article by Dr Clare Morrison

How smoking affects your skin

Smoking can cause havoc on your skin as well as your lungs. This is because cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which reduces the blood flow in your skin. This means your skin doesn’t receive as much oxygen, making it drier as well as increasing the signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and facial sagging.

How smoking affects your skin

Have you ever heard of  ‘smoker’s lines’?  These are the vertical wrinkles from pursing lips to draw on a cigarette over and over again. Not very pretty, huh? Crow’s feet is another common type of wrinkling around the eyes. Annoyingly for smokers, this damage starts much earlier than other people. As well as this, collagen and elastin damage is a big factor when it comes to premature skin ageing.

Smoking and acne

Many smokers don’t realise that cigarettes could potentially cause acne. While the jury is still very much out on this, there have been some studies that have shown that smoking causes non-inflammatory acne, due to blocked pores.

This could be because smoking can disrupt our hormone balance, raising the level of adrenal hormones including androgens and cortisol. Androgens are the male hormone that indicates the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands, which produce more oil.

Smoking and Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a key antioxidant that our body uses to protect our skin from sunlight and pollution. Smokers have lower levels of Vitamin E, meaning that skin can remain unprotected.

Smoking and healing

If you’re prone to injury, you may be unaware that smoking can damage the immune system and slow down the healing of wounds. This is because smoking causes a decrease in oxygen in skin cells, meaning that there’s a lack of blood flow, slowing down the body’s ability to repair itself. As well as this, smoking increases the risk of wound infection and blood clot formation.

Skin cancer

When we think of smoking we tend to think of lung cancer. And when we think of skin cancer, we think of sunbathing. However, smoking cigarettes can actually increase the likelihood of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by over 50 percent! It’s believed the increased risk comes from a reduced immune system due to the toxins in cigarette smoke.


This is a skin condition that produces red, itchy patches. Some experts believe that the link between the disease and smoking could be the nicotine, as it affects the immune system and skin cell growth. Many smokers are unaware that smoking can double the likelihood of developing psoriasis.

These are all great reasons for giving up smoking! For more information, contact one of MedExpress’s customer service team.

Dr Clare Morrison
Dr Clare Morrison
Experienced General Practitioner in Hampshire since 1995, with particular interest in Nutrition, Obesity and Smoking Cessation.
Originally published July 27 2018, updated July 25 2019