How Smoking Damages Your Skin & How to Reverse These Damages

Megan Dominion

It’s a well-known fact that smoking is unhealthy, but many often underestimate its effects on the skin. A study published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergology found that smoking was detrimental to several body processes, including the skin. Risk factors include premature ageing, poor wound healing, chronic dermatoses, and even skin cancer, all of which contribute to the already poor health of smokers. This article will go into how smoking damages your skin and what you can do to reverse the damage.

How Smoking Damages Your Skin

When someone smokes, they usually puff a lit cigarette and breathe smoke into their lungs. According to a report on smoking by Glamour Magazine, there have been over 7,000 toxic chemicals identified in cigarettes. The smoke that enters your body releases plenty of carcinogens. These cancerous molecules lead to unstable free radicals that attack healthy cells, causing the destruction of collagen and elastin molecules and the deprivation of natural vitamin A and vitamin C in your skin. As a result, there are often premature wrinkles around the mouth and fine lines around the eyes.

In addition to cancerous molecules, smoking can reduce blood flow, depriving the body of oxygen and other necessary vitamins and minerals. This impacts your skin’s ability to recover, resulting in skin discolouration, the appearance of broken blood vessels on the cheeks, and dry skin, making your face look hollower and duller. Smoking can ruin your health and skin, leading to further concerns about body image.

Woman smoking at train station

How to Reverse These Damages

Even as a heavy smoker, it’s never too late to reverse the damage caused by smoking. Here are some ways you can start caring for your skin.

Quit smoking

It can be challenging for smokers to overcome withdrawal when quitting. As such, ex-smokers often turn to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to relieve some physical withdrawal symptoms. Prilla’s insights on tobacco-free products explain how NRT tools like nicotine pouches are either naturally extracted from the tobacco plant or synthetic. By creating nicotine purely in the lab, manufacturers can remove any trace of tobacco impurities while ensuring they perform the same way as traditional smoking products. Not only does this help with quitting smoking, but it also minimizes the damage from tobacco and other chemicals within cigarettes. When starting with NRT products like nicotine pouches or NiQuitin nicotine patches, it’s recommended that you use a low dosage of nicotine before moving up in strength to best suit your needs.

Set a skincare routine

Quitting smoking is the most effective solution to preventing further skin damage. However, if you’re looking to improve your skin condition, you won’t be able to see changes until you start actively caring for your skin. As recommended in our post “Should You Be Worried About Your Skin Barrier?”, you can begin by keeping your routine simple, such as applying broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day and ceramide-rich moisturizer at night. This can help you protect your skin from further damage and retain moisture, which allows your skin barrier to recover from smoking. Some other vitamins and minerals can help fight wrinkles such as retinol and serums. When in doubt, it’s best to consult a dermatologist or skin care professional for the most effective products.

It may take a long recovery time to recover from a smoker’s skin, depending on your skin type and the extent of the damage. But by quitting and engaging in skin care, you can work towards a healthier you with better skin.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.