The Effects of Smoking on Your Skin

It is a well-known fact that smoking has many detrimental effects on the human body. But did you know that there are numerous ways that smoking can affect your skin alone? Let us look at how being a smoker can cause changes not only in your physical appearance, but also how your skin functions.

We know that smoking causes reduced blood flow and a deprivation of oxygen to the skin, which in turn, also reduces the delivery of nutrients to the skin. Tobacco contains nicotine and is known to have over 4,000 chemicals that when taken into the body, can damage the skin’s building blocks called collagen and elastin.

Nicotine is a highly addictive compound that promotes a phenomenon called “apoptosis,” or cell death, within keratinocytes, which are the skin cells that make up the outermost layer of the epidermis. Nicotine also causes reduced blood flow to the skin and over time can change the structure of the skin by altering the function of the skin’s fibroblasts which are the cells responsible for generating connective tissue (by secreting collagen) and allowing the skin to recover from injury. Additionally, nicotine also reduces the body’s adaptive and innate immune response.

The Short-term Effects

While it is true that when it comes to the skin, most significant changes happen with long-term exposure or contact with something to see a visible result. However, after someone begins smoking, there are a few changes that occur soon after starting.

  • First, a person may experience tobacco staining from handling cigarettes or cigars that cause yellowing of the fingers and fingernails.
  • Next, a smoker will experience discoloration of their teeth.
  • Smokers are at an increased risk of developing a condition called a “Black Hairy Tongue,” which is the failure of the filiform papillae (the skin cells that cover most of the tongue’s surface) of the tongue to slough off creating an environment for debris, bacteria, and yeast to overgrow, causing discoloration and fuzzy or furry appearance.

The Long-term Effects

Over time, continued smoking and tobacco exposure results in other visible changes and premature aging of the skin. Here is a list of only some of the changes that can occur:

  • Increased skin dryness
  • Uneven skin pigmentation
  • Reduced collagen production may result in undereye bags and jowls or a saggy jawline
  • Deeper facial wrinkles
  • Squinting from heat and smoke exposure encourages the development of crow’s feet
  • Repeated puckering of the lip contributes to vertical wrinkles surrounding the mouth
  • Bad breath, gum disease, and an increased risk of tooth loss are possible
  • Reduced wound healing and increased risk of infection
  • Smokers have an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer
  • Smoking can aggravate conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Increased risk of hair loss

Can Smoking Cessation Reverse This?

The good news is that kicking the habit can begin to reverse the effects of smoking within one month of quitting! Overall blood flow will improve to your skin which allows for more nutrients to be delivered. Finger and fingernail stains will also begin to fade away. Skin tone and texture along with a reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging will also begin to improve. Smoking cessation is not only widely beneficial to the entire body, but you will also find yourself spending less money as well.

The Derm NP Can Help

The Derm NP is a unique dermatology practice. Our provider, Laura Collins, APRN, ANP-BC, DNP, ACTTP, has an extensive array of experience and education in the field of dermatology. She started her career in dermatology in 2005 and has been a speaker for numerous community and hospital events. Laura loves the practice of dermatology and strives to provide you with the best care possible.

We offer care for non-urgent dermatological conditions via virtual visits, through which we provide top-notch, affordable care. Contact us at (630) 233-9767 or for an appointment that will help you with your unique skin concern.

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The Derm NP will be out of the office from 

3/24/2024 – 3/31/2024

If you have an urgent matter during this time, please call us at (630) 233-9767 and leave a message with your concern.

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