Smoking & the skin

SMOKING is one of the most preventable causes of disesase and death today. We know about its links with heart attacks, strokes, all cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but many skin conditions, such as premature skin ageing, poor wound healing, deep wrinkling, and skin discolorations are also very visible effects. The former medical issues may not be visible, but the latter skin issues are very visible on most smokers.

Oxygen is needed for all of our cells to work the way they should. The nicotine in cigarette smoke causes the blood vessels to close and the carbon monoxide binds onto the oxgen and creates a lock on it, and so the oxygen, even though it is in the bloodstream, cannot get into the cells. One cigarette can restrict blood flow for up to 90 minutes. Eventually, small blood vessels will form on the surface of the skin, because the body reacts by making more blood vessels to get moreoxygen to the skin surface. If a smoker is fair-skinned, the nictotine also deposits a grey or yellow tone onto the skin.


The International Journal of Dermatology published a study in the mid-90s identifying that men who smoke wrinkle two times more while women wrinkle three times more.


Slow wound healing is another known complication, which is one of the reasons why we always ask if you smoke as part of the medical hostory when you go for surgery. The incision needs to be checked more closely for proper healing.


Smoking is linked to cancer because usually, if an abnormal cell is made, scavenger cells will be activated to remove the cell. Because all of this is slowed, that abnormal cell may be left to take root, and it is in this way that cancer cells form and proliferate.

The ugly truth about smoking is that the fingers get yellow, they constantly smell like smoke, and your breath is also unpleasant. The skin all over gets more lax, the complexion sallow, and a lot of this is only partially correctable.


Detoxifying and oxygenating procedures can help the skin cells and dramatically improve skin tone. Ingredients like vitamin C, retinol and certain peptides will help collagen formation and strengthen the integrity of the skin and decrease wrinkling.

Caper bud extract and algae help support the capillaries that may be closer to surface of the skin. You can look for these ingredients in your moisturisers.

Chemical peels can improve the skin’s surface texture and allow for a unified complexion. Peels can also decrease fine lines and wrinkles. Dermal fillers replace the hyaluronic acid and stimulate collagen formation and recruits water to fill the area. The lip lines can be instilled and filled out.

Botulinum (Botox/Dysport/Xeomin) can also help with the wrinkling and may even by used for smokers lips. However, nothing can beat the effects of smoking on the skin like simply quitting.

Dr Simone Van-Horne is a consultant in Internal Medicine. Currently, she is a hospitalist where she does inpatient-hospital medicine in Florida, and sees patients in a medical spa setting at Metamorphosis Medispa Wellness Center Inc in Hollywood, Florida, and at The Face Place JA at 3 Carvalho Rd, Kingston, and The Skin Bar, #16 Freeport Shopping Centre, Montego Bay. Contact and for questions.


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