How smoking can damage your hair and skin


Cigarettes contain around 4,000 chemicals, with many of them now known to cause cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With such a cocktail of chemicals, it isn't difficult to imagine that smoking can also manifest itself as damage on your outside as well as your insides.

Sometimes, internal issues like illness might not always show visible symptoms. But other problems can indeed change your face and skin, and these signs can be seen by you and others around you. By themselves, they may only be cosmetic, but these visible signs should not be ignored: smoking is damaging more than you think.

Loss of elastin

Smoking prevents the skin from receiving much-needed nutrients and oxygen, which dulls the overall look of the skin. Premature aging of your skin by between 10 and 20 years will also occur from smoking.

Another effect of smoking is a condition called vasoconstriction. This condition causes the blood vessels to narrow, which stops blood from reaching the smaller vessels in the face. The problem of this condition will be seen if you suffer a wound, as vasoconstriction will take it longer to heal and result in scars appearing bigger and redder than those who aren’t affected by the condition.

Elastin and collagen also break apart as a result of the chemicals found in smoking . These are fibres required to give skin its strength and elasticity — lose them and sagging skin and deeper wrinkles will be the consequence, which will be seen especially around the inner arms, breasts and face.

Using the same muscles around the mouth also eventually causes the smoker’s pucker, a characteristic set of deep wrinkles around the lips. Combined with a loss of elasticity to the skin, the result in regards to appearance will be deep lines around the lips.

If you’re a smoker and you are looking to restore your skin condition, nicotine patches can help provide support to successfully kick the habit.

Crow’s feet

Crow’s feet are a natural wrinkling around the outer corners of the eyes. However, they develop earlier and go deeper when you smoke due to the heat from lit cigarettes and also as a result of a smoker squinting in an attempt to keep smoke out of their eyes.

Smokers may find bags under the eyes occurring more often. A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine previously suggested that those who smoke cigarettes are four times more likely to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep than non-smokers. The study, which involved the analysis of the sleep architecture of 40 smokers and a matched group of 40 nonsmokers who all undertook home polysomnography, also suggested that smokers spend less time in a deep sleep than non-smokers.

The study’s author Naresh M. Punjabi, MD, PhD, FCCP, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD suggested: “It is possible that smoking has time-dependent effects across the sleep period. Smokers commonly experience difficulty falling asleep due to the stimulating effects of nicotine. As night evolves, withdrawal from nicotine may further contribute to sleep disturbance.”

Hair thinning

Healthy hair cycles are maintained by follicles under the skin. However, these need oxygen, essential nutrients and vitamins/minerals in order to function correctly and trigger natural hair growth but, as previously discussed, smoking reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get to your skin.

Without the right levels of oxygen and nutrients, the follicles fail to maintain healthy hair cycles, which causes hair thinning and loss.


Ellie Dickinson