Is it true that smoking causes wrinkles?

Answer From J. Taylor Hays, M.D.

Yes. So if you need another reason to quit smoking, add premature wrinkles to the list.

Smoking can speed up the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles and other changes to the appearance of your face. These changes include crow's-feet, pronounced lines between the eyebrows, uneven skin complexion, a grayish tone on lighter skin, deep creases and puffiness below the eyes, wrinkles around the mouth, and thinner lips.

The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop wrinkles and other age-associated changes to your face. The other primary factor you can control that causes skin damage is sun exposure. The combination of unprotected sun exposure and smoking can cause even more significant wrinkling.

Nicotine, other chemicals in cigarettes, smoking behaviors and other factors may contribute to wrinkles and premature aging of the skin:

  • Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing oxygen flow and nutrients to skin cells.
  • A number of chemicals trigger molecular events that remodel or damage structures necessary for skin elasticity and health.
  • Repetitive squinting and lip pursing contribute to lines around the mouth and eyes.
  • Heat and un-inhaled smoke may dry and damage the surface of the skin.

These same factors may also result in decreased ability of the skin to repair wounds such as cuts or scrapes, resulting in a greater risk of wound infection and scarring.

The damage to your skin from smoking can't be reversed. But if you quit smoking now, you will no longer accelerate the problem and may prevent worsening of the damage.


J. Taylor Hays, M.D.

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Nov. 19, 2020 See more Expert Answers