Do you suffer from ‘Smoker’s face’?

Posted by DrMendelsohn on 5 March, 2013

Smokers_face.jpgMost people are aware that smoking causes cancer, heart disease and lung damage. However, did you know that smoking prematurely ages the skin?

A recent review of all the evidence so far on the effect of smoking on the face is bad news for smokers. Smokers develop more wrinkles and faster skin ageing than non-smokers. (1) Wrinkles are especially common around the corners of the mouth and outer eyes (‘crow’s feet).

We have known for many years that smoking has a toxic effect on the skin. Smoking causes a pale, yellow-grey pallor (as opposed to the pink colour of non-smokers) and a gaunt, sagging look with sinking of the cheeks. Along with excessive and deeper wrinkling, this appearance is known as Smoker’s face.

Smokers tend to look older than non-smokers of the same age. In a study in 2004, photos of smokers and non-smokers faces were examined by a group of panellists who were ‘blinded’ to their smoking status (unaware of who smoked). The faces were also scanned by a CT scanner to measure age changes. The conclusion from this study was that smokers looked up to 4.7 years older than non-smokers. (2)

Some other ways smoking can harm your looks are: 

  • Yellow teeth and fingers from tar stains (not nicotine)
  • More severe  scarring due to slower wound healing (3)
  • Bad breath, mouth cancer and gum disease which can lead to tooth loss
  • Increased  risk of squamous cell carcinoma, one of the 3 commonest types of skin cancer (4)

The good news is that your appearance improves when you quit. As blood flow gets better, your skin receives more oxygen and nutrients and your complexion improves The stains on your fingers and nails and teeth will disappear. You may even notice your teeth getting whiter.



  1. Seitz CM. Cigarette smoking and facial wrinkles.A review of the literature. Journal of Smoking Cessation 2012
  2. Raitio A. Comparison of Clinical and Computerized Image Analyses in the Assessment of Skin Ageing. Acta Derm Venereol 2004
  3. Sorensen LT. Wound healing and infection in surgery. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012
  4. Leonardi-Bee J. Smoking and the Risk of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Evidence based Dermatology 2012
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