Skin Conditions And Smoking


It is well documented that smoking cigarettes can lead to the development of cancer, as well as other conditions such as lung and heart disease. However, can smoking also affect our skin? 

Even though more research surrounding this is needed, smoking has been linked to skin ageing, an increased amount of infections, and delayed wound healing. It has also been linked to a number of skin diseases, such as psoriasis.

What are the most common skin conditions?

Psoriasis is a long-term skin condition in which the immune system is overactive, causing skin cells to multiply too quickly. This condition causes patches of the skin to become scaly and red. Psoriasis is usually seen on the scalp, elbows, and knees, but it can develop on other parts of your body as well. This condition is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but the exact reason is not fully understood.1

Symptoms often come and go in cycles, getting worse for a few weeks or months and then getting better or going into remission. The type and severity of your psoriasis will determine the best course of treatment for you. Most types are mild or moderate, and creams or ointments usually work well as a treatment option.1

Acne is another common skin disorder that is caused by hair follicles located under the skin becoming clogged. Sebum, an oil that prevents the skin from drying out, and dead skin cells both clog the pores, which results in breakouts of lesions that are usually referred to as zits or pimples. The breakouts usually appear on the face, although they can also appear on the back, shoulders, and chest.2

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a long-lasting condition that results in skin irritation, inflammation, and redness. It can develop in anyone of any age, but children are most commonly affected.3

Your skin can become extremely itchy when you have eczema. Scratching causes more redness and swelling. Most people with eczema experience times when the condition is worse, followed by times when the skin gets better or clears up completely.3

Alopecia areata is a condition where hair follicles are attacked by the immune system, leading to hair loss. Although alopecia can affect any part of the body, the face and head are most frequently affected. In most cases, hair loss happens in small, round patches about the size of a penny. However, in some rare cases, there is more dramatic hair loss, even to the extent of baldness. Most people who have this condition don't experience any other symptoms other than hair loss.4

Smoking increases the risk of skin conditions

Tobacco smoke is harmful to cells and therefore could cause skin damage, as it increases symptoms that are linked to the ageing process, causing your skin to age prematurely.5

Nicotine narrows blood vessels

Smoking can also slow down the healing of wounds, as it disrupts tissue oxygenation and microcirculation, affecting the flow of blood to the skin, which is crucial in wound healing. Smoking can also decrease fibroblast activity, a type of cell that helps build connective tissue, and their migration into the wound.6

Increased risk of flare-ups

Nicotine increases the production of proinflammatory molecules known as cytokines. These chemicals play important roles in the development of psoriasis.1

Reduced amount of collagen

Cigarette smoke contains several substances that break down collagen and elastin, two fibres that give your skin its elasticity and strength. Furthermore, smoking damages the skin's ability to renew itself, which in turn speeds up the ageing process.7


Smoking also causes internal and external dehydration in the body. Toxins in cigarette smoke can cause the skin to become dull, dry, and more prone to wrinkles.8

Tips for quitting smoking

It's never too late to stop smoking cigarettes. Once you've decided to stop, here are some tips to help:9

  • Make a list describing your motivations for quitting. 
  • Let people know that you are going to quit.
  • Create a list of your triggers and suggestions for avoiding them. 
  • Stay occupied so you can ward off cravings.
  • Exercise.
  • Join a group for help and advice.


If you smoke and notice that your skin is getting worse, talk to your doctor about how to deal with your symptoms and how to stop smoking. Once you stop, your skin will start to heal on its own.


  1. Naldi L. Psoriasis and smoking: links and risks. Psoriasis: Targets and Therapy. 2016 May 27;6:65.
  2. Nancy Garrick DD. Acne [Internet]. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2016 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  3. NIAMS. Atopic Dermatitis [Internet]. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2018 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  4. NIAMS. Alopecia Areata [Internet]. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2019 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  5. Yazdanparast T, Hassanzadeh H, Nasrollahi SA, Seyedmehdi SM, Jamaati H, Naimian A, et al. Cigarettes Smoking and Skin: A Comparison Study of the Biophysical Properties of Skin in Smokers and Non-Smokers. Tanaffos [Internet]. 2019 Feb 1 [cited 2022 Oct 28];18(2):163–8. Available from:
  6. DermNet. Smoking and its effects on the skin | DermNet NZ [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  7. Cellbone. Smoking & Collagen [Internet]. [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  8. Dermatology W. Walk-in Dermatology - Will Smoking and Drinking Affect my Skin? [Internet]. Walk-in Dermatology. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:
  9. National Health Service. Quit Smoking - Better Health [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 28]. Available from:

Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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