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Will Smoking Give You Wrinkles – Smoker Alert!

Updated on October 5, 2012

Are you lighting up as you read this? Have you tried to give up smoking umpteen times, but failed time and time again – and now you’ve just given up on giving up? If you’re a woman – or maybe, in these male beauty-conscious times, even if not – then there’s a factor you might do well to consider before you open up that tempting new packet of coffin nails.

Did you know that according to some studies, there is a statistical association between smoking and level of skin wrinkling? Yes, I think the implication is that, possibly, smoking causes wrinkles! You may indeed have been warned of this by a friend or relative – perhaps an elderly one, pointing at her haggard visage in a spirit of awful warning as she tried to get you off the demon weed. The younger you were at the time, the less likely it is that you really took any notice of her, any more than you did of any of the other physical effects of smoking. But in fact there are a number of serious peer-reviewed academic papers on this very subject.

If you’re still young, with nice, smooth skin, then don’t underrate the value of that! If you don’t take proper care of what is one of your greatest aesthetic assets, then you’ll surely live to regret it later on (especially when you're forced to read anti-wrinkle cream reviews, searching for an answer.) Wrinkles are a tragic by-product of the accumulation of wisdom, taste and an antipathy to loud popular music which we know as ‘ageing’. And they come to us all: but the later the better.

Once you actually have wrinkles then you’ll certainly care about them: so why not try caring about them a little more now, when you can perhaps actually take some preventative action regarding them? Check out the price of fancy anti-wrinkle creams on the beauty counter at your local department store. They ain’t cheap, are they? Maybe you can save yourself some dollars too!

A 1995 study by Ernster et al[1] found that there was an association between cigarette smoking and the development of wrinkles. It rendered assessors of severity of wrinkling ‘blind’ to the smoker/ex-smoker or non-smoker status of the test subjects and controlled for other factors such as the extent of sunbathing done by test subjects. Current and past smokers were assessed according to the number of ‘smoking years’ they had accrued, judged by the number of packs they had got through.

Not all academic studies have entirely agreed with these findings. A 2006 study by O’Hare et al[2] was tellingly titled ‘Tobacco smoking contributes little to facial wrinkling’, and suggested that a lack of blinding and experimental rigour could account for previous associations found between smoking and skin wrinkling. However, even this study conceded that six per cent of the variance in actual wrinkling levels in test subjects, as opposed to expected mean (average) levels, could be attributed to smoking. Now, to me, six per cent seems like a fairly significant number, even if, or indeed especially if, all potential risk-factors e.g. sunbed use, don’t apply to you. If an anti-wrinkle cream promised to reduce wrinkles by six per cent, then women would be beating down department store doors to get at it!

A 2007 study by Helfrich et al[3] told a different story, looking at skin not exposed to sun damage (the inner upper arm) in a range of subjects in order to determine the extent of influence of factors such as smoking status on wrinkling. The researchers ‘blinded’ the study, i.e. the assessors were not aware of the status of the test subjects and a standardised visual assessment tool was used to score the wrinkling of test subject skin. Smoking again was found to be a significant risk factor in relation to wrinkling.

Personally it doesn’t seem surprising to me that smoking would have some correlation with a greater than average degree of skin wrinkling. Half the female smokers I know will put their hands up to the charge that they smoke in order to reduce their appetite for food and thus keep their weight down. Now, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the skin – along with every other organ of the body – needs a certain level of nutrients to stay young and pert and pretty. (Not that I’m sure how pert my pancreas is, but you get my drift). If you’re deliberately reducing your intake of useful nutrients, I humbly propose that your skin, along with everything else, will suffer the ill-effects. Girls, eat your veggies! And your chicken, nuts, milk, fruit and veggie burgers, too. Just eat. Anorexic is not a good look, supermodels be damned. Because, you know, looking old and wrinkly is not a good look. It’s not a cool look, either, even with a cigarette dangling from your puckered smeared lips.

And bear in mind the financial advantages of giving up in the light of this information. If you succeed in kicking the demon weed, then you’re not just saving the money you used to spend on cancer sticks. You’re also saving, somewhere down the line, the money you would otherwise be fruitlessly wasting on appallingly expensive anti-wrinkle eye creams. And also, quite possibly, on facelifts that will make you look like a shop window dummy. Seriously, that’s several weekends in Paris, a smartphone and a Wii Fit right there. At least.


1. Ernster, V.L., Grady, D., Miike, R., Black, D., Selby, J.,Kerlikowske, K. "Facial wrinkling in men and women, by smoking status." American Journal of Public Health. 85.1 (1995): pp. 78-82

2. Helfrich, Y.R., MD, Yu, L., MD, Ofori, A. MD, Hamilton, T.A., MS, Lambert, J., MS, King, A., MPH, Voorhees, J.J., MD, Kang, S., MD. "Effect of Smoking on Aging of Photoprotected Skin: Evidence Gathered Using a New Photonumeric Scale." Archives of Dermatology. 143.3 (2007): pp. 397-402.

3. O'Hare, P.M., Fleischer A.B., Jr., D'Agostino, R.B., Jr., Feldman, S.R., Hinds, M.A., Rassette, S.A., McMichael, A.J., Williford, P.M. "Tobacco smoking contributes little to facial wrinkling." Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 12.2 (2006): pp. 133-139.


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