Sharjah-based dermatologist Dr Minal Patwardhan puts the spotlight on medical issues every fortnight.

Today: Effects of cigarette smoke on skin

There is nothing good to write about cigarettes except for the revenue it brings in for tobacco firms but if one were to start listing the downside, it would go on and on. So, let us concentrate on the effects of cigarette smoke on the skin.

Several recent studies have indicated that cigarette smoking results in premature ageing of the skin. It causes a ruddy complexion or an ashen, pale greyish skin, puffiness and a gauntness reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes!

The skin gets thickened and yellowish, very similar to what happens after prolonged sun exposure.


Chronic smoking causes a breakdown of elastic fibres.

As a result, there is wrinkling and a prematurely older appearance. There is also a report that suggests that smoking causes premature greying of hair.

However, it is a genetic predisposition to wrinkling is also a factor because all smokers do not show signs of premature ageing.

Women are more susceptible than men and white-skinned people are more affected than those with darker complexions.

Also, it depends on how much one smokes and for how long. Ageing is in direct proportion to the aforementioned.

Owing to the diuretic effects of nicotine, there is a decrease in water content in the superficial skin layer. Also there is direct effect on certain enzymes which are known to damage collagen.

Vitamin A which reduces collagen damage is lowered in a smoker's skin, thus combat measures are further reduced.

The most important cause for tissue damage in a smoker's skin is a reduction in the arterial and capillary blood flow (microvasculature) in the skin, depriving the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients.

Also there is accumulation of toxic waste materials which are not washed out by circulation and this further damages the skin and accelerates ageing.

It also effects wound healing, so it is advisable for smokers to stop smoking for at least a week prior to surgery, especially cosmetic surgery.


The best prevention is of course to stop smoking!

But if you are having trouble getting rid of your habit, then take one antioxidant tablet a day (Vit A,C and E).

Its also better to take a high dose Vit B as it is known to reduce the urge for smoking.

Drink at least six to seven glasses of water a day.

Make sure that you use a protective cream during the day and a good moisturising/anti-ageing cream at night.

But all said and done, it is much more preferable to throw away your pack of cigarettes and lead a healthier and youthful life.