What Is Smoker's Face?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2019
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Tobacco smoke from cigarettes contains many substances that can be harmful to the body. In addition to heightening the susceptibility to some diseases it can also lead to smoker’s face, which is characteristic of people who smoke frequently and for many years. Facial wrinkling is more common and typically occurs at a younger age, while the contours of bones in the face often become more prominent. Complexion is sometimes affected as well. The skin can also take on a discolored or grayish appearance when someone smokes for several years.

Lines and wrinkles tend to form near the lips and eyes in smoker’s face. There are often deep lines in the cheeks which can form, in addition to shallower lines throughout the cheek areas and the lower jaw. A smoker’s face is often more worn and rugged in appearance, while the skin sometimes has a leathery quality to it. Red, orange, or purple discolorations can occur as well.


The effects of smoking on the face happen because the collagen and elastic fibers that hold skin together are often thickened and fragmented. Blood circulation is typically affected by cigarette smoke too, which can limit the oxygen that gets to the skin of the face. A lack of collagen often means there is less water in facial skin, which generally increases wrinkling. Researchers also believe that substances called free radicals in tobacco smoke can damage skin, and there may also be less protection against these particles when one smokes.

Smoker’s face can also be characterized by wounds that heal more slowly than normal. Conditions such as psoriasis on the skin throughout the body as well as the face are typically more common in smokers. Other conditions such as skin cancer, which studies show tends to be worse than in non-smokers, are also more common. Studies indicate that most people, including children, can identify a smoker’s face in others who are younger than 70.

Research has also shown that many smokers appear older than people the same age. The characteristics of smoker’s face are generally seen in people of different social classes, who fluctuate in weight, or who have frequent exposure to sunlight. In studies, smokers were also compared to people who drink excess alcohol, and tobacco is generally the only substance known to produce such effects. Reversing smoker’s face is possible for people who quit cigarettes; researchers believe that some of the effects may disappear after several years.


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Post 2

My mom is fortunate. She smoked most of her adult life, but has always looked younger than her age. In her case, I guess it's good genes to the rescue.

She looks older now, but she's 86, for crying out loud! She still doesn't look it, though. Maybe 75. The sun damage is starting to tell a little, but she still looks better than most 86-year-old women I know -- especially the ones who smoked for 50 years. But her voice isn't raspy and her mouth isn't puckered. She got off pretty well. I'm glad I never picked up the habit, though. My chocolate chip cookie addiction is bad enough!

Post 1

So true. I'm 46 and have never smoked. I also don't do tanning beds or anything like that. I have high school friends who smoked and tanned and they look at least 10 years older than I do. I'm not being arrogant or egotistical. It's true. One of my friends has terrible puckering wrinkles around her lips -- from sucking in on a cigarette all these years.

They have age spots and sun damage that never healed because they smoked. Several of them have had to have minor skin cancer spots removed. Makes me glad I never wanted to smoke and sunburn so easily!

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