Smoking, Carbon Monoxide, and Your Skin

Blog Post created by NDC_Team on Oct 16, 2019

The older I get, the more concerned I become about taking care of myself.  I am realizing that the body I have been given is what I am living in day in and day out! And a large part of the protection of that body is the wrapping – i.e., YOUR SKIN!  The skin is the body’s largest organ – making up 16% of its total weight!   Our skin performs many invaluable functions including protecting us from extremes of temperature, UV rays, and chemicals in the air. 


And so it goes that quitting smoking is paramount to protecting that body of yours, and the relics of smoking are no more obvious than on your skin. 


Wrinkles are the first thing people notice – especially on your face.  Again, those toxins in cigarette smoke damage the collagen and elastin in the skin which can lead to wrinkles.  Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke inhibits blood and oxygen flow to the skin cells, leading to this premature aging of the skin.   Vertical wrinkles around the mouth, sometimes called “Smoker’s Lines”, are due to years of pursing the lips to smoke.   The lack of oxygen also plays a role in the greyish skin tone of someone who smokes. 


And if your appearance is not enough to say on this topic – skin cancer just might be.  Among the most common of skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma, is over 50% more likely to develop if you smoke.


While stress is a culprit for developing psoriasis; people who smoke, on average, double their chances of getting this condition characterized by red, itchy, scaly patches on the skin.  Therefore there is some thought that those who smoke as a stress management strategy may increase their risk of developing psoriasis.


Your risk of developing acne inversa (boil-like nodules caused by skin rubbing against skin), is increased with smoking.  Another condition is vasculitis, one form of which is Buerger’s disease, in which skin ulcers develop; and in extreme cases, can cause one to even lose fingers or toes!   


While this is in no means an exhaustive list – it is enough to cause one to consider the risks with smoking to your skin and overall health.  Surprisingly, many do notice the appearance of their skin improving within just days of quitting; and it is very exciting and encouraging to see such improvement so quickly after quitting smoking.  So give quitting a try – and watch that healthy glow return to your skin!


Barb Dallavalle, MA, LP

NDC Counselor/CTTS



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