How Smoking Ruins Your Looks: 10 Signs That You Have a “Smoker’s Face”

Back in 1985, the term “smoker’s face” was added to the medical vocabulary by Dr. Douglas Model, who asserted that he could identify people who had been smoking for at least 10 years by nothing but their facial features.

In his study, called “Smoker’s Face: An Underrated Clinical Sign?”, published in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Model found that roughly half of the veteran smokers he evaluated showed the same distinctive telltale signs of their bad habit, regardless of weight, race, social class, exposure to sunlight, or age.

Dr. Model believes a practical use of his study is in anti-smoking campaigns. “In my experience,” says Dr. Model, “many people notice the ravages of smoking for the first time when it is pointed out to them that they can be identified as smokers by their faces alone.”

He makes a good point. We are all acutely aware of the damage smoking causes on our lungs, heart, brain, etc. But if the harm of cigarettes were a bit more obvious when we looked in the mirror—like, say a big black spot on your forehead—how many people would actually still be smoking?

Well, although the aging effects of smoking are a bit subtler than a spot on your face, they are very real nonetheless. Based on Dr. Model’s “smoker’s face,” as well as other studies that have been conducted since, keep reading to learn about 10 ways smoking is ruining your facial appearance.

Bags Under Eyes
A study out of Johns Hopkins University found that smokers are four times more likely to report feeling unrested after a night’s sleep compared to nonsmokers. This is believed to be directly linked to the stimulating effect of nicotine. In addition to triggering a host of health consequences, lack of sleep creates signs of fatigue on your face, including bags under your eyes.

Even though those who have never smoked a day in their life can have psoriasis, smoking increases your risk for the chronic autoimmune skin condition, according to a 2007 analysis, and this probability multiplies the longer you smoke. Secondhand exposure to smoke during pregnancy has also been linked to an increased risk in children.

Yellow Teeth
Again, it appears nicotine is the culprit—or at least the tar-laced nicotine found in regular cigarettes. Tar stains teeth yellow, along with your fingers and nails. Fortunately, the yellow hue goes away in time after you quit smoking. 

Premature Aging/Wrinkles
Experts suggest that smokers look 1.4 years older on average than non-smokers their same age. The reason: smoking produces free radicals, which break down the elasticity and collagen that keeps skin firm. The particular facial areas affected are the lips and eyes, where creases and crow’s feet become obvious even in young smokers.

Thinner Hair
The toxic chemical in cigarettes also damage hair follicles, stunting normal growth. This means smokers tend to have thinner hair that turns grayer sooner.

Nicotine causes your blood vessels to constrict, which limits the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the face and other parts of the body. In terms of healing, this means your wounds take longer to mend and your scars can be bigger than a nonsmoker.

Dental Problems
Smoking tobacco puts you at a much higher risk for diseases of the mouth, like gingivitis or oral cancer. In fact, a 2005 study discovered that smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop gum diseases, which can precede tooth loss. If your teeth are yellow already, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing, right?

Loss of Glowing Complexion
The carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke displaces the oxygen in your skin and reduces blood flow. As a result, smokers often have a dry and discolored skin tone.

Skin Cancer
It shouldn’t be surprising that smokers are three times more at risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma, common and serious form of skin cancer. The cancer can cause lesions to appear on your skin and face, often leaving scars that your body won’t be able to heal.

More than half of all Americans will develop cataracts before they turn 80. Smokers increase the risk of cataract growth by exposing their eyes to toxic smoke. In fact, continued smoking can make a person 22% more likely to get a cataract.

In addition to getting smoker’s face, cigarettes can also negatively affect the appearance of the rest of your body. Smoking has also been associated with:

Reversing Smoker’s Face
Interestingly, during his study Dr. Model discovered that very few past smokers had smoker’s face. This correlation led him propose two conclusions: “either they had had smoker’s face and it had disappeared when they stopped smoking or they were smokers who had never had smoker’s face.”

In true scientific etiquette, Dr. Model posits that a further study should be done to decide this point; however, since that time, doctors and researchers have shown that quitting smoking does indeed improve blood circulation and reverse smoker’s face, to some extent.

So the good news is that it’s never too late to quit smoking cigarettes and get rid of that smoker’s face.

Wind back the clock of aging by trying vapor cigarettes instead. There is no toxic smoke, no tar, and best of all you can still satisfy your craving. It’s better for your whole body —inside and out.

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