The impact of smoking on 4 skin conditions: what are the effects?

Updated 18 may 2024

Smoking cigarettes not only poses serious health risks, but also has harmful effects on the skin. In this blog, we take a closer look at how smoking can exacerbate various skin conditions, such as psoriasis, acne and hidradenitis suppurativa. In addition, we discuss positive steps you can take to maintain healthy skin by quitting smoking.

Smoking and skin effects?

Nicotine, as the main component of cigarettes. Along with nicotine, people who smoke inhale about 7,000 other chemicals in cigarette smoke, many of which come from burning tobacco leaves.

In addition to nicotine, cigarette smoke contains other harmful substances such as tar, carbon monoxide and aromatic hydrocarbons. These substances can suppress the immune system and exacerbate inflammatory reactions in the body. They can also damage hair follicles and contribute to scar tissue formation. By constricting blood vessels, smoking can also reduce blood flow to the skin, slowing down the healing process and making inflammation last longer.

The effects of tobacco smoke on the circulatory system include increased blood pressure and heart rate, constriction (constriction) of blood vessels in the skin resulting in a drop in skin temperature, less oxygen carried by the blood during exercise, ‘sticky’ blood which is more susceptible for clotting, damage to the lining of the arteries, which is considered a contributing factor to arteriosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits on the artery walls), reduced blood flow to the extremities (fingers and toes), and an increased risk of stroke and myocardial infarction due to blockages of the blood supply.


Smoking can negatively impact the development and severity of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, scaly patches of skin. Several studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of developing psoriasis and worsens its symptoms.

Studies have shown that smokers have a higher risk of developing psoriasis compared to non-smokers. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which makes the immune system overactive and can trigger or worsen psoriasis. In addition, smokers often have a more severe form of psoriasis, with more extensive skin lesions, a larger body surface area affected and a higher frequency of flare-ups.

Smoking can also decrease response to treatments, making it more difficult to control symptoms. The exact mechanism behind the relationship between smoking and psoriasis is not yet fully understood.

Smoking can affect the immune response and inflammatory processes in the body, which can contribute to the development and worsening of psoriasis. In addition, smoking can reduce blood circulation, reducing the skin’s nourishment and interfering with the healing process. It is important to note that quitting smoking can have a positive effect on psoriasis. It can reduce the severity of symptoms, decrease the frequency of flare-ups, and improve response to treatments.


Cigarette smoking can have negative effects on the skin, particularly in the area of ​​acne breakouts. It causes oxidative stress, a process in which there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize these harmful substances.

Oxidative stress can disrupt the skin’s innate and host immune responses. These immune responses play an important role in fighting inflammation and the healing process of acne breakouts. When these responses are disrupted, it can lead to an increased inflammatory response and slower healing of acne spots.

In addition, smoking also affects blood circulation to the skin. The harmful substances in cigarette smoke constrict blood vessels, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. This can further slow healing and promote scar formation.

In addition to disrupting the immune response and reducing blood circulation, smoking can also increase sebum production. Sebum is an oily substance that moisturizes the skin, but excessive sebum production can contribute to acne formation.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by recurrent inflammation of the hair follicles and sweat glands. While the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa is not yet fully understood, smoking is known to negatively impact the condition.

Cigarette smoking introduces a complex mix of harmful substances into the body, all of which may play a role in the development and exacerbation of hidradenitis suppurativa.

One of the main substances in cigarette smoke is nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance that can disrupt the immune system. It can trigger inflammatory responses in the body by stimulating the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These inflammatory responses can contribute to the formation of inflammation and abscesses in the hair follicles in people with hidradenitis suppurativa.

In addition, nicotine affects sebum production in the skin. It can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. Excessive sebum production can lead to clogging of hair follicles, which in turn can lead to the formation of abscesses, cysts and inflammation. More about Hidradenitis

Premature aging

Smoking has been shown to have harmful effects on the skin and can lead to premature aging. One of the ways smoking causes this is by stimulating the production of an enzyme called metalloproteinase (MMPs).

MMPs are enzymes responsible for breaking down collagen, a protein that gives skin firmness and elasticity. Due to the excessive production of MMPs due to smoking, the natural balance between the production and breakdown of collagen is disrupted. This results in an accelerated breakdown of collagen in the skin.

The loss of collagen has direct consequences for the skin, such as sagging and loss of firmness. This creates premature wrinkles and fine lines, making the face look older than it really is. In addition, smoking can also lead to a dull complexion and reduced skin texture.

In addition to breaking down collagen, smoking can also constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the skin. As a result, the skin receives less oxygen and nutrients, which slows down the recovery process and makes the skin look dull and lifeless.

It is important to realize that premature aging due to smoking is not just limited to the face. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the hands, where the skin is thinner and more sensitive.

Smoking can have negative effects on tylotic hand eczema through several mechanisms. Tylotic hand eczema is a skin disease that causes thickened, dry, sometimes cracked spots and itchy blisters on the hands. This form of eczema often occurs in people who work a lot with their hands in humid environments, which causes the skin to dry out and become irritated. Smoking can damage the skin barrier, making the skin more susceptible to irritations and allergens. This deterioration of the barrier function can contribute to the development and worsening of hand eczema.

In addition, the chemicals in cigarette smoke, such as formaldehyde, tar and nicotine, can disrupt microcirculation in the skin, which reduces oxygen supply to the skin and slows the healing process of wounds. These factors together can delay the recovery of the skin barrier in people with hand eczema and worsen the symptoms of eczema.

Although the link between smoking and worsening hand eczema is supported by some studies, further research is needed to understand the precise effects on this condition and to develop effective treatments for patients who smoke. Reducing or quitting smoking can be an important step in managing hand eczema and improving overall skin health

Smoking can negatively affect the skin by reducing blood flow to the skin, leading to reduced oxygen and nutrient delivery. This can result in premature aging, duller skin, and worsening skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne.

Yes, quitting smoking can have significant benefits for the skin. It improves blood circulation and increases the supply of essential nutrients, which can help repair skin and reduce the severity of existing skin conditions.

Smoking can slow down the skin’s wound healing process. It reduces blood flow and limits the availability of essential nutrients, leading to slower healing, increased risk of infection and possibly more visible scarring.

Smoking increases the risk of developing several types of skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma. Mainly present on the lip or around the mouth. The chemicals in cigarettes can contribute to cell damage and accelerate the formation of cancer cells on the skin.

Positive steps to healthy skin

After you quit smoking, it’s important to help your skin recover from the harmful effects of smoking. Here are some tips to support your skin in the recovery process:

  1. Hydrate your skin: Smoking can dry out the skin, so keeping your skin well hydrated is essential. Use a moisturizer suitable for your skin type and apply it regularly to lock in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier.
  2. Cleanse thoroughly: Proper cleansing of the skin is important to remove any accumulated impurities and residue from tobacco smoke. Choose a mild facial cleanser that doesn’t dry out the skin and use it daily, morning and night.
  3. Exfoliate regularly: By exfoliating you can remove dead skin cells and stimulate skin renewal. Choose a gentle exfoliant that is suitable for your skin type, such as an enzymatic peeling or a mild scrub. Do not exfoliate the skin too often, 1-2 times a week is enough.
  4. Protect your skin from the sun: Smoking can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Always protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply the sunscreen liberally and reapply every 2 hours, especially if you are exposed to the sun for a long time.
  5. Nourish your skin from the inside: A healthy diet can help your skin recover after smoking. Eat foods rich in antioxidants, such as green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts and fish, to nourish your skin and protect it from free radicals.

Remember that skin regeneration after smoking is a gradual process. Give it time: Restoring your skin after smoking takes time. Be patient and give your skin a chance to recover. Stay consistent with your skincare routine and provide your skin with the necessary nutrients and hydration. It’s important to make positive lifestyle changes and treat your skin with care. If necessary, consult a dermatologist for professional advice tailored specifically to your skin needs and condition.

How can Iconic Elements help you

Iconic Elements can help you improve the impact of smoking on your skin by offering a range of high-quality skin care products. Smoking can cause significant damage to your skin, including premature aging, a dull complexion and pigmentation problems. Here’s how Iconic Elements can help:


Step 1: Deep cleansing with cleansing milk – Step 1 Our Cleansing Milk – Step 1, enriched with sunflower oil, almond oil and jojoba oil, is an excellent choice to cleanse the skin after exposure to smoke and pollutants. This mild, alcohol-free formula effectively removes impurities and makeup, leaving your skin fresh and hydrated.

Step 2: Treat premature skin aging with Anti-Aging cream Our Anti-Aging Cream, enriched with vitamin C, E and ferulic acid, can help reducen van de tekenen van veroudering die vaak geassocieerd worden met roken. These powerful antioxidants protect your skin from free radical damage and promote a youthful appearance.

Step 3: Reduce pigmentation with Spotreducer cream Smoking can lead to uneven skin tone and pigment spots. Our Spot Reducer with Niacinamide and Ectoine can help reduce these pigmentation problems, leaving your skin looking more even and radiant.

Step 4: Calm down and recover with Calming cream The harmful effects of smoking can lead to irritation and inflammation of the skin. Our Calming Cream, with ingredients such as marshmallow root, avena sativa and ectoine, provides soothing and restorative properties to help your skin recover.

In summary, Iconic Elements can help you minimize the negative impact of smoking on your skin and support you in maintaining healthier, more radiant skin, even in the presence of harmful environmental factors. Choose Iconic Elements and invest in the health and beauty of your skin.

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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