Skin Benefits of Quitting Smoking

by Laurel Heidtman ; Updated August 14, 2017

Young woman disapproving of male's smoking habit.

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If you’re thinking of quitting smoking, you’ll be happy to know that your skin will reap the benefits. Smoking contributes to premature aging of the skin, psoriasis and skin cancer. If you’ve smoked for many years, you may think it’s too late to save your skin, but skin is a living organ that renews itself throughout your life. Quitting smoking can help you avoid further damage and improve your skin's health and appearance.

Skin Cancer

Quitting smoking reduces your risk of many types of cancer, including skin cancer. Authors of an article published in January 2001 in the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" report that smoking -- particularly of cigarettes or pipes -- is a risk factor for squamous cell skin cancer. From January 1991 to December 1997, the researchers identified 966 skin cancer patients, 161 of whom had squamous cell carcinoma. After adjusting for age, sex and sun exposure, they found an increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma among the patients who were current or former smokers. People who had stopped smoking had a lower risk than current smokers.


Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes red, itchy patches of scaly skin. The authors of a 2007 article published in "The American Journal of Medicine" found an increased risk of psoriasis among smokers, former smokers and women exposed to secondhand smoke who were enrolled in the Nurses Health Study II. Among women who had stopped smoking, the risk dropped for each decade since smoking cessation.


Wrinkles are an inevitable part of aging, but quitting smoking can reduce the severity of wrinkles as you age. Researchers at the University of California reported in a 1995 article published in the "American Journal of Public Health" that the skin of current smokers tends to wrinkle more severely than that of nonsmokers or former smokers. They examined Caucasian men and women between 30 and 69 years of age and found that the wrinkling did not become evident until around age 40. At that point, the skin of current smokers developed more severe wrinkles than the skin of people who had never smoked and former smokers. Female smokers developed more severe wrinkles than male smokers. Female former smokers had an increased risk of severe wrinkling compared to women who had never smoked, but the risk was lower than for women who currently smoked.

Skin Color

The color of your skin is likely to improve when you quit smoking. A study performed at a public health center in South Korea measured skin color changes in 34 men who stopped smoking at the beginning of the monthlong study. The researchers measured melanin and redness at 6 sites on the men's faces and on their abdomens. As noted in the March 2012 study report published in the "Korean Journal of Family Medicine," after only 1 month, the melanin and redness were significantly decreased, offering evidence that smoking cessation can quickly improve the appearance of skin.

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About the Author

Laurel Heidtman began writing for her hometown paper, "The Harrison Press," in 1964. In addition to freelancing she has worked as a police officer, a registered nurse, a health educator and a technical writer. She holds an associate degree in nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication from Miami University of Ohio.