Smoking Is Ravaging Your Appearance: Here’s The Proof

Smoking Is Ravaging Your Appearance: Here’s The Proof

If you’re a smoker, you probably frequently wonder about how your habit could be affecting your appearance. Just how much older are all those ciggies making you look? This photographic study of identical twins with different smoking histories provides a chilling answer.

Premature ageing picture from Shutterstock

There is plenty of evidence that links smoking to premature ageing, but when it comes to individual patients, the cause can be tougher to determine. After all, appearances deteriorate at different rates depending on a wide range of factors, including genetics. So how much is actually linked to smoking and how much is hereditary?

In a bid to find out, researchers from University Hospitals in Cleveland compared the appearance of 79 identical twins participating in the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg. Each pair of identical siblings contained a smoker and nonsmoker, or a twin who had smoked at least five years longer than his or her counterpart.

Each individual was then graded for wrinkles using the Lemperle Assessment Scale. To confirm that the twins’ environmental aging factors were properly controlled for, a Mann-Whitney test was performed on their sunscreen use, alcohol intake and perceived work stress.

Below are a handful of comparative results from the study:

“The twin on the right is a smoker, the twin on the left is a nonsmoker. Notice the difference in nasolabial creases.”

Smoking Is Ravaging Your Appearance: Here’s The Proof

“Both twins are smokers. The twin on the right smoked for 14 years longer than his brother.”

Smoking Is Ravaging Your Appearance: Here’s The Proof

“The twin on the left has smoked 17 years longer than the twin on the right. Note the difference in lower lid bags and upper and lower lip wrinkles.”

Smoking Is Ravaging Your Appearance: Here’s The Proof

“”The twin on the left is a nonsmoker and the twin on the right smoked for 29 years. Notice the difference in periorbital ageing.”

As is plainly evident in the above photos, different smoking histories lead to specific components of facial aging; even in twins with identical genetic makeup.

“Smoking twins compared with their nonsmoking counterparts had worse scores for upper eyelid skin redundancy, lower lid bags, malar bags, nasolabial folds, upper lip wrinkles, lower lip vermillion wrinkles, and jowls,” the report explains.

“Lower lid hyperpigmentation in the smoking group fell just short of statistical significance. Transverse forehead wrinkles, glabellar wrinkles, crow’s feet, and lower lip lines accentuated by puckering did not have a statistically significant differences in scores.

“Among twins with greater than 5 years’ difference in smoking duration, twins who had smoked longer had worse scores for lower lid bags, malar bags, and lower lip vermillion wrinkles.”

In other words, smoking primarily affects the middle and lower thirds of the face and can cause noticeable differences in facial aging after just five years, even when allowing for natural ageing.

The researchers acknowledge that they were unable to control certain environmental factors in their study, particularly in the areas of fat distribution as well as subtle movement in mimetic facial muscles. We also think it’s odd that the study allowed women to wear makeup, which can drastically affect the appearance of age.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for added motivation to quit, perhaps this is the kick up the butt you need.

See also: Where Is Smoking Banned In Australia? | Ask LH: How Can I Ask A Smoker To Move On? | Quitbuddy Is A Stop Smoking App

Facial Changes Caused by Smoking: A Comparison between Smoking and Nonsmoking Identical Twins [Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons]


  • Eh to be fair – the only one that really has a noticeable change was the last one with a Women smoking for nearly 3 decades. Has got to make you wonder with all the anti-smoking campaigns out there is it really worth all that money to live a couple extra years as a pensioner or have a few less wrinkles on your face.

    This comes from someone who doesn’t smoke cigs.

      • Smokers as a group are not as big of a drag on the finances of our health system as you might think. By dying young (and usually pretty fast, before or soon after retirement), smokers aren’t around to draw a pension and therefore can cost less in total. They also pay a lot of tax while alive. Treatment for cancer is also beneficial to the economy as it is labor intensive, providing lots of people with jobs etc.

        On the other hand non drinking vegetarian non smoking fit non stressed people live _for ever_ and can draw a pension for 30 years after the average smoker has died, costing the government millions, plus they pay less tax while they’re alive. This behavior must be stopped!!!

        • I don’t think that’s not true. Treating emphysema or lung cancer or heart disease or stroke is expensive. All of which you’re putting your hand up for as a long term smoker.

          At least fit people tend to just die. Saves money on treatments as they usually pop off while mowing the lawn or something.

          • I’d presume the most expensive people would be fatties and old people. The three aren’t mutually exclusive, but still…

          • Totally. Old fat smokers would be bad.

            My dad was a heavy drinker, didn’t smoke but his best mate (who he spent several days every week with) was a chain smoker. Obese all my life (so at least 33 years), never watched his diet, never exercised, sleeps between 3 and 5 hrs a night, in his chair, in front of the tele.

            Well he’s just had his 2nd hospital stay this year, and has at least 2 more surgeries planned this year.

            So yeah, he’s an expensive prospect for the state right now. Of course he has no health insurance of any kind. He was complaining about it the other day and I had to remind him that in most other countries, he’d be dead already because he couldn’t afford to pay for the medical bills.

            That shut him up.

    • you blind?

      the overall skin quality of all 4 are pretty dramatic and the difference in wrinkles is massive around the mouth area.

    • All what money? How is not smoking more expensive than smoking? Cigarettes are expensive, and smokers end up (on average) living fewer years, having more wrinkles, stinking of smoke (and don’t get me started on smokers’ breath), and generally having poorer health.

      So they are paying for the privilege of living shorter, uglier, smellier lives. Ummm… yeah never made any sense to me.

      • because clearly everyone smokes just cause they want to be dead faster and smell bad. it’s not for the effects of the drug at all. and i bet they just absolutely hate the taste.

        there are positives and negatives to smoking – just like alcohol. for most, the negatives outweigh the positives. for some, it’s worth it.

      • Because it’s enjoyable. Unless you’re legitimately going to argue that you have no health-atrophying vice whatsoever your protestations are just annoyances over the packaging.
        Also your prerogative though, i dig it.

    • Ahhh we love you Gen Y – no attention span to notice details but happy to throw uninformed comments around the internet. You whacky kids you!!

  • While I disagree with smokers “need” to smoke (but freely admit to their right to do it if it’s their choice, once educated of the dangers), this has about as much scientific (or otherwise) credibility as the before and after shots for weight loss products on late night TV..

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