Ask LH: Will Smoking Ruin My Looks If I’m ‘Hot’?

Ask LH: Will Smoking Ruin My Looks If I’m ‘Hot’?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been a smoker since I was 14. I’m now 22 and I consider myself to be smoking hot (pun intended). I’ve heard that smoking cigarettes can age you prematurely. However, judging by the before-and-after photos I’ve seen, most of these people were pretty rough to begin with! Will smoking really ruin my good looks, or will I just go from a 9 to an 8.5? (I whiten my teeth professionally, so that’s not a problem.)

Also, I fully realise that smoking is bad for me. I’ve tried halfheartedly to quit a few times but it just hasn’t taken. The problem is my friends: most of them are smokers too, so it’s always around me socially! Can you recommend an easy, inexpensive way to quit? Thanks, Miss Marlboro

Attractive smoker image from Shutterstock

Dear MM,

I’m not going to sugarcoat it – smoking is a stupid, filthy, expensive and dangerous habit that puts everyone around you at risk. To think we used to allow smoking in enclosed public spaces less than a decade ago boggles the mind. Thankfully, federal law now puts the health of hospitality workers and patrons above the convenience of smokers: exactly as it should be.

[Dismounts high horse.]

It’s good that you want to quit. As stated above, smoking is a self-destructive waste of money. The only conceivable benefit is the aforementioned “social” aspect – and even that has been compromised by tough anti-smoking legislation.

In addition to improving your overall health and reducing the risk of cancer, giving up smoking will definitely help to maintain your good looks. This isn’t conjecture: a recent study compared the appearance of 79 identical twins who did and didn’t smoke. Each individual was 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. Surprise, surprise: the smoking twins looked significantly older despite having identical genetic makeup. Explains the report:

“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.”
“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.”

TLDR version: smoking affects the middle and lower thirds of the face and can cause noticeable differences in facial ageing. It will make you look old before your time.

With all that said, beauty and youthfulness are not intrinsically linked — if you truly are “smoking hot”, a few extra wrinkles around the eyes probably won’t change that. But wouldn’t you rather look younger?

In any event, there’s also your health to consider. Tobacco smoke contains a potpourri of toxic chemicals including Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide, and Carcinogens. This makes smoking one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.

It is estimated that female smokers lose an average 14.5 years of total life expectancy compared to non-smokers. In addition to lung, throat and mouth cancer, it has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and a bunch of other horribly fatal diseases. Regardless of what the rest of your friends do, quitting is a smart choice.

Attempting to go “cold turkey” is a surefire path to failure: while some people can do it, the majority of us lack the required discipline and willpower. Instead, try to cut down in a consistent, limited way. As we’ve advised in the past when it comes to bad habits:

“Whatever it is you shouldn’t be doing, you don’t have to stop yet. (Doesn’t that sound nice?) Don’t try to reduce the habit, reduce the variability in the habit. In other words, don’t even try to quit smoking; try to smoke the exact same number of cigarettes each day. This tiny effort toward self-control can lead to a decrease in bad habits over time, unconsciously.”

In your case, I’d recommend limiting cigarettes to weekends and social situations. Eventually, try moving exclusively to electronic cigarettes (AKA e-cigarettes). These have proven effective in helping people quit; more importantly, they’ll allow you to remain part of your tight-knit smoking group when they head outside for a ciggy. While the jury is still out on how safe these products are, they certainly beat filling your lungs with tobacco smoke.

There’s no shortage of apps that can help you to quit smoking. We recommend Quitbuddy which was developed by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. It lets you set goals, highlight ‘danger times’ and read messages of encouragement from friends and family. It’s available on Android and iOS.

There are also left-of-field options that could be worth trying. One of my ex-colleagues attempted to kick her smoking habit by enlisting the services of a hypnotherapist. You can read her experiences here. For more conventional quitting tips, check out our in-depth guide.

We’re also going to throw this one over to our readers. How did you (or someone you know) successfully give up smoking? Let MM know in the comments section below.

See also: Ask LH: How Can I Ask A Smoker To Move On? | How To Support Someone When They Decide To Quit Smoking


Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

The story has been updated since its original publication.


    • That’s all and well for a movie, but in real life if you smell (and taste) like an ashtray that rating plummets dramatically. Ain’t no amount of perfume that can mask that stench. Yeck!

      • Nothing hotter than sticking your tongue in your partners mouth and feeling like youre licking an ashtray eh…

    • Movies have a lot to answer for. Especially back when censorship was stronger [1930s – 70s]
      A lot of things had to be implied, rather than openly mentioned.

      On the issue of beautiful women smoking, I got the impression from movies of: “what other filthy thing is she willing to put in her mouth?

  • Also, I fully realise that smoking is bad for me. I’ve tried halfheartedly to quit a few times but it just hasn’t taken. The problem is my friends: most of them are smokers too, so it’s always around me socially!

    There you go, I highlighted your problem. You’re not even trying to quit, you’re just taking a break until you the next social outing where everyone else is smoking. Don’t shift the blame; the problem isn’t your friends, it’s you. Plain and simple.
    You lack the willpower and backbone to suffer through the transition. If you truly want to quit, harden up and make a concerted effort. Be honest and ask your friends to help you. Good friends will have no issues with denying you a smoke (and you may even discover who your true friends are), they may ultimately even look to you as a role model and follow suit.
    In any case, you’ll feel better about yourself for having beaten it. I personally don’t know anyone who feels bad about quitting.

    • +1

      Sounds as if they’re pretty ugly on the inside, and that only takes a few years to manifest itself on the outside.

    • I tried 10 times or more to quit, I failed the first 9 but then succeeded. That’s fairly typical for most people. I tried nicotine gum but finally just succeeded with cold turkey.

      Every time you quit but then fail you learn something about your addiction and what to expect plus for a while you health is better. The cravings, if you can endure them, disappear after a while and then become progressively less frequent, shorter. After a few months they are very rare but you might get a craving even after 5 years during periods of stress.

      • Kudos for beating it! You’ve done yourself and the world a favour. 🙂

        The problem with quitting is that people think it’s something they can ‘try out’ without actually understanding that it requires a wholehearted commitment to not only deciding to act, but to enact lifestyle changes that lead to true quitting, that enables them to work out their willpower to a point where it’s strong enough to resist each and every time.

        When people try to quit and eventually fail, they’re simply learning that they’re not really ready to quit, but you’re right, with each failure or misstep one learns a little more about oneself and one’s addiction.
        And invariably eventually one learns that it’s only until one can fully commit to the cause that one can begin to succeed, and even then, as you’ve mentioned, it’s a continual process of battle after battle, win after win, each one easier than the last because your willpower is increasing, that leads to successfully quitting.

        But at the core, it’s as our magnificent midget martial-arts master hath said “Do or do not, there is no try.”

        Kudos again.

  • I don’t know about you guys but if i see an attractive woman and then she starts smoking, said woman instantly becomes much less attractive. Smoking isn’t cool anymore (just ask current high schoolers)

    I also work in hospitality and cleaning the ashtrays at the end of the night makes me dry reach.

  • While I agree with all the negative health connotations obviously (cause it’s not something you can disagree with it’s straight up facts), I actually think smoking is super attractive. I dunno why! I don’t smoke, nor does my girlfriend, but when I’ve “made it” with people in the past who smoke it was really hot, I didn’t even hate the taste. Maybe there’s something wrong with my brain

  • I was a pack a day smoker for 20 years and never thought I could give up smoking, then my sister bought me an e-cigarette and I used the VG (vegetable glycerine) liquid with nicotine and wow I was able to give up cigarettes! I used the e-cigarette for about 9 months then switched to an inhaler and patches for about 2 months and now completely free of nicotine!

    • Big achievement! Congrats. If you haven’t yet, you should get a medical checkup for your lungs to make sure all is fine!

  • Don’t worry, your ridiculous vanity and inability to think through even the simplest concepts will turn away any decent suitor long before they notice the cats bum pout, pallid complexion, ashtray breath and general aura of poor health that smoking will give you.

  • I see a hot chick smoking and immediately think “yuck”. its an instant and irreversible turn off.

  • Regardless, if you think (and openly claim) that you’re hot, you are absolutely not.

  • If you smoke, then you’ll never rate more than a 0/10 for me. If you want to successfully quit smoking and not re-start, then seeking a non-smoking partner is ideal, so it’s worth keeping in mind that most of us are put off by it. There is prescription medication available in Australia, but I’ve personally seen pack a day smokers have success with Tabex, which is only available online from eastern Europe. The app mentioned above supported the medication by tracking the decline in use, then money saved/days smoke free.

  • you smoke = not hot. Why would anyone date you? Ongoing medical costs, horrible diseases, financial burden, slowest form of suicide known, the smell – none of this makes you hot.

  • If you are so sure you are “hot” you may be considering a career as a model. While some models smoke, in practice the wrinkles around the mouth (from puckering up) need masking which adds to the pressure of looking “fresh”. With new hot young models appearing every year, the best way to keep trading on your looks is to maintain an extremely healthy lifestyle.
    If your friends are holding you back, they are not your friends. They are rivals, hoping you fall.

  • My first wife was hot when she was young.
    She started smoking around the time we got divorced 30 years ago.
    I saw a photo of her recently and although she is only 53 years old now, I was shocked to see she looks like she is 70.
    My second wife has never smoked and although we are both now 60, she still looks hot and only about 45 years old.

    My best mate from school days smoked and never gave it up. He died of heart disease ten years ago at age 50.

  • I smoked for nearly 40 years, gave it up over ten days eight years ago and can’t handle ciggy smoke now… but the ten days included flatlining four times after a severe heart attack, a mini stroke and intensive care… now only have a chronic cough, recurring polyps on my vocal chords and various other debilitating conditions… still, I was smokin’ hot for forty years, sure was worth it eh?

  • Call 13QUIT. The trained counsellors can help you with ideas and support for your journey.

  • Let’s have this conversation in 20 years (if you make it) and see if what matters is still your pretty face.

  • Do you really have to ask? Smoking is not “hot” – it is a massive turn off. You stink whether you think so or not. You are an addict – to nicotine and all the cancer causing toxic chemicals in cigarettes. It will kill you – 100% guaranteed. The death is ugly, painful and not slow – and could be as early as in your 40s. I don’t smoke but all my friends that did (past tense) are dead. Nothing is hotter than a woman in her 50s and 60s that did not smoke. She looks younger and more desirable – the years fly by fast so don’t think that 50 or 60 is “old”. You will be there soon enough – if your survive smoking.. That isn’t being a chauvinist – you mentioned “hot”!

  • Here’s the skinny: if you’re still a smoker at 40, you will have an identifiable yellow ‘smear’ around your mouth that will be visible through all but the thickest pancake makeup. You can actually see this on film actresses if you watch films in 720p – particularly if they are wearing relatively little makeup.

    You will also have visible vertical lines along the top of your top lip, which will make your duck-face photos look like close-up of a cat’s asshole.

    Your eyes will have creases that can only be masked by industrial-level quantities of coloured mud.

    If you’re shallow enough to think that being ‘hot’ is a useful attribute (as opposed, say, to developing some intellectual capital), you’ll probably go for filler injections at that stage – at which point you’re on your way to self-identifying as “just another one of those aging slappers who used to look OK when she was 20” .

    As an aside: people obsessed with their own hotness are usually deeply, deeply insecure (which is why they take up smoking – to belong to an in-group).

    Self-obsession plus insecurity also makes you instantly unattractive to people whose interests include things other than tramp-stamps, peroxide, genital-depilation, stripper heels and ‘Triple-T’ (Triple-T: fake tits, fake tan, fake (bleached) teeth).

    So, y’know – best of luck with a series of that kind of guy (who will rapidly move to an approximation of the ‘younger you’ at the first opportunity).

    You do realise people actually live past their 20s, yeah?

    This question is kinda like “I am so sick of shallow guys – I really want to find a nice guy and settle down and have a family one day. I’ve gotten several really pretty back tattoos and I shave my pussy, but that hasn’t worked. Should I bleach my asshole?”

  • Once you are done smoking you come back inside. Your nose is so destroyed you can’t tell but you fucking stink bad. Quit and you’ll find people not hating you being around.

  • I feel like these days the only people who smoke are try hards and 60+ year old blokes who have smoked for 40+ years and have had strokes and or heart attacks. I know of at least 5 of my Dad’s good mates who have died from long term smoking and drinking. Quit while you’re ahead.

  • Neither smoking makes you hot nor does it ruin your hotness. But the thing is; smoking will make your life short by damaging your lungs and breathing passage. And definitely if you will fall ill, you will no longer be hot.
    As far as your friends are considered, a man is known by the company he keeps. So, you are right at your side. But you can only leave smoking at your OWN WILL. Nobody can convince you for that.

  • None of my lung cancer patients look hot. Not one. In fact some look twice their age, and literally off to an early grave. NOT pretty to see, this is no laughing matter. If the cancer doesn’t get you, emphysema will. so take a reality check, lifehackers, please.

  • You can tell a smoker at about age 29. Dark circles under the eyes, greyish tinge in the skin and generally look like there is something ‘off’ about them, almost like they’re sad. You will age no matter what you do and your 9 will plummet to 5. But a smoker will be a 3.5 that also looks like a grey wraith. Winkled, sad, grey, sick. It’s smoke and poison, no matter what you think when you’re still youthful, you’re taking in smoke and poison. It’s a given that this will affect your looks. Stop if you can and moisturize and drink water. Otherwise you’ll look like you’re 80 when you’re 50.

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