Why do smokers get more wrinkles? New research explains the aging effects of smoking

Friday 23 March 2001


Embargo:  00.01 Friday 23  March 2001


Why dosmokers get more wrinkles? New research explains the ageing effects ofsmoking


New research published inthis week’s issue of The Lancet <spanstyle=’font-size:11.0pt;font-family:arial’>medicaljournal [1] sheds light on why smokers can look considerably older than theiractual age.  It has been known for sometime that smoking  causes prematureageing of the skin but the mechanism behind this has been little understood.  Now a study by Professor Antony Young andcolleagues at St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, London, shows that smokingactivates the genes responsible for a skin enzyme that breaks down collagen inthe skin.  Collagen is the mainstructural protein of the skin which maintains skin elasticity.  When this is degraded, the skin begins tosag and wrinkle.


Commenting on his findings, Professor Young said: “Smokingexerts such a noticeable effect on the skin that it’s often possible to detectwhether or not a person is a smoker simply by looking at his/her face.  Smokers have more wrinkles and their skintends to have a greyish pallor compared to non-smokers.”


ASH’s Research Manager, Amanda Sandford, commented:  “It’s ironic that teenagers often startsmoking in the hope of appearing more mature but it probably never occurs tothem by middle age they really will start to look older than their true age.


“For smokers, middle age starts in their early 30s as thetell-tale wrinkles around the mouth and eyes begin to appear.


“Young female smokers are likely to be wasting money on anti-ageingface creams if they continue to smoke. The best beauty treatment by far is to quit smoking.”




[1] Induction of mRNA for matrix metalloproteinase 1 may bethe molecular basis for skin ageing in smokers.   The Lancet, 24 March 2001


Contacts: Professor Antony Young,  Tel. 0207960 5550 or  077 9906 2992 (mobile)


Amanda Sandford, ASH  020 7739 5902 or

Clive Bates, ASH.   020 7739 5902  or 077 6879 1237 (mobile)

ISDN available


For more information on how smoking affects the skin and aperson’s appearance see ASH fact sheet, ‘<ahref=”http: www.ash.org.uk=”” html=”” factsheets=”” fact10.html”=””>How smokingaffects the way you look’.