Does Secondhand Smoke Cause Damage To My Skin?

Renee's hands on a clients face

Did you know that secondhand smoke is actually more dangerous than firsthand? Shocking, but true. The reason is because the components in secondhand smoke are more concentrated than in firsthand, since there is no filter at the end of the cigarette. The levels of nicotine, tar, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide are at least twice as high in secondhand smoke.

So what does this mean for your skin?

Simply put, you’re getting much of the skin damage that smokers can get – if not more, and you’re not even a smoker!

Among many things, secondhand smoke affects the skin greatly because collagen-destroying enzymes (MMPs) ramp up when exposed to tobacco smoke causing increased wrinkling and visible aging of the skin.

Read: Do You Have Smoker’s Lines But Have Never Smoked?

So if you’re someone who lives with smokers or works in smoky places, you’ll want to either avoid this or follow these tips to prevent skin damage.

Use skin care products that stimulate collagen. Peptides are a powerful ingredient that when used regularly will help with the formation of new collagen. Peptides are a chain of amino acids, that when used regularly will help with the formation of new collagen. Look for peptides like Caprooyl Tetrapeptide and Matrixyl 300. Use Bio Radiance Night Serum since it is loaded with peptides and is a great product to prevent wrinkles. Firming Eye Therapy also uses peptides and is amazing for the delicate eye area to keep it firm and moist…

Skin care products with White Tea Extract (in levels of 2%-5%) help to neutralize 55-75% of lipid peroxide, the damaging free radicals from tobacco smoke. You can find this in Soothing Relief Serum. Vitamins C & E replace vitamins lost to smoke and smog exposure, also keeping skin moist and hydrated. Our Vitamin C & E Treatment uses a blend of three unique, time-released targeted delivery systems that slowly diffuse three stabilized forms of Vitamin C and three forms of Vitamin E throughout the skin that help to visually repair smoke damage. It also helps to lighten pigmentation and discoloration caused from aging, breakouts and hormonal changes in the body.

Use products that stimulate blood flow. Products with ingredients like ginseng, peppermint and rosemary are all beneficial for boosting circulation to get your skin glowing. A smoker’s skin will benefit greatly from Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel, Revitalizing Ginseng Toner, Rosemary Mint Cleanser and Mint Buffing Beads. Go for the glow!

Use both retinol and glycolic acid in your skin care products. Glycolic acid and retinol are two ingredients which have been determined to affect collagen production. Glycolic acid, while better for clearing the pores and removing surface dryness, is not quite as effective as retinol for collagen stimulation. This is because retinol goes down deeper into the dermis and evokes stimulation right where collagen fibers are created. Glycolic acid, however, is better for stimulating new cells located near the surface of the skin, which gives skin a smooth texture by removing dryness. (Renée Rouleau is launching a new retinol serum soon!) See our collection of AHA Smoothing Serum formulas.

Apply sunscreen generously and wear it 365 days a year, rain or shine, inside or out. As a skin care consumer caring for my own skin, and as an esthetician for 25 years (read my bio), I know that for most of us the goal is to have skin that is young, youthful-looking and wrinkle-free. To achieve that, people will continually search for a magic potion, a perfect cure-all. What is funny is that even with this obsession about preventing skin aging, people overlook using the world’s best anti-aging product on a regular basis.

What is it? Simple sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks out the harmful UV rays that cause loss of elasticity, premature aging, skin cancer, dark spots, damaged capillaries etc. Sunscreen is a must whether you’re lying out at the beach OR working inside your office near windows. Did you know? Zinc Oxide (found in Daily Protection SPF 30) provides the broadest spectrum of coverage among UV filters currently approved by the FDA. I also highly suggest that everyone uses a sunscreen mineral powder to prevent wrinkles and sun damage. ColoreScience is the brand I recommend and personally use on my own skin.

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


Post a comment
  1. Hello i wanted to ask how is possible that my mom is heavy smoker in her 50is and doesnt have wrinkles that are noticeble.I am quite amazed because my grandmother never smoked ever and had so many wrinkles.And she had healthy non drinking and non smoking life style.My dad also smokes two packages a day is 64 years old and has no noticeable wrinkles at all.I am worried if i took after my grandma.I dont drink or smoke.

    Posted By: Mina  | 

    • While smoking does cause wrinkles, it all depends on genetics and the thickness of the skin, as well as their weight. As for weight, someone who is has extra pounds on them will now show as many wrinkles, even if they are a smoker, due to the fat cells plumping up the skin vs someone who is very thin will show a lot more. There are also many other factors that come into play but without a doubt, smoking will not work in anyone’s favor if their goal is to have the healthiest, youngest-looking skin possible.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  2. I lived in a house full of lots of second and third hand smoke (2-3 people smoked in the house at a given time) for 5 years, and haven’t been around any secondhand smoke since.. but is my skin permanently damaged? I never smoked myself, and I wear SPF 30 or more every day (I even use a special sunscreen for my eyes) and I usually don’t spend that much time in the sun anyways. I eat well, exercise, and use natural skincare products (homemade facials, olive oil, coconut oil, etc) on my skin and I don’t wear much makeup. I’m just wondering if those 5 years left a permanent damage on my skin that no amount of anti-aging skincare can fix. I’m 20 years old, which probably seems a little early but I want to take care of my skin as much as possible. Is there anything else that’s special that I could do to heal my skin from that damage?

    Posted By: Ciara  | 

  3. I have a similar question. My mom smokes indoors and has for over 30 years. The entire inside is basically a haze of secondhand smoke and for most of my adolescence (ever since puberty came and I started getting pimples and whatnot) my face has always been pretty bad off. Second and third-hand smoke is sickly prevalent here. My face doesn’t heal completely and I have dark spots from it all over.

    Well, recently I’ve been all but living at my grandmother’s as I supervise her after a surgery and over the past 3 weeks, coming home on weekends only. She smokes occasionally, but the air quality is much better. My face has gotten noticeably clearer, and my mother noticed and asked if I was stressed. However, when I explained that her constant smoking indoors affected my face, she insisted I was wrong and that information isn’t true.

    Does the second/third-hand smoke have a strong correlation between my constantly irritated face?

    Posted By: Chris  | 

    • Great question, Chris. I don’t believe that smoke causes irritation but rather it may impede healing of your post-breakout marks due to less oxygen and circulation within the skin. It’s really important that you get on a good skin care routine to not only encourage improving circulation but exfoliation to break down damaged, scarred cells. Be sure you take my skin type to get products recommended. The BHA Clarifying Serum and Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel would both be great for you. Click here to see the skin type quiz.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  4. Will third hand smoking damage my skin? I am debating whether to move in with my partner who is a smoker (although he has agreed to only smoke outside).

    Posted By: Charlotte Gwilliam  | 

    • If he’s smoking outside, then my guess would be you’re fine.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  5. Great question. You gave me a great idea for a new blog post. But the simple answer is, 25 isn’t too young to use retinol (over the counter) and glycolic IF your skin is in need of a lot of exfoliation and smoothing. For example, if you’re someone who has a lot of clogged pores, large pores and a thicker, non-sensitive skin. If your skin is fair and sensitive and thin with small pores, then it may be too much. But incorporate it slowly and see how it does. Read about my Advanced Resurfacing Serum here

    Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  6. […] Does Secondhand Smoke Cause Damage to My Skin? – Renee Rouleau […]

    Posted By: How Smoking Ruins Your Skin « Askanesthetician's Blog  | 


Post a Comment:

Find your
skin type

Great skin starts with knowing your skin type.

Take the quiz