Smoking causes the face to age faster

Analysis method for risk factors and their effects

The connection has long been suspected: smoking has a harmful effect on the aging of the face. An English research team developed a new method that could be used to prove that regular consumption of tobacco products negatively affects its appearance.

Researchers from the University of Bristol combined two modern analytical methods and developed a new methodology from which large biological databases can be searched for causal relationships. To test their new method, the team looked in the UK biodata database for the effects of heavy smoking. The results were recently published in the technical journal "PLOS Genetics".

Heavy smokers can be recognized on the face

Using the new method, the researchers were able to analyze over 18,000 characteristics from the cohort for correlations in order to identify those affected by the effects of heavy smoking. In addition to several other known consequences such as poor lung health, heavy smokers could be identified particularly well via the appearance of the face.

Two analyzes in one

In order to arrive at this result, the research team from Bristol used a combination of two analysis methods: Mendel’s randomization and the gene-environment interaction test. Mendel’s randomization uses the genetic variation in a person’s DNA to understand the causal relationships between risk factors and health outcomes. In this specific case, the question was investigated: How does it affect the health results, whether and how much someone smokes? However, Mendel’s randomization is distorted if the results are influenced by other means. The gene-environment interaction test was also used to eliminate this distortion. Certain groups, in this case smokers and non-smokers, are considered separately. For example, it can be ensured that the effects are linked to certain basic requirements. In this case, for example, the strength of smoke consumption with facial aging.

Method can also be applied to other drugs

With this combined new approach, the researchers wanted to demonstrate how one can systematically investigate causal effects over thousands of results. Their result supports the finding that heavy smoking negatively affects the amount of facial wrinkles and the attractiveness of the face. The team emphasizes that this approach can also be used to investigate similar relationships, such as the effects of alcohol consumption on appearance. This could be used, for example, to encourage people not to start using harmful substances or to motivate them to stop. However, it has not yet been investigated whether this is actually an effective strategy for preventing drug use and would have to be confirmed in further research. (vb)

For tips on quitting smoking, see the article: Quit Smoking.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • University of Bristol: Study shows heavy smoking can have a damaging effect on facial aging (accessed: November 1, 2019),
  • Louise A. C. Millard, Marcus R. Munafò, Kate Tilling, u.a .: MR-pheWAS with stratification and interaction: Searching for the causal effects of smoking heaviness identified an effect on facial aging, PLOS Genetics, 2019,

Video: How smoking affects your heart (January 2022).