This is what smoking does to your skin

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty, Health 42 Comments

Sponsored by Queensland Health

I do not know how I did NOT become a smoker.

At one point in my young life, my boyfriend, both parents and two brothers all smoked. Inside the house.

When I started work as a journo, many of my colleagues smoked. At their desks.

It’s quite incredulous today to believe that our workspaces and homes were once acceptable places in which to light a fag.

At home I didn’t really notice the smell and smoke until I moved for 12 months … and then moved back in.

It’s no surprise in hindsight that this coincided with my first asthma attack.

Now, I don’t want to paint myself as some kind of non-smoking saint. I – like most teenagers at the time – tried smoking.

I’m not sure I ever bought a packet for myself but I do remember times when I attempt to be one of the “cool” kids.

But here’s the thing. I was SO far from cool I couldn’t even get the hang of it. I couldn’t for the life of me inhale the smoke into my lungs.

I gave up trying. And I consider myself lucky that I did stop trying.

Lucky because once you start – once you really start – it’s so damn hard to ever quit.

I can’t hope to understand what quitting really feels like. I’ve never gone through it. I’ve only witnessed those around me – my close family members – go through many attempts to give up before actually succeeding.

So in this post I do not want to trivialise how difficult it is if you are a smoker and would like to quit.

This post is aimed at young women – mums of young women, friends of young women, sisters of young women – women who are toying with the idea of smoking, women who haven’t been smoking long or are social smokers.

I want those women to look at my before and after photos and really think about their own future.

Yes, this is a very vain way to approach a quit smoking campaign but the reason I’ve got behind Queensland Health’s If you smoke, your future’s not pretty campaign is that I also believe that approach is one that might actually achieve some results with young women.

What smoking does to your skin

Smoking causes instant damage to a smoker’s hair, nails and skin.

Smoking increases production of an enzyme, which breaks down the supply of collagen to the skin’s structure. Collagen supply is vital to the skin’s firmness and elasticity.

Chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the fibres in the skin that are responsible for its strength and elasticity, thus leading to wrinkles, sagging of the eye-lids, bags under the eyes and premature ageing on our face and other parts of the body, including breast sagging.

What does this all add up to? What does smoking do to your skin?

When you get to my age (late 40s), you will look 10-20 years older than a non-smoker at the same age.

As part of the campaign this year, a team of makeup artists has been visiting shopping centres in Queensland (this week the team is on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane … details below) to make “under” young women and give them an insight as to how they could look if they started or continued to smoke.

To get a “feel” for how this process works, I agreed to be made under as well.

Now, I’ll tell you that when I’m sitting in a makeup artist’s chair I’m used to them doing all kinds of wonderful things to enhance my skin and eyes … to make me look younger and fresher.

Not the opposite.

Even as I was sitting there, knowing that Megan was adding about 20 years on to current 47-year-old face, in my head I was thinking the opposite was happening.

So, yes the “after” was confronting. Hugely.

Mr and Master SY are still in shock at the results. Back to the future, anyone? Without a Delorean.

Let’s start with the now. This is I with a little bit of makeup but generally how you’d see me on a day-to-day basis.

Queensland Health Campaign. Your Future is Not Pretty. Nikki Parkinson, Styling You | Photo by Sarah Keayes

and this is me after being made “under”.



Nikki Parkinson Styling You Make Under If you smoke your futures not pretty 3

And let’s line up those photos together for a closer look-see.

Nikki Parkinson Styling You Make Under If you smoke your futures not pretty 4



Now this might not be something that you’d be lining up to experience but I hope that if you are a young smoker that you please do.

Once you’ve had a make under, don’t panic, you won’t have to walk around the shops like that. You’ll be treated to a make over so you leave the stand looking and feeling a healthy and glowing version of yourself.

Take a look at the women in this video and clock their reactions to their make unders.

Live on the Sunshine Coast or in Brisbane? Here’s where you’ll find the roadshow this week:

Thursday October 23 (9am-5pm): Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydore

Saturday October 25 (9am-5pm): Brisbane, Westfield Garden City, Mt Gravatt

If you don’t live near either of these locations, then upload a photo to the See the Future You photo booth.  You just need a clear, head and shoulder photo in which your face is clearly visible. There’s even an option to choose a photo direct from Facebook.

My makeup artist – Megan – is one of the team who has been involved in the roadshow.

I chatted with her about the response she’d seen in women who had been made under. She told me that one particular woman had stood out.

That woman wasn’t a smoker but her mum was. She had the make under done to show her mum and after she’d had it done, called her mum, who was also in the centre to come and see it.

The mum burst into tears.

And the daughter said, “please Mum, stop smoking.”

I sincerely hope she’s been able to.

If you’d like more information on how to quit smoking, visit here. If you’d like support, call the Quitline on 13QUIT (13 7848).

So tell me, would you get a make under? Know someone who you could help by showing her these photos?

Comments 42

  1. That is such a confronting image. What a great way to shine a light of not only such a deadly habit, but so damaging to our natural beauty. Love this article and hoping it inspires a few more women to give up smoking. It’s just not cool anymore.

  2. Such a fantastic idea. without having read the other posts which may have said this, no mention of the rest of the damage smoking does? Only focussed on appearance and not showing the whole picture?

    what is this saying to young girs?

  3. Wow. That is a fantastic campaign. Very very clever and kudos to whoever had the idea. Fingers crossed it is effective. It is pointless telling young people that smoking will kill you in 20/30/40 years time because that is an age away and beside “I’ll be old then and won’t care”. Tapping into their vanity is much closer to the bone.

    I too tried smoking but couldn’t get the hang of it and didn’t like the smell anyway. And I am forever thankful that I didn’t persist. One of my friends took it up to loose weight! Some 30 years later not only has she got the weight to deal with (never was an effective weight loss mechanism for her) but the added health issues of smoking.

    Great post. Thank you.

  4. Oh. My. God!!!!
    I am forever grateful I am not a smoker because I watch my husband try to give up time & time & time again. It’s hard. Seeing this makes me wonder if this is what smoking does to the outside imagine what the inside would look like/

  5. Wow the photo is certainly confronting! To think the governments used to condone smoking and now how different is it for the smokers out there. I feel for long-time smokers who struggle to give up but hopefully demonstrations such as this may encourage people to think differently. I sincerely hope the youngsters take note!

  6. Wow Nikki, well done you for highlighting this important cause. My grandfather’s death was due to passive smoking. I can picture the photo my parents have of Grandad’s smoke-filled workplace – he was the only 1950s gent not smoking a pipe. Still, I tried (and thankfully failed) to smoke and look cool in my teens. I am incredibly greatful that my mother did not become addicted when she flirted with smoking as a young hairdressing apprentice. Then I became a journo too, but luckily workplace smoking was phased out a few years into my career. I will share all of these stories with my girls, in fact I’ve already started – I taught my toddlers to say ‘filthy habit’ when they smelled cigarette smoke in the street! How lucky they are that they are growing up in an increasingly smokefree society, and that none of their family ever became addicted. Thankyou for this thought-provoking piece, Nikki xx

    1. Yes, I think my kids are lucky in that respect too … teenagers have hopefully got through the peer stage and youngest doesn’t understand why you’d do it. You never know what might happen but definitely less influence around. So sorry about your grandfather – would not have happened today. x

  7. I hopped on this straight away, did myself, my husband and my 12 year old son! We’re not smokers but it was so good to see how bad we would look if we did smoke! Very confrontational. Thanks for sharing Nikki.

  8. I was the classic social smoker – and ten years ago I was living in China where you could smoke everywhere, and cigarettes retailed for about 50c a packet. I actually smoked much less than I ever did in Sydney. Then I came back and met my future husband, who is an ardent ex smoker – and that was the end of that! Thank goodness!
    My mother-in-law died from emphysema – poor lungs and smokers run on that side of husbands family. Not a pretty thing at all to get you in the end – or should I say in her case for years before the end. Nieces still smoke, brother-in-law too – death wishes perhaps.
    That kind of make under is scary eh? Years and years ago I did a session for a makeup artist who was training for membership of her union in Canada – no make up look, make up, Glamour, old age and old age with latex – all so different.

    1. Ah, snap with Johanna below re meeting your future husband, a non-smoker. And not good about the health on his side of the family. The makeup was not scary so much – just strange as mentally I associate makeup with making me look a polished version of myself, not the opposite!

  9. wow. that’s so confronting. I flirted with smoking as a teen too Nikki, trying to be cool. Oh why did we ever think it was cool, it stinks! Thank goodness I never got into it. And looking at your make under I’m blessed I didn’t have smoking as an addiction. I’m certain this campaign will help many women struggling to give up smoking. My Huz used hypnotherapy to help him give up 7 years ago, and it really helped him. Smokers, what ever you do, be kind to yourself.

  10. Nikki you have written about this so well. I’ve worked in health promotion almost all my working life and love the angle of this campaign. Vanity works with young (and older :)) women and this is a great way to make an abstract conversation about the effects of smoking on your appearance into something very concrete. The men in my husband’s family were all smokers – his grandfather dying a terrible death from respiratory disease – and now his father, once a heavy smoker, has just been released from hospital after a long stay with pneumonia and has developed very severe asthma now in his later life. It is a miserable way to live. We have 2 young girls and talk to them often about the bad effects of smoking, and they now see it in the poor health of their grandfather. I hope together with appeals to their vanity through campaigns like this, the healthy lifestyle we lead as a family and seeing first hand the effects of smoking on your health will be enough them to stay away.

  11. This is a great part of a much bigger campaign. People stop (or start) things for all sorts of reasons and this this is one way to help people think twice about taking up smoking. I can’t imagine being addicted to cigarettes and how hard it must be to give them up. I hope this helps someone (or lots of someones) decide not to start – it really seems a lot easier that way. Good on you Nikki – I can imagine it was quite the shock to see yourself!

  12. Thank you Nikki, I wasn’t going to admit this but I do enjoy a cigarette at times especially during stressful situations but I want to give it away forever and not even be a social smoker,but it is hard but I am determined to do it!
    Times have changed so much I remember when you could smoke everywhere even hospitals,I’m so glad that’s changed and young people should not even think about smoking it’s horrible,addictive and socially unacceptable now.This is a great campaign and I really like how you have covered it,not at all judgmental like some people can be thank you Nikki x

    1. Lisa the mind is a powerful thing. I am sending your strength to do this. I don’t judge smokers, its one bad habit I have never had, but goodness me I’ve had a lot of addictions. My Huz had great success with hypnotherapy.

  13. Brave Nikki – very confronting. I have never smoked. I worked during all my pregnancies, but it was only during the third one that I worked for a newspaper and boy, the journos and editors were just about chain smokers. We all worked in one large room, so there was no escape. Cigarette smoke is any time, but when you have morning sickness – just horrendous. I worked part-time, so was probably exposed about 8-10 hours a week. I eventually insisted to my boss that I needed to move into another room, where the ad reps worked – all women and non-smokers. But the damage had been done – after the birth, I had a retained, misshapen,”grainy” placenta, the most likely cause, the doctor said, was smoking. The year was 1990. That child, of my 3, is the one who has struggled the most with school. Thankfully we have come a long way since then with regard to non- smokers’ right to breathe clean air. X

  14. There absolutely no escaping how smoking ravages you inside and out. No matter how much people try to camouflage it, they smell and no matter how much they justify it, it is just totally damaging to your health.
    Get help to quit. Even if you try and try and try, keep trying to quit.
    It’s one small risk factor to eliminate in your life to avoid heart attacks and strokes and cancer.

  15. I smoked through my late teens and 20’s: never an “everyday” smoker, but I could easily get through a packet while out drinking 4 or 5 nights a week.

    I was fortunate enough to meet my husband just after I’d recovered from a particularly bad respiratory infection where I hadn’t had a cigarette for 2 weeks and was trying to give them up.He’s a passionate anti-smoker and basically just said he could not be with a smoker, so that was it- I gave up. Of course it wasn’t quite that simple, but I will admit vanity helped to keep me to my commitment to him not to smoke.

    Apart from the time I was on a work conference in New Zealand and tried to have a couple of cigarettes about 5 years later- Horrid! The smell in my hair and on my breath was mortifying -it this what I used to smell like? Really just another form of vanity, but I’m OK with that.

    1. Oh wow Johanne, life intervened big time for you – in a good way! I used to hate the way my hair smelled after going out to clubs. Not that I do that any more but thank goodness smoking inside venues is no longer allowed.

  16. that is shock value at an horrific level nikki!
    you are a good woman! <3 you!
    I have only smoked for a short period one or two years didn't really like it!
    my mother died from lung cancer and she never smoked but she lived in close proximity with her parents who always smoked!
    I still cry everytime I think of my mother suffering her horrid torturous death! cancer of the lungs is a shocking way to go! … I thank you nikki! … love m:)X

  17. You have no idea how this hits home, Nikki.

    My husband has been a passive smoker all his life. He often tells how as a kid he’d come home from school and the cigarette smoke filled the house from the ceiling to about waist level. He’d crawl up the hallway and barricade himself in his bedroom. Both his smoking aunts died slow deaths – in fact one aunt’s death certificate says the primary cause of death was smoking. His father still smokes, even with an enlarged heart, even after watching both his sisters die. He’s down to two cigarettes a day, but after sixty years, he just can’t quit. I’ve always said that all three of them were poster children for the “ugly” side of smoking – they didn’t (and won’t) die pretty.

    Recently we’ve been talking about how my husband expects to die of something smoking related. It hasn’t just been his home – every workplace he’s ever been in has been full of heavy smokers. In fact, we’ve started telling the doctor when he goes in for checkups that he’s a passive smoker.

    Yesterday he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia from a bad cold. I haven’t had “this is really bad” vibes from the medical staff, and I’m sure he’ll recover, but I’ve been wondering if maybe this is the start of a long line of medical problems we can trace back to cigarettes.

    1. Oh my, I’ve got goosebumps. I hope he will be ok. I do wonder about my passive smoking too – but thank goodness the workplace bit changed about 3 years in to my working. Wishing you and your husband well x

    2. When I was little I was a severe asthmatic. We had a ventolin machine at home and I have memories of oxygen tents at hospital. Both my parents smoked, as did my grandparents, in the house and in the car. My parents commented ,years later, that not once did a doctor suggest that perhaps it was my smoke filled environment that was contributing to the severity of my asthma. Thankfully both my parents gave up when I was a young adult. What a different time the 1970s were!

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