Does Nicotine Cause Acne?

Does Nicotine Cause Acne?

This is a common question that comes up from people who smoke or those who are into vaping. As is the case with most diseases and ailments, a key element to always look for is inflammation. Inflammation has been found to lie at the root of not only an increasing number of joint and pain issues, but for immune support and other long term health issues in general. And since the topic for today is acne, it is safe to assume we will be discussing inflammation as well.

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At a quick glance, if you think about all the people you’ve seen smoking and vaping throughout your life, most of them are not riddled with acne breakouts nor seem to have any skin issues whatsoever. Using that as a starting point, we can safely say with firsthand knowledge that nicotine does not cause ongoing acne in most people. There still remain many questions that require answers:

  • Does smoking affect the skin? What about vaping?
  • Does nicotine cause more frequent acne bursts in younger people?
  • Is vaping responsible for the pimples that you get every so often?

Are there any studies that have directly measured and studied the hormonal changes related to acne when vaping?

Effects of Tobacco and Smoking on the Skin: Slow Healing, Dryness and Color Complexion

Both tobacco consumption and cigarette smoke are very harmful to the skin (as well as to your health in general). The harmful effects of tobacco on the skin are well known and include: aging, early wrinkles, dull complexion, etc… What about its influence on acne?

Many studies that have looked into this subject gave often contradicting results. However, over time, some trends are emerging as to the impact of tobacco on acne. Its consumption would worsen acne marks on the faces of smokers, according to a study presented on July 07 2015 from the British Journal of Dermatology. Researchers looked at the skin of 992 people with severe acne for at least 8 years. And among them, smokers had almost twice as many scars on their faces as non-smokers.

This observation confirms the idea that tobacco slows healing during a skin injury or surgery. The research also shows that in the long term, smoking accelerates aging and the appearance of wrinkles. It is also a fact that the smoke that wraps around you while smoking a cigarette has a drying effect on your skin. The skin becomes drier and this can remain despite regular application of moisturizers. As one of the leading companies on skin related products, Olay shows than one of the effects on the skin from cigarette smoke is a complexion making the skin look dull. This affects not only smokers but also their non-smoker entourage who suffer from 2nd hand smoke and who can also experience dry skin and dull complexion of the skin depending on the amount of smoke exposure.

How Much Smoke Exposure Is Too Much Exposure?

Generally speaking, being in contact with smoke with as low as just 5 cigarettes a day is enough to experience skin deterioration. It is the same amount for second hand smoke victims, because unlike damage to the lungs from smoke where second hand smoke victims do not inhale the same quantity as the smoker, the skin is exposed to the same amount of smoke for the smoker and his surroundings. This is especially true if the room is not a ventilated room.

Impact on Other Areas of the Body

For smokers, it is not only the skin of the face that will be affected with dryness and color complexion; the fingers usually undergo a yellowing transformation over time as well. This is caused by prolonged contact with the cigarette filter. The yellowing effect doesn’t stop here either; yellowing of the teeth also occurs over time which is a lot more difficult to reverse compared to dry and yellowing of the skin.

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Decrease of Blood Circulation

It is well known that smoking causes vasoconstriction. It is also a fact that blood provides the oxygen and nutrients necessary for the skin cells to function properly and renew themselves properly. With the consumption of tobacco, the skin is therefore less oxygenated which explains why the skin can suddenly appear to be less pink in color and have a duller look. The narrowing of the blood vessels is never negligible because it is estimated that a single cigarette can cause vasoconstriction for ninety minutes. In addition, this poor blood circulation in the skin can quickly set in with regular tobacco consumption.

With less oxygen and fewer nutrients all the time, skin cells have great difficulty in assuming their usual role and in managing daily attacks. And the more you smoke, the more overwhelmed they are and unable to function properly and to defend themselves against free radicals.

To sum it up, the presence of chemicals such as arsenic and formaldehyde into the body triggers an addiction that is difficult to get rid of. Most often what we see is the expulsion of the cigarette’s products manifested through the skin. From yellow skin, to pimples and cysts, the body eliminates toxins as far away from vital organs as possible.

Vaping Does Not Help Your Skin 

‘Vaping’ Significantly Affects the Body’s Ability to Heal, Study Finds

It is worthwhile to consider e-cigarettes as a non-helping factor in people with acne. This report is based on responses from people who used to smoke and are now vaping in order to do without tobacco and all the harmful chemicals in cigarettes.  

 As mentioned above, smoking is a definite antagonist in the acne cycle. People who suffer from acne are well aware of this and most of the time they try to change their habits while others continue to smoke because they can’t believe there are genuine alternatives. But now, e-cigarettes have come to the center stage and taken the lead role in trying to help smokers reduce their consumption of toxins from smoking cigarettes. Flavors range from chocolate to anything you can imagine. Vaping makes quitting smoking cigarettes a much more pleasant way than simply quitting cold turkey. In this article we discussed about formaldehyde and found studies discussing heavy metals from e-cigarettes, but when it comes to acne, the main culprit we found contributing to skin condition is e-juice, which also was found to produce pronounced inflammatory effect.  

Unlike smoking the answer on the topic of acne varies with vaping. There are people who report that during their transition to vaping, they saw a slow decrease in their acne. Breakouts were rare, and the skin began to heal without leaving behind too many scars often caused by pimples. Those who continued vaping reported later that their acne had completely healed even though they were still vaping and this was the only change they made in their habits; in other words their nicotine addiction did not seem to interfere nor have any effect on their acne.

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Nicotine Alone

It is very difficult to find a study where nicotine by itself in the form of patches or gums causes acne. Perhaps acne with plain nicotine users has not been issue and therefore this itself could possibly show the weak or non-existent link between plain nicotine and acne. This is far from being conclusive and is just speculation.

It is actually very easy to consider a scenario where nicotine could cause acne. As an example, referring to our weight loss article, since nicotine increases metabolism it is normal to assume a person would sweat more when having an increased metabolism, and that the sebum therefore created from the body could lead to acne. This would happen however only if one doesn’t have proper hygiene or wash their face every day. This is in contrast with smoking, where acne is generated from within by a hormonal change, in which case washing your face would not be helpful and acne should be taken more seriously.

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