Ty Francis, B.S., is an Acne Coach and certified medical beautician. He specializes in helping people get rid of acne holistically.
Table of Contents
What is vaping
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re familiar with vaping and I don’t have to go into details explaining what an electronic cigarette is…
Still, it’s important to figure out what specific things about vaping might be problematic in terms of acne formation. So in short, electronic cigarettes have cartridges filled with a liquid that consists of nicotine, added flavorings, and other chemicals such as vegetable glycol and propylene glycol. All of these substances can have a negative impact on the skin. So does vaping cause acne?
Let’s first take a look at the most common side effects.
Vaping side effects
Dry skin vaping
The chemical propylene glycol (PG) is a colorless and odorless liquid that is known to pull moisture from the dermis causing drying of the skin. Propylene glycol is what is called a “humectant” which is a substance that reduces the loss of moisture. Now you might be wondering, “if PG reduces the loss of moisture, how does it cause drying of the skin? In essence, PG absorbs and retains moisture very well. However, this is a double-edged sword since it also prevents moisture from getting absorbed by the skin. So when you vape this chemical you inadvertently prevent moisture from getting absorbed in the skin, thus drying out the dermis and epidermis .
Having well-hydrated skin is one of the fundamentals in battling acne.
Can nicotine cause acne
Now let’s talk about the big baddy “Nicotine”. It’s well documented that nicotine has a wide range of negative side effects including decreased appetite, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, affected blood circulation, peptic ulcers, heartburn, and nausea . Especially the negative effect on blood circulation can pose a problem when it comes to acne. The blood vessels that you find all throughout the dermis and the base of the epidermis are there to ensure proper blood circulation and wound healing. However, when blood flow is restricted, this has a direct and negative effect on the health of the skin and wound healing.
The flavoring issue
Aside from nicotine and other chemicals, there’s also the problem of added flavoring which can negatively impact your health. Studies show that flavored pods can cause DNA damage, induce inflammation and kill epithelial cells . So while it might sound more appealing to get yourself a nice flavor vaping pen, the benefits might not outweigh the costs.
Heavy metals in vaping pens
Aluminum, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, nickel, silicon, tin, and zinc. These are some of the metals that were found by researchers that examined 6 well known thank-style e-cigarettes aerosols. Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll have heard of lead poisoning. So we don’t have to linger on the fact that it’s best not to ingest these metals for too long . Inhaling these heavy metals on a daily basis can cause cardiovascular problems, brain disorders or worse.
Can vaping cause acne
So now that we looked at the side effects of vaping it’s time to answer the question does vaping cause acne? The answer perhaps unsurprisingly is it yes and no… There’s good scientific evidence to suggest that vaping can definitely exacerbate existing acne. Things such as decreased wound healing and dehydration of the skin will only make acne worse. However, this doesn’t mean that acne is caused by vaping. For example, someone who isn’t generically predisposed to having acne, will never get acne as a result of vaping. Moreover, even if you are genetically predisposed to having acne, it doesn’t mean that vaping will necessarily cause acne.
When your body is in pristine condition (with low stress levels, low inflammation levels, and a healthy immune system) vaping will likely not cause acne. However, since vaping is definitely very taxing on the body I would recommend you stay away from it even if you’re in tip-top shape.
But this begs the question, is vaping any better than regular smoking in terms of acne?
Does smoking cause acne
Similar to vaping pens, regular cigarettes have a tendency to worsen existing acne because of the negative side effects that come with regular smoking. However, smoking might be even more detrimental to a beautiful skin than vaping. A study from the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute suggest that smoking causes something called “atypical post-adolescent acne (APAA)” . This essentially means that adults can develop non-inflammatory acne with regular smoking. So, as opposed to vaping where there isn’t a direct link between vaping and acne (as of writing this article), regular cigarettes can directly contribute to a big pimple on your forehead.
I understand that smoking is a very difficult habit to beat and I empathize with everyone who is looking for alternatives. But the only advice I can give as an acne coach is: “If you want healthy and beautiful skin, you’re going to have to live a relatively healthy and beautiful life”. Vaping and smoking don’t really fit into that scenario.
- Ingredient Watch List: Propylene Glycol |. (2019). Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://www.annmariegianni.com/ingredient-watch-list-propylene-glycolit-penetrates-skin-only-to-dry-it-out/
- Nicotine: Facts, effects, and addiction. (2021). Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240820#_noHeaderPrefixedContent
- Muthumalage, T., Lamb, T., Friedman, M., & Rahman, I. (2019). E-cigarette flavored pods induce inflammation, epithelial barrier dysfunction, and DNA damage in lung epithelial cells and monocytes. Scientific Reports, 9(1). doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-51643-6
- DiSalvo, D. (2021). The Vaping Drama Gets Even Worse: Study Finds Dangerous Heavy Metals In Some Types Of E-Cigarette Vapors. Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2019/09/28/the-vaping-drama-gets-even-worse-study-finds-dangerous-heavy-metals-in-some-types-of-e-cigarettes/?sh=327e2b727da5
- Edileia Bagatin, Marco Alexandre Dias da Rocha, Thais Thais Helena Proença Freitas, Caroline Sousa Costa. (2021) Treatment challenges in adult female acne and future directions. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology 0:0, pages 1-15.