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Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Vaping is considered a safer alternative to cigarettes. However, vaping still introduces nicotine to your body, and research shows that vaping raises blood pressure and increases someone’s risk of a heart attack. Beyond its effects on the cardiovascular system, though, vaping can also impact your skin, causing acne and wrinkles.
The connection between vaping and skin care is not commonly discussed, yet this connection plays an essential role in our outward appearance. For those who vape, extra steps often need to be taken to prevent breakouts and preserve healthy skin.
Table of Contents
- Does Vaping Cause Acne?
- Does Vaping Age the Skin?
- Side Effects of Vaping
- How To Help Your Skin and Prevent Acne?
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
Does Vaping Cause Acne?
The relationship between vaping and acne can vary from person to person. Many people report an increase in acne when vaping, with some reporting flare-ups and others encountering their first experiences with acne. For those who vape, acne outbreaks most often occur around the chin and mouth.
There are many theories behind the increase in acne in those who vape, with one theory suggesting that the increase in acne is not due to the ingredients inhaled when vaping but instead the higher likelihood of vapers touching their face more often. This then passes oil and bacteria from the hands to the face, contributing to acne.
Some of the links between vaping and acne come from other side effects of vaping. For example, vaping causes dehydration, which can impact your sebum production. When you are dehydrated, your body responds by producing more oil, which can then clog your pores and cause acne. Additionally, vaping can impact your body’s ability to heal wounds, which can mean that your acne breakouts do not heal as quickly.
However, there are also many reports of those who vape experiencing less acne. One possible reason behind these observances is that many people vape as an alternative to cigarettes, meaning they are not being exposed to tobacco and other chemicals. Many people also use vaping to manage stress, which may also contribute to reduced breakouts.
Does Vaping Age the Skin?
In addition to increasing the risk of acne, vaping can also age the skin. This is primarily because vaping causes dehydration and dryness, which can contribute to wrinkles and overall reductions in skin elasticity.
The chemicals in vapes are also known to break down collagen. Collagen is one of our skin’s components that helps provide elasticity and prevents our skin from sagging, and it is collagen that helps to give that plump and youthful look.
When we age, the amount of collagen our bodies produce decreases, which leads to aging in the skin and the signs of age such as sagging skin and wrinkles. By vaping, you end up with lower collagen production, which can cause your skin to appear older than it is.
Side Effects of Vaping
There are many side effects of vaping, some short-term and others long-term.
Some of the short-term or low-dose side effects of vaping include:
- abdominal pain
- eye irritation
Those who use high doses of nicotine may experience high blood pressure, tachycardia, and seizures. The National Academy of Sciences has also linked vaping to cell dysfunction and DNA damage, which can lead to cancer. More research is needed to definitively link vaping as a carcinogen, but the foundation is there.
Those who vape are also at risk of developing “popcorn lung,” a rare respiratory issue that is becoming increasingly common among vapers.
Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a type of lung disease, although it is not cancer. It results from a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs, which then blocks the flow of air.
The name popcorn lung comes from the group of popcorn factory workers who developed this condition due to breathing in diacetyl, a flavoring in the popcorn. However, diacetyl is not the only cause of popcorn lung; it can also result from an infection that damages the lungs or breathing in other types of chemicals that irritate and damage the lungs.
Popcorn lung causes symptoms that mimic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as:
- shortness of breath
In addition to diacetyl, vapes may also contain the harmful chemicals 2,3 pentanedione and acetoin, which can lead to popcorn lung.
How to Help Your Skin and Prevent Acne?
The following actions can prove beneficial for those who vape to aid their skin and prevent breakouts.
If you currently vape and want to help your skin and prevent acne, one of the best things you can do is quit. With this, you will automatically touch your face less and no longer promote dehydration in the body, lessening acne breakouts and the signs of aging.
Quitting can be challenging. However, to have the most success, it is recommended to commit to quitting during a time when you won’t be under additional stress. For example, if you have a big test or work presentation coming up, it may not be a good time to quit.
Research also suggests that quitting “cold turkey” is the most effective.
It also helps to identify your triggers or the cues that make you want to vape. This could be certain emotions, such as boredom or stress, or doing something that has become associated with vaping, such as visiting friends. Noting these triggers can help you devise a strategy to avoid or deal with them.
If quitting is especially difficult, consider working with a professional, such as a healthcare provider or therapist.
Wash Your Face Regularly
It is important to wash your face regularly to ensure that no bacteria are lingering on it. Those who vape, especially, may experience more acne because they touch their face more often. By washing the face twice a day, the acne-causing bacteria spend less time on the face.
However, it is crucial to avoid over-washing the face, or washing with anything too aggressive, as this can dry out the skin and further aggravate pimples.
Vaping can lead to dehydration, which can cause the skin to lose its plump appearance. To help your skin, it is essential to hydrate both internally and externally. Internal hydration involves drinking enough water throughout the day, while external hydration involves using a moisturizer on the skin, especially after washing.
These two actions can help increase hydration in the skin and reverse some of the premature aging that can occur with vaping.
Avoid Popping and Picking
Popping and picking pimples can be highly tempting, but doing so can often lead to inflammation and scarring, making the pimple even worse.
Additionally, since vaping can slow down your wound healing abilities, it will take the body longer to heal the popped pimple, increasing the likelihood of scarring or infection.
Avoid Excess Exfoliation
While some exfoliation is helpful to clear away dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores, it is essential not to overdo it. This is because exfoliating too much can aggravate pimples and worsen breakouts, the opposite of what you want.
When we are stressed, our body reacts by increasing inflammation, which can worsen breakouts. If you want your skin to heal and prevent future breakouts, it is important to focus on reducing stress levels.
Some ways to reduce stress include exercising, meditating, doing yoga, spending time outside, taking a bath, or engaging in hobbies.
When to See a Doctor?
If the above methods to improve your skin and prevent acne breakouts have not shown improvements in 6 to 8 weeks, it is recommended to visit a dermatologist for further assistance. For those with an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin, specifically P. acne bacteria, a topical antibiotic can help fight this overgrowth. Your dermatologist can help determine if this is a treatment your skin would benefit from.
Another option is hormone pills, such as birth control, as they help regulate the hormones that can worsen acne. Talking to a primary care physician or gynecologist can help determine if this is a good treatment.
If you notice any concerning respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, excessive coughing, and shortness of breath, it is vital to speak to a doctor as you may have a respiratory illness or condition, such as popcorn lung.
Get Help From an Online Doctor
For those suffering from acne, the DrHouse app can connect you with an online doctor, such as a dermatologist, in as little as 15 minutes. In these appointments, you can discuss your acne and what you can do to help manage it. Dermatologists can also prescribe medication to treat your acne if other management methods are not working.
While vaping is considered safer than smoking cigarettes, there are still some hazards connected to it. The severe complications of vaping are more well-known but acknowledged less often is how vaping can affect the skin.
Not everyone experiences breakouts from vaping, but for those who do, it is speculated that the cause revolves around touching the face more often and how vaping dehydrates the skin. In addition to causing breakouts, this can also cause the skin to age prematurely, leading to sagging skin and wrinkles.
For those who vape and are looking to manage their breakouts, the biggest first step is quitting. Other treatments revolve around cleansing the face to remove bacteria and properly hydrating the body from the inside and outside. For those whose breakouts do not improve, meeting with a dermatologist can help provide medical solutions.
- Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes: Conclusions by Level of Evidence. (2018). https://nap.nationalacademies.org/resource/24952/012318ecigaretteConclusionsbyEvidence.pdf
- Popcorn Lung: A Dangerous Risk of Flavored E-Cigarettes. (2022). Retrieved 28 June 2022, from https://www.lung.org/blog/popcorn-lung-risk-ecigs
- Smith DK, Miller DE, Mounsey A. PURLs: “Cold turkey” works best for smoking cessation. J Fam Pract. 2017 Mar;66(3):174-176. PMID: 28249056; PMCID: PMC5360817.
- D., Kavitha. Popcorn Lung. 2021 Mar; 11(1):148-150. DOI:https://doi.org/10.5958/2349-2996.2021.00038.0
- Fu, R., O’Connor, S., Diemert, L., Pelletier, H., Eissenberg, T., Cohen, J., & Schwartz, R. (2021). Real-world vaping experiences and smoking cessation among cigarette smoking adults. Addictive Behaviors, 116, 106814. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106814
- Jensen, K., Nizamutdinov, D., Guerrier, M., Afroze, S., Dostal, D., & Glaser, S. (2012). General mechanisms of nicotine‐induced fibrogenesis. The FASEB Journal, 26(12), 4778-4787. doi: https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.12-206458
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