Smoking regular cigarettes is terrible for your skin.
Tobacco smoke creates volatile free radicals that damage elastic fibers, leading to wrinkles and premature aging. It narrows the blood vessels, reducing blood supply to the skin, and degrades collagen, attacking the structure of the skin and leading to sagging and bagging.
Smoking regular cigarettes also delays wound healing, increases the risk of infection, and doubles the risk of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Several studies have confirmed that smokers also have more extensive and severe psoriasis than non-smokers.
So smoking is bad for your skin and your appearance. You probably already knew that. But is vaping any better?
E-cigarettes Not as Harmless As We Were Told
When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) came onto the market, most manufacturers advertised them as being safer than regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco, which means they don’t expose you to all the dangerous chemicals that tobacco contains.
A vaping solution, instead, typically contains nicotine and several other chemicals that when subjected to heat from the vaping device, produce a vapor the user inhales to get the effects of the nicotine.
Advertisers claimed this method of smoking was much safer than traditional smoking, but recent studies have cast doubt on that assumption. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine reviewed over 800 studies and released a consensus report showing:
- E-cigarettes contain and emit several potentially toxic substances.
- Two primary ingredients found in e-cigarettes—propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—are toxic to cells.
- E-cigarettes produce dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde, which can cause lung disease and cardiovascular disease.
- Acrolein is an herbicide used to kill weeds that may cause acute lung injury and lung cancer.
- E-cigarettes emit nicotine, ultrafine particles, flavorings such as diacetyl (a chemical linked with serious lung disease), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene (found in car exhaust), and heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.
The more we learn, the more we realize that e-cigarettes are not as harmless as manufacturers would have us believe.
Vaping Deposits Toxic Chemicals Into Skin
Perhaps the most glaring skin problems associated with vaping are burns. Between 2015 and 2017, an estimated 2,035 people with electronic cigarette burn injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms.
E-cigarettes, because they operate on lithium-ion batteries, are known to sometimes malfunction and overheat or explode, potentially causing significant burns that can leave lasting scars.
The toxins in e-cigarettes are also bad for the skin. Chemicals like formaldehyde, propylene glycol, toluene, acetaldehyde, trace metals, and more impair the normal function of skin cells, interfering with repair, skin barrier production, and immune protection.
This creates a whole list of skin problems, including the following:
- Increased sensitivity
- Inflammation and redness
- Accelerated aging
- More fine lines and wrinkles
- Sagging and bagging
- Hyperpigmentation and blotchy, uneven discoloration
With regular vaping, the skin barrier breaks down, making the skin more sensitive, prone to infections, and inflamed. This can lead to unwanted pigmentation, redness, and loss of collagen and elastin, which leads to the formation of wrinkles and sagging.
We already know that nicotine breaks down collagen and elastin, so in that way, e-cigarettes are no better than traditional ones, as both types contain nicotine. Nicotine is also known to:
- increase the risk of skin cancer
- slow the skin’s ability to heal wounds
- restrict blood vessels, blocking nutrients from getting to the skin cells and depriving them of oxygen, which leads to premature wrinkling and sagging
Vaping Can Make Existing Skin Conditions Worse
In addition to causing problems like wrinkles, sagging, and redness, vaping can also make any skin conditions you already have worse. When the vapor comes into contact with your skin (which it does when you use the device), it can aggravate dry skin by making it patchy or itchy, while the chemicals in the vapor increase skin sensitivity and irritation, leading to rashes.
Inhaling the toxins will weaken the skin’s barrier and increase inflammation, as well. That means if you’re already struggling with acne, rosacea, and psoriasis, you can expect these conditions will deteriorate if you choose to use e-cigarettes.
In a 2019 study on e-cigarettes, researchers found that those who vaped were more likely to suffer from contact dermatitis, a type of allergic skin condition.
E-cigarettes have been on the market for only about a decade, so the research is in its infancy. From what we’ve discovered so far, we can clearly say that vaping is damaging to the skin, and will likely lead to accelerated aging, sensitive skin, inflammation, and allergic reactions.
Did you think that vaping was harmless to the skin?
American Lung Association. “Health Risks of E-Cigarettes and Vaping.” American Lung Association | American Lung Association. Last modified February 24, 2020. https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/e-cigarettes-vaping/impact-of-e-cigarettes-on-lung.
Thompson, Dennis. “Is Vaping a Scourge on Your Skin?” Consumer HealthDay. Last modified February 5, 2020. https://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/electronic-cigarettes-970/is-vaping-a-scourge-on-your-skin-754595.html.
Visconti, Michael J., and Kurt A. Ashack. “Dermatologic manifestations associated with electronic cigarette use.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 81, no. 4 (2019), 1001-1007. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.03.088.