The One Effect of Smoking You Probably Never Thought Of: Does Smoking Cause Acne?

The One Effect of Smoking You Probably Never Thought Of

If you’re a serious chain smoker who’s still finding it hard to quit, then I have news for you.

Aside from its effect on your health, smoking, apparently, can also negatively impact your skin. This means that smoking won’t only make you sick, but it can also make you unattractive, too.

It can make your skin saggy and wrinkly. And it can also take away your skin’s glow.

And more than that, it’s even thought to cause skin breakout. Yes, smoking has also been linked to pimples and zits (yikes!)

As absurd as it sounds, but can smoking really cause acne?

The answer is relatively tricky. Read on to know why.

What Do Doctors Say?

Depending on where you look, doctors have found evidence for both sides of the spectrum: that smoking does and doesn’t cause acne.

In 2006 and 2007, two separate studies suggested that people who smoked actually had a lower prevalence of acne. But then another study done in 2009 had shown a “strong correlation” between smoking and acne in women.

So, which side should you take? Does smoking cause or not cause acne?

The answer to this question depends on a lot of things- including your diet, stress level, as well as your environment.

Frankly, even dermatologists are divided. However, they do all agree about one thing: smoking is awful for your skin.

Because aside from that smoking is linked to acne, it can also contribute to premature skin aging and wrinkles. It’s closely associated with cancer, too.

However, in an attempt to end the debate, more and more research are continuously being conducted to bust this acne myth. And one of the products of this research suggested that acne is actually more prominent among smokers, particularly among women.

This study further points out that women smokers were three to six times more likely to experience noninflammatory acne than women who didn’t smoke or quit smoking at least one year prior to the study.

Aside from acne, smoking also makes you more prone to developing whiteheads and blackhead- an indication of your pores clogging.

This is because of nicotine. Once this substance gets in contact with the keratinocytes and fibroblasts in your skin, new cells begin to form faster than they are supposed to.

This leads to skin cell accumulation, which, when partnered with clogged pores, can cause painful bumps on your skin

What About Smoking Marijuana?

We all know that smoking cigarettes is bad for your skin, but what about marijuana? Can it cause acne or help prevent it?

First, let’s start with the cons. Here’s how smoking marijuana can cause acne:

  • Anecdotally speaking, there’s been some that have said that smoking marijuana can decrease testosterone levels.     
  • With that said, some studies have suggested that THC (the chemical in marijuana that gets you high), can actually increase your testosterone levels.

Testosterone can lead directly to acne because it increases the production of sebum, or oil, on your face. When there is too much oil, the dead skin cells clog your pores, causing acne.

  • The smoke can also age your skin. A joint has as many carcinogens as a cigarette.
  • You can laugh it off, but most people who habitually smoke weed don’t typically reach out for a salad after a long-awaited joint. They tend to crave for greasy food such as potato chips and carb-rich foods, which are known to cause acne in some people.

What about the good news? Is it possible that marijuana can actually help acne rather than irritate it?

Yes, but only if you DON’T smoke it.

Here is how marijuana can actually help clear your breakouts. And it all has to do with the same testosterone-boosting chemical, THC:

  • THC is an anti-inflammatory agent, which means it can help reduce irritation and redness.
  • It’s also an antioxidant, which can help rid your skin of the free radicals in your body that can cause cellular damage.
  • Because of those antioxidants, THC also has some helpful anti-aging properties.
  • In low doses, it also eases depression and stress, both of which are acne triggers. However, it does have the REVERSE effect if you consume marijuana in high doses.

If you smoke marijuana, you are still exposing yourself to harmful carcinogens, negating a lot of the positive effects your skin could get from its THC content.

If you really can’t resist smoking weed, then you can use a vaporizer to avoid excessive exposure to its harmful smoke. You also need to make sure you use a moisturizer beforehand as an added layer of protection.

Are E-Cigarettes Good?

Let’s get things straight.

Cigarettes can cause non inflammatory acne. Marijuana, on the other hand, may aggravate or clear up your acne, depending on how you consume it.

But, what about electronic cigarettes? Will vaping cause acne?

Acne is a common symptom for smokers who transition from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes. It tends to be one of two things, with the first being most common:

  • Since e-cigarettes have less harmful toxins, the transition helps purge out all the chemicals your body got exposed to in regular cigarettes.

A detox period is especially common when you choose the nicotine-free inserts for your electronic cigarettes. Depending on how much toxins have accumulated in your body through all those years of smoking regular cigarettes, you can break out minimally or excessively.

  • Aside from the transition, another way that e-cigarettes can contribute to your breakouts involves the manufacturing of the actual e-cigarette.

Your e-cigarette is made from 100% propylene glycol, which is known to break some people out when ingested. Those who have experienced this found out that switching to vegetable glycerin can help clear up the acne.

But, hold your ideas there.

Even though e-cigarettes have less toxins than regular cigarettes, they are still not considered safe. They have similar toxins that can damage your respiratory and immune systems, just like normal cigarettes.

So, that really isn’t a totally good news, eh?

The Problem With Smoking

Let’s face it: smoking is awful for your skin.

Although the idea of smoking causing acne is still a hot topic for debate, it’s no mystery that smoking can affect your skin in numerous negative ways.

What else can smoking do to your skin? Here are some ideas:

  • Premature aging
  • Wrinkles and sagging skin
  • Lines around the mouth
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Age spots
  • Stained skin and nails
  • Increased chance of psoriasis
  • Crow’s feet
  • Diminished natural glow
  • Wounds heal more slowly
  • Increased chance of skin cancer

For such a tiny thing, how can it create so much harm to your skin? The answer comes from what it can do to your body from the inside and out.

When you smoke a cigarette, it minimizes the capillary blood flow in your face. Once there’s not enough blood flow to nourish your cells, wrinkles appear and you begin to show that “sunken-in” look.

Over time, it could also damage the connective tissues that help keep your skin healthy.

And not just that.

The chemicals in cigarettes can also diminish collagen and elastin production, which are vital for your skin’s elasticity and suppleness. This is one of the main reasons why people who smoke tend to show premature skin aging more.

Externally, the problem with smoking is the actual smoke. You don’t necessarily have to be a smoker to experience its bad effects from the outside.

In fact, just being exposed to it, even through second-hand smoking, can irritate your skin and increase your chances of breaking out.

And would you believe that even the facial expressions you make while smoking as well as the heat from the cigarette can also result in sagging and wrinkled skin?


Does smoking really cause acne?

There is simply not enough evidence to support it and some of the available research studies offer conflicting results.

Plus, there are also a lot of other things that can cause acne. Your diet, stress and environment may or may not be aggravating your acne.

So, what should you do?

Despite the lack of strong studies, make no mistake that smoking is generally not good for your skin or even your health. Quitting smoking, without a doubt, is the best thing you can do to clear up your skin.

Still not buying the idea?

Well, the actual smoke from your cigarette can’t only irritate your skin, but it can also prolong acne healing. And if you’re still not convinced enough, smoking can also cause premature skin aging, deep wrinkles, psoriasis and even skin cancer.

The list of its negative effects is relatively long and I can go on and on for hours. But if it’s acne you’re mostly concerned about, even if it does or doesn’t cause skin breakouts- just quit smoking.

Now, that should be more than enough to dissuade you from taking another puff.

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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