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Does Nicotine & Vaping Cause Acne?

If you’re a smoker or vaper, you’ll probably already be aware of the various health risks and hazards associated with the habit. If you’re a vaper, you might feel reassured that your e-cigarette doesn’t contain tobacco; however, vape pens still contain nicotine. So like tobacco, vaping can still lead to premature aging, lung damage and general skin damage. 

However, the question I’m going to be discussing today is – does nicotine and vaping cause acne?

While the research is quite limited when it comes to acne and vaping, we’re going to discuss what vaping does to the body, whether vaping can cause hormonal acne, and what other factors might lead you to develop a breakout while using vape pens. 

So, Does Nicotine and Vaping Cause Acne? 

When it comes to smoking habits, we already know that smoking tobacco-based cigarettes is awful for your skin – and your health. As I discussed in one of my other articles, prolonged tobacco use can exacerbate inflammatory acne, not to mention increase the risk of developing various cancers and other diseases.

So, what about vaping? Does vaping cause acne?

Not exactly. While vaping does contain nicotine, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that vaping (or nicotine) can directly cause an increase in oil production and therefore increase breakouts.

However, vaping can actually still cause acne.

When you smoke a vape cigarette, you’re inhaling numerous unhealthy chemicals and toxins that can settle in the skin, leading to inflammation, damaging your skin’s barrier and eventually contributing to the development of acne breakouts. 

What’s Inside E-Cigs?

While vape pens and e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, most contain nicotine, propylene glycol, various flavorings and various carcinogens. Even when a vape pen markets itself as “nicotine-free,” take this statement with a pinch of salt.

As of 2022, the FDA is yet to introduce regulations on e-cigarettes, so there are currently no government-regulated standards that determine what is considered a “safe” or “unsafe” vape pen. 

What we do know is that vape pens contain just as many toxic chemicals as regular cigarettes, including diacetyl, nickel, lead and various toxic carcinogens. While e-cigarettes are often marketed as a “healthy” alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes, vaping should be considered a temporary solution as you try to quit tobacco cigarettes. 

Vaping Side Effects: What Does Vaping Do To The Skin?

Long-term vaping is associated  with several side-effects and can contribute to the following problems:

Inflammation 

When your skin is inflamed, you’re going to find it much more difficult to treat any existing acne. When inflammation occurs in the skin, it delays the skin’s natural heal-and-repair process, exacerbating any skin conditions already present on the skin.

For example, if you suffer from skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema, skin inflammation is only going to make these conditions worse and prolong the healing process. Similarly, inflammation on acne-prone skin is bad for two reasons:

1. Inflammation is linked with increased breakouts and increased oil production.

2. Smoking will impact your skin’s wound-healing capacities, making it take longer for any acne scars to heal.

If you’re temporarily vaping while you wean yourself off tobacco-based cigarettes, you might find it useful to take a look at my breakdown of inflammation-causing foods in my acne resource guide and limit them in your diet during this time.

Skin Barrier Damage

Prolonged vape use has also been linked to long-term damage to the skin’s barrier. Your skin’s barrier is important because it protects your pores from becoming easily clogged, protects against external damage and prevents your skin from being penetrated by various toxins. 

Long-term vape use can eventually lead to the breakdown of the skin’s natural barrier, which can lead to more frequent breakouts and recurring problems with acne and chronically clogged pores. A damaged skin barrier can also result in the breakdown of collagen, resulting in premature aging and more prominent acne scars.  

Dry Skin and Oil Overproduction

Another side effect of vaping is chronic skin dryness: if you’re smoking Juul cigarettes, the liquid used in the vape pen can dehydrate your skin. If you already have acne-prone skin, having chronically dry skin will de-regulate your skin’s oil production, potentially resulting in your body overproducing sebum and causing acne breakouts.

As I talked about in my article discussing the effects of marijuana on the skin, smoking weed can dehydrate the skin and lead to a spike in oil production, resulting in breakouts.

Can Vaping Cause Hormonal Acne?

If you’re noticing lots of spots and acne around your mouth, you might think that hormonal acne is to blame. Given that hormonal acne tends to occur around the lower half of the face, I can’t blame you for thinking that your hormones are out of whack and causing breakouts. 

However, vaping can actually cause these spots. Vaping can cause spots around the mouth and chin not due to the chemicals or nicotine inside, but because the vape pen is constantly touching your face and mouth. 

As those of us with acne-prone skin know, touching your face is a massive no-no. Therefore, repeatedly passing a vape pen across your lower face can spread bacteria, clog pores and contribute to acne.

Think of all the places your vape pen is before you use it – on tables, in your pocket, in a dirty rucksack or handbag. The bacteria that your vape pen comes into contact with can then linger on the pen and cause spots on your face. Make sure to wash your vape pen regularly, and FYI: never share a vape pen, even with friends.

Vaping and Cystic Acne

If you have cystic acne, vaping can be disastrous for the skin’s natural healing process. Cystic acne is categorized by large, painful cyst or cyst-like spots on the skin, and is typically caused by bacteria and excess oil clogging the pores.

If you’re a long-term vaper and already suffering with cystic acne, you’ll be damaging your skin’s natural barrier, making way for bacteria to sneak through and clog your pores even easier than before. Cystic acne can already be a sign of a weak or damaged barrier, so damaging it further will only exacerbate your cystic acne.

Not only can vaping increase the number of breakouts you experience in any given period, but the long-term consequences of skin inflammation can also make it difficult for your acne scars to repair themselves naturally. When the skin’s ability to fight inflammation is impeded, your acne scars will take longer to heal. 

Can Quitting Vaping Cause Acne?

While quitting vaping alone isn’t going to cause acne, some former smokers find that quitting nicotine can lead to some unpleasant side effects. 

When faced with nicotine withdrawal, many former smokers increase their calorie intake, often opting for the sugariest and fattiest foods to compensate for the lack of nicotine rush. In fact, the average quitter gains around 5-10lbs when they first stop smoking. This weight gain does appear to be temporary, and most quitters will lose the extra lbs once the nicotine withdrawal has worn off.

However, by consuming excess calories and sugar, your body’s blood sugar will spike and release insulin. This spike in insulin can then cause your oil glands to overproduce sebum. The results? Yup – a nasty breakout. Combined with the stress induced from the nicotine withdrawal, quitting smoking can take a toll on your skin. 

So, as unfair as it may seem, quitting smoking can actually cause a temporary increase in acne breakouts. But don’t worry – this isn’t a call to keep smoking for the good of your skin!

In fact, it simply means that if you’re going to quit smoking nicotine (whether it be from a tobacco-based cigarette or a vape pen) you’re going to need to plan your diet accordingly so that you don’t experience a nasty breakout. 

In my eBook, I’ve talked a lot about using your diet as a means of reducing acne and obtaining clear skin the natural way. If you’re vaping or planning on quitting vaping, you can also make use of this resource to fill your diet with antioxidant-rich foods to balance out any negative impact from your habit. 

FAQS:

Does the Juul make you break out?

Due to the capacity for dehydrating the skin, smoking Juul can lead to dehydration and de-regulate your skin’s oil production. If you don’t keep your skin moisturized, it can cause you to break out.

Does vaping lose antioxidants?

Yes, some studies have found that vaping can contribute to the increase of oxidative stress in the body. This means that prolonged vaping can significantly impact the body’s ability to fight inflammation and ward off infection. 

Is my vape pen making me break out?

If you’re not washing your vape pen regularly or replacing it regularly, it might be the reason for your breakouts, especially if the bulk of your pimples are occurring around the chin and mouth area. Never share vape pens, especially if you have acne-prone skin.

Why do I have acne after quitting smoking?

If you’ve recently quit smoking, the nicotine withdrawal can elevate your cortisol levels, leading to inflammation and acne breakouts. Try to eat a clean, healthy diet and avoid sugar.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook! I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health. I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on. This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it. As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”. After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts. In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy. Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself. After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅 While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently. To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.


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