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Does Smoking Cause Acne? (Hint: It Depends!)

Does smoking cause acne? The answer is it depends. Lumping all smokers together, from the occasional party smoker to the chain smoker, is convenient but not useful in a practical sense. For example, if you smoke a cigar or a pipe but don't inhale, you are still considered a smoker. Is smoking cigars and a pipe without inhalation as bad for your skin as smoking cigarettes with full inhalation? Almost certainly not.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Man smoking cigarette by computer


That's not to say that any form of smoking is healthy or safe, including vaping (more on that later). The point is that the effects of smoking on your skin depend on what you smoke, how you smoke, and how much you smoke!

It also depends on how well you personally tolerate smoking and whether you have acne-prone skin.

Generally, smoking can have profound effects on the entire body, including the skin. Smoking can cause a type of acne that's only seen in adult smokers. But it's primarily in heavy smokers, fully inhaling several cigarettes daily. Other studies have demonstrated smoking results in fewer cases of severe acne.

One possible interpretation is that moderate smoking helps people destress, which in turn regulates hormone levels favorably and thus the occurrence of serious acne as hormones are a big part of what causes severe acne. Another possibility is that smoking reduces inflammation.

Clear Skin As A Smoker

Here at Exposed Skin Care, we have had the benefit of communicating with our customers for over 20 years, including many smokers with acne. We have seen no difference in the positive results from using our kits, regardless of whether a person smokes. That's because our acne treatment system is comprehensive and addresses all the underlying causes of acne. Our customers typically see acne clearing up completely in less than 30 days.

It goes without saying that if you suspect smoking of causing acne in your skin, you should quit smoking. Either that or significantly change your smoking habits. That's often easier said than done, though, and smokers with acne want clear skin fast, just like every other acne sufferer, and that's what our kits offer. A quick, safe, convenient, and affordable home-based solution.

In the rest of this article, we delve deeper into the causes of acne in smokers. We also decided to talk about other ways smoking affects the skin negatively and whether vaping and smoking weed are as serious as cigarette smoking for the skin.

Smoking Cigarettes And Smoker's Acne

In 2009, a group of Italian scientists from the San Gallicano Dermatological Institute in Rome, Italy, published their findings of a study designed to answer the question; is there a connection between cigarette smoking and acne? The analysis was performed on women only, and they concluded that there is a very clear connection between smoking and APAA. APAA is short for atypical post-adolescent acne, which refers to young adults after the age of 19. As such, it's a type of adult acne, and the authors coined the term 'smoker's acne,' suggesting it's an entirely separate type of acne found only in smokers.

Woman with acne
Example of moderate atypical post-adolescent acne. Left untreated, it can cause acne scarring.

A New Type Of Acne

APAA is a non-inflammatory acne characterized by blocked pores, presenting as whiteheads or blackheads, and sometimes both.

Whiteheads are not sensitive to the touch and have no redness around them. The same goes for blackheads. They are black spots seen in the pores and are not painful. APAA can appear anywhere on the body, not just on the face.

Bald guy smoking cigarette

The Italian group highlighted a solid connection between atypical post-adolescent acne (APAA) and smoking and a connection between post-adolescent acne (PAA), a type of mild to moderate inflammatory acne typically located on the chin, around the jaw, and on the lower neck.

They did not establish a connection between the number of cigarettes smoked and the severity of acne but did note that all cases of serious acne occurred when more than 15 cigarettes were smoked daily, what most would consider heavy smoking.

The Jury Is Still Out On How Smoking Affects Acne

So, does smoking cause acne? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. If you're still confused, don't feel bad. There's no simple answer to this question because it can be approached from different angles. Depending on the situation, you get different answers:

Based on the research we have done so far into the scientific literature, the closest approximation of objective truth about smoking and acne is likely that:

Smoking is a risk factor for developing acne, but smoking does not automatically mean you will develop acne. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop acne caused by smoking.

Conversely, suppose you don't smoke much and find smoking very relaxing. In that case, it can, in some situations, decrease the likelihood of developing acne compared to those who don't smoke, especially severe acne.

The more you smoke, the more toxic it is to your body, including your skin, and the more likely it is to cause or make acne worse.

What Smoking Cigarettes Does To The Skin

So far, we have established that experimental evidence suggests a connection between acne and smoking. But what exactly happens to the skin when we smoke? Generally speaking, a lot!

Old guy playing harmonica

Skin Cancer And Saggy Skin

What's clear then is that nicotine and other smoke components can significantly affect the skin.

Understanding the risks associated with smoking is essential because it can lead to the development of common skin cancer forms. Dutch researchers found that this habit increases your risk by three times, meaning DNA damage in our body’s cells is due at least partly to cigarette smoke inhalation in smokers.

Constricting blood vessels resulting in poor blood flow and poor delivery of vitamin E, vitamin A, and other essential nutrients to the skin can have serious consequences. Of course, your smoking habit factors in, as do your genes. If you have cancer cases in your family, remaining or becoming a non-smoker is of utmost importance.

But even if you manage to avoid skin cancer, cigarette smoke greatly affects how your skin appears. If you smoke too much, forget about glowing, healthy skin and expect saggy, drooping, ashy skin instead. Smoking triggers premature aging and it triggers acne. The more you smoke, the worse it gets.

Doctor examining patient

Keep An Eye Out For Acne Inversa

Smoking is also associated with an increased risk of acne inversa (hidradenitis suppurativa). It's acne miscategorized as acne and has nothing to do with acne vulgaris. It looks like acne because it presents with bumps on the skin, but it's not acne at all. Instead, it's a form of inflammatory skin disease appearing in the apocrine glands, so-called sweat glands, instead of the sebaceous glands, which are the oil-producing glands in skin follicles where regular acne occurs.

Acne inversa is something you should pay attention to, as these infections can sometimes become very serious and cause tissue damage and severe scarring. Don't pick, and see a doctor if you suspect acne inversa.

Does Vaping Cause Acne?

Vaping may cause excess sebum production, the oily substance produced by the skin, which can lead to acne. Also, vaping can cause serious health concerns, but on the plus side, it does produce far fewer hydrocarbons than cigarette smoke. As such, vaping may not be as likely to cause acne as it contains fewer toxins than regular cigarettes.

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

The short answer is; we don't know. Science has yet to show an interest in answering the question, although that could change as marijuana use becomes more and more common as laws change in the US and worldwide.

What we can say for sure is that the smoke from weed contains fewer toxins than cigarettes. Cigarette companies, for example, add chemicals to tobacco to ensure the ember doesn't die while smoking and compounds to make nicotine more habit-forming. As such, smoking weed is probably less likely to cause acne.

Young woman smoking cigarette

There is evidence to suggest that weed can increase testosterone levels. Since hormones play a role in acne, and testosterone, in particular, can cause the skin to produce more oil, smoking weed can possibly affect the skin. It should be mentioned, though, that the increase in testosterone levels from smoking weed is relatively small.

Appetite, however, is known to be strongly affected by marijuana use, as is a person's behavior. Increased appetite will, in many cases, cause a person to eat junk food, which is not good for the body, including the skin.

How To Treat Acne (Whether You Smoke Or Not)

Acne is the most common skin condition worldwide, and smoking may not have anything to do with your acne. Smoking will never help your skin, but if you smoke very little, it's not very likely to have much effect on your skin, including acne.

After more than 20 years of helping acne sufferers get clear, we know that our acne treatment system is, hands down, the number one best place to start if you want clear, healthy skin - smoker or not. You can save up to a whopping 54% with a kit