With E-cigarettes gaining their popularity as an alternative to tobacco smoking over the past few years, it was only a matter of time before the question popped up:
Does vaping cause acne, or are we dealing with even deeper health issues here?
Because, believe me, there are people who get acne from vaping. I see it on discussion boards and Facebook all the time. The answer is more a matter of figuring out whether it’s the vaping itself that causes it, or if there’s something else at play.
So, is it the vaping? Are there perhaps any side effects that somehow are making our skin break out into the red, bumpy sea? Could it be allergies, or maybe even something extremely toxic?
Keep reading and we’ll find out together – you and me!
What The Heck Is Vaping?
Aerosol. Through an electronic cigarette (or similar device) you inhale and exhale aerosol (or vapor). While some people believe that vaping is the act of “smoking” water vapor, the truth is that you’re actually sucking tiny, fine particles into your lungs.
Vaping is viewed upon as a healthier alternative to smoking, but I’m not so sure about that.
Particles found in e-cigarettes can often contain quite toxic chemicals, which have been linked to very serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems.
To vape, you mainly need four components in your E-cigarette. There are plenty of customization you can do to your vaping device, but the parts you’ll always need are:
- Cartridge of E-liquid (or E-juice).
- A heating device for heating the juice.
- Battery for powering the heating device.
- Mouthpiece for inhaling the vaporized E-liquid.
So when the vaping device is activated, the heating device heats up the E-liquid, which vaporizes. The vapor is inhaled through the mouthpiece of the device.
More often than not, the E-juice comes in various flavors. They actually tend to smell surprisingly good, as well.
Fun side note: It always brings me to the giggles when I spot of those vaping “cool guys” (you know which ones I mean – the tall, dark heart breakers) and you can smell their Strawberry Delight from a mile away.
Turning Liquids Into Clouds
Before we go any further, I’d just like to say that E-liquids usually contain nicotine. There are those manufactured without any nicotine as well, but those are more of an exception.
So the misconception that E-cigarettes are used by “the big mass” as a nicotine-free alternative is dead wrong. People generally vape as it’s viewed upon as a healthier alternative to tobacco, but I beg to differ. (more on that later)
Other ingredients beyond nicotine are Propylene Glycerol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), water and flavorings. The amount of PG and VG varies between flavors and brands.
This is because different mixtures of PG and VG results in different vapes. If PG is the dominant ingredient in the E-liquid, the clouds will be thinner and the device will be easier to clean. On the other hand, if the liquid contains more VG, the clouds will be a lot thicker and bigger, but will clog the device faster.
Health Risks of Vaping
- Dehydration. The Propylene Glycerol (PG) that can be found in all E-liquids pulls moisture from the lower layer of your skin into the top one. This makes your skin appear smooth and soft, which is awesome, but it only works for shorter periods. Longer exposure can often lead to dry skin.
- Smoker’s Lips. When smoking, you use certain muscles around your mouth (your lips pucker). Keep doing it for too long and the result will be dynamic wrinkles and lost elasticity. Eventually you will develop deep lines around your mouth – a.k.a. smoker’s lips. The same goes for when you’re vaping, as the motion of your lips are identical.
- Premature Aging. This is directly related to the dehydration of your skin. To maintain a youthful look, your skin needs to stay hydrated. Dehydration often leads to wrinkles, irritation, bags under your eyes and sometimes even inflammation.
- Decreased Wound Healing. Studies suggest that vaping could reduce your body’s ability to heal wounds in your skin. In one study, tests were made to three skin grafts. They were exposed to e-cigarette smoke, tobacco smoke and no smoke respectively. There was a significant increase in tissue death among those grafts exposed to either e-cigarette or tobacco smoke, compared to the no-smoke control.
- Second-Hand Vape. When vaping, the air around you gets polluted (not as much as with tobacco smoke, but still). This affects people around you and may inflict aforementioned side effects on them.
- Heart, lung, liver and brain damage. Studies have shown that the metallic heating coil in a vape device may emit metals that is toxic when exposed for longer periods. These include chromium, lead, zinc, manganese and nickel.
How Could Vaping Affect Your Acne?
The first concern I have is the dehydration from vaping, which could be messing up your sebum production. When you have dry skin, your body will try to compensate for that by over-producing oil, and that tends to clog your pores and cause breakouts.
Furthermore, decreased wound healing will slow down the process of repairing damaged skin. This is the process that also takes care of getting rid of acne scars and dark spots. If you’re unlucky, your scars could end up a lot bigger than they otherwise would “have to” be.
Not to mention the toxic metals. As you may be aware, some of these metals are normally recommended for a healthier skin and reduced acne (chromium and zinc, for example). However, they’re not as good when you’re exposed to them for long periods, which usually is the case for vapers.
One metal that’s got my warning bells ringing is the nickel. The outbreak from nickel allergy can commonly look very similar to acne, with redness and bumps all over your skin. So if you get what looks like acne around your mouth or on your chin, you might want to consult a dermatologist to do a patch test for allergies, before considering using any acne products or medication.
Vaping devices have been available for us since 2007, but it’s only recently they’ve gained popularity. It’s very often viewed upon as a healthier way of smoking; or a way to “step down” to finally quit altogether.
I’m not convinced that this is the case, and it’s only recently we’ve been starting to see studies being done around the subject. I believe that there will be more studies published in the near future, which are focusing on health risks related to vaping.
At this moment, nobody knows whether vaping causes acne, but there are studies and reports pointing towards that actually being the case. However, vaping has shown to cause dry skin and that in itself is known to trigger an overproduction of sebum, which is a comedogenic (clogs your pores).
Toxic metals that get into your lungs and skin are obviously not healthy, and should perhaps be of more concern than acne at this moment. On the other hand, acne could be a way for the body to indicate that something is seriously wrong on the inside. We just don’t know what, yet.
I guess my point is that regardless of whether you smoke or vape – acne should probably be the least of your concerns.
What is your experience with acne related to vaping? Do you vape? Have you had any breakouts since you started? Please share your story by dropping a comment below!
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