Vaping is becoming more and more controversial as the health risks associated with it come to light. Surprise, surprise, the habit is not so great for skin either. Here, dermatologists weigh in on how vaping can affect your complexion.
When vaping came onto the scene in the mid-2000s, it was heralded as the “much safer” alternative to smoking largely because it didn’t require tobacco to get that same nicotine high. Instead, the user inhales an aerosol, a.k.a. a “vapor.” Heat atomizes the “e-liquid” inside the vaping pen, which often consists of a not-so-pleasant concoction of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavor, and other additives (some of which are quite harmful to the body).
So… is Vaping Considered Bad for You?
The truth is that we’re still learning a lot about the long-term effects of vaping because it’s such a recent invention. However, the CDC doesn’t approve of vaping — it even straight up calls it unsafe — and is trying to curb usage. We also know that as of 2019, there have been nearly 2000 reported cases of lung injury and 37 deaths associated with vaping.
“I am concerned that the ingredients, particularly those found in black-market vaping products, are not regulated and we really do not yet know all of the potential health risks of inhaling these fine, ultrafine and nanoparticles,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “The outbreak of severe vaping related pulmonary illness is testimony to this.”
Dr. Gretching Frieling, a board-certified dermatopathologist, agrees, noting that vaping is “far from the innocent substitute” to cigarette smoking many first thought it was.
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“Even without the tobacco, nicotine is highly addictive and can affect the developing brain. Also, some substances found in e-cigarette vapor have been linked to an increased risk of cancer,” she says. “Just like we didn’t know how bad cigarettes were in the 1960s, I fear that we don’t have the complete facts on vaping yet because it is relatively new.”
Vaping and Your Skin
According to our experts, the following side effects are the most common:
The ingredients you inhale and that come into contact with your skin can make skin very dry, says Dr. King. At best your skin looks lackluster and parched, at worse it can lead to itchy or painful flaking and even rashes.
Dr. Frieling says that the toxins in e-cigarettes make us look older sooner by accelerating the breakdown of collagen, which is the protein responsible for making skin look plump, firm, and smooth.
Slower Wound Healing:
“When you vape, nicotine impedes blood flow, which can have an effect on how quickly your wounds are able to heal,” says Dr. Frieling. “One study demonstrated that vaping slowed that healing after surgery — an extreme example of why nicotine isn’t good for skin health at any time.”
It Can Worsen Existing Skin Conditions:
If you have eczema, psoriasis, or are prone to general skin sensitivity, vaping can exacerbate these issues, notes Dr. Frieling. This is due to your skin coming into contact with the chemical vapors, and also because of reduced blood flow.
We mentioned that vaping causes dry skin, but in general it causes all-over dryness. Dr. King says this includes your eyes, which can lead to puffiness and even redness.
Wrinkles Around Your Mouth:
Dr. Frieling says, “Regardless of what vape pens or e-cigarettes do or don’t contain, you are still puckering your mouth more than a non-smoker would and this can lead to deep lines and wrinkles around the mouth.”
Dr. Frieling says, “Compared to non-smokers, those who use e-cigarettes or cigarettes have twice the risk of developing a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.”
The world is still learning a lot about how vaping affects our bodies, and a good rule of thumb might just be to steer clear until more studies have been completed. If not for your general health, then at least for better skin!