Is Vaping Bad For Your Skin?

/ 5 min read
Is Vaping Bad For Your Skin?

Smoking has been linked to a number of skin conditions ranging from nicotine and tar staining to skin cancer according to the NHS. This damage is predominantly caused by the 7000+ harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, which you can learn more about in our guide finding the right alternative.

While properly regulated vapes in the UK will not contain any of these compounds, they are not risk free and it is important that we recognise this before making the decision to start vaping, and also why it is never recommended for those who have never smoked before to start vaping – it should only be used as a tool to reduce harm.

With that said, experts are in agreement that vaping poses at least 95% less risk than cigarettes, according to Public Health England and supported by the NHS and Cancer Research UK. Despite this though many people have questions about how vaping will impact their bodies – it’s potential to damage skin being one of the most frequently asked.

We will start by saying that the evidence available to date (see our sources below) suggests that the negative impacts on the skin from vaping are far less severe than those caused by cigarette smoke however specific vaping related data is limited. Despite this they are still worth taking note of as we explore them below.

Nicotine & Blood Flow

Regardless of whether you use e-liquids or cigarettes, nicotine is the common denominator that we cannot escape. According to our sources, nicotine is actually responsible for some skin issues you might face, brought on by a lack of proper blood flow around your body.

Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor – this means when we absorb it into our bodies, it causes our blood vessels to contract, shrinking down and restricting the amount of blood that can pass through them. Naturally, maintaining good circulation is important for all sorts of reasons, but it has a very big impact on your skin.

While smokers will feel the effects far more, vapers too must be careful how much nicotine they consume. If you are a very regular user of a high strength e-juice like 18mg, or nic salts, then your skin will be deprived of the blood it needs for what could be extended periods of time while the nicotine is in your system.

Restricting circulation means your skin won’t get the nutrients it needs, or the oxygen. This deprivation can lead to premature wrinkling, sagging and even blotchy pigmentation. If you want to make the switch to vaping but are concerned about this impact, sticking to a lower strength product will at least reduce the impact the nicotine can have – but always consult your doctor first if in doubt!

close up picture of hand

Premature skin ageing

Smoking has long been linked to premature skin ageing for a variety of reasons, and while vapour from e-cigarettes is less aggressive, it is still important to consider these main factors:

1)      Heat

Hot things dry us out. We know that sounds obvious, but very few people consider the impact hot tobacco smoke has on their skin when we exhale it or as it billows from the tip of a lit cig.

Tobacco smoke particularly doubles down on this effect because of the harmful chemicals present, however vapour from certain vapes can still be quite hot, and could have a similar effect in extreme cases.

When exposed to hot or damaging fumes for long periods of time, you skin will struggle to retain moisture and can crack and wrinkle.

2)      Collagen Breakdown

There is not a lot of evidence available that links vaping to the breakdown of collagen. Until more data is available however we must be sensible and fair in our approach to the potential risks. Smoking and possibly vaping to a lesser extent, could lead to the overproduction of a hormone in your body that breaks down collagen.

Collagen is responsible for skin repair and aids it’s elasticity, with this being broken down too quickly, skin can wrinkle and sag.

Elastin and Ptosis

Elastin is a protein we produce in our bodies that helps keep our skin springy and youthful. It is skin’s natural elasticity that makes it such a great barrier and protector. Without it’s ability to ‘bounce back’ however, it will become dry, cracked and sore.

In extreme cases this can also lead to Ptosis – this refers to a sever sagging of the skin, which can apply to breasts and eyelids, but can be experienced anywhere there is skin to sag.

Once again, the evidence available linking vaping to ptosis is limited at best, however with most comparative studies finding harm from vaping to be lower overall than smoking, it is likely that the same could be said of smoking vs vaping and ptosis – long term studies may reveal more about this relationship in the future.

Check out our blog exploring whether or not vaping can make your boobs smaller where you can also find out more about how vaping and smoking impact our skin.

Contact Dermatitis

This is a risk associated more with vaping than smoking – coming into direct contact with e-liquid. While not damaging to any severe degree in short bursts, those who are repeatedly exposed or have an existing skin sensitivity may find that raw e-liquid can irritate the skin.

If you check your vape packaging like the labels on our products, you will often see that the liquid is described as a skin sensitiser. This means what you might expect – touching it can cause redness, dryness, soreness among other symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Close up of skin under persons eye

Avoiding e-liquid exposure is the best way to proceed, and if you do have sensitive skin, consider wearing PPE (such as gloves) when changing coils or cleaning a device; really anytime you are using the device in a way that may expose you to the liquid inside.

It isn’t the PG or VG that causes this, it’s the nicotine itself and the flavourings used which contain the sensitising ingredients on occasion, so make sure you read the label to check for any potential allergens.

Our sources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update-summary

https://www.letstalkbreasts.co.uk/everyday-breast-care/what-effect-does-smoking-have-on-breasts

https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/how-smoking-affects-the-way-you-look

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8330869/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8608672/

https://lloydspharmacy.com/blogs/stop-smoking-advice/smokers-skin

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/