By now we should all be aware of the health risks of smoking, along with the impact it can have on our appearance. Many long-term smokers find that their skin is more lined and wrinkled than that of non-smokers. There is significant evidence to show that smoking constricts blood vessels, damaging the surface of the skin in the process.
Smoking creates an inflammatory response in the body, causing free radicals to be released and leading to a wide range of diseases. Premature skin aging is one of the side effects of smoking and this is in part because it impairs collagen production.
Yet when it comes to whether smoking causes acne the studies are not so clear. There are numerous epidemiological studies comparing acne rates between groups of smokers and non-smokers but the results are still inconclusive.
Non-inflammatory acne is apparently more common in smokers but they are less likely to have inflammatory acne, according to Italian researchers. It is possible that smoking can suppress an overactive immune system, fueling speculation that smoking may actually treat some types of acne – but there is no strong data on which to base these conclusions.
It seems, according to this study, that there was no correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked and the severity of the acne breakout but that people who had experienced acne as a teenager were more likely to experience smoker’s acne as an adult.
A study in the Italian Journal of Public Health, meanwhile, shows an increased risk of acne, with smokers over the age of 18 years being at twice the risk of those under 18.
There is also the fact that smoking raises insulin and testosterone levels, which could contribute to hormonal acne. The increase in testosterone in the bloodstream can make existing acne much worse, so the evidence shows that it’s worth avoiding smoking if you want blemish-free skin.
Smoking is known to reduce Vitamin E, an important antioxidant within the skin. Vitamin E protects skin from damage by sunlight, pollution and other sources, and without it the sebum within the skin can oxidise and trigger acne.
A cross-sectional study carried out on 1000 women aged 25-50 found that 76% with non-inflammatory acne were smokers and that 91% of smokers suffered from acne of the non-inflammatory form. Severe non-inflammatory acne was also found in 81% of smokers according to findings in the British Journal of Dermatology.
It seems there is no way to say for certain whether smoking causes acne or not, however what is clear is that smoking is likely to have some adverse effects on the skin.
Smoking is just one factor that can contribute to acne, with other triggers being hormones, medications, diet and stress. While it’s not the underlying cause of this skin problem, smoking should be considered as an exacerbating factor if you are suffering from this condition.