How does vaping affect the skin?
As society increasingly understands the negative health implications of cigarettes and cigars, the use of electronic cigarettes, commonly known as ‘e-cigarettes’ or ‘vaping’, is on the rise as an alternative.
Vaping is the vaporised inhalation of nicotine, often alongside flavourings to improve the taste. It has become increasingly popular over the last decade, especially among teenagers and young adults.
The practice is currently considered to be better for your health than smoking, but there’s a growing demand for more research. In particular, there are concerns that vaping could have negative effects on the lungs as well as general health and well-being. Vapes still contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance, and there are fears that unregulated e-cigarettes may contain illicit fluids.
Furthermore, there is now increasing concern that vaping is having a detrimental effect on skin health and appearance. That’s because vaping contains lots of chemicals, alongside nicotine, which come in direct contact with the face and hands.
’Vaping can have negative effects on the skin in several ways,” reveals nurse and founder of Emma Wedgwood Aesthetics, Emma Wedgwood. “The chemicals in e-cigarettes can lead to a decrease in collagen production, which can result in premature ageing such as wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin. Vaping may cause inflammation too, which can lead to skin irritation, redness, and sensitivity.”
Individuals who have sensitive skin or conditions such as rosacea could observe negative side effects more quickly or noticeably as a result, especially around the lips, eyes, and hands which have the most contact with the vapours.
Moreover, there are signs that vaping’s effect on the skin could be very similar to smoking, especially in terms of discolouration. “Nicotine in e-cigarettes can cause vasoconstriction, which can disrupt blood flow, causing a range of skin-related problems, such as dryness and discolouration,” says Wedgwood. “In addition, vaping can dehydrate the skin, leading to dryness and dullness.”
As with smoking, the level of harm is likely to be linked to the frequency with which a vape is used, as well as the length of inhalation and the number of years someone is a vape user. That’s why the practice’s popularity among teenagers may be particularly worrying for both aesthetic and general practice doctors.
That said, “it's important to note that research into the effects of vaping on the skin is still relatively new, and further studies are needed to fully understand the potential side effects,” concludes Wedgwood.
For that reason, aesthetic doctors should keep abreast of any new studies into vaping to ensure they can suitably inform their clients. Likewise, it may be prudent to ensure that any lifestyle consultation forms include a question about the use of e-cigarettes and vaping to ensure clarity and maximise treatment results. Common phrasing now includes 'do you smoke, including the use of e-cigarettes or vapes’, although, over time, separating the two questions may be required.