Can Smoking Promote Acne?

Smoking has been known to have a bad, even fatal effect on health in general.

In the recent past, its use has also been argued to affect skin damage specifically.

Though the link between smoking and skin damage, specifically acne breakouts, is still at a debatable stage, there have been certain studies that have provided direct and indirect association between acne breakouts and smoking.

This article tends to explore this link as well as briefly illustrate the effects smoking has on your health in general.

How does smoking affect your health?

According to a study 2 out of every 3 women in the United Kingdom dies of smoking-induced diseases.

Some studies have established that it shortens the lifespan of a person by 10 years.

Smoking has generally been known to increase the risk of heart attacks. The risk is higher in women, especially women who are in the postmenopause phase.

It also damages the lungs severely causing bronchitis and other breathing problems. Smoking is known to cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease otherwise known as COPD.

Another major disease that it causes is cancer. Smoking has been a major cause of cancer, especially lung cancer. It has been known to cause 1 out of every 3 cancer deaths.

Smoking is known to cause fatigue and breathlessness making you unfit for physical activities and killing your stamina.

It also tends to hinder the blood flow in your limbs which often accumulates into a medical condition known as peripheral vascular disease or PVD.

It is also known to cause a decrease in the bone density especially among women who are in the phase of post- menopause.

Another major effect that smoking may have is on the reproductive health of women.

In the case of pregnancy, smoking can badly affect both the mother and the baby.

How Does Smoking Promote Acne?

There have been some studies and research going on, to determine some link between smoking and acne as the occurrence rate of acne is higher among smokers than non-smokers.

Some of the direct and indirect ways in which smoking affect acne breakouts are discussed in this section.

Smoking has generally been seen to induce acne that is non-inflammatory in nature and this includes blackheads and whiteheads mostly rather than pimples.

A major cause behind smoking-induced acne is the sensitivity of skin towards nicotine.

Keratinocytes and fibroblasts, that are present under the surface of the skin, are nicotine receptors.

The moment it comes in contact with nicotine, they induce not only increased collagen formation but also add on newer layers to the skin.

This causes a tightening of the skin pores due to which the excessively produced sebum gets trapped inside the pores and forms whiteheads.

This gets oxidized when it comes on contact with the air outside further developing into blackheads.

Further, smoking tends to narrow down the blood vessels.

As a result, when the immune system of one’s body is trying to respond to acne breakouts by sending in more blood flow, it does not go through easily because of the narrow passage of the blood vessels.

This narrowing also makes it difficult for the excessively trapped oil to move out, thereby contributing to the severity of the breakout.

The narrowing down of these blood vessels also inhibits the proper supply of oxygen, vitamins and other nutrients to the skin which affects the skin health adversely.

Whereas on the one hand, smoking has been associated with non-inflammatory acne, it has also been seen to cause, according to some studies, cell dryness which in turn may cause scarring and inflammation that further helps in bringing them under the surface of the skin on top.

There are various indirect connections that have been established between smoking and acne breakouts.

Smoking has been known to affect the immune system adversely. It weakens the response of the body towards these acne-causing bacteria.

The healing process also slows down and skin damage is not very easily repaired.

One of the major antioxidant that the skin has is vitamin E.

Smoking tends to reduce the level of vitamin E in our skin which is otherwise known to protect the skin from any kind of damage whether it be sun or pollution.

In the absence of vitamin D, when the skin gets exposed to these factors, the excess of sebum present under the skin gets oxidized to cause acne breakouts.

Smoking also affects the blood sugar and insulin level in our bodies.

As the level of these two increases, it tends to stimulate an increase in the level of androgen or testosterone which serves as the primary cause of acne breakouts.

This then tends to promote the occurrence of hormonal acne, both in terms of severity and frequency.

Smoking also contributes to the worsening of acne scars. Nicotine is known to hinder if not completely inhibit collagen formation in the skin and if exposed to pollution or sun in this condition may cause deep and pitted scars.

The loss of collagen formation also tends to make the skin less elastic which thereby induces wrinkle formation.

Smoking has also otherwise linked with other kinds of skin conditions like psoriasis and skin cancer, apart from generally inducing an early aging process of the skin.

Some studies have claimed that smoking is known to cause not acne vulgaris commonly but a more rare kind of acne known as acne inversa.

This is a kind of acne breakout which causes the blockage of the skin in an inverse manner, that is, rather than filling the pores from the bottom of the skin to the upper layers, it takes the inverse path to cause blocking from up the top layer to the bottom layer.

Smoking causes the nicotine to stimulate the production of newer skin cells which helps in the formation of a skin over the layer causing the sebum to get trapped under this new layer of skin and affecting a breakout in the manner of acne inversa.

These are the numerous direct and indirect ways in which smoking may contribute towards damaging the skin and especially in affecting acne breakouts.


The risks associated with smoking both to the skin and bodily health, in general, are enough to make a convincing appeal towards reducing its practice.

It not only causes acne breakouts, scarring and inflammation in various ways but also slows down the healing process by affecting the immunity system.

Furthermore, smoking tends to reduce the availability of oxygen, nutrients, and mineral to the skin which are all important for the health of the skin and also inhibits collagen formation.

Considering, therefore, the risks of damage it poses on your body and skin health, it is not a decision half bad to quit the practice of smoking.

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