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Some people who start vaping to stop smoking notice a big improvement in their skin. They report that their skin tone looks better or that they have a glow in their cheeks after they’ve been vaping for a while.
But does this mean that vaping can actually improve your skin if you’ve stopped smoking? Or is it more the case that it might actually be damaging your youthful complexion instead?
Will vaping improve your skin when you stop smoking?
It’s unlikely that vaping can actually improve your skin in any way at all, even when you stop smoking. Or at least I can find no evidence that vape liquids contain any ingredients which might reduce ageing or enhance skin tone. After all, if vaping really was the anti-ageing secret to a youthful and fair complexion, we’d probably all be doing it.
People who start vaping most likely see big improvements in their skin tone and suppleness simply because they’ve quit smoking. In other words, it’s the effect of stopping smoking – rather than starting vaping – that’s probably improving their skin.
Skin quality can improve dramatically when smokers quit smoking because levels of carbon monoxide and other toxins in their blood nosedive. They may then notice a more glowing complexion thanks to better circulation and oxygen uptake.
That said, if starting vaping means you stop smoking, then your skin tone and luster will certainly improve. But this is only as an indirect result of choosing to vape instead.
In this sense then, it’s fair to say that e-cigarettes can improve your skin, but only if you’re already a smoker who’s using them to quit. So vaping aside, the kindest thing you can do to your skin is just to stop smoking.
Is vaping better for skin than smoking?
We’re all aware of the effects that smoking can have on a person’s skin over time. Recent studies of twins prove that hardened smokers develop deeper wrinkles, a sallow complexion and toughening of the skin.
There isn’t yet that much long-term evidence to prove whether vaping is actually any better for your skin than smoking is. But when you compare the types and levels of toxins in cigarette smoke with those in e-cigarette vapour, vaping is a pretty safe bet.
Skin damaging toxins: smoking vs vaping
When it comes to skin-harming nasties, vaping doesn’t even come close to tobacco smoke, which contains up to 7000 known toxins, including cadmium, arsenic and lead.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find any dermatological toxins at all in vape products. It’s just that if there are any, they’re in much lower, and relatively wrinkle-safe quantities.
Also unlike tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapour contains no carbon monoxide, which we know damages skin cells.
Carbon monoxide hijacks red blood cells and robs skin and other tissue of oxygen whenever you smoke. This toxin causes long-lasting damage to your skin’s elasticity and can accelerate wrinkles and premature ageing.
At least in this respect, vaping is certainly a lot kinder to your skin.
Does vaping cause wrinkles like smoking does?
Lines and wrinkles, such as crow’s feet and puckered lips are a sure sign of a heavy smoker, though not so obvious in someone who enjoys a vape. But could vaping give you a surprise by ageing your face with leathery smoking wrinkles, too?
Vaping is unlikely to cause heavy wrinkles as with smoking, primarily because e-cigarette vapour contains far fewer skin-damaging toxins. Vaping likewise does not create “crow’s feet” smoking wrinkles because e cig vapour does not make users squint. Finally, vaping will not cause wrinkled or puckered lips as smoking does because vapers generally suck on their devices more gently.
So compared to smoking, vaping does seem to be the better option for maintaining a delicate and wrinkle-free complexion. But that doesn’t mean we should let e-cigarettes completely off the hook where other kinds of damage to our precious dermis is concerned.
Why might vaping be bad for your skin?
Nicotine is found in vape liquid just as it is in cigarettes. It is harmful to skin and is known to accelerate skin ageing. Propylene glycol, used as a diluting agent in vape products, may also contribute to dehydration and skin dryness in the longer term. Meanwhile, some vape flavourings contain ingredients which may damage skin cells or promote ageing.
Nicotine and ageing
While it may be less harmful to your skin than other tobacco toxins like lead, the nicotine you’re vaping is certainly no anti-ageing angel.
Nicotine is a naturally-occurring poison that works by constricting your blood vessels and slowing blood flow. Whether you’re vaping or smoking it, using nicotine means less blood and oxygen reaches your skin and vessels. This means they become less elastic over time, and less effective at replenishing and rejuvenating your skin cells.
Of course, nicotine is only one of many factors that can cause your skin to age. Nevertheless, slower blood flow and fewer nutrients getting to your skin because of nicotine are likely to speed up the ageing process.
How to limit effects of skin damage from vaping and nicotine
By switching from smoking to vaping you will have already done your skin a massive favour. But there nevertheless some things you can do to improve your skin’s protection against nicotine damage and ageing if you vape already.
1. Take vitamins C and E
There is evidence that vitamins C and E can be beneficial in rebuilding and protecting against from tissue damage caused by nicotine. Vitamins won’t eliminate damage completely. But they may offer some anti-ageing protection against nicotine skin damage when vaping.
2. Try Zero Nicotine or Low Strength Liquid
Choosing to vape nicotine-free e liquid is definitely the best way to escape the skin ageing effects of nicotine in your vape. In this way, you’ll still get all the actions of smoking, but just none of the bad stuff. But if nic-free vaping fails to satisfy you, you could try using very low nicotine strengths (e.g. 3mg) instead.
3. Drink more water to hydrate skin
You can limit the possible risk of dehydration from propylene glycol by simply keeping your liquid levels high. Regular hydration should also help you detox by flushing out vape toxins like nicotine from your body. Drinking lots of water is good for your skin anyway, but especially so if you’re vaping.
4. Use less PG in your vape
Propylene glycol (PG) is a possible cause of dehydration and skin dryness in vapers so it’s probably wise to limit your intake. Go for e liquids with higher VG (glycerine) to PG ratios (e.g. 50:50 PG/VG) and avoid pure PG blends.
5. Go for simple or unflavoured vape liquids
It’s impossible to know which vape flavours are actually safe for skin, but we can at least limit how many of them we vape in one go. In other words, go for simple e liquid flavours, and avoid complex combos like “cookies and cream”.
But to play it really safe with your skin, choosing completely unflavoured liquids might be the best road to go down.
6. Limit your vaping to improve your skin
If you’re already noticing issues with your complexion after vaping for some time, you may simply be vaping too intensely or too often. In this case cutting down on the amount you vape should bring about improvements in your skin.
Using your e cig too regularly or chain vaping may mean you’re neglecting your skin care, hydration and nutritional needs. It may also intensify the ageing effects of nicotine and other toxins that you’re vaping.
Other possible skin problems from vaping
Besides the possible ageing effects of nicotine, some people notice other short-term skin issues when they vape. These can include:
- dry skin
- irritation or itchy skin
- worsening acne
*Remember to seek medical advice if you are concerned about any adverse skin reactions you are getting from vaping.
Frequently asked questions about vaping and skin
Is it just nicotine that is bad for your skin when you vape?
Nicotine contained in vape liquid can harm skin cells by weakening circulation, but it is not the only thing that can damage your skin. Some complex e liquid flavourings containing complex flavour combinations may also be a risk factor to skin. Likewise, there is some evidence to suggest propylene glycol may dehydrate skin and make it less supple. Propylene glycol is also a risk factor for people with skin allergies or sensitivities.