Most people know that cigarette smoking is bad for their lungs – and that it increases the risk of premature aging of the skin. But, can it worsen acne too? What do researchers know about the relationship between smoking and acne?
Does Cigarette Smoking Cause Acne?
When it comes to acne and smoking, the picture is mixed, and the effects may depend on age. There are two types of acne – inflammatory acne, which causes painful, inflamed lesions, and comedonal acne where there are visible acne lesions, but few inflamed ones.
According to a study published in Family Practice News, cigarette smoking worsened acne in adult women with comedonal acne, but didn’t increase the number of painful, red inflammatory lesions they experienced. Women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day were more likely to have severe comedonal acne and were at a greater risk for scarring.
Does Smoking Worsen Acne: What About Teens and Adolescents?
The relationship between smoking and acne may be different in teens and adolescents than it is in adult women. According to a European study, girls who smoked more than three cigarettes a day for six months were less likely to suffer from acne – particularly the painful, inflamed lesions characteristic of inflammatory acne.
Does It or Doesn’t It Worsen Acne?
Why the discrepancy between acne and smoking in teens vs. adults? Teens and adolescents are more prone to inflammatory acne, whereas adults have fewer inflammatory lesions. Researchers believe that smoking has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, which may reduce the signs and symptoms of inflammatory acne lesions.
Keep in mind that this was a single study – and other studies show conflicting results with regard to teen smoking and acne. Smoking may not worsen acne in teens, but it does lead to premature wrinkling and destruction of collagen – which means older looking skin down the road.
Acne and Smoking: The Bottom Line?
Cigarette smoking appears to worsen acne in adults, but not necessarily in teens and adolescents. Regardless of the effects of smoking on the skin, it’s important to “kick the habit” to protect lung health. Don’t increase the risk of future health problems by continuing to puff away.
Family Practice News. August 2010. page 51.
J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2007 Mar;21(3):326-33.