Does Vaping Cause Acne? Effects of Vaping on Your Skin

By Michael Kopf, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
April 19, 2022

Vaping has become the most popular way for young people to use tobacco—two out of ten Americans aged 18-29 use e-cigarettes. 

Many people think vaping is safer than smoking, but vaping has its own share of negative health impacts.

In addition to potential severe lung diseases, there are concerns that vaping causes acne and skin-related problems. 

In this article, I’ll talk more about vaping, and whether or not it causes acne.

I’ll also discuss the effects of vaping, what e-liquids are made of, and which e-liquid ingredients actually affect your skin.

I’ll also talk about whether you should quit vaping, and when to talk to your doctor.

Does Vaping Cause Acne?

Vapes or electronic cigarettes work by heating a liquid mixture of nicotine or THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol, and other flavorings.

This liquid turns into a vapor, which is inhaled through a mouthpiece and expelled through the nose or mouth. 

Propylene glycol is a humectant chemical in vape e-liquids. Humectants are compounds that draw up liquid.

Propylene glycol from e-cigarettes can dry your mouth and throat.

It’s possible that it could also dry your skin and cause acne breakouts. 

When our skin gets too dry, our bodies produce excess sebum.

Sebum is an oily, waxy substance that can clog pores and hold dirt and dead skin, which can lead to acne. 

Another possible explanation for acne among people who vape is that vapers tend to touch their faces often, wiping off vapor that settles on their skin.

As a result, they easily transfer dirt from their hands to their faces, which can lead to acne. 

Does vaping age the skin?

Almost all vape pens contain nicotine, and nicotine is associated with early aging.

Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict or tighten, slowing blood circulation, lessening the skin’s access to oxygen supply and other vital nutrients. 

As a result, skin grows pale and starts to show signs of aging.

Nicotine also causes slower healing, so minor injuries take longer to heal.

Does vaping dehydrate you? 

Vaping e-liquid contains propylene glycol, which is dehydrating.

Propylene glycol absorbs water molecules, preventing the body from absorbing and using them. 

Vaping can draw liquid from your nose, throat, and mouth.

Many e-cigarette users complain about dry mouth and feeling thirsty.  

Effects of Vaping

E-cigarettes  are marketed as a way to quit smoking, but they come with several health risks.

And you’re not the only one at risk: People around you may suffer secondhand injuries from the aerosols in vape pens. 

Some effects of vaping include:

  • Weakened immune system: Vaping weakens your immune system and makes your lungs more susceptible to infection. People who vape are more prone to infections like COVID-19, and less able to fight them off.
  • Exposure to metals: E-cigarette aerosols may contain metals like lead, aluminum, copper, manganese, arsenic, iron, and zinc. Breathing these metals is linked to lung damage and several cancers. Multiple studies reported dangerous levels of metals in e-cigarette aerosols, and others reported seeing metals in the blood, urine, and saliva of vapers. 
  • Lung disease: Scientists have associated vaping with lung injury. Vitamin E acetate is a part of vaping e-liquid, and can lead to permanent lung scarring. Metals in the aerosol can also build up in your lungs, causing a persistent cough. 
  • Cancer: E-cigarettes contain propylene glycol and glycerin. When the vape pen is heated, propylene glycol and glycerin produce substances like formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetaldehyde, which can cause cancer.  
  • Brain damage: It doesn’t matter if you smoke or inhale it as a vapor—nicotine is still harmful to your brain. It’s especially dangerous to teens and young adults, whose brains are still developing. Vaping can also increase your chances of developing a neurodegenerative disease later in life. 
  • Heart issues: 99% of e-cigarettes sold in the US contain nicotine. Even some e-cigarettes marketed as being nicotine-free have been found to contain nicotine. Nicotine increases your blood pressure and adrenaline levels, putting you at greater risk of a heart attack and other issues like blood circulation problems and coronary artery disease. 

What Are E-Liquids Made Of?

E-liquids are the liquids in e-cigarettes that are converted to aerosols.

They typically contain: 

  • Water
  • Nicotine
  • Cannabis 
  • Food grade flavoring
  • Propylene glycol
  • Vegetable glycerin

E-liquids may also contain heavy metals and flavoring like diacetyl, which has been linked to lung disease. 

Dangerous e-liquid substances for your skin

Some substances in e-liquids can cause skin problems.

For example, propylene glycol causes dry skin

Some people are also allergic to propylene glycol, and can develop a rash from exposure.

Others suffer from nickel allergy, which causes skin rashes and lip swelling. 

Nicotine is also problematic. It breaks down elastin and collagen, which are important for healthy skin.

Lower levels of these two components lead to skin wrinkles and premature aging.

Nicotine is also implicated in skin cancer and reduced healing ability for skin wounds.

Other Effects of Vaping on Your Body

Here are some vaping effects you might notice early on: 

  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Coughing
  • Mouth and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Trouble breathing

You may also notice chest pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and fever from e-cigarettes. 

Should You Quit Vaping?

Vaping may appear safer than smoking cigarettes, but it has significant health risks.

Nicotine is highly addictive and can cause health issues and harm brain development in young people. 

People believe that vaping can help them quit smoking, but young people who use vape pens may be more likely to smoke in the future.

Studies have found that people are more dependent on nicotine when they vape than when they smoke. 

You can also become addicted to vaping, so even if it helps you stop smoking, you still have to deal with the effects of nicotine from vaping. 

Considering all the health effects, it is best to quit vaping. If you haven’t started vaping, don’t start. 

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor if you notice:

You should also see your doctor if you’ve been trying to quit vaping and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from nicotine.

These include increased appetite, cough, headache, cravings, anxiety, depression, irritability, and trouble concentrating. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can vaping worsen acne?
Yes, vaping may worsen existing cases of acne.
Does vaping change your face?
Vaping can cause an increase in lines and wrinkles on your face. This can cause you to look older than you are.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Michael Kopf, MD

Dr. Michael Kopf graduated cum laude from the University of Miami, where he majored in Film Studies and English Literature. He went on to receive his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine. Michael trained in Internal Medicine at Danbury Hospital-Yale School of Medicine, and went on to complete fellowships in Hematology/Oncology at SUNY Downstate and Palliative Care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In addition to his work in medicine, Michael enjoys watching and reading about movies, writing, and spending time with his wife and yorkie, Excelsior.