Smoking — Acne?

Originally Published: November 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 6, 2007
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Dear Alice,

Does smoking promote or cause acne or breakouts?

Signed,
Pimpled Puffer

Dear Pimpled Puffer,

There isn't much information about the link between smoking and acne, and the studies that have been done have conflicting results. Some have shown no correlation at all; some have concluded that smoking aggravates acne; and at least one concluded that smoking may actually have an anti-inflammatory effect and improve acne.

You may want to try to quit smoking and see if your acne improves — you don't have much to lose. On the other hand, it's not a good idea to keep smoking on the chance that you might puff your pimples away — the evidence is contradictory. Plus, all of the negative effects of smoking far outweigh any potential benefit.

Although the correlation between smoking and acne is unclear, smoking can lead to a slew of other health-related problems, including ones that adversely affect the skin. These may include:

  • grey skin
  • wrinkles
  • yellowing/browning of the skin and nails
  • poor wound healing
  • increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer)

If your acne is bothering you, you may want to see a dermatologist to discuss treatment options. If you're a Columbia student, you can make an appointment to be assessed for a referral by calling Primary Care Medical Services at x4-2284 or logging-in through Open Communicator. For more information about the health effects of smoking, or for help quitting, check out the Nicotine section of the Alcohol & Other Drugs archive.

Alice

July 6, 2007

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I looked up this very topic because my acne has cleared up over the past two weeks. I have sufferred from break outs over the past ten years. Talk about embarassing. I don't know the answer to your...
I looked up this very topic because my acne has cleared up over the past two weeks. I have sufferred from break outs over the past ten years. Talk about embarassing. I don't know the answer to your question, but I do know that I quit smoking the same day I started a high calorie, moderate fat diet (I "paused" my low-fat diet). Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. That means less oxygen gets to your skin. Not only that, as a non-smoker (for 30 days now), I no longer crave a cigarette, or need a cigarette to calm down, or require a cigarette to concentrate, because I am no longer suffering hourly from nicotine wthdrawals. These withdrawals were the very things that were making me un-relaxed, or having me concentrate on cigarettes (not school or work). Quit for 3 weeks, if your acne doesn't clear up, stay quit. . .