There is little evidence that using e-cigarettes or vaping products directly causes acne. However, some of the chemicals the products contain and other factors associated with vaping may increase a person’s risk of acne.

Acne occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog the skin’s pores, leading to pimples on the face, chest, back, and shoulders. Acne may develop from excess oil production, dead skin cell buildup, and bacteria in the pore.

Certain factors may not cause acne but may worsen it, such as diet, stress, and environmental irritants.

Many shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes exist. Most of them contain a battery, a heating element, and a part that holds liquid. E-cigarettes heat the liquid that typically contains nicotine and other chemicals to produce an aerosol or vapor that users inhale.

This article examines whether vaping causes acne. It discusses how vaping affects the skin and body, the causes of acne, and how to improve skin health. It also considers ways to stop vaping and the support available.

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Researchers have conducted few studies into the effects of vaping on the skin, so there is not enough evidence to suggest that vaping causes acne. However, the components within a vape pen, such as the heating element or vapor, could irritate the skin, resulting in a breakout or acne flare in people susceptible to acne.

The vapor that e-cigarette users inhale contains several harmful and potentially harmful substances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Lung Association, these may include:

  • nicotine, a highly addictive substance in the tobacco plant
  • propylene glycol, a common synthetic additive in foods and cosmetics that may irritate the respiratory tract
  • cancer-causing chemicals, such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
  • acrolein, an herbicide for controlling algae, weeds, and mollusks, which can damage the lungs
  • diacetyl, flavoring chemicals associated with irreversible lung disease
  • diethylene glycol, a colorless liquid in consumer products such as brake fluid and fog machine fluid
  • heavy metals, including nickel, tin, and lead
  • cadmium, a naturally occurring toxic metal classified as a human carcinogen that adversely affects the kidneys and skeletal and respiratory systems
  • benzene, a volatile organic compound associated with various adverse health effects, including cancer

These substances are not comedogenic, meaning they are unlikely to clog the pores, leading to acne. However, some of them may result in skin irritation.

According to the CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, diacetyl is a mild skin irritant. Following contact, some people may experience discoloration, dryness, and cracking of the skin. Diethylene glycol is an irritant to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, as is acrolein.

Direct exposure to benzene can cause tissue irritation and injury to the skin, eyes, and lungs. It typically causes discoloration and blisters following skin contact.

If the skin becomes sore, dry, and dehydrated, it is more likely to increase sebum production to moisturize the skin. Increased sebum production could clog the pores and increase the risk of acne.

Learn more about the effects of vaping.

The use of e-cigarettes or vaping products is still relatively new, and research into their long-term health effects is ongoing.

E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine, and scientists know nicotine to be the following:

  • highly addictive
  • toxic to developing fetuses
  • harmful during pregnancy
  • harmful to brain development in adolescents and young adults

Adults and children have also experienced poisoning from breathing, swallowing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin.

Studies have reported various health effects from vaping, such as:

Additionally, vaping could increase the chances of severe lung conditions such as:

According to a 2020 review, more than 8,000 substances are present in e-cigarettes worldwide, and very few have had testing for safety in humans. Furthermore, a 2021 study tested four popular vaping products and found thousands of unknown chemicals in the e-liquid and even more compounds in the vapor.

More research is necessary before scientists can detail the full health effects of vaping.

Factors that may trigger or worsen acne include:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with acne can take the following steps to improve their skin:

  • Gently wash the face with a nonabrasive cleanser up to twice daily.
  • Use alcohol-free products. Avoid products that irritate the skin, including exfoliants, toners, and astringents.
  • Shampoo more often with oily hair types to help prevent forehead acne.
  • Give treatments time to work. Treatments sometimes take weeks to months to make a difference to the skin.
  • Avoid touching, picking, or squeezing acne because it can take longer to clear or increase the risk of scarring.
  • Use sun protection and avoid tanning beds. Tanning can damage the skin and worsen acne. Use a sunscreen that says it is noncomedogenic or will not clog pores. Certain acne medications, such as retinoids, can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so sun protection is especially important in this situation.

People may find that quitting vaping helps improve their skin health.

Learn more about improving skin health.

Quitting vaping can be challenging. People may find it easier to put a plan in place before they get ready to quit.

  1. Find a motivation to quit vaping: Making a list of all the reasons for quitting vaping and regularly reviewing it can help a person stay motivated and focused to become vape-free.
  2. Quit all tobacco: People using other tobacco products besides vapes should consider quitting those, too. There is no safe level of tobacco use.
  3. Select a quit date: Choosing a date to quit in advance can help a person get ready and feel more confident about stopping vaping. The date should not be too far in the future and should be when stress levels are low.
  4. Prepare for the challenges of quitting: The first days and weeks of stopping vaping will likely be the most challenging. Identifying individual vaping triggers and thinking of ways to avoid them can help a person prepare for the weeks ahead. They can also think about strategies to help them cope with cravings and withdrawal.
  5. Visualize being vape-free: A person can think of themselves as someone who does not vape to separate themselves from the activity of vaping. To do this, they could list all the positive things about themselves that do not include vaping and imagine who they want to be in the future. They could ask themselves whether vaping is interfering with the future image they have of themselves.

Building a team of supportive people can make some of the challenges of quitting vaping easier to overcome.

Family, friends, coworkers, and others can help distract a person from vaping. They can also be there to listen and help boost morale.

Doctors and healthcare professionals can help a person manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They may prescribe medications to reduce cravings and other symptoms of withdrawal.

Additionally, has useful links and phone numbers to call for support, quitting strategies, and daily messages of tips.

The link between vaping and acne is unclear. Although vaping does not appear to directly cause acne, certain chemicals in e-cigarettes and the device itself could irritate the skin and worsen acne.

The liquid inside an e-cigarette contains many substances that may cause skin irritation, such as diacetyl, diethylene glycol, cadmium, and benzene.

It also contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and has many adverse effects on health.

Research on the effects of vaping is still in the early stages, but studies have already found several side effects of vaping and many lung conditions it is associated with.

Various factors may contribute to acne, including genetic factors, hormonal changes, and environmental irritants. Quitting vaping may improve skin health in people susceptible to dry skin and acne.

People can ask for support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals to help them quit vaping. Doctors may prescribe medications to help people cope with the side effects of stopping vaping.