The effects of vaping on your complexion according to Singaporean dermatologists: Ageing, pigmentation, and more

The effects of vaping on your complexion according to Singaporean dermatologists: Ageing, pigmentation, and more

Blowing smoke

Text: Emily Heng

Much has been said about e-cigarettes, the reports of which have been greatly exaggerated. It is said to be a gateway device crucial in curbing smoking urges; an ideal vessel for black market modified e-liquids; and even equated to an epidemic thanks to its widespread usage. We suppose it comes as no surprise that aerosol-huffing comes mired in such misconceptions — it is, after all, a pretty new practice, further compounded by the fact that it is banned in Singapore.

Still, we have no doubt that Buro. Singapore readers are worldly folk, and might pick up a vaporizer once travel restrictions are lifted. If so, it only stands to reason that you know what you're getting into, particularly with regard to the side effects it can have on your complexion. To get to the bottom of this, we enlisted our favourite dermatologists to weigh in. Everything you need to know about smoggy situation, below.

What is vaping, exactly?

The American Heart Association considers it "the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol." Unlike cigarettes, they do not produce tobacco smoke. Instead, it emits an aerosol made of extra-fine particles that contain a varying amount of chemicals. This, unfortunately, gives a false impression that e-cigs are less addictive or harmful than cigarettes. The Ministry of Health in Singapore, however, has ascertained that most e-cigarettes actually do comprise nicotine (a highly addictive substance), benzene (cancer-causing), and even formaldehyde (ditto).

Does vaping affect the skin?

Yes. Here's a complete list of the side effects as told to us by Dr Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist and founder of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, as well as Dr Stephanie Ho, accredited dermatologist and founder of Stephanie Ho Dermatology:

  • Accelerated development of early signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and pigmentation.
  • Contact dermatitis due to nickel allergy, which is part of the e-cigarette's heating element. There have been reported cases of rashes affecting the dominant hand used to hold the e-cigarette, or swelling of the lips due to nickel allergy. Allergies to propylene glycol which is used as a base for the e-cigarette liquids have also been reported.
  • Burn injuries due to overheating of the lithium batteries used to power the e-cigarette, which can overheat and potentially explode, hence causing facial burn injuries, inhalation injury, or even loss of teeth.

  • Delayed wound healing and potentially an increased risk of skin cancer due to the detrimental effects of nicotine.
  • Mouth lesions have also been reported, including a black hairy tongue, white patches on the gums or insides of the cheeks, or fungal infections.

Are the effects of vaping on skin comparatively milder to what smoking does?

The general consensus is that vaporisers induce the same physiological changes as cigarettes would — and then some. "The traditional effects of nicotine in cigarette smoking still hold true in vaping, except that there are fewer chemicals and by-products produced. The process of this means that there is still many cancer-causing molecules being emitted," Dr Teo explains.

Is there anything you can do to offset the detrimental effects of vaping on the skin?

"Firstly, ceasing to vape will be the single most important factor in repairing and restoring the skin," Dr Ho says. "Secondly, I recommend sun protection in the form of sunscreen and physical barriers such as hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves. This can minimise photodamage, which is often exacerbated in smokers." She then recommends a skincare regime comprising a gentle cleanser, moisturiser, antioxidant serums and tretinoin cream to further minimise the harmful effects. Last but not least, a rejuvenating and resurfacing laser. "This will help reverse the effects of ageing," she adds. "People can also approach a dermatologist for specialist advice on personalised anti-aging strategies."