Smoking may make acne scarring worse


It’s well known that smoking has a negative impact on your skin, causing changes including wrinkles, but new research has found that it may also worsen skin scarring in people with spots.

The study, presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference, is the first to suggest a link between smoking and acne scarring.

A team of dermatologists from Harrogate conducted a study of 992 people with acne vulgaris (the most common type of the disorder) referred to a hospital dermatology department over an eight year period.


At the first appointment, each patient’s skin was examined and the severity of their acne and any scarring noted. Lifestyle factors that might affect the skin were also recorded, including smoking.

Scarring was noted in 91% of patients but was not more common in smokers. However, a higher percentage of moderate to severe scarring, rather than mild scarring, was noted in those that smoked.

Over half (53.7%) of smokers showed moderate to severe scarring compared to just over a third of non-smokers (35%). This appeared to be independent of acne severity.

Dr Raman Bhutani, one of the study’s authors, said: “The correlation seen between smoking and severity of facial scarring could suggest that smoking can increase the severity of scarring in a susceptible person with acne. Further work is required to confirm this finding and to understand the mechanisms by which this may occur.”


While Nina Goad from the British Association of Dermatologists said: “Acne affects a huge proportion of the population, with 80% of teenagers affected at some point. While for most people the disorder will eventually clear, some are left with scarring which can be for life.

“This can be hard to treat and can make people feel self-conscious and affect their self-esteem. We already know that smoking is bad for our health, so perhaps this latest finding will provide an extra impetus for people to quit.”

Acne occurs when the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands are particularly sensitive to normal blood levels of certain hormones, causing the glands to produce an excess of oil. The build-up of oil creates an ideal environment in which acne bacteria can multiply.

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