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Press Release

Jul 7, 2015

Smoking worsens acne scarring, study finds

It is well known that smoking has a negative impact on the health. Now new research, presented this week at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference in Manchester, will reveal that it may worsen skin scarring in people with spots.

Smoking is known to cause changes to the skin, such as wrinkles, but this is the first study to suggest there may be 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 per cent 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 per cent) of smokers showed moderate to severe scarring compared to just over a third of non-smokers (35 per cent). 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.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “Acne affects a huge proportion of the population, with 80 per cent 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, known as Propionibacterium acnes, can multiply. At the same time, the dead skin cells lining the pores are not shed properly and clog up the follicles, producing blackheads and whiteheads.

The study team are conducting a study to understand how acne is treated across the UK. Please consider answering a short questionnaire via this link

Notes to editors:

If using this study, please ensure you mention that the study was released at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference.
The conference will be held at Manchester Central from July 7th to 9th and is attended by approximately 1,300 UK and worldwide dermatologists.

For more information please contact: British Association of Dermatologists Communications Team, 0207 391 6096 or Nina Goad, Head of Communications, mobile 07825567717 during conference week, or email:, Website:

Study details: Exhibition poster P56, Smoking and scarring severity in acne, R. Bhutani, P. Kadiyala, E. Fryatt and A.M Layton; Harrogate District Foundation Trust, Harrogate, UK.

The British Association of Dermatologists is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease.