It's widely understood that inhaled cigarette smoke, whether you smoke yourself or breathe it in secondhand, is bad for your health, skin included.
But the effects nicotine can have on our skin might be even worse than we thought.
According to a team of biologists at UC Riverside, the carcinogenic substance doesn't have to make it into your lungs, or even in present use, to cause injury.
Their research, as detailed in a new study published in the journal Atmosphere, suggests that we risk skin damage by coming into contact with any nicotine-laden residuals that cigarettes and their ever-popular electronic counterparts leave behind in just 24 hours.
"We found dermal contact with nicotine may impair wound healing, increase susceptibility to skin infections due to a decrease in immune response, and cause oxidative stress in skin cells," Giovanna Pozeulos, recent UC Riverside graduate and study contributor, said in a statement.
The study focused specifically on the dangers of THS — shorthand for thirdhand smoke, which refers to smoke that settles and clings to surrounding surfaces — and spilled e-cigarette liquid.
To examine how exposure to environmental nicotine might impact human skin, the scientists subjected a 3D model of the skin's epidermis to 24 hours of nicotine exposure, equal to the levels of nicotine one might find in a THS or pod juice-contaminated environment.
Sure enough, just a day's worth of exposure resulted in cellular damage.
But there's good news as well: short-term exposure likely won't cause any lasting effects. That's because our skin is naturally regenerative and can recover from situational exchanges with THS or E-cigarette juice.
But it can only take so much — long-term exposure to THS is where the real trouble may lie.
To this end, the researchers warn that young children, those with pre-existing skin conditions, and folks who work in nicotine-friendly environments are especially vulnerable to thirdhand dangers.
"THS exposure may be chronic for someone living in a THS-contaminated household, which can lead to persistent dermal exposure," Pozuelos said in the statement. "Vendors and consumers who handle or use electronic cigarettes that contain high nicotine concentrations could also become highly exposed."
These findings don't come as a huge surprise, given all that we know about cigarettes already.
Vapes, on the other hand, managed to snowball in popularity before the science was able to catch up. The devices are everywhere, and lawmakers still don't know how to effectively regulate them.
Hopefully, research like this will be able to change that.
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