Tobacco and eczema

Tobacco and eczema

Tobacco and eczema

Today, we can all agree that tobacco is clearly bad for our health:

lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, uterine cancer, bladder cancer, risk of cardiovascular diseases, and much more.

Sadly, for those who start, smoking quickly morphs into a powerful addiction that is among the most difficult to quit. Indeed, tobacco is now a major public health concern.

How does it affect the skin?

The effects on the skin have only just recently been discovered. Once again, the list is long:

  • Accelerated aging of the face, wrinkles, grayish complexion and thickening of the skin
  • Pre-cancerous then cancerous lesions, especially on the lips and around the mouth
  • Formation of cysts behind the ears
  • Acne
  • Delayed healing of wounds

Women are more susceptible than men.

How is it linked to eczema?

The link with eczema is an even more recent discovery

In 50 years, 472 articles have been published on the link between tobacco and eczema, including 250 articles over the last 10 years. The link is thus clear. According to these articles:

  • Tobacco may trigger eczema flare-ups
  • Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of eczema in the baby
  • If the parents smoke, the risk of eczema in the baby increases
  • Tobacco aggravates eczema on the hands

All of the following notions seem well established:

Tobacco is an irritant and pollutant that, similarly to pollution, penetrates atopic skin, which tends to have a permeable barrier. This triggers the inflammatory immune response responsible for atopic eczema.

Researchers from across Europe recommend talking to pregnant women and future parents about the link between smoking and the risk of their child developing eczema. This is also the time to strengthen discourse around prevention and tools to help quit smoking.

Hand eczema is already aggravated by all irritant or allergenic occupational tasks. Tobacco use adds yet another irritant factor and contributes to aging and delayed healing.


One question currently up for debate is the link between eczema and cardiovascular problems.

We know that eczema can have certain consequences including sleep disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression.

The fact that atopic patients have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease compared to non-atopic patients remains, however, a topic of research. Is there a direct link to the level of inflammation? Is it linked to individual risk factors such as a lack of exercise, an imbalanced diet, obesity, etc.? The cause remains unclear. Rest assured, however, that this link seems to apply only to adult atopic patients with severe atopic dermatitis.


Both direct and second-hand smoking can provoke eczema and increase the risk of eczema in babies.

By Dr Magali Bourrel-Bouttaz, Dermatologist at the Hôpital Lyon-Sud, School of atopy

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