Fraser Horton
Fraser Horton
Last Updated on January 31, 2022

Acne is a very common skin condition that is often the result of puberty, but the truth is many adults suffer from acne, too. Acne can come in a ranging severity, from large and inflamed acne breakouts to non-inflammatory acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads. Either way, they’re never welcome and can be hard to get rid of.

There has been some talk about the connection between marijuana and acne and if smoking marijuana can actually cause acne or make them worse. If you’re wondering whether your recreational use of weed can or has contributed to acne, keep reading because in this article we’ll try to make sense of it.

Acne – Those Pesky Little Things

Acne is the most common skin condition in the world that’s most commonly associated with teenagers, but it can actually affect people of all ages. The severity of acne can range, but as the causes can be diverse, they can be difficult to treat.

Basically, you get pimples when the sebaceous glands get clogged as a result of excess oil production, dead skin cells, and bacteria that naturally live on the skin. The hair follicles get inflamed, your immune system steps in, and the result is a pimple. There are also non-inflammatory acne such as blackheads and whiteheads where the hair follicle remains clogged, but there’s no inflammation.

Genetic predisposition is the most common culprit in acne, but so can hormonal fluctuations, diet, allergic reactions, stress, and bacteria. The causes vary for each person, as well as what works as an acne treatment. People with oily skin are more prone to getting acne as their sebum production is higher, but this is definitely not a rule.

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

We know that smoking tobacco is bad for the skin as it inhibits collagen production leading to premature aging, and we also know that it can worsen already existing inflammatory skin conditions, but it hasn’t been linked to acne. But what about weed?

For some people, weed seems to cause acne or worsen them, but the truth is there isn’t any evidence to back this up. In fact, one in-vitro study has shown that CBD exerts some sebostatic activity, meaning it may reduce the activity of the sebaceous glands, making it a good candidate for the treatment of acne vulgaris (Oláh et al., 2014)

While it’s true that smoking tobacco and smoking weed both produce some of the same toxins that can negatively impact skin elasticity, until we know more, we can’t say for certain that smoking weed causes acne.

However, smoking weed produces behavioral changes that can result in acne in an indirect way. Let’s see the details.

Why Smoking Weed Might Indirectly Cause Acne In Some People

Even though smoking weed in itself may not be a direct cause of acne, the effects of weed may cause certain behaviors that can trigger acne in some people or make them worse. As we said, the causes of acne vary for each person, just like the effects of marijuana do. 

Until we know more, we can assume that certain effects can indirectly contribute to acne, such as getting the munchies and hormonal fluctuations.

Getting the Munchies 

The munchies is by far the most common side effect of marijuana that’s largely caused by THC, and if you’ve ever eaten a bucket of food after smoking weed, you know well what it’s about. In short, it’s THC that suppresses your signals for satiety and you don’t really know when to stop eating. 

Additionally, being high means that your senses are heightened so everything tastes amazing and it’s hard to resist snacking on something delicious. In these moments, most people crave rich and flavorful foods, which makes them reach for fast food or other types of processed foods rich in fats, sugars, salt, and additives.

Unfortunately, these foods are known as a major trigger for acne breakouts for some people as diet and acne are known to go hand in hand. These foods can produce inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to increased oil production (sebum), leading to clogged pores, and finally, pimples.

Hormone Fluctuations

Teenagers get acne more than adults because their hormones are fluctuating. Their testosterone levels are slightly increased during puberty, which is why they’re more vulnerable to acne in general. Increased testosterone levels lead to increased sebum production, and in turn, inflamed sebaceous glands that turn into blemishes.

It has been found that regular marijuana use causes a small increase in testosterone levels, which in theory could explain why some people get pimples. However, the increase in testosterone levels doesn’t seem to be significant enough to cause a noticeable change. It’s still worth considering, though, at least until we have more information.

Is Secondhand Marijuana Smoke Bad for the Skin?

While the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke are associated with getting a contact high, as far as skin is concerned, there’s no indication that secondhand marijuana smoke can cause any adverse reactions in the skin.

Can Cannabis Help the Skin In Any Way?

Cannabis as a whole has not been studied in relation to skin health, although the effects of topicals have been studied.

However, CBD, the second major cannabinoid, has been on the radar. It doesn’t have psychoactive effects like THC, but it’s therapeutic because it has anti-inflammatory properties, making it effective for a number of uses. Studies have shown that CBD is a candidate for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and pruritus. (Scheau et al., 2020 & Baswan et al., 2020)

Another cannabis product worth mentioning, although it doesn’t contain cannabinoids, is hemp seed oil. It’s incredibly good for the skin because it’s rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids which can hydrate the skin well without clogging the pores. It’s even good for oily skin as it can balance out sebum production and help to restore the skin barrier.

Bottom Line – Inconclusive as There Are No Studies Yet

For all that we know about weed and its effects so far, there is no evidence that smoking weed causes acne as there haven’t been any human studies. However, certain behavioral changes brought about when smoking weed could indirectly contribute to acne, even though this assumption is highly theoretical. Until there are more reliable studies, we can’t say anything for certain. On the other hand, CBD has already been shown to have some amazing properties, so further looking into its benefits for skin health would certainly be beneficial.

Additional Sources

Baswan, S. M., Klosner, A. E., Glynn, K., Rajgopal, A., Malik, K., Yim, S., & Stern, N. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 927–942. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S286411 

Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628

Scheau, C., Badarau, I. A., Mihai, L. G., Scheau, A. E., Costache, D. O., Constantin, C., Calina, D., Caruntu, C., Costache, R. S., & Caruntu, A. (2020). Cannabinoids in the Pathophysiology of Skin Inflammation.Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(3), 652. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25030652

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