Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

As more states legalize the recreational and medical use of marijuana, it is becoming increasingly important to fully delineate the health benefits and side effects of smoking weed. Recently, controversy has arisen regarding whether smoking weed causes or improves acne. Read on to learn if smoking weed offers any benefits for acne patients.

Key takeaways:

What is weed?

Weed, also known as marijuana or cannabis, is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. It contains CBD (cannabidiol), THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), and hundreds of other chemical compounds. About 100 of these chemicals are related to THC, and they are cannabinoids. THC is the psychoactive compound in weed that gives people a "high." Weed can be smoked or ingested in the form of food or drink to gain its effects. When added to food for consumption, it is called an "edible." These edibles may be brownies, cookies, or candy.

What is acne?

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the world. It can present with non-inflammatory lesions, such as blackheads and whiteheads, or inflammatory ones, such as papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts, on the face, chest, upper arms, and back. Non-inflammatory lesions occur when pores get clogged with dirt, oil, and dead skin cells. Genetics, medications, comedogenic products, stress, diet, and poor hygiene play a role in causing acne.

Does smoking weed cause acne?

Currently, there have been no studies conducted on whether smoking weed causes acne. More research is needed to determine the truth. Even though there is no evidence to conclusively prove smoking weed causes acne, it does lead to behavioral changes that may cause or worsen acne.

Here are some behavioral changes caused by smoking weed that may lead to or exacerbate acne:

  • Increased appetite. Smoking weed has a well-documented side effect of increased hunger, especially for carbs, sugars, and fats. It also tricks our brains into thinking that these unhealthy foods taste better, so we want to eat more of them. Increased glycemic levels in foods may cause or worsen acne.
  • Hormone changes. Smoking weed is known to cause an increase in testosterone levels. Testosterone increases sebum production and subsequent acne breakouts.
  • Smoking. In several studies, smoking cigarettes has been associated with an increased incidence of inflammatory conditions, such as acne. Studies have not determined whether the smoke or nicotine in cigarettes is the cause.
  • Worsening hygiene/self-neglect. It is common knowledge that smoking weed can cause memory loss and reduced motivation. This can lead to self-neglect and poor skin hygiene. Poor hygiene contributes to developing acne.
  • Elevated stress levels. Smoking weed can cause an increase in anxiety and stress levels in some individuals. Stress causes increased cortisol secretion, which leads to excess oil production and subsequent acne formation.

Does smoking weed help acne?

There have been no studies that prove smoking weed improves acne. However, several small studies show the benefits of using topical CBD to treat acne. These are small studies, and more research is needed. Topical CBD may help acne by decreasing inflammation, the proliferation of skin cells, and sebum (oil) production, all of which contribute to acne formation.

Can smoking weed help other skin conditions?

Preliminary research has indicated that smoking weed may help treat atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and pruritus. It may exert its benefits by decreasing inflammation. Larger randomized, controlled trials are needed to prove these benefits. However, smoking can accelerate aging by destroying collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. It may be better to use topical CBD or consume edibles to avoid the deleterious effects of smoking.

Tips to help acne

Acne is a challenging medical condition to treat. There are some tips you can try that may improve mild cases of acne. Moderate to severe cases of acne require prompt medical attention to prevent permanent scarring.

These tips include:

  • Good skincare. Be sure to cleanse and moisturize your face twice daily. Use non-comedogenic and anti-aging products. Keep your hair off your face and shampoo daily. Do not pick, pop, squeeze, or touch acne.
  • Proper lifestyle choices. Stick to a diet rich in antioxidants and low in carbs and sugar. Avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen daily. Lower your stress levels by doing yoga, exercise, or relaxation techniques.
  • Clean environment. Clean pillowcases, towels, and anything that comes in contact with your skin daily, such as athletic equipment or phones.

When to see a doctor for your acne

While the tips mentioned above can benefit all types of acne, it should not be the only treatment for certain acne cases. Some cases require prompt medical attention to prevent permanent consequences. These cases include patients with moderate or severe acne, scarring, pain, or worsening of acne. Also, patients on certain medications, like anticonvulsants or steroids, or those with certain medical conditions, like PCOS, require medical treatment. If acne affects your self-esteem or self-confidence, seek help from a dermatologist.

If you are thinking of smoking weed to help your acne, using topical CBD may be a safer and better alternative to try. While preliminary research may show the benefits of CBD for acne, no studies have conclusively proven that smoking weed does or doesn't help acne. With weed's increasing popularity and availability, it is necessary to conduct larger, definitive research trials on the effects of smoking weed. If you have questions regarding whether smoking weed will benefit your acne, talk to your dermatologist.

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