Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

    Could your occasional toke be causing you to break out? As of right now, the link between marijuana and the skin is still being researched. Let’s explore what scientists have discovered thus far and if smoking weed can cause acne.

    Current research indicates that smoking weed does not cause acne. However, there are other factors at play that could be contributing to your skin’s health. 

    It has been well-established that smoking tobacco damages skin and causes premature aging. The same cannot be said for certain about smoking marijuana. 

    While cannabis itself isn’t considered carcinogenic, the smoke from both tobacco and possibly marijuana contain carcinogens, with tobacco smoke having the most-established negative effects, according to animal studies.

    One preliminary study suggests that cannabis may be good for the skin. 

    The study indicated that cannabis may have the potential to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne vulgaris, allergic contact dermatitis, asteatotic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, Kaposi sarcoma, pruritus, psoriasis, skin cancer and the cutaneous manifestations of systemic sclerosis. 

    However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm this hypothesis, including the method of application (topical vs. inhaled).

    Weed and Your Hormones

    Smoking marijuana can affect the hormone levels in the body. One study found that smoking weed increased the concentrations of some appetitive and metabolic hormones, primarily insulin.

    Another study in Denmark reported increased testosterone concentrations among male cannabis users, relative to when users consumed marijuana. This study was performed to estimate the effect of marijuana use on testosterone in U.S. males.

    It’s also worth noting that even though the results are hopeful, much more research is needed. 

    An increase in testosterone levels in females is linked to acne. While there has been limited research on the connection between cannabis-induced testosterone levels in women, we think it’s worth saying that there may be a link here. 

    Other Factors to Consider

    In addition to the above, here are some other factors to consider when it comes to the link between weed and your skin.

    The Munchies

    Smoking weed can cause an increase in hunger, known as “the munchies.” And, when we’re high, healthy food options typically go down the drain in lieu of chips, ice cream and other tasty treats. 

    Your diet can influence inflammation throughout the body. One meta-analysis of 14 observational studies that included nearly 80,000 children, adolescents and young adults showed a link between dairy products and increased risk of acne. 

    Some studies have also linked high-glycemic-index foods and acne. This includes foods high in carbohydrates and sugar, such as cookies, cake, ice cream and more. Research suggests that a high-glycemic diet may play a role in the development of acne.

    Smoke Exhalation

    As we previously mentioned, there may be a link between smoke exhalation and skin damage. While more conclusive research has been conducted on the effects of tobacco smoke on the skin, smoke from marijuana may have a similar effect.

    Secondhand marijuana exposure impairs blood vessel function. Published studies on rats show that exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke at levels comparable to those found in restaurants that allow cigarette smoking led to substantial impairment of blood vessel function. 

    Marijuana smoke exposure had a greater and longer-lasting effect on blood vessel function than exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

    While the connection between marijuana smoke and acne still needs more research, these preliminary findings suggest there might be a link.

    Acne Treatments

    If you’re experiencing an acne breakout with or without marijuana use, there are plenty of treatments available out there that can help, from the use of topical retinoids, to prescription antibiotics, topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide and even certain forms of hormonal birth control.

    We’ve covered these treatments in depth in our guide to Acne Treatment Options Backed by Science.

    The Bottom Line

    Based on current research, smoking weed does not cause acne. However, other factors such as changes in hormone levels, the type of food you consume while high and the effects of marijuana smoke on the skin may play a role in the development of acne.

    This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.