Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
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 isn’t technically considered carcinogenic, smoke — both from tobacco and potentially cannabis — does contain active carcinogens.
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, pruritus, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, skin cancer, hidradenitis suppurativa, Kaposi sarcoma, psoriasis and the developing of systemic sclerosis on the skin.
However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm this hypothesis, including the method of application (topical vs. inhaled).
Smoking marijuana can also have an impact on your body’s hormone levels. One study found that smoking weed increased the concentrations of some appetitive and metabolic hormones, primarily insulin.
Another study in Denmark geared toward estimating marijuana’s effect on male testosterone reported increased testosterone concentrations among male cannabis users.
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 can extrapolate these findings and understand how a connection between weed and acne might form.
In addition to the above, here are some other factors to consider when it comes to the link between weed and your skin.
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 (consisting of 14 observational studies that included a sample of nearly 80,000 people — mainly children, adolescents and young adults — found a link between an increased risk of acne and dairy products.
Some studies have also linked acne to high-glycemic index diets. This includes foods high in carbohydrates and sugar, such as cookies, cake, ice cream and more.
Research out there suggests that a high-glycemic diet may actually affect your skin health.
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 a short time window of 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.
The studies evenly conclude that weed smoke exposure had a bigger (and longer-lasting, by the way) effect on blood vessel function than being exposed to secondhand smoke via tobacco.
While the connection between marijuana smoke and acne still needs more research, these preliminary findings suggest there might be a link.
Essentially, the research out there says that smoking weed doesn’t cause acne.
However, other factors definitely do. Things change in your hormone levels and the foods you eat when you’re stoned (hello, munchies!) and the effects of potentially carcinogenic marijuana smoke may all play detrimental roles in your skin health.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.