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Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne? What Science Has to Say

Brie Lowrey

You roll out of bed, head over to the bathroom to start your day, and then you see it: an angry, blossoming pimple. You’re probably frustrated – what did I do to cause one this time? 

If you’re a regular smoker or cannabis consumer, you might wonder if your favorite bud or vape could be the culprit. But science offers a slightly different take, one that’s thankfully much more positive and manageable. 

Below, we’ll discover what research says about the link between hemp or marijuana and acne. Then, we’ll outline some ways you can limit how your favorite cannabis product impacts your skin’s health. Let’s dive in.

What Causes Acne? What Happens Behind the Scenes

Acne vulgaris (more commonly known as just “acne”) is a common skin condition that can occur for many reasons. Genetics, lifestyle choices, hormone levels, and other factors can all play a role in acne development. 

Still, aside from acne caused by other health conditions or fungal acne, most breakouts have the same few root causes. 

  • Excess Oil (Sebum): Your skin produces sebum as a protective barrier for your skin. Some sebum is necessary to keep skin hydrated and healthy. But when oil levels are too high, excess sebum can clog pores. It’s also a tasty snack for acne-causing bacteria to munch on.

  • Bacteria: Having some bacteria on your skin is normal – they help keep your skin balanced and functional. If your skin is exposed to too much bacteria, though, they can begin to feast on dead skin and sebum, leading to pus-filled, swollen blemishes. 

  • Dead Skin Cells: When your skin releases dead skin cells, they can quickly get stuck in hair follicles (pores) and cause a clog. Some people naturally shed more skin cells than others, potentially leading to worse acne.

  • Inflammation: When bacteria or another irritant enters your pores, your body fires back by raising inflammation levels. These can lead pores to close up, trapping dirt and oil inside. Inflamed acne is often red, painful, and deep.

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

There is no evidence that suggests smoking marijuana or hemp directly causes acne. However, smoking weed may worsen pre-existing acne by causing behavioral changes that trigger breakouts. 

There’s a lot to unpack when answering this question. As of right now, research on the subject is mixed. We know from studies focused on tobacco that cigarette smoke and nicotine can be risk factors for acne. The effect is sometimes so pronounced that researchers created the label “smoker’s acne” for certain skin appearances.

However, we don’t know much about weed smoke in particular. More research is needed before we can know if weed smoke affects the body’s inflammatory responses. To clarify, the problem here would likely be the smoke or act of smoking, not the weed itself.

In fact, some research shows that cannabinoids found in weed and hemp might be a promising treatment for various skin conditions, acne included. 

One study found cannabinoids could potentially treat acne, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and even skin cancer. Another found that using topical cannabinoids to treat acne helped lower inflammation levels that fuel breakouts.

So what’s going on here? It seems like behavioral changes are the most likely culprit of weed-induced acne. That’s right – those hours spent munching on a bag of chips or vegging out in front of the TV until late at night have an impact.

Some behaviors that might emerge after smoking your favorite joint and can affect your skin include:

  • Munchies, which may lead to excess sugar, sodium, dairy, etc. intake and trigger breakouts
  • Falling out of a routine, which may lead you to skip washing your face or skincare
  • Transferring grime or bacteria to the skin via smoking pieces
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Drinking alcohol

Does Vaping Cause Acne?

Researchers have not found any evidence that vaping weed causes acne. This is due in part to a lack of studies on this topic. Still, it’s pretty safe to say that vaping poses little risk to skin health.

It’s probably true overall that vaping is better for your skin than smoking. Even though we aren’t sure yet, we know that vaping limits many of the adverse health effects of smoking. Less exposure to inflammation-causing toxins is a huge factor that might lead to this difference.

The only thing to be aware of when vaping is the behavioral changes we mentioned before. You might also react to other ingredients found in things like vape cartridges. Likewise, people with a cannabis allergy might be prone to inflammation after vaping or even touching flower. 

Overall, though, vaping might be a better way to introduce the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis to your body. 

Wait a Minute – Can Weed Help with Acne?

Lots of exciting research on the potential for cannabinoids in dermatology shows that some forms of weed might actually help treat acne.

The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids seem to be their biggest offering for acne. As previously discussed, some research points to a possible link between cannabis and improvements in several skin conditions.

Overall, it probably comes down to what’s causing your acne in the first place. What’s true for one person might be totally wrong for the other. Even if weed doesn’t seem to impact your skin, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind when using it.

Tips to Limit How Weed Affects Your Skin

If you want to be extra cautious and protect your skin, there are some steps you can take. Most of them help you avoid behavioral changes that might cause problems. 

Stick to a Routine

Don’t throw your routine out the window, no matter how stoned you may be. 

If you tend to forget to wash your face or use skincare products before bed, try to do your routine before you smoke. 

You can also set reminders on your phone, leave sticky notes on your mirror, or place your products somewhere you won’t miss them. Even hopping in the shower can be better than nothing.

Smoke Outside

Toxins like free radicals and carcinogenic compounds found in smoke can linger in the air or on surfaces, which is why secondhand smoke is so dangerous. 

These icky chemicals can irritate your skin and cause inflammation, thus leading to breakouts. Keep them out of your space by smoking outside or in an open, ventilated space.

Limit the Munchies

We know that the munchies are one of the best parts of cannabis consumption for many people. You don’t need to totally put your munchies to bed, though. 

It might help to try and police them a bit by limiting your THC or CBD dose or choosing strains that don’t cause munchies as often. You can also choose to munch on foods that are less likely to cause problems, like fresh fruit and veggies.

Ask Your Doctor or Derm

When in doubt, it always helps to check in with a pro. 

You can talk to your doctor or, better yet, a dermatologist to discuss how weed might affect your skin. Health considerations, medications, etc., might uniquely impact how weed affects your skin. A doctor can give you the advice you might need to put a stop to the problem.

It’s also a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before adding cannabis products to your routine. You never know when an unwanted reaction might pop up, so covering all your bases is the best way to be safe. 

Final Thoughts

The main thing to remember about cannabis and acne is that smoking and vaping weed likely doesn’t cause breakouts, but it can worsen them. You can limit this effect by looking out for common behavioral changes and limiting them. 

Keeping your skin’s health in mind may just be yet another consideration for healthy cannabis use. Shopping for products that work for your skin and body is another great way to ensure you only get positive results. 

Feel free to contact us here at The Green Dragon CBD for product recommendations, a personal consultation, or questions. We’re here and eager to help you find the cannabis solutions that fit your needs.

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne? What Science Has to Say
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Think your THC product is causing acne? In this article, we’ll discover what research says about the link between hemp/marijuana products and acne.
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Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne? What Science Has to Say
March 7, 2024
THC Education