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Is There a Connection Between Marijuana and Acne?

A single marijuana leaf sits on a green background symbolizing the question: does smoking weed cause acne.

 

In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana for medical use. Well over a dozen states have followed suit, some for medical and some for recreational use. Now, an estimated 16% of U.S. residents smoke marijuana, and the number keeps growing.

Some marijuana users may be worried about side effects like reduced cognitive function, addiction, or psychosis. A less serious but still significant concern arises among people with frequent acne breakouts: Does smoking weed cause acne? Let’s look at the science to find out.

Is This a Common Question? 

According to Google, many people would like an answer to the question, does smoking weed cause acne? In fact, this question is Googled thousands of times each month by people all across the country!

Why? Well, the answer is simple.

As more states have legalized recreational marijuana, the substance has become popular, especially among young people. And an estimated 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience acne breakouts.

What’s more, according to the American Psychological Association, nine out of 10 people age 10–25 (Gen Z) experienced physical and psychological symptoms as a result of stress between September 2021 and September 2022.

Marijuana is often used to combat stress and anxiety. If the younger population is interested in using weed as a stress-reliever, it’s understandable that Google has seen an uptick in searches about the link between marijuana and acne.

Gen Z is stressed out, broken out, and looking for relief. Let’s address the question so many are asking: Does smoking weed cause acne?

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

The good news for Gen Z, and anyone else who enjoys marijuana, is that there is no evidence that marijuana use causes acne. Whether you prefer to smoke weed or ingest edibles, your acne woes probably aren’t caused by marijuana.

According to a study from 2014, a chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol, or CBD, may actually help acne. Researchers found that CBD may act as an anti-acne agent by reducing sebum production. Excess sebum produced by your skin’s sebaceous glands is a common cause of acne breakouts.

Is There Any Connection Between Marijuana and Acne?

Even though there is no proven, direct link between marijuana use and acne, some believe that the lifestyle associated with marijuana use can lead to breakouts.

Sleep

If you’re frequently under the influence of marijuana, you may experience changes to your regular sleep pattern. Lower quality sleep could disrupt your hormones and lead to an imbalance in your skin.  

If these sleep disruptions leave you feeling tired and groggy each morning, you may not have the time or energy to complete a skincare routine. Or, if you prefer to use marijuana before bed, you might find that you’re too distracted to wash your face. Either way, the result can be an unwelcome breakout. 

Diet

A change in diet can raise your blood sugar levels or increase inflammation, which can increase sebum production and lead to more breakouts.

One common side effect of using marijuana is an increased appetite, often referred to as “the munchies.” The munchies are caused by THC, the primary psychoactive compound found in marijuana. This compound stimulates the specific areas of the brain responsible for controlling your appetite and regulating your emotions, which could lead you to eat foods you wouldn't normally consider.

In addition to disrupting your appetite, THC also releases the gut hormone ghrelin, which activates your hunger response. You might find yourself eating whatever food is available instead of listening to what your body needs. This change in diet could be the culprit behind your next breakout.

Foods that may contribute to acne include:

  • Soda
  • White bread and white rice
  • Sugary baked goods
  • Dairy products

Some people swear their acne is caused by eating chocolate, but researchers have found it’s likely the sugar and milk in chocolate that’s the problem, not the cocoa. If you’re a chocoholic, opt for dark chocolate, which has less sugar and no dairy.

Smoking

It’s possible that smoking marijuana could cause your skin to age prematurely. When your skin ages, blood flow reduces, which extends healing time. So if you experience a severe acne breakout, it may take longer to heal.

Nicotine use has a similar effect on your skin. Nicotine use causes your blood vessels to constrict, obstructing blood flow. Less oxygen and nutrients get delivered to your cells, leading to premature aging and increased healing time. If this is a concern, it may be best for acne sufferers to consume marijuana products without tobacco.

Infographic: Is There a Connection Between Marijuana and Acne?

Final Thoughts

Does smoking weed cause acne? No — but it’s a little more complicated than that.

While lifestyle changes associated with marijuana use can cause acne breakouts, it’s likely your skin issues aren’t caused by marijuana itself. This means that certain alterations to your routine may take care of the problem.

The answer may be as simple as washing your face before using marijuana or keeping plenty of fruits and veggies on hand to satisfy the munchies. If you’re still concerned about the connection between marijuana and acne, you can try cutting back on your consumption for a few weeks to see if your skin improves.

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