Why Smoking Is Bad for Your Skin (And Yes, That Includes Marijuana)
There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking. And, we know, you’ve probably heard most of them already. Like, for instance, these little factoids from our pals at DoSomething.org: That the lungs of teens who smoke will not develop fully, which puts them at higher risk for lung disease, or that about 30% of teen smokers will continue smoking and die early from a smoking-related disease. Yes, of course, you’re not stupid. You know these things. But did you know this naughty little habit is also poisoning your complexion?
“In addition to being bad for your overall health, smoking has a negative impact on the skin, including bags under the eyes, premature aging, a loss of natural glow, and a susceptibility to psoriasis,” says renowned dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler. “Additionally, smoking depletes your body of nutrients like Vitamin C, which has been linked to sun protection.”
All of this bad stuff mainly happens through suffocation. “Smoking one cigarette constricts blood flow for up to 90 minutes, which means you’re starving your skin from oxygen for an hour-and-a-half,” says Dermalogica’s director of education Annet King. “By doing so, you’re inhibiting circulation and breaking down collagen and elastin.” Plus, because the blood isn’t flowing properly, you’re more prone to broken capillaries and veins, which can cause very dark scarring on the face.
Not to mention, every time you take a drag, you’re pursing your lips and furrowing your brow. Those repetitive motions make you a prime candidate for early onset anti-aging creams. if they can help at all. “Smokers typically show deep lines around the mouth, as well as vertical lines in between the eyebrows,” King notes.
But wait—there’s more! It’s not until you exhale that most of the immediate damage will be done. When you breathe out, you’re releasing what King calls the “toxic cloud”: All of the nicotine, chemicals, and tobacco are now floating on top of your face and the faces of others around you. “This will cause an increase in blackheads around the mouth and cheeks, since the skin is more likely to be congested,” she explains.
Furthermore, we know (thanks to science) that smoking affects the immune system. But many people overlook how critical healthy immunity is to gorgeous skin. “Smokers heal much slower than non-smokers,” Dr. Wechsler points out. “Because of that, breakouts will take longer to clear up, which makes the risk of acne scarring much higher.” And, PS: If you’ve got a toxic cloud hanging over a breakout, guess what could happen? Those little zits can reproduce to other areas of the face. And if your immune system won’t be able to adequately heal today’s post-acne marks, you won’t be able to get rid of them later in life without expensive dermatological procedures.
And then there’s that sweet nothing you tell yourself—that weed doesn’t really count as “smoking.” That means it won’t hurt your pretty face, right? “Actually, marijuana has been linked to an increase in testosterone, which may lead to acne,” Dr. Wechsler adds. “Chronic smokers can also experience hair loss, psoriasis, and rosacea.”
Of course, there’s also the munchies! Normally, pot-smokers aren’t reaching for a bag of skin-healthy hummus and veggies. More enticing snacks, like desserts and potato chips, will inevitably cause breakouts.
Finally, there’s one other common excuse for “not really smoking”: the e-cigarette. “It’s still nicotine!” King points out. “And there’s still smoke involved. Sure, it’s not as bad for the skin as tobacco, but there are still chemicals inside an e-cigarette, and those will envelop the skin when you exhale.”
Even if you’re not a smoker of any kind, your health can be seriously compromised from second-hand smoke. For both smokers and non-smokers, King recommends a prescription of antioxidant-heavy moisturizers and a very thorough double-cleanse regimen. (You’ll really want to wash away all those nasty chemicals!)
But the most important piece of advice is this: Quit already! “Once you stop smoking, your body gets to work immediately, attempting to heal itself,” Dr. Wechsler explains. “Your lungs will clear, the level of oxygen in the blood increases, a healthy flush will return, and skin will be more hydrated and even.” And since you’re still young, you might get away scar-free!
So if you’re searching for that summery, model-y, glowing complexion, maybe the answer is as simple as kicking a nasty habit. No makeup necessary! Your face (and your lungs) will thank you.
More puffs, more problems.
Can Smoking Marijuana Create Skin Problems?
As marijuana is increasingly being legalized for both medical and recreational use, there are many aspects to discover about the plant’s effects on your health. This includes your skin, the body’s largest organ.
There’s some talk online about marijuana aggravating oily skin and causing acne, while others claim that smoking it can benefit your skin.
The bottom line is there isn’t enough scientific evidence available to establish links between smoking marijuana and your skin health. So far, research into any skin benefits of marijuana have looked at topical uses only.
Let’s cover the claims about smoking marijuana and its effects on the skin, both good and bad.
Marijuana contains a variety of naturally occurring compounds that primarily affect your central nervous system (which includes the brain).
The plant itself has increasingly gained a reputation for its cannabidiol (CBD) content, which may affect your brain but doesn’t get you high. Another chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the substance that does get users high.
All marijuana contains THC, but CBD, as a derivative, doesn’t have THC. However, CBD oil production currently isn’t regulated, so quality and concentration likely varies.
Traditional marijuana has hallucinogenic effects, which are attributed to THC. It can also cause side effects that mostly affect your brain, lungs, and heart. Another side effect is dry mouth.
However, there’s no concrete proof that marijuana can dry out your skin and perhaps lead to acne and other skin care concerns .
It’s well-established that smoking tobacco products such as cigarettes can lead to long-term skin damage.
You may notice that people who smoke tend to have more fine lines and wrinkles compared to those who don’t. This may be due to the effect that tobacco has on collagen content in the skin. Collagen is the natural protein in your skin responsible for elasticity and plumpness.
Still, it’s not clear whether these same effects apply to 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.
On the flip side, the marijuana plant itself has been found to have anti-inflammatory components .
There are conflicting claims on the internet about marijuana and your skin, none of which are based on scientific studies.
Some suggest marijuana can potentially benefit your skin and keep sebum at bay. Sebum is the oil produced from sebaceous glands that can contribute to acne. Others claim that it can make your skin age more rapidly and perhaps worsen inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. A lot of the confusion has to do with the way marijuana is used.
One possible benefit of smoking marijuana is its ability to reduce the risk of certain cancers. This may include skin cancer .
Other preliminary studies show that the anti-inflammatory effects of marijuana could help certain skin diseases , but more clinical trials are needed.
The truth is that researchers now have more opportunities to study the effects of marijuana on skin health, partly thanks to the legalization of the substance in some states.
As more studies are conducted on marijuana, the more concrete clinical evidence we will have on its effects on the skin.
When considering marijuana for skin health, there also seems to be more evidence that topical uses of cannabis, rather than smoking it, may benefit the skin. “Topical” here means applied directly to the skin.
One review suggested that cannabinoids in marijuana, when applied topically, may produce anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects for eczema.
Another study of topical cannabis found that cannabinoids “show promise” to help treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
While being around others who smoke marijuana may infrequently lead to a “contact high” from THC, there’s no evidence showing that secondhand marijuana smoke can affect the skin.
It isn’t well-known what the side effects of inhaling marijuana smoke are, so it’s unclear what the long-term risks associated with secondhand smoke from marijuana might be.
Very little research has been done to determine whether smoking marijuana can lead to skin problems like acne. Here's what we know so far.