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Marijuana Might Be Affecting Your Skin. And Not In The Ways You Thought

Weed, grass, Mary Jane, pot. call it whatever you’d like, but marijuana has been around long before 1937’s “Reefer Madness” warned of its (arguably overblown) deleterious effects. These days it’s more common than ever, thanks in part to its medicinal uses. But are there beauty ramifications that come with the decision to smoke?

We decided to find out. Whether or not lighting up is your thing, it doesn’t hurt to know exactly what marijuana can do to your skin and appearance. So we spoke to two New York-based dermatologists, Dr. Bobby Buka and Dr. Ariel Ostad, and found out some surprising facts about America’s most commonly used illicit drug.

The THC in marijuana increases your testosterone levels. which could lead to acne.

Let’s start with the bad news. The most potent ingredient in cannabis, also known as marijuana, is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When you smoke, vaporize or otherwise ingest it, there’s an immediate increase in testosterone levels, says Dr. Ostad. As a result, these increased testosterone levels can cause your skin’s oil glands to produce more sebum oil, which can lead to breakouts in people predisposed to acne. People who are chronic users of marijuana can also experience hair loss on the scalp or even excess hair growth in other parts of their bodies due to this testosterone jump, Dr. Ostad adds. “I have seen acne and hair loss,” he says, “not a lot, but I’ve seen it.”

However, Dr. Buka says that the testosterone increase — which is in the order of 3 to 5 percent — is too marginal to cause a flare up of acne or unusual hair growth patterns. “We’re talking about buckets and buckets of weed,” he says. “Nothing any human could smoke.” (We’ll leave that judgement call to you.)

Another thing to watch out for? Packing in sugar-filled snacks while using marijuana. “There is a link between high-glycemic index foods and acne,” he says. “So you might draw the conclusion that people who get the munchies are eating more of those foods.”

Plus, the smoke can make your skin age more rapidly.

Something both Dr. Ostad and Dr. Buka do agree on? The harmful effects of the marijuana smoke itself, which contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke (though studies have shown that THC actually protects against pro-carcinogens, unlike nicotine). These hydrocarbons can inhibit cells that are chiefly responsible for making new collagen. Meaning: Exposing your skin to marijuana smoke can make it age more rapidly. The smoke from pot can also worsen skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea, says Dr. Buka.

But THC is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and it has potential anti-aging properties.

Don’t make a judgement call just yet — more and more, people are discovering the upside of getting high. Even though THC may cause an increase in testosterone levels, it’s also gaining a reputation as an anti-inflammatory agent and an antioxidant in the medical world. So while the actual smoke from marijuana can suppress collagen production, some studies have shown that the THC itself has anti-aging properties (thanks to those antioxidants, which neutralize the damaging effects of free radical oxygen particles). Dr. Buka even likens moderate weed consumption with drinking a glass of red wine.

However, Dr. Buka notes, “The delivery system is really critical.” He recommends using a vaporizer if you’re dead-set on using marijuana and want to enjoy its supposed anti-inflammatory benefits, adding, “Even a bong would be preferable [to smoking].” (Remember: There is no fundamental difference between marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke when it comes to skin, according to Dr. Buka.)

Additionally, Dr. Ostad points out that we naturally have THC receptors in our brains, which means that cannabinoids, the compounds present in cannabis, aren’t foreign to our systems. “Those THC receptors actually can lead to increased production of neurotransmitters that make us feel better, like serotonin,” he says. Indeed, neuroscientists who have looked into the connection between cannabis and depression have found that low doses of THC are associated with a drop in depressive symptoms. But it’s important to note that too much can actually have the opposite effect.

Dr. Buka adds that stress seems to have negative effects on skin conditions across the board — including acne, eczema and rosacea — and reducing that stress can be a critical step to clearing up skin. “My pot smokers are by and large a mellower group of patients,” he says.

Studies have also shown that cannabinoids can be used topically for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases (though these studies have been done in mice, not people).

So if you’re going to smoke.

If after weighing the pros and cons, you decide you’d like to reap the benefits of marijuana, choose your method wisely. Like we said, Dr. Buka recommends using a vaporizer to avoid the carcinogenic smoke of a marijuana cigarette. However, if you must smoke it, he suggests making sure your skin is protected as much as possible with a thick moisturizer (he likes the Ultra Repair Cream by First Aid Beauty).

The bottom line: There are mixed philosophies when it comes to both the positive and negative effects of marijuana on the skin, so choose wisely — and be mindful of your local laws.

Stay informed:

CLARIFICATION: This article was amended to reflect that marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke do not cause the same exact carcinogenic effect.

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Marijuana Might Be Affecting Your Skin. And Not In The Ways You Thought Weed, grass, Mary Jane, pot. call it whatever you’d like, but marijuana has been around long before 1937’s “Reefer Madness”

Does smoking marijuana cause acne?

It is unlikely that smoking weed causes acne. However, some people who already have acne might find that it worsens or improves if they smoke marijuana. Testosterone levels, behavioral changes, and skin healing time can all influence acne, and these factors all have a link to smoking weed.

There are not many scientific studies looking into the direct effects of marijuana on acne. More research is likely in the future, though, as more and more states in the United States are legalizing recreational cannabis use.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between smoking weed and acne. We also discuss some other side effects of smoking weed and other possible causes of acne.

Share on Pinterest Smoking weed may have an effect on existing acne.

There is no evidence that smoking weed causes acne, but it could make existing acne worse. This effect may occur due to behavioral changes relating to marijuana or because of the effects of smoking on the body.

Smoking weed can change a person’s behavior. They may feel lethargic or have an increased appetite. Diet, hygiene, and stress are not causes of acne, but these factors could make breakouts worse if a person already has acne.

Increased appetite

An increased appetite may lead people to choose fast food or processed foods that are high in sugar, fat, and refined carbohydrates. Eating these foods can raise blood sugar levels.

There is some evidence that this may increase inflammation, which can cause the body to produce more sebum. Sebum is oil that the glands on the skin produce. If the body makes too much sebum, it can stick dead skin cells together, forming plugs that clog pores in the skin and make acne worse.

Hormone level changes

Marijuana may also cause a brief rise in testosterone levels. Testosterone is a hormone in the body. Both males and females have this hormone, and the amount in the body changes over time.

Levels of this hormone increase during puberty, which experts believe to be a trigger for acne. Higher testosterone levels may increase the amount of sebum that the body makes, potentially explaining why many teenagers develop this skin condition.

Therefore, there is a possibility that a rise in testosterone resulting from marijuana may increase the risk of acne. However, the rise in testosterone levels due to smoking weed is very small, and the evidence comes from a single study. More research will be necessary to confirm this link.

Smoking

No clear link exists between smoking and acne, but smoking can speed up skin aging, reduce blood flow to the skin, and increase healing time. Some research suggests that people who smoke have a higher risk for inflammatory skin diseases.

Smoking weed with tobacco is likely to have some effect on the skin over time. Pimples could take longer to heal, and inflammation may be worse.

Alternative ways of consuming weed, rather than smoking it, include edibles and using a vaporizer.

It is unlikely that smoking weed directly causes acne. However, some people who already have acne might see it worsen or improve if they smoke marijuana.