Does smoking weed cause acne? This is a very simple question from a very complex plant. While there is a clear public health message about smoking tobacco and its effects on our health and skin, there is no similar message being circulated telling us about the effects of smoking weed.
Even though cannabis use has been ongoing for thousands of years, research on its effects on the human body is sparse and limited. The good news is that this is about to change as more and more states in the US have moved to decriminalize the drug, with some states allowing medicinal use and others permitting both medicinal and recreational use. The bad news is that recent research has found conflicting claims around smoking, vaping, or ingesting marijuana and its effects on our skin. In this article, we are going to break down the different theories around how weed can lead to the formation of acne.
Smoking Leads to Faster Skin Aging
The ingredients of the cannabis plants are different from those of the tobacco plant. However, when smoked, both substances release thousands of similar chemicals that can produce the same effects. These include free radicals that can damage the skin. These carcinogens inhibit the growth or development of new collagen. Collagen is a protein that provides structural strength for the bones, hair, tendons, and skin, among others, against inflammation and pollution. They are responsible for the elasticity and plumpness of our skins. Additionally, the free radicals from weed constrict the blood vessels in our skin, depriving the skin of oxygen. These effects have been shown to make skin age faster.
Marijuana smoke also contains similar chemicals or hydrocarbons that, upon contact with the skin, can damage the production of collagen and elastin. This further ages the skin prematurely by causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity. That being said, many smokers have switched to other methods of ingesting weed, like eating cannabis edibles or using a vaporizer, to minimize the risk that comes with smoking weed. Unfortunately, skin damage caused by smoking is irreversible and the only way to prevent further damage is by completely quitting.
THC Increases Testosterone Levels
Acne is something that affects many people worldwide at different points in their lives. Globally, acne affects around 650 million people. Contrary to popular belief, acne has little to do with exposure to sunlight and personal hygiene. While testosterone levels are commonly associated with normal sexual development for males, they are also one of the triggers for hormonal acne in both females and males. Some studies state that THC, one of the main ingredients in cannabis, causes a spike in testosterone levels, which ultimately increases sebum production and the likelihood of an outbreak of acne.
Having said that, studies have shown that the increase in testosterone levels associated with smoking weed is quite small and too marginal (around three to five percent) and therefore has only a minor effect on acne. So, does smoking weed cause acne? Under this theory, people would have to smoke buckets of weed to see the effects.
Additionally, THC has long been accredited with anti-inflammatory properties. It is also, along with other cannabinoids, been found to be a potent antioxidant, which means that the compounds can help counteract the adverse impacts caused by the increase in testosterone levels to the triggering or worsening of acne. With these conflicting claims, more research will be necessary to confirm the link between THC, testosterone levels, and acne.
Increased Appetite Causes Inflammation
The feeling of increased appetite caused by consuming cannabis has long been documented and is often referred to as “the munchies.” Several pieces of research have confirmed that marijuana not only increases the desire to eat but also improves the palatability of food among consumers. That being said, this increase in appetite can often lead people to prefer fast and processed food over healthy greens, leading to an increase in sugar, fat, and refined carbohydrate consumption. And this is where the link to acne formation happens. Food with a high glycemic index has been long linked with the elevation of hormones that increase oil activity in the skin, which ultimately contributes to acne formation. These foods include sugar, sugary food, refined carbohydrates like bread and white rice.
To avoid munching on these processed foods, it is always best to prepare and keep low or medium glycemic index food nearby when consuming marijuana. These include fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain foods.
THC Causes Increased Levels of Stress and Anxiety
Another correlation that has been put out there between smoking cannabis and acne formation is how THC causes an increase in levels of stress and anxiety. Stress has been associated with negative effects on skin conditions across the board, including eczema, rosacea, and acne. And while marijuana appears to be helpful for some people in managing symptoms of anxiety, it has the opposite effects for others. There are several factors behind this discrepancy, including the person’s tolerance levels, individual body composition, as well as potency of the plant. People who continually experience increased levels of stress and anxiety caused by cannabis consumption will also experience a spike in insulin levels. And to bring down these spikes, our bodies respond by producing androgen, which are hormones that boost sebum production and trigger acne. When this happens for an extended period, the overproduction of insulin affects the collagen production in our skin, similar to how the overconsumption of food in the high glycemic index affects our skin. The skin then undergoes a process called glycation, which aggravates any existing acne problem.
Marijuana has several benefits, including pain relief, treatment of depression, and alleviation of anxiety symptoms, among many others. If, after weighing the pros and cons, you decide that you would like to choose marijuana as your alternative treatment, it is critical to choose the best delivery system wisely. Nowadays, there are several methods to get the benefits of weed without smoking it. However, if you are one of the many who must smoke it, it is best to make sure that your skin is protected as much as possible.
When considering the question “does smoking weed cause acne? The truth is there need to be more tests and clinical trials that need to be conducted to fully understand the effects of the drugs on the skin. Thanks to the legalization of the substance across many states, researchers now have the opportunity to answer the question based on concrete scientific studies.