Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
The good news is that cannabis has not been shown to cause acne directly in scientific studies. However, marijuana use has been associated with some of the factors that impact acne positively and negatively and could help treat acne to some extent due to cannabinoids’ and terpenes’ antimicrobial properties.
Learn about the connection between cannabis and acne based on current scientific research as we delve into the causes of this troubling skin condition.
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Does Marijuana Cause Acne?
Acne occurs when dead skin cells become clogged and trapped beneath hair follicles. The sebaceous glands produce more sebum in response to the clog, leading to the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules (pimples). Numerous other factors impact the development of acne, including hormone levels (mainly testosterone levels), stress, and overall health.
While marijuana doesn’t seem to cause acne, there are indirect ways that cannabis use can potentially impact skin conditions.
Testosterone levels strongly influence the development of acne. Specifically, androgens are a group of male hormones that play a role in acne formation. Elevated levels of androgens in teenage boys, young men, and sometimes women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can trigger acne to develop.
Studies are inconclusive about how cannabis affects testosterone levels. Some studies have shown that the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may initially raise testosterone levels in some men, which theoretically may induce an acne breakout. But data is minimal, and no consensus has been reached.
Other studies have indicated that testosterone levels may drop over time in some cannabis consumers and may help treat acne. In short, there is not enough information available to predict how marijuana use will affect one person’s testosterone levels over another person’s hormone levels.
Ghrelin has been dubbed the “hunger hormone” and affects testosterone levels in men and women. People with higher ghrelin levels tend to have stronger appetites and more testosterone. Marijuana has a long-established reputation for sparking “the munchies” and increasing appetite, indicating higher levels of ghrelin. If higher levels of ghrelin mean higher testosterone levels, then using cannabis could have an indirect negative effect on acne.
Researchers have investigated the relationship between cannabis and stress to determine if the plant boosts or reduces stress levels. Stress is associated with many illnesses and conditions, including anxiety and depression, and cannabis has been shown in numerous studies to benefit people coping with anxiety and depression. Therefore, if there is indeed a connection between stress and acne, it is possible that cannabis could indirectly be beneficial by helping to reduce stress.
Marijuana and Overall Skin Health
While marijuana might not be shown to cause acne directly, there are ways it can affect the skin, both positively and negatively.
Smoking Cannabis and Premature Aging
Smoking tobacco leads to premature aging and causes wrinkles in many individuals, and there is less evidence regarding how smoking cannabis could affect the aging process. Regardless, smoking or vaping is not the healthiest way to consume cannabis and will, at the very least, not improve the quality of your skin.
Inflammation is implicated in many diseases, including acne, and some data indicate that cannabidiol (CBD) could reduce inflammation in specific individuals. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation also suggested that CBD could help calm activity in the skin’s sebaceous glands, thus potentially decreasing acne.
CBD and Skincare
CBD has been touted as a beauty treatment for its potentially moisturizing, cleansing, and anti-aging properties. Cannabis topicals, especially those containing CBD, have grown in popularity among people seeking a natural skin care regimen.
Indeed, there is some scientific evidence to support the notion that CBD benefits the skin. While these potential skin benefits do not necessarily correlate to a reduction in acne, overall skin health is essential for managing acne and other dermatological conditions.
The Bottom Line: Does Cannabis Cause or Help Treat Acne?
The short answer to the question, “does weed cause acne?” is no, it does not. However, cannabis use has been linked to certain factors that may aggravate acne and other factors that could improve acne, such as:
- Reducing stress
- CBD may regulate lipid production in the skin, so it may help produce sebum when skin is dry and reduce sebum when skin is oily
- Cannabis contains terpenes like alpha- and beta-pinene, which can help reduce inflammation and have shown antibacterial properties against acne-causing bacteria like P. acnes and S. epidermidis
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does weed affect our skin and complexion?
Scientific studies have yielded mixed results regarding cannabis and complexion, and some studies have suggested that cannabis could benefit the skin by reducing inflammation.
Can I smoke weed on Accutane?
Some people have reported increased anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders when smoking marijuana and using Accutane. However, these are anecdotal reports, and it is worth remembering that Accutane has some adverse side effects like dry skin, nosebleeds, and back/joint pain. There is no definitive evidence that smoking weed while on Accutane has any adverse effects. Consult with your healthcare professional before using marijuana while on Accutane.