Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Cannabis smoke is unlikely to have the same aging effects as cigarette smoke.
While cannabis smoke still contains many compounds in cigarette smoke that cause skin aging, there are also compounds explicitly found in cannabis smoke that can be beneficial to skin health.
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Factors That Influence Aging
Most of what we perceive as aging on the body and face is caused by skin aging. The physical aging process of skin is influenced by a number of factors, including:
The influence of genetics on skin age can vary widely. A person’s genetics would determine the physical composition of their skin and, therefore, how well it can manage specific stressors that cause aging. Research shows a connection between biological sex, ethnicity, and skin aging, as males and individuals of certain races (regardless of skin color) seem to show signs of aging sooner.
Generally, a healthy diet is associated with slower skin aging. More specifically, the consumption of unsaturated fats has been associated with a decreased likelihood of dryness and aging due to UV damage. In contrast, an increase in vegetable consumption has been associated with less skin wrinkling as a person ages.
Air Pollution and UV Exposure
Air pollution and increased UV light exposure have been shown to age skin. The air quality index of the area you live in, the density of the ozone layer, soot, and traffic-associated particles all affect how much your skin wrinkles. Increased exposure to UV light also damages the skin in a way that makes it show signs of aging sooner.
How Cannabis Smoke Influences Skin Health
You may know that cigarette smoke can seriously impact how quickly a person’s skin ages. This is because of compounds in smoke that cause inflammation and tissue damage, such as hydrocarbons. Cannabis smoke is different from cigarette smoke in some ways but similar in others. There are many ways that marijuana use can impact skin health, both positively and negatively.
Many of the compounds in cannabis help improve skin health, and you’ll notice that many cosmetic companies are adding cannabis-derived compounds (cannabinoids) to their products.
Firstly, cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties that treat the redness and swelling associated with acne. This would be associated with most kinds of cannabis use, including smoking.
Cannabinoids also help maintain a balance between growth and loss of skin cells. By slowing the overgrowth of skin cells, cannabinoids are helpful in the treatment of psoriasis.
The cannabinoid CBD has been shown to act as a barrier to water loss through the skin, leading to CBD use in many moisturizing products. Preventing skin dehydration is one way marijuana’s effects may positively affect skin health.
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Even though cannabinoids can be beneficial for skin health, smoke generally damages the body and skin, which is also true of cannabis smoke.
Firstly, hydrocarbons are present in both cannabis and cigarette smoke. Breathing in hydrocarbons has been shown to cause aging in marijuana users at a genetic level, meaning that the effects would not be quickly reversible and that all cells would likely be affected.
Cannabis smoking has also been shown to accelerate the age of the heart and blood vessels, which would influence skin health by decreasing the number of nutrients delivered to skin cells through the blood. One study has actually found that the exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke may be more damaging to blood vessels than tobacco smoke, but these findings should be taken with a grain of salt as the study was conducted in rats, and while their blood vessels are similar to those of humans, they are not a direct comparison.
The Bottom Line
How several individual and environmental factors determine fast skin ages. While smoking marijuana can benefit skin health in some ways, most smoke still causes noticeable skin aging. All the damage to skin health caused by marijuana smoke is associated with the smoke and not the marijuana itself. It may be better to replace smoking marijuana with consuming edibles or other cannabis products. Alternatively, smoking in moderation could minimize the damage caused to the skin.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does smoking marijuana make you age faster?
In general, smoking isn’t great for skin health and aging; That’s more to do with the smoke than the marijuana. Tobacco and cannabis smoke contains hydrocarbons and other chemicals associated with skin aging. Heavy use is most associated with skin aging, so smoking in moderation is unlikely to impact skin health severely. It may be preferable to take cannabis in other forms, such as edibles.
Will you look younger if you stop smoking marijuana?
Smoking marijuana seems to cause aging at a genetic level, so these effects probably won’t be quickly reversed after stopping. That said, it is likely that these effects would be reversed eventually, as it seems like current smoking of cannabis in people is associated with skin aging and not former cannabis smoking.