weed and skin

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.

Could Weed be Good For Your Skin?

Research is explaining the beneficial actions of cannabinoids on our skin. Today, cannabis topicals like skin creams, balms, oils, and ointments are available to relieve skin irritation, dryness, swelling, burns, and itch. Patients are even treating severe conditions with cannabis extracts.

According to current scientific knowledge, we are now sure that cannabinoids are important biochemical mediators in the skin, even if their mechanisms have not been well understood yet. After years of lab research, the treatment of skin ailments and conditions with cannabinoids is finally entering an “informal” clinical stage, with more and more patients using cannabis oils, creams, and balms to treat or control their skin problems.

When we speak about skin, we are all patients somehow, as everyone experiences at least some kind of irritation in their life. In the worst cases, skin conditions can be devastating, affecting the general well-being of the patient. Furthermore, when you have to deal with persistent or severe skin ailments, picking the right remedy can be challenging—even for a professional.

Over the past few years, research has begun to explain how cannabinoids can trigger biochemical reactions in animal bodies, helping to heal or protect the skin from the symptoms of different dermatological conditions. As a consequence of both lab data and patient experience, CBD is today considered one of the most promising compounds for the treatment of a variety of skin ailments.


Inflammation is the cause of the majority of skin diseases, and cytokines are the main inflammatory chemical messengers secreted by immune cells in cases of distress. Cannabinoids exert their anti-inflammatory properties mainly by reducing cytokine production and regulating skin cell functionality through their action on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of biochemical receptors spread throughout our entire body, influencing various physiological processes. Cannabinoid receptors are located all throughout the skin, and their modulation by endogenous or external cannabinoids can control the balance and health of skin cells.

Several studies are available to help us understand the specific action of cannabinoids on our skin. One piece of comprehensive research refers to the skin’s endocannabinoid system [1] as a target for new therapeutic opportunities, listing all the possible conditions that might soon be treated. These include dermatitis, acne, seborrhoea, psoriasis, and even skin tumours. While these results were being published, millions of people in the world were already adding hemp and CBD products to their daily skincare routine or to their skin-treatment tools.


Pruritus is the most common symptom of different skin diseases, and it may also indicate systemic disorders. We don’t know the exact causes of various types of pruritus and atopic dermatitis or eczema. These conditions can improve, disappear completely, or come back, making it difficult to understand the effectiveness of any specific treatment. However, cannabis derivatives surely belong in the family of natural remedies that can help.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in the attenuation of allergic response [5] to contact allergens. A recent study on different animal models of acute and chronic contact dermatitis showed the symptoms of skin inflammation were attenuated by antagonists to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor.

Cannabinoids’ ability to reduce some of the skin’s immune inflammatory responses can inhibit the release of pruritogenic substances involved in many cases of dermatitis. Since the ECS has a role in central and peripheral control of sensory levels, cannabinoids can exert analgesic effects, inhibiting the transmission of signals of itch and pain in the nervous system.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of CBD can also act as a first aid treatment for the skin, improving the healing process of burns and wounds and regulating the production of skin lipids that strengthen natural barriers. Once again, cannabinoids could surely be considered as a therapeutic option for these common skin conditions; however, double-blind, placebo‐controlled studies in the treatment of allergies, skin pain, and pruritus are still lacking.


Knowledge about the antitumour effect [6] of endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids is accumulating. Lab research shows these compounds may inhibit tumour cell proliferation and enhance intra-tumour apoptosis (the spontaneous death of sick cells).

Starting from Rick Simpson’s case, there are plenty of anecdotal reports on cannabis extracts successfully applied to the skin in order to heal melanoma and other forms of tumours. These results were then confirmed in controlled environments, where cannabinoids were reported to inhibit the growth of melanoma cell lines by inducing apoptosis. Today, scientists actually consider cannabinoid receptors as promising targets for the treatment of melanoma [7] . However, while waiting for the research to enter a clinical stage, it is reasonable to consider cannabinoids just as complementary remedies to conventional surgical or pharmacological therapies.


Research is providing more and more confirmation that cannabinoids might be beneficial against several skin diseases. However, in order to translate lab results and positive anecdotal reports into clinical practices, we need a better understanding of the ECS, its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing functions, and its role in preserving healthy skin.

Cannabis topicals like skin creams, lip balms, oils, and ointments are today the most practical methods of application for CBD and other cannabinoids in order to relieve the skin from irritation, dryness, swelling, burns, or itch. It is well-documented that many patients successfully treated more severe conditions just with cannabis extracts, and more legal products on the market are today addressing this need.

CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes have strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects when applied to the skin, but the benefits of cannabis skincare products highly depend on the quality of the extract. Unfortunately, we have to reinforce that most of the positive actions initiated by cannabinoids on the skin are nonexistent when weed is smoked. Even if you’ve selected a top CBD-rich strain, the free radicals caused by combustion negate the effectiveness of the remedy.

But it is not as straightforward as smoking as much as you can. If anything, smoking will make things worse.