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Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne? How Marijuana Affects Your Skin

For many people, acne breakouts are a common occurrence. In recent years, marijuana has become legal in several states, which provides funding for further research into long-claimed medical benefits. This begs to question: Does smoking weed cause acne?

Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

The jury is still out. As with anything in its early years of study, there is not enough scientific evidence to definitively say one way or the other. We have no proof that smoking weed can trigger acne breakouts, though some argue that partaking can worsen existing acne.

Here is what we know: Smoking marijuana primarily affects your central nervous system, which includes your brain. The full effects will continue to be studied and debated. Some argue marijuana use can affect hormone levels, cognitive abilities, and more. 

What is Weed?

a marijuana leaf lying on a table with a prescription bottle with buds of marijuana coming out

Weed, or marijuana, is a plant used among humans for centuries. Many users claim it has extensive medicinal properties. It is also known to have psychoactive effects when smoked or consumed. While weed is still illegal in many countries, there is a growing movement to legalize it for medical and recreational use.

The benefits of marijuana show great potential on the skincare front due to its anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-itch properties. When applied in a topical form, it can aid skin conditions such as Eczema and Rosacea.

In addition, marijuana is effective in reducing inflammation. These characteristics also make it a potentially valuable tool for treating conditions like arthritis and Crohn’s disease. Marijuana has also proved to be effective in reducing pain, making it a potential treatment for chronic pain.

Marijuana leaf shaped edibles on black background

There are many ways to consume weed, including smoking, eating, and using it topically. The effects of weed vary depending on the method of consumption and the person’s reaction to it. Some people report feeling relaxed and happy after smoking or consuming weed, while others may experience anxiety or paranoia.

Weed is generally considered safe to consume, but some risks are associated with its use, including the potential dangers to others regarding secondhand marijuana smoke.

What Are Behavior Changes That Cause Acne?

While there is little research on the topic, there are many theories on how smoking weed can potentially cause acne—the two most prominent references to diet and hormonal changes.

Increased Appetite

Assortment of unhealthy food; donuts, pizza, fries, and a double cheese burger displayed on wood surface

Theory: Weed causes increased appetite, which may cause you to eat certain acne-causing foods.

Evidence: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the food you eat does affect your skin. Scientists believe that a low-glycemic diet, including fresh fruits, veggies, beans, and oats, may reduce acne breakouts as this diet can limit blood sugar spikes, while munchie foods, often junk food, can raise blood sugar levels and result in acne.

Hormone Level Changes

Theory: Smoking weed increases testosterone levels and causes fluctuation, which causes acne breakouts.

Evidence: A study published in 2017 by the National Library of Medicine confirmed a relationship between testosterone levels and smoking weed. The hormone levels are also affected by time passed and the amount consumed. Since this study only analyzed U.S. males, it does raise questions for further studies.

In addition, a 2014 animal study suggests that higher estrogen levels can increase cannabis consumers’ sensitivity by as much as 30%.

What Are the Other Side Effects of Smoking Weed?

While there may be debate as to whether or not smoking marijuana causes acne, many side effects are much more well-known and have the research to back up the claims.

a confused woman scratching her head and looking into the distance

Problems With Memory, Focus, and Learning

According to this research report by the National Institute of health, smoking weed can cause long-term cognitive impairment. The severity and duration depend on the person’s age and consumption. The hippocampus, the part of your brain associated with memory, experiences changes during and after exposure to THC.

Increased Heart Rate

Harvard study found that smoking weed increases the risk of a heart attack. The first hour after smoking weed, the risk of a heart attack is several times higher than average. The study surveyed people who have reported smoking the substance, so there is a need for further studies. While most people do not need to be concerned, those with a higher risk of heart disease should be.

Lung Damage and Increased Risk for Lung Disease

Man holding chest with illustrated lung diagram

When consuming marijuana, most people choose to smoke weed. Smoking weed has a direct effect on the lungs. Scientists can draw comparisons from cigarette smokers; however, more research is needed on this topic since they are very different substances.

Feelings of Paranoia or Anxiety

A standard report among people who smoke weed is a feeling of paranoia. There has been a boom in research on this topic since 2018. Research shows that the amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for processing threats and fear, is responsible for these feelings due to overstimulation. Limiting marijuana use may be the best solution for the unwelcome side effect.

What Are Other Causes of Acne?

While smoking weed is one potential cause of acne, there are many other factors to consider when limiting and managing acne flare-ups.

side profile of a focused woman with acne blemishes


While there is no direct evidence that stress can cause acne, studies support that stress can make acne worse. Learning to reduce stress is an essential step in managing skin problems.

Eating Certain Foods

The best diet to support treating acne is a low-glycemic diet. This diet includes fresh fruits and veggies, beans, and steel-cut oats, which will lower your blood sugar spikes which can result in acne breakouts.

Science says that cow milk may lead to acne, despite being a low-glycemic beverage. While why is still a mystery, the theory is that hormone levels in the milk may cause inflammatory skin diseases, which can clog pores and trigger acne breakouts.


a small makeup bag with a small assortment of making arranged above the zipper

Cosmetics are a leading cause of acne. Whether from skincare, makeup ingredients, or tools to apply, the likelihood of hair follicles getting clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria is high. It is essential to be critical of what you use on your skin and ensure all tools are clean.

Acne cosmetica is a type of acne caused by wearing makeup. The American Academy of Dermatology has information on managing acne without giving up cosmetics.


While there are many benefits to getting your sweat on, it can have adverse effects on your skin. Being proactive about showering as soon as possible can help manage existing acne and keep clear skin from developing clogged pores.


We all have a healthy amount of bacteria that lives on the surface of our skin; however, when hair follicles get clogged, whether from dead skin cells, sebum, or bacteria, this leads to a pimple. Limiting additional bacteria introduced is essential for preventing infection.

How to Prevent Acne?

a seemingly excited man cleaning his face with an exfoliating wash

A healthy skin care regimen can treat acne and prevent new breakouts. Many products on the market promise clear skin and fail to deliver. Some of these can make existing acne worse. To prevent this, be sure to check the ingredients. 

Wash & Exfoliate Your Face

Be sure to wash your face once to twice a day. Start out using a gentle cleanser with clean ingredients. Follow up with an exfoliant 2 to 3 times a week. 

There are several ways to exfoliate your skin. Most commonly used are physical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants include washcloths, sponges, loofas, brushes, and face-washes with beads.

Spa style exfoliating brush with two tea light candles and soap bar

Chemical exfoliants are a great alternative. You apply them like a moisturizer. Chemical exfoliants may cause redness and irritation. 

Be careful not to over-exfoliate the skin. Over-exfoliating can strip your natural oils and cause your sebaceous glands (responsible for oil production) to overproduce oil. Exfoliating should not be a painful process! 

Apply Topical Treatments

Whether mild or severe acne, it is vital to apply topicals to improve your skin. Two great over-the-counter solutions are benzoyl peroxide & salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is an excellent option for blackheads and managing bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide is a better solution for infected or pus-filled pimples.

Acne Patch

Acne patches on black background

Newer to the market, pimple patches seem to be very popular. According to Dermatologist Dr. Kassouf, MD, while they should not make acne worse, they may not work. Your money is likely better spent on topical treatments.

Drink Water

Drinking enough water is vital in preventing countless medical issues, including acne. Adequate water consumption will lead to hydrated skin, which will keep the bacteria and other toxins in check and reduce inflammation, decreasing the likelihood of getting a clogged pore.

Eat Fruits & Veggies

An assortment of fruits and veggies in brown containers at the farmers market

Clear skin is much easier to achieve when you eat a clean diet. Antioxidants found in fruits and veggies are anti-inflammatory and can reduce acne-causing bacteria.

Sleep Well

Lack of sleep is a leading cause of hormonal acne. Getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body cannot fight off infection and may be more prone to acne. Your body will also be more likely to produce acne-causing hormones. In addition, sleep deprivation can cause your body to produce inflammatory substances that can make acne worse.

top view of a marijuana plant growing from the dirt

Currently, there is not enough research to answer the question: does smoking marijuana cause acne. The research will likely flourish in the next decade with the current number of medical marijuana patients. While studies support the effects of smoking weed on the diet, testosterone levels, and cognitive abilities, more research is needed for a definitive answer. With many science-backed benefits of marijuana, the skincare benefits appear to be best when applied topically to conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and rosacea.

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