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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.