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The Connection Between Cannabis and Your Skin

Bjorn Dawson May 10, 2020

Everyone wants healthy skin. We are always looking for ways to improve our skin, fight off the signs of aging, and make sure we look our best. But how are your lifestyle habits impacting your skin health?


You have probably heard all about how bad smoking traditional cigarettes is for your skin health, but what about marijuana? A lot has been said about marijuana and its relationship to skin problems, such as increased acne or worsened conditions like psoriasis. But how much of this is really the fault of the marijuana and how much is the fault of something more specific?


Well, marijuana differs from traditional cigarettes insofar as it doesn’t contain the number of harmful chemicals that traditional cigarettes do, which already puts it at a slightly less harmful status with regard to your health.


But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Delivery Method

Firstly, your delivery method counts for a lot. If you are just eating some edibles, you won’t have to worry too much about your skin health. The same goes for vaping, oils, and other topical applications


Why? Because vaping and edibles and all other topical forms are ingested differently. Basically, the big problem with marijuana and skin health boils down to the smoking of marijuana. It is not the pot plant itself. Smoking heats up the leaves, which releases things like free radicals, and these damage the DNA in your skin. When you first take your hit, marijuana constricts your blood vessels and decreases blood flow immediately, which deprives your skin of oxygen. Sure, once the effects kick in, it opens your blood vessels and increases blood flow, but that initial oxygen deprivation is the root of skin problems. The same applies to smoking anything else, like traditional cigarettes.


This causes your skin to age faster. The smoke produced by the process, when it comes into contact with your skin, damages your collagen production. You need collagen. It is what gives your skin structure, fights off inflammation, and protects against air pollution. If your collagen is damaged, it can prematurely age your skin by reducing the elasticity. In the end, this gives you wrinkles, and a lot sooner than you would have developed them naturally. 


So, the takeaway is that smoke is harmful for you, no matter the type of smoke. So smoking marijuana is bad for your skin health.


Does It Make Acne Worse?

But what about all the hype surrounding marijuana and acne? To date, there is no concrete evidence that associates smoking of marijuana with acne. However, things get a bit more complicated here too. It is not the actual marijuana that exacerbates acne, it is the subsequent munching. In fact, some companies are in the process of testing a new acne treatment that is derived from cannabinoids. The bottom line here is that the pot isn’t making your face break out, the cheap food you eat after you get high is.


Pre-Existing Skin Conditions


But what about pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea or psoriasis? Smoke has been linked to worsening cases of such skin conditions but the compounds in marijuana can be helpful in limiting the inflammation caused by them.


With psoriasis, for example, the skin cells grow too rapidly. Recent studies have found that cannabis can reduce the rate of growth. Therefore, you can apply or otherwise consume cannabis as a treatment for your psoriasis. Similarly, eczema manifests the same as an allergic reaction. But with cannabis, preliminary studies indicate it can regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Topical cannabinoid products are best for chronic skin conditions. 


So, again, the key finding is that the marijuana is not the problem, the smoke is. In fact, you can use topical treatments instead and reap the skin benefits without the harm caused by smoke. 


The Smoking Gun

It all comes down to smoke. Exposure to smoke, even marijuana smoke, can damage the blood vessels in your skin, preventing nutrients in the blood from getting to your skin cells. All of this results in accelerated aging. This is true of secondhand smoke too. So, if you decide to use a topical cannabis but you are still around friends who are smoking it, you aren’t doing yourself any favours. You are still at risk for the skin damage it causes.


In the end, you are much better off consuming marijuana in any of the other ways, even a water bong. A water bong, while it does produce some smoke, filters the compounds before it reaches you, which minimizes its impact. Percolator bongs also filter out the carcinogens and are a healthy alternative. Vaporizers, which rely on lower temperatures to heat your pot, eliminate smoke entirely and are the best way to inhale the marijuana without any of the negative ramifications. 


Edibles are the safest way to enjoy the benefits of cannabis and infused products can be applied or ingested without any risk of the smoke-based side effects. 


Current Studies 


Still, it is worth reviewing that cannabis studies are currently working toward treatment options for skin conditions. Studies presently are looking for ways in which cannabinoids manage psoriasis by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. Some studies are showing promise in reversing not just skin inflammation with cannabis, but the damage it caused. Localized cannabinoid treatments are proving a successful therapy for non-melanoma skin cancer too.


As these studies continue, there will no doubt be ways you can actually avoid the detrimental effects associated with marijuana smoke and instead reap the benefits of specific skin care treatments and products. For now, just take into consideration the methods you are using and try to find a method that does the least amount of damage to your skin and, of course, the rest of your health combined. If you are someone who is worried about your skin care health, you might also personally consider using one of the recently explored cannabis treatments for your condition.

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