Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

Smoking does endless bad things to your skin, and acne breakouts are just one of this risky habit’s horrifying consequences. That’s right, your healthy-looking and clear skin takes a beating every time you smoke.

There are not many studies that investigate the direct effects of weed on acne. But, it could be argued that weed may be indirectly responsible for some people’s acne breakouts.

Acne Development

Acne breakouts follow four steps, with each step contributing to the development of annoying, red bumps that we like to call pimple:

Hormone Production – Your body produces more androgen before your menstrual period starts. Higher testosterone levels trigger your sebaceous glands to produce and secrete more complex oils or sebum.

Clogged Hair Follicle – The sebum carries dead skin cells, and it clogs several hair follicles. The clogged hair follicles are often referred to as comedones. This can be blocked entirely, forming a pimple.

Bacterial Infection – Likewise, the bacteria trapped inside the comedone can trigger inflammation and infection, resulting in more painful acne breakouts.

Inflammation – Your immune system causes clogged hair follicle to become painful and uncomfortable. This is your body’s response to the bacterial infection.

Acne Symptoms

Acne breakouts tend to occur in the T-zone, an area in your face covering your forehead, nose, and chin. It can also affect other parts of the face. For example, it’s prevalent for acne breakouts in adults to affect their cheeks, areas around the lips, and jawline.

Hormonal acne can advance from mild to severe. The former is often characterized by smaller breakouts of non-painful blackheads and whiteheads while the latter is usually characterized by more extensive breakouts of infected, inflamed lesions. If you suffer from inflamed, red, and painful lesions, this type of hormonal acne resolves itself through medical treatment.

People with existing acne might experience more breakouts if they smoke weed. This effect may occur due to smoking’s effects on the body as well as behavioral changes relating to weed. Smoking, changes in hormonal levels, strong appetite/munchies, and stress are triggers that contribute to acne breakouts.


There is a general observation that smoking cigarettes are bad for people’s skin, and the effects of weed on the skin may be the same. Nicotine and other chemicals in smoke raise skin cell turnover levels. This restricts blood flow, deprives the skin of the oxygen it needs, and causes oxidation reactions that alter the skin’s sebum content. If you have existing acne, smoke hinders it from thriving and healing faster. As you exhale the smoke, your skin absorbs it. The production of collagen then slows down because of the hydrocarbons present in the smoke. Low levels of collagen equate to slow healing rates. So, the more you smoke, the more difficult it is for your skin to recover from acne.

Smoke from weed could have the same effect, but more research is needed to support this. If you’re worried about the impact of smoke on your skin either way, then try switching to weed edibles.

Changes in Hormonal Levels

Weed is made from cannabis, a plant famous for its medical and recreational use. The plant’s primary psychoactive compound, THC, binds different receptors. As various hormones compete with CB1 and CB2 receptors, hormone production and levels get affected. Testosterone, specifically, is the primary hormone that gets affected by the weed’s THC. This relationship is why weed indirectly triggers acne breakouts.

Ultimately, you can experience acne breakouts at any age because of increased levels of testosterone. This hormone belongs to a class of male sex hormones known as androgens. By over-stimulating oil glands or sebum production, androgens can trigger acne. Believe it or not, testosterone could be causing your acne.

Even if you’re a woman, you have small amounts of testosterone circulating in your body. These hormones are crucial for maintaining high energy levels and excellent strength. But, if your body produces more testosterone than it needs, this could affect sebum amounts and, potentially, cause acne breakouts. A widely looked at study showed that weed increases one’s testosterone levels and, in turn, triggers the production of acne.

Other causes of hormonal acne for women may include menopause, pregnancy, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder prevalent in women of reproductive age. Women with this condition may have prolonged or abnormal menstrual periods and excess levels of male hormones. When androgen surge, acne breakouts become more likely. Acne then improves during the menopausal stage.

Strong Appetite/Munchies

The chemicals in weed affect specific parts of your brain related to appetite. For instance, weed impacts the limbic forebrain, which is responsible for increasing food palatability. This is why stoners prefer to eat sweets and savory snacks. When the brain’s chemicals are altered in such a way, the sensations of eating them is more likely enhanced. Additionally, weed alters the basal ganglia, a group of structures within the cerebral hemispheres that enhances eating pleasure.

There’s another proof that smoking weed may not be causing acne breakouts, but it could be the indirect outcomes of its effects. The high sensation produced by weed may trigger behaviors that promote the breakouts of acne. If you have smoked weed before, you’re probably well-aware of feeling red-eyed, lazy, and always hungry.

Perhaps after smoking weed, you can finish an entire bag of chips in one sitting. This is because your appetite increases as you smoke weed. Increased appetites or munchies mean that you are more likely to crave foods that are high sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. This is not surprising as the low diet has always been associated with an increase in acne.


In addition to smoking, changes in hormonal levels, and strong appetite/munchies, acne breakouts can also be triggered by stress. While some claim that weed calms their nerves and alleviates their stress, others say so otherwise. Accordingly, weed is similar to alcohol, which brings about inducing effects that stimulate anxiety.

Interestingly though, if you live in a state where using weed is considered illegal, your fear of getting caught alone is enough to trigger stress. The underlying stress that comes with hiding weed can be a contributing factor for acne breakouts.

Tips to Prevent Acne Breakouts

Fortunately, you have some degree of control over these factors that trigger your acne. So, what can you do to decrease the severity if not say bye-bye to your acne breakouts? Below is a rundown of three simple tips to get you started.

  • Eat a balanced diet. When you eat foods that cause your blood sugar to rise, your insulin levels will increase. These include dairy, sugar, pasta, white bread, and white rice. Too much insulin in your body boosts the activity of glands that produce sebum. Hence, it is recommended that you cut back on unhealthy foods and switch to healthy ones like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
  • Drink Plenty of Water. Contrary to popular belief, oily skin is a sign that your skin is dehydrated. As the protective barrier gets compromised, irritation happens and triggers oil-producing hormones. The result is clogged pores and more frequent acne breakouts. To keep your skin hydrated, drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Reduce your stress levels. As mentioned, stress and anxiety cause acne flare-up, which is expected because stress makes your skin produce more oil. If weed is not legal in your state, the best solution is to stop using it altogether. Without the constant fear of getting caught, you are less likely to experience stress.

THC and CBD are the two main active ingredients in weed. TCH is linked to increased feelings of anxiety so you may prefer to stick with a weed strain that only has CBD or lesser amounts of THC.