Does Smoking Weed Cause Acne?

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

This is a really bizarre question to be asking. Does smoking weed cause acne?

Traditional sources of acne have always been a poor diet, pores clogging and bacteria causing acne grow on the skin. Traditionally, sugar was always a suspected culprit of acne as was oily skin. Now the debate includes weed as a source of acne when it is smoked. Certainly there are those who will swear that smoking weed will causes acne but the die hard weed fans will say weed smoking never cause acne it just gets the user high. Let’s explore the issue a little more and see what conclusion we come to. Does weed smoking cause acne?

Scientific proof Smoking Weed causes Acne

There is a scientific slant to this question as two dermatologists Dr. Bobby Buka and Dr. Ariel Ostad, talked about the effects weed smoking could have on your skin. The most potent ingredient in weed is what is known as tetrahydrocannabinol(a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis.) (THC may be the root cause of the acne formation.) If you smoke, inhale or breathe it there is an immediate increase in testosterone levels says Dr. Ostad. As this happens the increased testosterone levels can  stimulate the oil glands to produce more sebum oil which can cause greater acne breakouts in people who are predisposed to acne. “People who are chronic users of marijuana can also experience hair loss on the scalp or even excess hair growth in other parts of their bodies due to this testosterone jump, Dr. Ostad adds. “I have seen acne and hair loss,” he says, “not a lot, but I’ve seen it.”  

On the other side-”However, Dr. Buka says that the testosterone increase — which is in the order of 3 to 5 percent — is too marginal to cause a flare up of acne or unusual hair growth patterns. “We’re talking about buckets and buckets of weed,” he says. “Nothing any human could smoke.” (We’ll leave that judgement call to you.) So, you do you believe the one who says that chronic weed smokers can catch acne or the one who says no human could smoke the amount of weed it would take to produce acne.

As we noted earlier smoking cannabis (tall plant with a stiff upright stem, divided serrated leaves, and glandular hairs. It is used to produce hemp fiber and as a psychotropic drug. a dried preparation of the flowering tops or other parts of this plant, or a resinous extract of it (cannabis resin ), used (generally illegally) as a psychotropic drug, chiefly in cigarettes.) will raise the testosterone levels 3 to 5 percent which can be enough to increase sebum oil levels giving acne a prime feasting ground to develop in.

Smoking Weed causes Acne

There is another angle that weed smoking can indirectly cause acne production. Weed has some compounds that cause euphoria and relaxation in users but in other users it causes anxiety, stress and even panic attacks. Anxiety is a well-known catalyst for acne because when the stress levels flare-up so does the acne breakouts.

The small testosterone spike that weed causes will throw the body into a hormonal imbalance and in healthy people this will have no effects on them. But what about people who smoke weed and are prone to acne? This slight hormonal imbalance will be enough to throw the sebum oil production into overdrive and people predisposed to acne well we know what will happen… So, if you have hormonal acne and you are considering taking up a career in smoking weed it would be advisable for you to stay away from cannabis. Is a few hours of euphoria worth risking a major acne breakout? You know the hassle that acne treatments are and on top of it you don’t want your face to look like a big pimple. We all know acne is embarrassing and makes us very self conscious.  Even if your acne source is not hormonal and comes from other factors. Pot smoking may still lead to an increase in acne production.

Say Goodbye to Collagen

Smoking weed can also aggravate existing acne. This because when you smoke weed the smoke will be absorbed by your skin as you exhale the weed smoke. This will damage your skin and it will aggravate any existing acne. It slows down the production of collagen because of hydrocarbons (hydrogen and carbon molecules combined) that are in the weed smoke. They are absorbed into the skin with the smoke. Once these chemicals are absorbed into the skin irritation will happen.

So, if you already have acne this will aggravate them more and make them more pronounced on the skin because of the increased irritation. Also, as we mentioned earlier collagen levels are lowered when the weed smoke is absorbed into the skin. This is not healthy for the skin because when the collagen levels are low cuts, wounds and pimples take longer to heal. Collagen helps to heal the skin quicker and repair the skin. It also keeps the elasticity in the  skin and keeps it healthy. If you are a zit popper than once you pop those zits it will take longer for the zits go heal because of the reduced collagen levels in the skin. Inevitably this will cause the scarring to worsen on the facial skin.

The last thing anyone wants (especially a teenager) is to have scarred skin. So, if you are a pot smoker you may be facing this challenge especially if you have acne prone skin to begin with. It just is not worth it to smoke weed and be prone to increased acne breakouts directly or indirectly because of the weed smoking.

Vitamin Deficiency

Another negative effect of smoking weed is a vitamin deficiency will occur. So, what you may be thinking  what does a vitamin deficiency have to do with an increased risk of acne? If you smoke weed (and the more you smoke the worse it gets) you are depriving your body of vitally needed vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to keep the skin clear and healthy. In other words it reduces the risk of an acne breakout. You can bet without vitamin D in your system you will be predisposed to acne all the more. It can also lead to other skin conditions such as psoriasis and premature skin aging. It begs the question is the weed smoking worth these risks? Yes maybe weed is indirectly responsible for an increase in acne breakout but the treat is just as real.

effect of smoking weed vitamin deficiency

Immune Suppressor

Another bad effect of smoking weed is it suppresses the immune system. If the immune system is not operating at full strength the body is weakened. If the body is weakened it is harder for the body to fight off the acne-bearing bacteria. This immune system suppression is caused by the increased release of myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSC. These cells, as they are named, can suppress the immune system. As more bacteria proliferate on the surface of the skin acne will breakout. Acne can break out quickly after smoking weed as well.

Cravings Galore

This is another side effect of weed smoking. When you get high on weed you will develop an increased appetite. Foods will look better and taste better. The problem is these cravings draw you to foods full of fat and sugar. You know what happens when you eat too much sugar or foods full of grease and fat-acne explosion. This may be a an indirect cause of acne production from weed smoking but the reality is all too real. So does reduced collagen, suppressed immune system, acne irritation from weed smoke, and increased testosterone levels still make you think you cannot get acne from smoking weed?

The Other Side

In all fairness we must consider the other side that argues for that weed smoking doesn’t cause acne. This argument asserts that weed smoking does not conclusively increase testosterone levels in humans. It is said that weed smoking dose the complete opposite that it decreases testosterone levels. If this is the case then the levels will not increase and the body will not increase sebum oil levels. The oil cannot clog pores so acne has no way of appearing.

Direct User Opinions

Sup GC, so I’m starting to think that smoking Marijuana causes acne, I never really had much acne in my life, and since I started smoking pretty much everyday I have gotten acne. I took like a 2 week tolerance break once and didn’t really have any acne. I started smoking again and got acne frequently. BUT here the thing, I have some friends that smoke but have PERFECT skin. Some people say it DOES cause acne and some people say it DOESN’T. “

Here you have two opposite but clear cases. Some smoke it everyday and retain healthy skin but this guy smokes it everyday and has acne breakouts. He stops for a while and his skin clears up.

smoking Marijuana causes acne

“I’ve smoked almost everyday for three years and never get a pimple except when camping.”  Another user who smoked it almost everyday for three years and never had any acne breakouts from weed smoking.

“I’m 25 now, I don’t really get too much acne nowadays…but when I smoked in high school and shoot it did give me more acne. I could tell, bc when I stopped the acne went away, then started smoking again and it got worse.

So I would say yea, smoking weed could induce acne in some people. In your case it sounds like it could be possible.”  This user smoked sounds like everyday in high school and developed acne but when he stopped the acne disappeared.

“Just be careful of what you are doing when you’re high. You tend to get greasy foods on your face and you might be touching your face without realizing it. Also keep up with hygiene. Don’t get lazy. I noticed my acne got worse not from smoking but from smoking and being careless. So I guess indirectly?”

This user thinks that weed smoking can cause acne indirectly when you let your hygiene slip while smoking weed.

“Atm I have a decently thick beard, so I can’t say.”

“But even when I go clean shaven (every couple of months) I don’t have any acne, and I’m a consistent smoker. It varies by person, you may just be more susceptible to breakouts, and I don’t mean that as a personal jab at you.”  

This user says he doesn’t get acne from smoking weed but asserts the other user might be prone to acne and when he smokes the weed is a catalyst to greater acne breakouts.

“Yeah, try to stay away from fast food and all that nasty stuff.. It’s not necessarily the cannabis, but rather the smoke. Try blowing away from your face and not eating processed nasty baloney, crappy fatty food.”

This user seems to think that the weed smoke absorbed into the face will cause acne and that eating junky food while you are high on weed will cause acne breakouts.

“28 here, and weed smoke causing my acne certainly has crossed my mind. I’d honestly be surprised if it wasn’t the cause. I agree that it could possibly be indirectly, food/behavior, but considering I eat pretty decently am not in the middle of puberty and have at least average hygiene I doubt that’s my case. 90% of it is on my back, so the thought that smoke itself effects it seems off to me but everyone’s body is different. “

This user says  the factors directly or indirectly that cause acne from weed smokin don’t affect him. He seems to think weed smoking is not responsible for acen in any way shape or form.

weed smoking responsible for acen

“Actually some cannabinoids are good for your skin and help acne.

that’s why there’s hemp acne cream. “

This user thinks that cannabis will improve your complexion and help your body get rid of acne not increase it.

“I had horrible cystic acne when i was in middle school, my face is still messed up looking in the right light because of the scars. that is the main reason why i have such horrible anxiety and social skills. but trust me if weed cause acne i would be the first person to be affected by it trust me haha. it is probably because you eat junk food when you’re high.”

This user from personal experience claims that weed smoking in no way causes an increase in acne breakouts. And his acne in middle school sounds like it was hormonal. And he definitely had acne prone skin.

“I eat pretty healthy (I actually go to a nutritionist). Just about every time I stray from what I’m supposed to eat, even just a snack, I break out a bit. So for me, it’s all in the food. Stuff like milk or bread–maybe people have very acute allergies to these things. Nothing major, but I believe this might be the cause for acne in many cases.

But really, I’m just guessing and using the little information I know from talking to my nutritionist. I’m not doctor. “

Sounds like this user just really doesn’t know if weed smoking causes acne or not.

“ayo gives you acne haha. Just a coincidence, but most likely the food you eat. Sk8njam is right, fruit tastes bomb when you’re high. Nice blueberries and raspberries all day. I have one day a week where i can eat crummy food though. Btw my skin is pretty much perfect, 1 or 2 spots now and again.”

This user in so many words says that acne breakouts and weed smoking are just a coincidence. The conclusion here is that weed has nothing to do with causing acne.


So the bottom line is who do you believe about whether weed smoking causes acne or not. The ones who say that weed smoking does not cause acne reference some generic studies that say weed does not increase testosterone levels but decreases it and therefore helps to decrease acne breakouts.

The side that says weed does cause acne for direct and indirect reasons give scientific reasons why weed smoking will cause an increase in acne breakouts. These arguments are pretty convincing because there seems to be solid scientific evidence that weed smoking does cause acne directly or indirectly.

The actual weed users are pretty much split 50-50 in saying that weed can cause acne or that weed cannot cause acne. They believe if you are acne prone weed will increase breakouts. Other users think it is the poor food you eat when you are under the influence of weed that causes the acne flare ups.

So, the bottom line is please read all these different arguments in this article and draw your own conclusions. Personally, this author believes that weed is directly and indirectly responsible for acne based on the above mentioned evidence.    


Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.