How Does Smoking Cannabis Affect Your Skin?

How cannabis consumption can affect your skin

Smoking cannabis is likely to negatively impact your skin. Image Credit: By MriMan on Shutterstock

Cannabis can be great for your skin. You can use it to get rid of wrinkles, and you can use it to get rid of pimples. However, it depends how you use it — and smoking it is unlikely to deliver the results you were hoping for.

Cannabis is packed full of cannabinoids (medicinal compounds that mimic the effects of chemicals produced by the body’s endocannabinoid system), essential oils, fatty acids, and more. Studies show that this rich supply of nutrients and health promoting substances can have incredible effects on the skin. Hemp, which is a member of the same plant genus, has been used as a superfood supplement for years thanks to these qualities. Now, people are starting to realize that cannabis’ medicinal potential may be even more versatile and beneficial.

This has given way to a huge industry. From jelly beans to oils, pizzas to face masks, bath bombs to suppositories, there is a cannabis product out there to suit every need (real or imagined). Although many people are trying them out, some are still sticking to the old fashioned methods and smoking cannabis in the hope that it will improve their skin.

But will it?

Thanks to recent research, we do know that cannabis is good for your skin. But studies have also shown that smoking it definitely isn’t. If you’re hoping for clearer, smoother skin, smoking cannabis won’t be your best option.

8 Ways That Smoking Cannabis Harms Your Skin

Whether you’re smoking tobacco, cannabis, or anything else, the effects on the skin are overwhelmingly negative. There are many different ways that long term smoking can damage your skin. In some cases, scientists haven’t figured out exactly why or how smoking has these effects, but other studies show direct correlations and undeniable connections.

1. Smokers’ Lines
Smokers’ lines are vertical wrinkles that form around the mouth as a result of pursing the lips during smoking. Years of smoking make these wrinkles pronounced and age the face considerably. Although cannabis is proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, smoking it will just cause more of them.

2. Sagging Skin
Cannabis smoke contains some (but not all) of the same toxins as cigarette smoke. Researchers think that some of these chemicals attack the elastin and collagen supplies in the skin, which are vital to maintaining a youthful appearance. This means that instead of enjoying the plant’s anti-aging properties, smoking it could mean you’re speeding up the aging process.

3. Free Radicals
Free radicals are tiny molecules in the body that damage the structure and health of skin cells. They occur naturally and are fine when they’re not too numerous, but scientists think that smoking increases their numbers and the damage they do to the skin. Using cannabis in other ways (such as via topical skin care products) on the other hand, can kill off free radicals and have an anti-aging effect.

4. Scarring
Some researchers think that the toxins in cannabis smoke can impede the skin’s healing process. Vascular constriction, caused by these toxins, slows down the flow of blood around the body and delays the recovery of everyday wounds. This could be a problem for people suffering with acne who may be more prone to acne scars because they’re regular smokers — the good news is that other forms of cannabis are quite effective for removing these scars.

5. Telangiectasia
Telangiectasia is the medical term for when tiny blood vessels in the body are forced to widen or dilate. They usually look purple and blotchy on the surface of the skin and can cause major issues with self esteem and body confidence. Cigarette smoking causes this constriction of the blood vessels, and some researchers think that cannabis smoking could have the same effect.

6. Psoriasis
Doctors aren’t sure why or how yet, but they think that smoking could be a risk factor for psoriasis. This is an inflammatory skin condition whereby large patches of skin become red, sclay, itchy, and uncomfortable. As a chronic condition, there is no known cure and treatments can only hope to marginally reduce the symptoms. Cannabis has natural anti-inflammatory properties, but smoking it isn’t the best way to take advantage of them.

7. Complexion
There is a strong correlation between regular smoking and uneven skin tone. Scientists haven’t been able to figure out exactly why, although they are confident that the ways smoking prohibits oxygen getting to skin cells plays a role. Whatever the reason, it seems that heavy cannabis smoking can cause a yellow or grey hue in the skin, especially on the face.

8. Skin Cancer
Finally, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that smoking can lead to skin cancer. The research is extremely clear on the ways that smoking can triple your risk of developing some kinds of skin cancer.

However, most of this research has focused on tobacco smoking, and it’s not clear if cannabis smoking has similar effects (or to what extent). However, even sympathetic studies have found that smoking cannabis could increase the risk of oral cancer — so if you want to harness the plant’s ability to prevent or reduce tumors, it’s advisable to try other methods.

Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell is a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer based in Ireland whose work has appeared in The Irish Times and The Independent, among others. In 2017, she founded the lifestyle brand “Self Love and Sarah” to promote healthy self image and body positivity for women.

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