6 Ways Smoking Marijuana Can Trigger Acne Breakouts

We’ve had several dozen readers reach out asking if smoking weed can trigger acne breakouts. The short answer is yes, smoking weed increases the chances of developing acne. However, many people do not know the science behind why this happens. If you understand the science behind why weed triggers acne there are steps you can take which will allow you to continue using cannabis without triggering an acne breakout.

The primary reason weed contributes to acne breakouts is that smoking weed increases oil production in the skin glands. When sebum (oil) and dead skin cells clog pores in your skin pimples, cysts, and blackheads all start to form.

This increased level of oils will mix with other substances in your system (including comedogenic skin care products) that can also cause acne, such as bacteria on the surface of your skin. Below we have outlined the top 6 reasons marijuana can trigger acne breakouts

1: Smoking Weed Can Dry Out Your Skin

Weed contains THC, which is a psychoactive ingredient that stimulates your brain cells to release dopamine. If you have acne, smoking weed can make it worse because the process dries out your skin. 

When the outer layer of your skin loses its moisture and natural oils, it becomes more vulnerable to inflammation from bacteria on the surface of your face or within pores deep inside this layer of dead cells.
If you are going to be using cannabis it is essential that you drink plenty of water and stay as hydrated as possible. It is also beneficial to use a gentle, non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep your skin firm and hydrated.

2: Weed Increases Oil Production

Oil production is natural, but weed causes an abnormal amount of oil released into the skin. This excess sebum then gets caught in hair follicles (pores) that are already blocked with dead cells and dirt, resulting in acne breakouts on your face. 

This is why people who smoke weed often have shiny skin. It is not because their face moisturizer is not working; it is because they are breaking out all over! 

Additionally, smoking weed can cause your blood vessels to increase in size (dilate), allowing more oxygen into the body and resulting in redness or flushed-looking skin that you may think looks healthy but just makes acne worse by feeding bacteria sitting on top of your pores.

3: Weed Makes It Harder To Fight Off Bacteria

Bacteria can become harder to fight off due to weed, which can cause acne. THC binds to vitamins A and E, which are good for the skin as they help fight off bacteria that cause acne. 

To add to this, weed can reduce the skin’s ability to shed off dead cells, which causes pores to become clogged more easily. 

Furthermore, smoking weed makes it harder for your body to absorb zinc and selenium – both of these things are good for acne-prone skin because they help destroy bacteria that cause acne.

4: Weed Alters Hormone Levels In The Body

When smoking weed, hormones can become imbalanced in both men and women because of their active ingredients, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol. 

The high concentration of these chemicals stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which can cause acne or worsen existing breakouts. 

Make sure to use an oil-free moisturizer when smoking weed to help prevent breakouts. If you are worried that your acne may be caused or exacerbated by smoking weed, see a dermatologist for the best course of treatment.

5: THC Is An Immune Stimulant That Increases Inflammation

In addition to hormonal changes occurring from smoking marijuana, THC is an immune stimulant that increases inflammation in skin cells under the pores where your pimples form. This causes a blockage between the top surface of your skin and the pore opening below it. 

As you know well by now, this creates trapped bacteria that results in blemishes on the face – another reason why those who smoke weed are likely to develop acne problems!

6: Weed Causes Hunger Cravings & Snacking

Everybody knows that weed brings on the munchies. Typically, you aren’t going to be eating chicken and salad when you are high. Usually, it’s processed carbs, sugar, and ice cream. All of the common foods that are eaten after smoking weed are huge acne triggers. To mitigate this I highly suggest smoking weed right before you go to bed so you are not tempted to eat any junk food.

What About The CBD Content in Weed?

Despite the overwhelming evidence that smoking weed is not beneficial for acne there are a lot of people who believe smoking weed can actually help manage acne because of its CBD content. While CBD is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce inflammation throughout the body (including the skin) the THC content and potential carcinogens in weed make it net negatively specifically for acne.

There are lots of anecdotal reports that CBD usage is beneficial for acne. However, these reports typically come from the use of CBD in a cream or pill that is absent of THC. This makes sense because CBD is anti-inflammatory in its isolated form.


There are ways to minimize the issue, like getting enough rest, using CBD oil or topical creams, which help inflammation pores on the skin. Smoking weed can also irritate dry patches on the face, so keep that in mind as well! Despite this cannabis use is still much better for your skin than using nicotine or an e-cigarette.

While smoking weed does cause acne, it can be managed to help minimize the effects. CBD oil helps treat acne at least topically; smoking pot may make things worse when it comes to acne. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and you should always follow the advice of your doctor and local laws surrounding cannabis usage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will my breakout last once I stop consuming cannabis?

If cannabis use (or the behaviors triggered due to cannabis use) are causing acne breakouts you should see noticeable improvement within 1-2 weeks. This can be accelerated by following a healthy, low-inflammation diet.

Is weed good for sleep?

Yes, smoking weed helps you sleep, which can help prevent acne due to getting a good night’s sleep. But, on the other hand, a lack of sleep can cause acne due to a host of reasons like hormone imbalance and stress.

What is CBD oil good for?

CBD oil has been proven helpful in treating acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which may reduce redness caused by inflammation of pores on the skin and also reduce stress which can also

Does smoking weed increase stress?

Cannabis usage can increase your heart rate and trigger feelings of anxiety. Both of these biological responses in the body can trigger acne breakouts via spikes in your cortisol levels.

Originally Published: November 16, 2021

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I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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