Is Medical Cannabis an Effective Acne Treatment?

by Haley Mills · November 30, 2022

Cannabis has been shown to be an effective acne treatment by reducing inflammation and sebum production. Learn more about how medical cannabis can help treat acne.

does smoking weed cause acne

Acne is something that most American teens and adults have experienced at some point in their lives. In fact, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States and affects approximately 85 percent of people ages 12–24. Recent studies have suggested that CBD and other cannabinoids have the potential to help relieve skin conditions due to the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities. Continue reading as we discuss the conditions, acne breakouts causes and how medicinal cannabis may be able to help. 

What is acne?

Acne is a commonly found skin condition that primarily affects teens and young adults. It causes pimples, and sometimes cysts, on the face, forehead, and upper body. 

Various internal and external factors can affect acne production and severity, including: 

  • Genetics
  • Hormonal levels
  • Air Humidity
  • Stress
  • Grooming Practices
  • Medications
  • Sweating from sports/workouts

Types of Acne

Many different types of acne can appear on the body for one of the above reasons. They include: 

  • Blackheads: Oil and dead skin can cause follicles to become blocked and forms a dark spot under the skin that resembles dirt. 
  • Cysts: Deep, pus-filled pimples that can cause scarring
  • Fungal: Inflamed bumps that itch, created by excess yeast in the hair follicles.
  • Nodules: Deep, solid pimples that are typically large and painful.
  • Papules: Tiny, pink, inflamed bumps on the skin’s surface.
  • Pustules: Pus-filled pimples that are surrounded by red rings and can cause potential scarring if popped. 
  • Whiteheads: White-colored bumps close to the skin’s surface, covered by dead skin residue and oil. 

Grading Scale

The following includes various grades of acne that are experienced, ranging from mild to severe:

Grade 1 – mild acne 

  • Whiteheads/Blackheads
  • Little to no papules/pustules

Grade 2 – moderate acne

  • Many papules/pustules on the face

Grade 3 – moderately severe acne

  • Several papules or pustules
  • Some inflamed nodules
  • Face, back, and chest acne

Grade 4 – severe acne

  • A large number of deep, painful, and inflamed cysts

Medical Marijuana Skincare Benefits

Cannabis, especially CBD, is highly prevalent in today’s society. CBD to control pain and treat skin conditions can be traced back to ancient times, as they used it in abundance during religious practices and rituals.

The earliest uses of cannabis for skincare can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh Ramses II was known to partake in cannabis and encouraged others to use the plant. Back then, hemp assisted in creating buildings and textiles.

During the 20th century, cannabis was extensively criminalized; however, changing laws and further research into the compounds within the plant led to a slow but vast reconsideration of their potential health benefits. The use of cannabis is becoming more widely accepted today due to the balancing effects of this particular cannabis-derived compound.

The Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant and are produced naturally by the human body. We have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that internally produces cannabinoids. These compounds are essential to maintaining internal balance through many-body systems. 

Cannabinoids interact with our ECS to help maintain functional balance through a system of messenger molecules and receptors. Sleep, energy, cardiovascular function, reproduction, stress, chronic pain, motivation, appetite, digestion, and more are some of the body functions that cannabinoids impact.  

The endocannabinoid system comprises an extensive network of chemical signals and cellular receptors densely packed throughout our brains and bodies. The “cannabinoid” receptors in the brain — the CB1 receptors — outnumber many other receptor types in the brain. They act like traffic cops to control the levels and activity of most of the other neurotransmitters. This is how they regulate things: by immediate feedback, turning up or down the movement of whichever system needs to be adjusted, whether hunger, temperature, or alertness.

Our bodies produce molecules called endocannabinoids to stimulate these receptors, which have a structural similarity to molecules in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system regulates learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating. This vital system is currently at the center of renewed international research and drug development.

CBD Study Results

A 2016 study of the cannabis plant’s antibacterial and antifungal effects showed that they may help reduce infections from skin pollutants. While the initial results seem hopeful, human trials are still needed to confirm the findings. For physicians to confidently recommend cannabis products as an acne treatment, there will need to be further evidence.

Researchers recently observed how skin reacts to CBD products and found that all of the participants had better skin in two weeks. This study was impressive considering it’s unusual to have such a large percentage of people experience results. 

CBD can influence skin oil production and inflammation, which promotes the development of pimples. Research from The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that CBD can inhibit extraneous lipid production in the skin. This study shows that CBD slows lipid production and normalizes imbalanced skin lipids.

A recent study in 2014 was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. In this study, researchers measured the effects of CBD compounds on human skin cells and oil-producing sebaceous glands in a laboratory. The researchers found that CBD prevents these cells from producing too much oil. The study also showed that CBD triggers an anti-inflammatory reaction in the skin cells. Scientific evidence has concluded CBD might be an effective acne treatment due to its extreme anti-inflammatory response.

Does smoking weed cause Acne? 

No solid evidence suggests smoking weed affects acne development or severity. However, certain studies have indicated that cannabis could worsen existing acne conditions or trigger acne breakouts. Typically, these claims focus on four common side effects of cannabis consumption. 

  • Appetite Increase: Increased appetite after cannabis use can potentially lead to unhealthy snacking habits or overeating. Insulin levels rise when eating sugar, leading to inflammation and a process that can induce acne called glycation. Eating snacks high in oil and butter, like chips or popcorn, can clog pores if you touch your face while eating. 
  • Hormonal changes:  One study reports that cannabis can slightly increase hormonal levels that can increase oil production on the skin. Another study suggests that smoking marijuana can decrease testosterone levels for 24 hours. 
  • Stress and Anxiety: One of the most common adverse effects cannabis consumers report is a short-term increase in anxiety. Some studies suggest connections between stress levels and how cannabis can affect acne production, especially when already treating acne.
  • Smoking Weed:  Marijuana smoke affects aging and promotes a higher risk of inflammation diseases. Secondhand marijuana smoke is also not great and can make existing acne worse.

Can marijuana treat other skin conditions? 

Many inflammatory skin diseases are reported to benefit from cannabis and specific cannabinoids, such as eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, lupus, and cystic acne. An increasing number of topicals have begun to include cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids. Eczema is one of the common skin conditions in the United States, which causes inflammation, severe itching, and dead skin cells.

Recent studies have concluded that combinations of certain cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and terpenes may offer promising treatments for eczema and similar skin conditions. However, more research is needed on the subject to make a solid conclusion. 

Cannabinoid eczema creams and lotions are a popular option, with approximately fifteen million Americans suffering from the condition annually. Topicals are great options because users can experience relief without ingesting cannabis or experiencing any psychological effects.

Best High CBD Products

The following cannabis-infused topical products have been reported to help Leafy DOC patients with skin conditions. But for most people, it’s smart to consult your doctor before trying a new skin-care regimen.

Cannatonic is a popular medical marijuana strain. It’s a hybrid cross between MK Ultra and G-13 Haze and boasts a high CBD content of around 12 percent. This earthy strain is known for its healing components and is a novel treatment sure to leave you happy and uplifted.

Harlequin is a rare strain that is a medical marijuana favorite in the cannabis industry. This fruity, Sativa-dominant strain has around 10 percent CBD and 7-15 percent THC levels and is an ideal strain to treat pain and skin conditions.

Ringo’s Gift is named after its breeder, Lawrence Ringo. Its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities are regularly used as an effective treatment for skincare products due to its 24 percent CBD content. It’s an excellent choice for salves, balms, and lotions.

Get Your Medical Card

There are a few steps to get a medical marijuana certificate with the help of Leafy DOC. First, you’ll select your State to receive the most accurate and up-to-date information about the medical marijuana card process.

Submit an intake form with a few personal details and a summary of your medical history; then, we’ll help you book an on-demand telehealth appointment or schedule a convenient time for later. An online recommendation with Leafy DOC starts around 99 USD for new patients and renewals in most states. There is a money-back guarantee if you are not approved for medical use.

Connect with the right doctor in minutes and easily chat with your provider on a smartphone, computer, or tablet via phone call or video. Our licensed physicians will evaluate your qualifying condition, address your questions and concerns, and then provide a recommendation for medical cannabis via email.

For most states, once your registration is approved, they will email you a qualifying patient ID card that you can use immediately. Once you have the MMJ card, you can visit dispensaries and purchase medicinal cannabis products.

Final Thoughts 

Cannabis may not be a cure-all when it comes to helping with acne, but there is some significant research to back up its therapeutic benefits for the skin.  Many cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties, so using a CBD or THC-infused topical along with your physician’s prescribed treatment could greatly enhance the effects and speed up your road to clear, healthy skin. 

Last Updated: January 30, 2024

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