weed and skin

Could Weed be Good For Your Skin?

Research is explaining the beneficial actions of cannabinoids on our skin. Today, cannabis topicals like skin creams, balms, oils, and ointments are available to relieve skin irritation, dryness, swelling, burns, and itch. Patients are even treating severe conditions with cannabis extracts.

According to current scientific knowledge, we are now sure that cannabinoids are important biochemical mediators in the skin, even if their mechanisms have not been well understood yet. After years of lab research, the treatment of skin ailments and conditions with cannabinoids is finally entering an “informal” clinical stage, with more and more patients using cannabis oils, creams, and balms to treat or control their skin problems.

When we speak about skin, we are all patients somehow, as everyone experiences at least some kind of irritation in their life. In the worst cases, skin conditions can be devastating, affecting the general well-being of the patient. Furthermore, when you have to deal with persistent or severe skin ailments, picking the right remedy can be challenging—even for a professional.

Over the past few years, research has begun to explain how cannabinoids can trigger biochemical reactions in animal bodies, helping to heal or protect the skin from the symptoms of different dermatological conditions. As a consequence of both lab data and patient experience, CBD is today considered one of the most promising compounds for the treatment of a variety of skin ailments.


Inflammation is the cause of the majority of skin diseases, and cytokines are the main inflammatory chemical messengers secreted by immune cells in cases of distress. Cannabinoids exert their anti-inflammatory properties mainly by reducing cytokine production and regulating skin cell functionality through their action on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of biochemical receptors spread throughout our entire body, influencing various physiological processes. Cannabinoid receptors are located all throughout the skin, and their modulation by endogenous or external cannabinoids can control the balance and health of skin cells.

Several studies are available to help us understand the specific action of cannabinoids on our skin. One piece of comprehensive research refers to the skin’s endocannabinoid system [1] as a target for new therapeutic opportunities, listing all the possible conditions that might soon be treated. These include dermatitis, acne, seborrhoea, psoriasis, and even skin tumours. While these results were being published, millions of people in the world were already adding hemp and CBD products to their daily skincare routine or to their skin-treatment tools.


Pruritus is the most common symptom of different skin diseases, and it may also indicate systemic disorders. We don’t know the exact causes of various types of pruritus and atopic dermatitis or eczema. These conditions can improve, disappear completely, or come back, making it difficult to understand the effectiveness of any specific treatment. However, cannabis derivatives surely belong in the family of natural remedies that can help.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in the attenuation of allergic response [5] to contact allergens. A recent study on different animal models of acute and chronic contact dermatitis showed the symptoms of skin inflammation were attenuated by antagonists to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor.

Cannabinoids’ ability to reduce some of the skin’s immune inflammatory responses can inhibit the release of pruritogenic substances involved in many cases of dermatitis. Since the ECS has a role in central and peripheral control of sensory levels, cannabinoids can exert analgesic effects, inhibiting the transmission of signals of itch and pain in the nervous system.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of CBD can also act as a first aid treatment for the skin, improving the healing process of burns and wounds and regulating the production of skin lipids that strengthen natural barriers. Once again, cannabinoids could surely be considered as a therapeutic option for these common skin conditions; however, double-blind, placebo‐controlled studies in the treatment of allergies, skin pain, and pruritus are still lacking.


Knowledge about the antitumour effect [6] of endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids is accumulating. Lab research shows these compounds may inhibit tumour cell proliferation and enhance intra-tumour apoptosis (the spontaneous death of sick cells).

Starting from Rick Simpson’s case, there are plenty of anecdotal reports on cannabis extracts successfully applied to the skin in order to heal melanoma and other forms of tumours. These results were then confirmed in controlled environments, where cannabinoids were reported to inhibit the growth of melanoma cell lines by inducing apoptosis. Today, scientists actually consider cannabinoid receptors as promising targets for the treatment of melanoma [7] . However, while waiting for the research to enter a clinical stage, it is reasonable to consider cannabinoids just as complementary remedies to conventional surgical or pharmacological therapies.


Research is providing more and more confirmation that cannabinoids might be beneficial against several skin diseases. However, in order to translate lab results and positive anecdotal reports into clinical practices, we need a better understanding of the ECS, its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing functions, and its role in preserving healthy skin.

Cannabis topicals like skin creams, lip balms, oils, and ointments are today the most practical methods of application for CBD and other cannabinoids in order to relieve the skin from irritation, dryness, swelling, burns, or itch. It is well-documented that many patients successfully treated more severe conditions just with cannabis extracts, and more legal products on the market are today addressing this need.

CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes have strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects when applied to the skin, but the benefits of cannabis skincare products highly depend on the quality of the extract. Unfortunately, we have to reinforce that most of the positive actions initiated by cannabinoids on the skin are nonexistent when weed is smoked. Even if you’ve selected a top CBD-rich strain, the free radicals caused by combustion negate the effectiveness of the remedy.

But it is not as straightforward as smoking as much as you can. If anything, smoking will make things worse.

Marijuana Might Be Affecting Your Skin. And Not In The Ways You Thought

Weed, grass, Mary Jane, pot. call it whatever you’d like, but marijuana has been around long before 1937’s “Reefer Madness” warned of its (arguably overblown) deleterious effects. These days it’s more common than ever, thanks in part to its medicinal uses. But are there beauty ramifications that come with the decision to smoke?

We decided to find out. Whether or not lighting up is your thing, it doesn’t hurt to know exactly what marijuana can do to your skin and appearance. So we spoke to two New York-based dermatologists, Dr. Bobby Buka and Dr. Ariel Ostad, and found out some surprising facts about America’s most commonly used illicit drug.

The THC in marijuana increases your testosterone levels. which could lead to acne.

Let’s start with the bad news. The most potent ingredient in cannabis, also known as marijuana, is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When you smoke, vaporize or otherwise ingest it, there’s an immediate increase in testosterone levels, says Dr. Ostad. As a result, these increased testosterone levels can cause your skin’s oil glands to produce more sebum oil, which can lead to breakouts in people 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.”

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.)

Another thing to watch out for? Packing in sugar-filled snacks while using marijuana. “There is a link between high-glycemic index foods and acne,” he says. “So you might draw the conclusion that people who get the munchies are eating more of those foods.”

Plus, the smoke can make your skin age more rapidly.

Something both Dr. Ostad and Dr. Buka do agree on? The harmful effects of the marijuana smoke itself, which contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarette smoke (though studies have shown that THC actually protects against pro-carcinogens, unlike nicotine). These hydrocarbons can inhibit cells that are chiefly responsible for making new collagen. Meaning: Exposing your skin to marijuana smoke can make it age more rapidly. The smoke from pot can also worsen skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea, says Dr. Buka.

But THC is also anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and it has potential anti-aging properties.

Don’t make a judgement call just yet — more and more, people are discovering the upside of getting high. Even though THC may cause an increase in testosterone levels, it’s also gaining a reputation as an anti-inflammatory agent and an antioxidant in the medical world. So while the actual smoke from marijuana can suppress collagen production, some studies have shown that the THC itself has anti-aging properties (thanks to those antioxidants, which neutralize the damaging effects of free radical oxygen particles). Dr. Buka even likens moderate weed consumption with drinking a glass of red wine.

However, Dr. Buka notes, “The delivery system is really critical.” He recommends using a vaporizer if you’re dead-set on using marijuana and want to enjoy its supposed anti-inflammatory benefits, adding, “Even a bong would be preferable [to smoking].” (Remember: There is no fundamental difference between marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke when it comes to skin, according to Dr. Buka.)

Additionally, Dr. Ostad points out that we naturally have THC receptors in our brains, which means that cannabinoids, the compounds present in cannabis, aren’t foreign to our systems. “Those THC receptors actually can lead to increased production of neurotransmitters that make us feel better, like serotonin,” he says. Indeed, neuroscientists who have looked into the connection between cannabis and depression have found that low doses of THC are associated with a drop in depressive symptoms. But it’s important to note that too much can actually have the opposite effect.

Dr. Buka adds that stress seems to have negative effects on skin conditions across the board — including acne, eczema and rosacea — and reducing that stress can be a critical step to clearing up skin. “My pot smokers are by and large a mellower group of patients,” he says.

Studies have also shown that cannabinoids can be used topically for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases (though these studies have been done in mice, not people).

So if you’re going to smoke.

If after weighing the pros and cons, you decide you’d like to reap the benefits of marijuana, choose your method wisely. Like we said, Dr. Buka recommends using a vaporizer to avoid the carcinogenic smoke of a marijuana cigarette. However, if you must smoke it, he suggests making sure your skin is protected as much as possible with a thick moisturizer (he likes the Ultra Repair Cream by First Aid Beauty).

The bottom line: There are mixed philosophies when it comes to both the positive and negative effects of marijuana on the skin, so choose wisely — and be mindful of your local laws.

Stay informed:

CLARIFICATION: This article was amended to reflect that marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke do not cause the same exact carcinogenic effect.

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Marijuana Might Be Affecting Your Skin. And Not In The Ways You Thought Weed, grass, Mary Jane, pot. call it whatever you’d like, but marijuana has been around long before 1937’s “Reefer Madness”