Marijuana Was The Big Winner In 2020 Elections. But How Does It Affect Your Skin?

November 12, 2020

Aside from the Biden-Harris ticket’s historic win, there was one other very clear winner of the 2020 elections: marijuana. Six states passed ballot measures to legalize medical and/or recreational marijuana—New Jersey, South Dakota, Mississippi, Montana, and Arizona—and it’s astonishing that this happened in Deep Blue, *just* Blue, and Deep Red states across the board. It seems clear that most Americans can’t agree on any one issue except that marijuana is a fine thing to have and use.

But does the wave of legalization mean that marijuana is beneficial—or at least, harmless? Recently, I met a few new people who I thought were much older (say, 10+ years) than I was—but when they later told me their age, I realized that they were actually my peers. These people also happened to be moderate to frequent users of marijuana in all its various forms. I couldn’t help but wonder if marijuana smoking has anything to do with premature aging—and a little digging shows me that this answer is “a lot.”

Marijuana disrupts your hormone balance

The THC in marijuana increases your testosterone levels, which can make your skin oily and more prone to acne. According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad, the elevated testosterone levels can even make you lose hair (think male pattern baldness). Since androgen imbalance is one of the main reasons behind adult hormonal acne, you’d do well to stay far away from marijuana if you’ve ever so much as had a chin pimple. Just don’t do it!

Marijuana has more carcinogens than cigarettes

Another important factor to consider is that marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, just like cigarette smoke. In fact, marijuana smoke contains “polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and carcinogens at higher concentration than tobacco smoke,” and is a significant risk factor for lung cancer. These toxins break down your collagen and elastin, leading to lines, loss of firmness, and overall “tired” look. Dermatologist Amy Wechsler says, “If you want great-looking skin as you age, protect your skin from smoke and sun. They’re tied for first place.”

Another terrible news: second-hand marijuana smoke damages your blood vessels even more than that from tobacco smoke, according to a study by the American Heart Association. This means that your blood is carried less efficiently around your body after being exposed to marijuana smoke. Less blood flow means less nutrients to the skin, which makes it prone to aging and fadedness. Now I fully feel justified in being uncomfortable when smokers light up a joint in a social setting.

What about medical dispensaries and CBD?

This is even more alarming because many dispensaries in Canada, the United States, and Europe are making unsubstantiated claims that marijuana is good for your skin, among other health concerns. A 2019 study found that dispensaries were selling medical marijuana for uses as diverse as acne, aging, allergic contact dermatitis, herpes, psoriasis, and melanoma—without any scientific proof that it works for these conditions.

The misinformation that marijuana is good for your skin seems to come from its confusion with CBD. Marijuana contains THC (which gets you high), but CBD (cannabidiol) is a marijuana derivative that doesn’t get you high. CBD (ingested or topically applied) has been shown to be effective against eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.

The Bottom Line

There is still much work to be done in the relationship between marijuana and skin health. For example, there are contradictory claims on marijuana’s effect on testosterone, with some older studies claiming that it reduces—not increases—the male sex hormone. Some dermatologists also cite the stress-reducing properties of marijuana as a reason you could see a beautifying effect in the mirror. Hmmm!! The plot is getting thicker than stew!

While we wait for the scientific verdict, the bottom line is that you need to do what you feel is right for your health and wellness. For me, it doesn’t make sense to nourish my body with seasonal, organic vegan food, workouts, and clean beauty, and then use a drug that definitely contains carcinogens and could also help prematurely age me. Excuse me, I don’t need any help aging, I can do it fine by myself, ya know?

Have you experienced or seen any effects of marijuana on the skin?

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Photo: Peter John Manlapig via Unsplash

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