Here's what you need before lighting up your next joint — or anything else.

By Jenna Curcio
Jan 22, 2021 @ 11:05 am
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What Smoking Weed Does To Your Skin
Credit: Getty Images

It's generally well-known that smoking — whether it be tobacco, weed, or anything else — can impact your health in numerous ways. But how exactly is your skin affected?

While some say that smoking a joint is "healthier" than indulging in a cigarette, the fact of the matter is, there is no "safe" way to smoke — and they can both impact your skin.

Recently, licensed esthetician Mel Lagares posted an incredibly informative thread on Twitter that sparked conversations around the relationship between smoking tobacco and skincare, including how to combat the issues that can arise, ingredients to incorporate into your skincare routine to keep your skin clear, as well as what to avoid doing — which instantly made me curious about the effects of weed.

Plus, with more and more states looking to legalize marijuana (New York being the most recent), this topic is more timely than ever.  

To find out more about how smoking marijuana (as well as tobacco and vaping) can impact skin, I spoke with board-certified dermatologists Dr. Papri Sarkar and Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky to get their expert opinion.

Everything you need to know, ahead.

How Does Smoking in General Impact Skin?

Surely no one thinks smoking is good for your health, and Dr. Sarkar is here to emphasize that fact: Smoking is not only bad for your skin, but also for your heart, lungs, and other organs. "If you're smoking, definitely stop," she exclaims. "Smoking affects the skin in multiple ways. It causes oxidative stress in the form of free radicals — like pollution can — it decreases the building of new collagen, it increases the destruction of existing collagen, it causes damage to elastin, one of the materials in the skin that helps it keep its shape or elasticity, and it helps to promote increased skin cancer."

Uh, yikes.

Dr. Zubritsky doubles down on the harmful effects of tobacco in particular. "The ingredients in tobacco contain free radicals, which leads to oxidative stress in our body," she explains. "This can directly result in reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery to our cells as well as DNA damage. Without proper blood flow (a process called vasoconstriction), our cells cannot function properly."

Is There One Form of Smoking That's More Harmful Than Others?

According to Dr. Sarkar, it's hard to say right now.

The M.D. explains that while the effects of what smoking cigarettes does to the skin has been studied for decades, vaping, for example, is still quite new and not enough is known just yet.

"But there's definite info that shows burns — from explosion of the devices — and contact dermatitis or allergic reactions are occurring," she says. "The allergic reactions that have been seen are generally reactions to nickel."

The nickel in vapes are usually found in the heating coil. So when users are inhaling the smoke, they're also getting a whiff of the metal as well.

When it comes marijuana, it's kind of in the same boat as vaping, seeing as there haven't been many studies on how it impacts the skin due to legalization being a recent phenomenon. However, allergic reactions, like hives, have occurred, explains the M.D.

Furthermore, smoking — whether it be weed, tobacco, or otherwise — can cause premature aging.

"The more we purse our lips together, the more likely we are to develop smoker's lines," says Dr. Zubritsky. "Those who smoke are constantly decreasing their oxygen availability, which in turn leads to aging skin."

VIDEO: Smoking More Weed Right Now? You Should Probably Read This

Is There a Certain Skincare Routine Smokers Should Follow?

"The effect of smoking is quite significant and it's really most important to decrease or stop smoking," Dr. Sarkar stresses. "Although we do have treatments that help somewhat."

The first thing both dermatologists recommend is being extra diligent when it comes to sun protection and incorporation antioxidants like a vitamin C serum into your routine. "In addition, using moisturizers religiously can help to alleviate some of the dry skin that we see on the face, chest, neck, and hands," she says.

The M.D. also adds that laser resurfacing treatments and chemical peels can help reveal fresh new skin and a brightened complexion.

Lastly, Dr. Zubritsky suggests making sure to have a balanced diet, and drinking enough water on a daily basis is extra important.