Cannabis Science

Can Weed Cause Eczema Flare-ups?

abstract art of cracked skin

We know smoking cigarettes can cause skin issues. Since both cigarettes and weed share certain compounds in common, it’s worth researching whether or not weed has the same effects on your skin. We know that weed is not a direct cause of acne, but what about eczema? Can weed cause eczema flare-ups? Here’s what we know. 

Photo: Unsplash

What is Eczema?

Before we get into weed’s effect on eczema, let’s get the basics about this skin condition. 

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that results in itchiness, redness, and cracks, according to Sarah Roberts, a licensed beauty and skincare consultant and the founder of the online beauty publication A Beauty Edit.

Roberts explains that the symptoms may include:

  • Intense itching
  • Red to brownish-gray patches 
  • Small, raised bumps (which may leak fluid or crust over when scratched.)
  • Skin infections
  • Eye complications
  • Sleep problems.

While you can develop eczema at any age, according to Healthline, it usually starts in infancy or early childhood. 

Caption: Authors of the article with the image: Elaine C. Siegfried, Adelaide A. Hebert., Clinical features of atopic dermatitis in English, CC BY 4.0

Can Weed Cause Eczema?

Nobody really knows what causes eczema, but scientists have some ideas. 

According to Healthline, eczema may be caused by an overactive immune system and, therefore, not weed. 

In addition, Healthline mentions that some people who suffer from eczema lack a protein called filaggrin, which is responsible for keeping their skin healthy. 

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However, it’s possible that being allergic to weed can cause eczema, according to the Allergy and Asthma Network. 

“Skin contact with marijuana – including the hemp version sometimes used in clothing – may cause eczema or hives.”

We also know that certain things can trigger eczema. Healthline says that temperature changes, scented products, and sweating can trigger eczema. 

Other triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Allergens like mold and dust
  • Certain chemicals in detergents
  • Animal dander 

But what about weed? 

Does Weed Make Eczema Worse?

It’s possible! 

Even though weed may not be a direct cause of eczema, weed can cause an eczema flare-up. 

Healthline defines a flareup as one or more eczema symptoms appearing on the skin.

Shawnda Dorantes APRN, MSN, FNP-C, founder of Beauty Lounge Medical Spa, says, 

“Cannabis itself doesn’t typically cause eczema flare-ups. However, smoking cannabis can cause eczema flare-ups. This is because carcinogens and other irritants involved in the smoking process can exacerbate existing skin issues and clog pores.”

According to Dr. Chaudhry, a UK board-certified dermatologist, smoking weed can make your eczema worse. 

“smoking weed could potentially worsen eczema in some individuals. The act of smoking itself can irritate the skin, and for those allergic to cannabis, exposure could trigger eczema flare-ups.”

Many cannabis enthusiasts on Reddit have lamented about weed causing eczema flare-ups. 

One Reddit user said, “I’ve found that smoking weed (including consuming edibles or vaping THC) is not helpful for my eczema, specifically eyelid eczema. The classic red eyes and inflamed eyelids from smoking only added to my discomfort and itchiness. The redness and dryness in and around my eyes usually lead to itching and scratching after smoking or that night while asleep.”

While another commenter said they believe weed triggered their eczema. 

In addition, weed can indirectly make your eczema worse.

One Reddit user shared that when high, they scratch themselves a lot, and another agreed that some weed strains make them want to scratch their skin more than others. 

Does Weed Help With Eczema?

Even though some people report that weed makes their eczema worse, others have the opposite experience. 

Dr. Chaudhry says, “The relationship between cannabis (weed) and eczema is complex and not fully understood…. some studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that certain properties of cannabis might help in reducing inflammation and alleviating symptoms of eczema.

The National Eczema Association says cannabinoids may have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-itch qualities that could help with eczema.

Cannabinoids, however, have a powerful anti-itch effect. There are receptors in the skin that interact with cannabinoids that could reduce the symptoms and appearance of AD (atopic dermatitis). These effects happen through a constellation of interactions between phytocannabinoids and our endogenous cannabinoid system.”

The National Eczema Association also says that cannabinoids show antimicrobial properties, which is great because people with eczema may suffer from skin infections. In addition, it may control the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that the Association describes as a ‘complication and a driving factor’ of eczema. 

You may be wondering what forms of cannabis may help eczema the best.

Well, the National Eczema Association says cannabis creams could alleviate symptoms such as itching. 

However, they caution anyone considering this option to pay close attention to the ingredients because some cannabis creams could actually make eczema worse.

“Special attention should be given to choosing a product to ensure that only non-irritating terpenes are included in the formula. Topicals should be chosen based on the profile of ingredients that are known to reduce pain, inflammation and irritation for the skin, not formulations that may have been developed for muscle and joint pain.”

Make sure you get your cannabis creams from reputable sources. 

Other Ways Weed May Help Eczema

Weed can help your eczema indirectly, too. Instead of using cannabis creams, you can use your bong and reap the benefits. 

For example, weed may help you go to sleep and stop itching. 

One Reddit user said, “Using cannabis before bed has allowed me to get a full night sleep for the first time in years and allowed my skin to have more time to heal.”

Another Reddit user said that weed reduced their stress and, therefore, helped when they had flare-ups. 

“I smoke occasionally, and I think it improves my eczema solely based on stress reduction. In particular in the past I’ve smoked during bad flare ups because it makes me sleep like a baby.”

Other Eczema Treatment Options

Maybe weed doesn’t help your eczema, but that’s okay. There are many treatment options. 

For example, you can figure out your triggers and avoid them.

If temperature changes trigger you, Roberts says, wear breathable fabrics.  

Besides avoiding your triggers, focus on moisturizing. 

Dorantes echoed similar sentiments: “Make sure your skin is always moisturized with fragrance-free products.” 

In addition, you’ll have to have regular baths, but Roberts says to adhere to gentle, fragrance-free cleansers. 

Roberts also said you could take a bath in a bit of bleach while combining it with other methods to relieve eczema. 

Mayo Clinic also recommends that course of treatment: “An eczema bleach bath can kill bacteria on the skin, reducing itching, redness and scaling. This is most effective when combined with other eczema treatments, such as medication and moisturizer.”

Mayo Clinic also says to talk to a doctor before attempting this. 

When bathing, you should also avoid using hot water, whether with bleach or otherwise. 

Dorantes tells us that hot showers can dry out your skin. 

She also mentioned asking a doctor what the best creams would be for you.

Speaking of doctors, see a dermatologist if your at-home remedies aren’t working. They will be able to give you more personalized treatment. 

Takeaway

Can weed cause eczema flare-ups? Yes, it can. While weed is not a direct cause of eczema, using weed can make eczema worse for some people. On the other hand, some people benefit from cannabis creams alleviating eczema symptoms. In addition, just rolling up a blunt can get you some much-needed sleep or reduce stress, which is vital for people suffering from eczema. Therefore, whether or not weed helps eczema is dependent on the individual.

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About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].