CBD for Acne & Other Skin Conditions
Considering CBD for acne or another skin condition? Perhaps you’ve heard them (whoever “they” are) say “Love the skin you’re in!” But, most of us have had times when we feel quite the opposite! Pimples pop up the night before a big date, dry itchy skin drives us insane, and allergic reactions to a body wash can happen to anyone. Others suffer more serious and ongoing conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, or unwanted hair growth. A majority of us will find ourselves in the skincare aisle at the drugstore or the dermatologist’s office at some point or another.
As CBD has risen in popularity, it’s become a particularly trendy addition to topical skincare lines. Some term these products, “cosmeceuticals”, part cosmetic, part “pharmaceutical”-esque help. Can CBD help our skin feel its best? How and why does it work? And, what products work best?
CBD for Skin: Why It May Help
Love it or hate it, we wear our skin every single day and tend not to appreciate its important role. We may imagine skin as part of the “container” holding in our bones and organs, protecting our insides from the outside world! But fascinatingly, skin itself has a very “active” function in the body, including the nervous system, immune system and endocrine (hormonal) system. Skin even has an optimal “homeostasis,” where it best protects us from microbes, allergens, UV radiation, and chemicals. We can even develop skin conditions when the inside is unhealthy. For instance, a lowered immune system or hormonal problems are associated with skin disease (like psoriasis), hair growth disorders (including alopecia and effluvium), and atopic dermatitis. Simply put, there’s a reason you break out when anxious about making a good impression – your skin knows (and shows!) you’re under stress!
Have you heard about the body’s endocannabinoid system? It’s a fascinating system associated with sleep, stress, pain, emotions, and much more, and has receptors in the skin. The endocannabinoid system seems to play a role in skin cell growth and differentiation, contributing to ongoing homeostasis. In conditions like psoriasis and cancer, however, this process gets out of whack (that’s the scientific term!) CBD, however, may positively affect these processes! The endocannabinoid system also plays a role in our sensory experiences of pain and itching, so keeping it in tip-top condition can help you feel more comfortable. Scientifically, it is clear that CBD has the potential to help restore skin homeostasis – which may help keep you looking and feeling your best!
CBD Benefits for Skin
What Skin Conditions Might CBD Help?
As with many health conditions and CBD, research is currently ongoing. We don’t have a ton of definitive answers yet, BUT there is great promise!
As one example, blisters, itching, and painful wounds aren’t anyone’s idea of fun. Unfortunately for a rare few, a condition called epidermolysis bullosa makes living in one’s skin extremely uncomfortable. Recently, a case study described three individuals who used topical CBD products and were amazed by the results! All experienced fewer blisters, less pain, and faster healing. One was able to completely wean off opioids for pain! Since it was a small study, the authors conclude more research is warranted before making broad-scale recommendations. It’s definitely too soon to buy a billboard on the Los Angeles freeways and advertise a cure, but results are very encouraging!
At this point, though we are still learning, researchers believe CBD has the potential to help a number of other skin conditions, including:
- Hair growth disorders, such as hirsutism, alopecia aerate, effluvium (3)
- Acne (1, 3, 8, 9)
- Dry skin (3)
- Systemic Sclerosis (3, 9)
- Pain (3)
- Itching (3)
- Allergic contact dermatitis (1, 9)
- Asteatotic dermatitis (9)
- Atopic dermatitis (1, 9)
- Hidradenitis suppurativa (9)
- Kaposi sarcoma (9)
- Psoriasis (1, 9)
- Skin cancer (9)
- Pruritus (1, 9)
While CBD is not typically prescribed by a doctor (yet), many are interested in trying CBD to see whether and how it helps!
Benefits of CBD For Skin: What do Dermatologists think?
Dermatologists are basically “skin nerds,” who have made it their life passion to understand and help skin conditions – so their thoughts on CBD are worth considering! One study explored dermatologists’ opinions on the use of cannabinoids in treating skin conditions. While the study asked about “cannabinoids” in general, without differentiating between THC and CBD, the results are still interesting.
A whopping 94% supported research for the use of cannabinoids in dermatology, and 86% believed cannabinoids should be legal for treatment. Over half had at least one patient spark discussion about cannabinoids in the previous year, though a similar number were worried about stigma in raising the subject with patients themselves. A majority would be willing to prescribe a hypothetical FDA-approved topical (86%) or oral (71%) cannabinoid-based treatment.
At the same time, just because dermatologists are obsessed with skin, does NOT mean equally understand cannabinoids. 64% were unaware CBD is not psychoactive, while 29% did not know THC is psychoactive. If you’re going to talk to your dermatologist about using CBD, you might want to ask a few questions to see how much they’ve researched first!
Are There Risks of Using CBD for Skin Conditions?
CBD is a booming market, and as with any profitable trend, it’s important to separate hype from real results. With celebrity endorsements, some estimate the global CBD skincare market to be worth $135-155 billion by 2021! Marketing materials claim a range of benefits, some of which are plausible, and others… likely not. Anti-inflammatory effects, pain relief, hydration, moisturizing benefits, anti-aging effects, and wrinkle reduction are all reported benefits found on CBD labels. Some ads even frame CBD as a “cure” for acne, eczema, psoriasis, and pruritus.
Thus far, CBD appears very safe overall, lending to a “why not try?” attitude. At the same time, studies have mostly focused on oral forms of CBD. Meanwhile, topicals rubbed directly onto the skin are likely ideal for skin conditions. Right now, we can’t know for certain if CBD is as safe on the outside of our bodies as it is on the inside, but many are willing to take the risk!
Is CBD a trend, or does it have real value? The answer is likely: both. While CBD definitely has the potential to help with a range of skin conditions, researchers are still learning! Small studies show positive outcomes, but large scale studies are needed before the medical industry can recommend CBD as a safe and effective treatment for skin conditions.
CBD Skincare: Curious to Try It?
As with any personal exploration into CBD, a degree of experimentation and caution is necessary. While CBD holds great potential for skin conditions, we are years away from definitive answers. That said, if you are interested in giving CBD a try, have an honest talk with your doctor. Ask about their knowledge of CBD and share what you have read. Start with a low dose and increase slowly. Pay attention to any negative effects, and discontinue if you experience significant discomfort. Different products and concentrations may have different effects, so keeping close tabs on your health while exploring the possibilities is highly recommended!
Sarah has a Ph.D in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona. Her current research spans the fields of trauma, psychology, neurobiology and sociology.