Evidence based

CBD and Skin Conditions: Current Research & Understanding

CBD may be able to improve common skin conditions such as bug bites, inflammation, eczema, psoriasis, and wound healing. Here’s how it works.

Article By
Justin Cooke , posted 2 months ago

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It’s tasked with creating a barrier between our internal organs and the environment around us, maintaining body temperature, storing nutrients, and producing vitamin D.

Any issues with our skin can compromise these crucial functions.

Cannabidiol (CBD) can provide relief for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, inflammation, bug bites, and wound healing.

Here, we’ll discuss the use of CBD for various skin conditions and offer some tips on how to maximize the benefits. We’ll also discuss recommended dosing and how to find the best topical CBD products for various skin conditions.

Let’s get started.

  • Table of Contents

Summary: Using CBD for Skin Conditions

There are a lot of different conditions that can affect the skin, each one with its underlying causes. Many of these conditions involve dysfunctions of the inflammatory processes designed to protect the skin and help it recover from damage or infection.

CBD use is most effective for skin conditions that involve inflammation as a key driver.

CBD works to alleviate a wide range of skin conditions through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system — a series of receptors abundant in the skin tasked with regulating processes such as cell growth and cell death. It’s also involved in controlling how actively the immune cells in the area respond to threats.

Skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, allergic dermatitis, and acne all involve problems with this system — leading to inflammation, irritation, and lowered function of the skin tissue.

CBD is used to give this system a boost so it can do its job effectively.

Benefits of CBD for Skin Conditions

  • Decreases viscosity of the sebum (oil) in the pores to reduce acne formation.
  • Fights antibiotic resistance during skin infection.
  • Lowers the inflammatory response involved with psoriasis, eczema, and allergic dermatitis.
  • Alleviates one of the primary symptoms of skin conditions — itchiness (pruritus).

Tips for Getting the Most Out of CBD Use for Skin Conditions

  1. Topical CBD products that contain other oils (such as hemp seed oil) offer additional benefits through the nutritional components of the oil.
  2. Use topical skin products that contain high-potency CBD concentrations.
  3. Avoid poor-quality topical products to reduce the chances of using harmful or irritating chemicals on the skin.
  4. If using CBD orally, make sure to consult with your doctor before using CBD — especially if taking other medications.

Types of Skin Conditions & Potential Uses of CBD

Skin conditions can vary depending on the cause and what part of the skin is affected.

Here, we’ll go over some of the primary types of skin conditions CBD has been shown to support and discuss some of the ways CBD can be used to get the best effects.

1. Acne

The amount of sebum we produce depends on certain factors: our genes and our environment. Either way, when sebum production is too high, we increase the chances of our pores clogging and shedding skin cells. This gives a boost to the bacteria living inside the pores, which can grow out of control and infect local tissue. This results in the red, inflamed bumps commonly referred to as acne.

How CBD May Help

Since acne is a combination of mild bacterial infection and an inflammatory reaction, the primary treatments for this condition are usually antibacterial and anti-inflammatory in nature.

Although CBD can prevent antibiotic resistance in bacteria, it isn’t considered antibacterial on its own. For this reason, if using topical CBD products to control acne, it’s best to find products that also contain some antibacterial compounds. There are a lot of excellent topical CBD products with antibacterial essential oils added for this very reason.

CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects are renowned when it comes to acne. For best results, it’s a good idea to use topical CBD for mild acne, and a combination of internal CBD and topical CBD products for more severe breakouts.

2. Eczema

Eczema appears as patches of red, itchy, and inflamed skin. These skin patches are often dry, scaley, or crusted. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe itching and burning pain.

Eczema can come and go and often migrates to different areas of the body. In a lot of people, as one patch clears up, another one forms elsewhere on the body.

There are several different types of eczema:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant dermatitis infantile seborrheic eczema
  • Adult seborrheic eczema
  • Varicose eczema
  • Discoid eczema

How CBD May Help

Eczema is primarily an inflammatory condition of the skin — something that CBD and some of the other prominent cannabinoids are especially good at correcting. Studies have proven that both topical [13] and internal CBD exerts a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and internal organs.

3. Psoriasis

One of the main causes of skin conditions that people don’t often discuss is liver dysfunction.

The liver metabolizes harmful compounds in the blood by converting them into water-soluble or inactive compounds before sending them to the kidney, which eliminates them from the body.

If the liver doesn’t do its job effectively, the body will find other methods of eliminating harmful compounds from the body. One of the ways it does this is by secreting excess compounds through the pores on the skin.

These secretions sometimes irritate the skin cells, causing inflammation and irritation. Many people who suffer from eczema or psoriasis also have liver problems.

How CBD May Help

One of the primary causes of psoriasis symptoms is excessive keratinocyte proliferation. CBD inhibits the proliferation of keratinocytes to reduce the progression of psoriasis [3].

4. Infection

Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites can all infect the skin — causing pain, inflammation, and destruction of the tissue.

Examples of infectious skin conditions:

  • Bacterial (impetigo)
  • Arthropods (scabies)
  • Fungus (candida, ringworm)
  • Viral infection (herpes, chickenpox)

How CBD May Help

CBD is only mildly effective for reducing skin infections, but it’s great in combination with topical antibacterials to support the healing process and reduce skin inflammation and irritation.

5. Allergic Dermatitis

Allergic dermatitis is an allergic reaction in the skin. It involves an overactivation of immune cells in one location, triggering pain, inflammation, and redness in the area. Scientists often refer to this as a “loss of immunological tolerance.” This means that the immune cells are unable to deal with an allergen effectively and overreact to the situation, causing new issues for the skin.

Allergic dermatitis affects around 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialized countries [5].

How CBD May Help

There’s a surprising amount of research involving the use of CBD and other cannabinoids for allergic dermatitis. The results are promising.

Recent research shows that the endocannabinoid system provides a protective role in allergic inflammation of the skin [5]. This study looked at endocannabinoids in the skin after exposure to allergens. They found that the activity of endocannabinoids increases during an allergic reaction, suggesting that this system is involved with regulating the process.

Other studies have confirmed this effect through similar experiments [6].

Other studies have shown that when the endocannabinoid system becomes blocked, allergic dermatitis symptoms are exacerbated — demonstrating the importance of this system on the health of the skin. CBD offers a supportive effect on this system by inhibiting the breakdown of endocannabinoids such as 2-AG and anandamide.

It has also been found to block myeloid immune cell recruitment by decreasing T-cell production of interferon-gamma and keratinocyte production of CCL2, CCL8, and CXL10 chemokines [9].

CBD, CBG, and THC have all shown benefits for allergic dermatitis [12].

6. Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is caused by damage to the DNA of the cells that make up the skin, leading to uncontrolled growth and loss of function among the cells affected. There are a few different types of skin cancer, each with their own level of risk.

Types of skin cancer include:

  • Actinic keratosis
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

How CBD May Help

Many of the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant have their own set of anti-carcinogenic properties. One study found the activation of the endocannabinoid system played a role in the cell cycle of melanoma cells in vitro [15]. Researchers from the study noted that the mechanism was at least in part due to an inhibition of a pro-survival protein called Akt — which has been shown to protect cancer cells from anti-cancer drugs [16].

More research is needed to truly understand the effects of CBD on skin cancer.

Guide to Using CBD for Skin Conditions

There are all kinds of CBD skincare products already on the market — from eye serums and face creams, to eczema or psoriasis-specific formulations.

Although many of these products are intelligently formulated and contain high concentrations of cannabinoids, there are many that don’t contain enough CBD to produce any of the effects they advertise on the bottle.

Endocannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) have been found in the hair follicles [1] and oil glands in the skin [2]. It’s understood that the endocannabinoid system can regulate the growth and survival of the skin cells, as well as the immune system activity in the area.

According to studies, when the endocannabinoid system isn’t working, it results in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis [7]. Therefore, it’s reasonable to suggest that taking cannabinoids such as CBD (which prevent the breakdown of endocannabinoids) is beneficial for skin conditions related to low endocannabinoid levels.

Through this system, CBD can improve things such as sebum production, hair growth, inflammation, and immune activity.

How to Find the Best Topical CBD Products for Skin Health

Finding the best topical CBD products can be challenging with so many options available on the market — each one claiming to be the best.

The truth is that not all CBD topicals are useful. There’s a staggering amount of products using low-quality hemp, harmful additives, and concentrations of cannabinoids so low it’s unlikely to provide the benefits as advertised on the bottle.

Here are three key elements to look for when buying topical CBD products.

1. Look for Products Made with Locally Sourced Organic Hemp

The last thing you want to do when treating skin conditions is increasing inflammation by rubbing contaminated or irritating CBD cream on your skin.

Unfortunately, there a lot of companies out there making CBD products with low-quality hemp. Hemp is a bioaccumulator — it absorbs elements from the soil. This includes the harmful compounds in the soil such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury — all of which are irritating to the skin and can make matters worse. Additionally, non-organic hemp is often sprayed with pesticides throughout the growing season. Many people are allergic to compounds in these pesticides, increasing inflammation and eventual tissue damage.

This is why we always recommend using CBD topicals that have been made from certified organic hemp. To be classified as organic, the grower needs to use no pesticides and have their soil checked regularly for contaminants.

It’s also important to use hemp that’s been grown locally. Hemp grown in China and India is notorious for the high level of contamination with heavy metals, organophosphates, and mold.

2. Aim for Higher-Potency Topicals

CBD has a lot of benefits to offer the skin — there’s no doubt about it. There is a minimum dose needed for these effects to take place, however. Unfortunately, some companies are putting very small amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids in their topicals and then marketing them for the same uses as high-potency CBD topicals.

This step is harder to assess since it’s unclear what potency offers the greatest level of benefit for each condition.

With that said, we recommend choosing a product with at least 100 mg of CBD per ounce (100 mg per 30 mL).

If you have a bottle larger than 1 oz, use this calculation to figure out the amount per ounce:

[Total mg of CBD in the Container] ÷ [Number of Ounces] = [CBD mg Per Ounce]

Alternatively, you can do this in mL as well:

[Total mg of CBD in the Container] ÷ [Number of mL] x [30 mL] = [CBD Per 30 mL]

3. Find Out What Other Ingredients Are Included in the Formula

CBD is great, but when it comes to treating skin conditions, it’s even better in combination with other beneficial ingredients. Any good topical formula will have other additions, which can be dialed in specifically for the condition it aims to address. When the formula is well-designed, the compounds will work synergistically together, producing much greater benefit in combination than any single ingredient (including CBD) on its own.

If the formula was designed to treat psoriasis, for example, other anti-inflammatories such as frankincense, samambaia, or turmeric are excellent additions that offer other mechanisms of support. These products will go much further in treating the problem than CBD alone.

Other herbal additions:

  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
  • Samambaia (Polypodium leucotomos)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis)
  • Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
  • Arnica (Arnica montana)
  • Aloe (Aloe vera)

Non-herbal additions:

  • Lanolin
  • Vegetable glycerine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Grape seed extract
  • Vitamin C
  • Rosehip oil
  • Caffeine
  • Menthol
  • Magnesium

Final Verdict: CBD for Skin Conditions

CBD is a great supplement and topical treatment option for a variety of common skin conditions. Most of its benefits are the results of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

For serious skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne that’s proven hard to treat with other medications, it’s recommended that you use both topical and internal CBD, and to use topical products specifically designed for treating that type of skin condition.

For minor skin conditions, topical CBD may be all that’s necessary, and a general CBD topical will likely do the trick.

Always opt for high-quality CBD topicals made from certified organic and locally sourced hemp. We also recommend looking for products with at least 100 mg of CBD for every ounce of product.


References

  1. Telek, A., Bíró, T., Bodó, E., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Kunos, G., & Paus, R. (2007). Inhibition of human hair follicle growth by endo-and exocannabinoids. The FASEB Journal, 21(13), 3534-3541.
  2. Dobrosi, N., Tóth, B. I., Nagy, G., Dózsa, A., Géczy, T., Nagy, L., … & Bíró, T. (2008). Endocannabinoids enhance lipid synthesis and apoptosis of human sebocytes via cannabinoid receptor-2-mediated signaling. The FASEB Journal, 22(10), 3685-3695.
  3. Wilkinson, J. D., & Williamson, E. M. (2007). Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Journal of dermatological science, 45(2), 87-92.
  4. Bíró, T., Tóth, B. I., Haskó, G., Paus, R., & Pacher, P. (2009). The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends in pharmacological sciences, 30(8), 411-420.
  5. Karsak, M., Gaffal, E., Date, R., Wang-Eckhardt, L., Rehnelt, J., Petrosino, S., … & Mechoulam, R. (2007). Attenuation of allergic contact dermatitis through the endocannabinoid system. science, 316(5830), 1494-1497.
  6. Oka, S., Wakui, J., Ikeda, S., Yanagimoto, S., Kishimoto, S., Gokoh, M., … & Sugiura, T. (2006). Involvement of the cannabinoid CB2 receptor and its endogenous ligand 2-arachidonoylglycerol in oxazolone-induced contact dermatitis in mice. The Journal of Immunology, 177(12), 8796-8805.
  7. Akhmetshina, A., Dees, C., Busch, N., Beer, J., Sarter, K., Zwerina, J., … & Distler, J. H. (2009). The cannabinoid receptor CB2 exerts antifibrotic effects in experimental dermal fibrosis. Arthritis & Rheumatism: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 60(4), 1129-1136.
  8. Pucci, M., Rapino, C., Di Francesco, A., Dainese, E., D’addario, C., & Maccarrone, M. (2013). Epigenetic control of skin differentiation genes by phytocannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 170(3), 581-591.
  9. Gaffal, E., Cron, M., Glodde, N., & Tüting, T. (2013). Anti‐inflammatory activity of topical THC in DNFB‐mediated mouse allergic contact dermatitis independent of CB 1 and CB 2 receptors. Allergy, 68(8), 994-1000.
  10. Gaffal, E., Glodde, N., Jakobs, M., Bald, T., & Tüting, T. (2014). Cannabinoid 1 receptors in keratinocytes attenuate fluorescein isothiocyanate‐induced mouse atopic‐like dermatitis. Experimental dermatology, 23(6), 401-406.
  11. Nam, G., Jeong, S. K., Park, B. M., Lee, S. H., Kim, H. J., Hong, S. P., … & Kim, B. W. (2016). Selective cannabinoid receptor-1 agonists regulate mast cell activation in an oxazolone-induced atopic dermatitis model. Annals of dermatology, 28(1), 22-29.
  12. Mounessa, J. S., Siegel, J. A., Dunnick, C. A., & Dellavalle, R. P. (2017). The role of cannabinoids in dermatology. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 77(1), 188-190.
  13. Lodzki, M., Godin, B., Rakou, L., Mechoulam, R., Gallily, R., & Touitou, E. (2003). Cannabidiol—transdermal delivery and anti-inflammatory effect in a murine model. Journal of controlled release, 93(3), 377-387.
  14. Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333-1349.
  15. Blázquez, C., Carracedo, A., Barrado, L., Real, P. J., Fernández-Luna, J. L., Velasco, G., … & Barrado, L. (2006). Cannabinoid receptors as novel targets for the treatment of melanoma. The FASEB journal, 20(14), 2633-2635.
  16. M Benbrook, D., & P Masamha, C. (2011). The pro-survival function of Akt kinase can be overridden or altered to contribute to induction of apoptosis. Current cancer drug targets, 11(5), 586-599.

Conditions that May Respond to Cannabidiol