Along with being a potential therapy for inflammatory skin diseases, CBD is also featured in some anti-acne products. For instance, Mantra Mask's CBD Blemish Mask combines CBD and pimple-fighting tea tree oil. “There are CB2 receptors on sebaceous glands, which produce oil. According to research, CBD influences the sebum production of cells and has an anti-inflammatory component,” says Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Solana Beach, California, who specializes in CBD skin care. This echoes findings outlined in articles previously published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and Experimental Dermatology.
Indeed, Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in Hamden, Connecticut, and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, prefers to use CBD “in inflammatory skin conditions as they’re fizzling out.” She adds, “I recommend generally using a medication to put out the fire and then using CBD to clean up the carnage.”
First, let’s talk about what CBD is. Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient in the cannabis plant, according to Harvard Health Publishing. CBD can be derived from either medical marijuana or hemp. Although marijuana contains CBD, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects. (THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that causes the high.) All that said, CBD won’t lead to any mind-altering effects.
What Scientific Evidence Doesn’t Yet Tell Us About CBD for Skin Care
In general, manufacturers add CBD to their products to give them a boost. “CBD is a very cost-effective way to enhance products,” says Austin Katz, cofounder of Sheabrand in Brooklyn, New York. CBD is in a range of products — those that claim to treat acne, dry skin, and eczema — because of its versatility. “I think we’re living in an era where people want to feel empowered to address their needs on their own,” he says.
Finally, one of the newest uses for CBD skin care is in sunscreen. Dellavalle notes that it does make sense to add CBD to sunscreen, as its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the effects of a sunburn, such as redness. Of course, the idea is to apply sunscreen correctly (following guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology), but in real life, many people miss areas, and applying a CBD-infused SPF may supply more general absorption and temper the reaction of sunburned spots, he says.
May Decrease Inflammation From Sunburns
If CBD sounds like the answer to your skin woes, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. “What we don’t have in CBD is a lot of research. [CBD has] been illegal federally for so long, and it’s been difficult to do research on something that’s previously been considered on par with cocaine or heroin,” says Dellavalle. That’s starting to change, though. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of marijuana, which meant that CBD products were no longer considered like marijuana. This has paved the way for researchers to conduct more studies on CBD, and for product manufacturers to create and sell CBD products legally, though per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is still illegal to market CBD as a supplement.
For many skin diseases, dermatologists often prescribe topical steroid creams, which act as anti-inflammatory medicines. “These are very safe for most people, and they’re effective, but some people don’t want to use steroids in any way. CBD could be a nonsteroidal therapy to fill that gap,” says Dellavalle. Side effects of topical steroids include thinning of the skin if overused or used long term, but you can help avoid these risks when using them correctly, notes the National Eczema Association. Working with your dermatologist to ensure that you have the right medication at the right dosage can help with this.
National Institutes of Health: “Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know.”
Experts say there needs to be more research on proper dosage, long-term benefits, and side effects to know if it’s safe and effective, especially if you plan to use it as part of your daily skin routine.
CBD, especially if taken by mouth, can damage your liver. There’s not yet information on whether CBD products can have the same effect when you apply it on your skin. For instance, it’s not clear yet how much CBD gets absorbed through your skin.
It’s illegal to market CBD if it’s added to foods or sold as a dietary supplement.
Is It Legal?
La Clinica Terapeutica: “A Therapeutic Effect of CBD-Enriched Ointment in Inflammatory Skin Diseases and Cutaneous Scars.”
Experts want to see more reliable research before they recommend CBD for your skin. But if you do decide to use CBD-infused skin products and notice a reaction, tell your doctor about it. If you have skin problems, talk to a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment options.
There are no laws against using CBD in beauty or skin care products. CBD doesn’t contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that’s found in high levels in marijuana. So you can’t get high on it. But some skin products may add THC along with CBD. Some experts find this concerning.
Popular Claims on Benefits
While there isn’t in-depth research available to prove benefits for any skin conditions, scientists are looking for answers, and some early studies have shown some promise.
FDA: “What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding,” “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD.”
The synthesis of endocannabinoid AEA is mediated by Phospholipase D while diacylglycerol lipase (DAGL) regulates the synthesis of 2-AG. 24 , 25 The degradation of AEA and 2-AG primarily is regulated by two enzymes, fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), respectively. 2 The biological signaling of endocannabinoids via interaction with their receptors is inhibited by a two-step mechanism. The endocannabinoids are first removed from the intracellular space by a membrane transporter known as anandamide membrane transporter (AMT) and then, after reuptake, the endocannabinoids entering the cells are metabolized by enzymes like FAAH and MAGL. 26
Enzymes and Transporters
Tissue damage typically triggers an inflammatory response in the body which could result in irritation, ulcers, sensitization of peripheral tissues, neuropathies, and chronic wounds. 45 If left unresolved, a chronic inflammatory state in the body leads to increased tissue damage and pain. 46 Current therapies (cannabinoids, antidepressants, NSAIDs and anticonvulsants) for chronic pain management target the peripheral and central nervous system often producing undesirable side effects. 47 , 48 Preclinical and clinical models have shown that targeting peripheral inflammation by topical therapy (e.g., clonidine 49 , 50 capsaicin) 51 , 52 is not only effective in reducing pain for specific conditions but also circumvents the CNS, thereby reducing the negative side effects, ie, respiratory depression, sedation, and tolerance. While preclinical models strongly indicate that ingestible cannabinoids may produce antinociceptive effects in neuropathic and inflammatory pain models 53 , 54 and a moderate level of clinical evidence supports the use of ingestible cannabinoids for chronic pain (primarily THC and combination of THC+ CBD + lower levels of other cannabinoids) 18 , 55 , 56 the clinical application of topically applied CBD for pain management has not yet been validated by robust scientific and clinical studies.
Pain and Muscle Relief
Examples of Phytochemicals Targeting the ECS with Phytocannabinoid-Like Activity