Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis,” “Atopic dermatitis (eczema).”
You may have heard that CBD is good for acne, certain skin disorders, and fine lines and wrinkles. But does it really work? Is it safe to use? Ongoing studies on CBD’s uses and benefits are in early stages, so experts say there needs to be more large-scale research to know for sure.
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.
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.
Is It Legal?
Before you try any CBD products, make sure to read the product labels carefully for active ingredients. Even so, it can be hard to know exactly what’s in the product, including how much CBD it contains. If you have questions, talk to your doctor about it.
It’s illegal to market CBD if it’s added to foods or sold as a dietary supplement.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the FDA warns against CBD use in all forms whether it’s a cream or an oral capsule. The FDA is studying the safety of CBD products, including cosmetics, food, and supplements.
Popular Claims on Benefits
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Jacknin also points to preliminary research presented in June 2019 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology that found topical CBD may help kill a range of gram-positive bacteria. “This bacteria is one cause of acne,” she says. (For the study, researchers collaborated with Botanix Pharmaceuticals, a company that develops products to treat skin diseases like acne and psoriasis.)
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.
Unknowns About CBD Dosage
Experts attribute the popularity of CBD to its “do anything” reputation. In fact, many people turn to CBD in the hope of treating various ailments, including anxiety, insomnia, pain conditions, and now — increasingly, it seems — skin problems.
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.
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.
Possibly Plays a Role in Treating Acne
Research on this trendy skin-care ingredient is limited. Read this comprehensive guide before you buy.
One of the touted functions of CBD is controlling inflammation. “The body has two CBD receptors that we know of: CB1 and CB2,” says Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora. When applied to skin, CBD interacts with these receptors to turn down the inflammatory response. This happens by “decreasing the interleukins, which are chemicals that are like the immune system’s fire alarm that calls the fire department in an emergency. CBD may decrease the loudness of that fire alarm,” he explains.