cbd oil for severe acne

Can CBD Help With Cystic Acne?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has surged in popularity in recent years. Millions of people are using CBD oil and other CBD products to help with a wide range of other health issues, including skin disorders such as eczema and acne.

Early research suggests that CBD may help with acne by reducing inflammation and sebum production, and possibly other effects.

As such, CBD may be able to help with cystic acne as well — the most severe form of this common condition. Here’s how CBD can help with cystic acne and the best way to use it.

Table of Contents

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a natural cannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its close cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-intoxicating so it won’t get you high.

CBD has a long list of potential health benefits backed by a growing volume of scientific research.

Most CBD products are derived from hemp, a variety of cannabis with very low (<0.3%) THC levels. CBD oil is the most popular form of CBD, but there are many other products, including capsules, edibles, vape juice, and topicals.

What is Cystic Acne?

Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne vulgaris — the condition that causes pus-filled pimples to form on the skin. It usually affects people with oily skin, teens, and adults (mostly women) with hormonal imbalances.

The key things that separate cystic acne from regular acne are its larger size, the fact that it forms deeper in the skin, and is usually painful or tender to the touch.

Health experts aren’t exactly sure what causes cystic acne, but factors like elevated androgen (male sex hormone) levels, oily skin, and stress seem to play a role.

Cystic acne usually develops on the face, but like regular acne, can also affect the chest, back, and other parts of the body.

How Can CBD Help With Cystic Acne?

Early research indicates that CBD can help fight some of the root causes of acne, namely:

This was demonstrated by a 2014 study where researchers applied CBD to human sebocytes, the skin cells that produce sebum.

The treatment reduced inflammation, resulting in lowered production of sebum and new sebocyte cells (2). The researchers concluded that “CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”

Studies have also shown that CBD has antimicrobial properties (3). That means it can help fight the overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes and other skin bacteria that may play a role in causing acne (1).

CBD and Acne: The Research Evidence

So far, only a few human studies have been done to see whether CBD can help with acne.

One 2019 Italian study tested the effects of a CBD-infused gel on people with various skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, and resulting scars. The study participants used the gel for 90 days.

The gel improved several markers of skin health, such as elasticity and hydration. It also reduced the appearance of acne scars (4 ). The researchers theorized that CBD helped by:

  • Reducing elevated lipogenesis (the production of lipids that form sebum) caused by “pro-acne” agents
  • Reducing sebocyte cell proliferation
  • Preventing “pro-acne” agents from stimulating pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines

How to Use CBD for Cystic Acne

Here are some key tips to get the best results from using CBD for cystic acne.

Choose Topicals over Other CBD Products

You should use a topical CBD product for acne instead of CBD oil, capsules, or something else.

Although CBD oil is the most popular and commonly used form, you can also apply CBD to your skin in the form of a topical product. This includes creams, lotions, salves, and balms, which are the ideal option for cystic acne and other skin conditions.

Aside from CBD, these products can contain topical ingredients you might’ve already heard of, like beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, tea tree oil, and many other plant-based oils, green tea, aloe vera, and much more. Many of these natural compounds may also have anti-acne properties (5).

Look for Full-Spectrum CBD Whenever Possible

Full-spectrum CBD is a type of extract that contains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the hemp plant. It can also contain other beneficial hemp compounds, such as flavonoids, fatty acids, and minerals.

Full-spectrum is the most effective form of CBD thanks to what scientists call the “entourage effect” — the synergistic relationship between all of the active compounds in cannabis (6 ).

This means you’ll benefit not only from CBD’s synergy with these other compounds but also from their individual effects.

For example, one 2016 research study demonstrated that the minor cannabinoids CBC, CBDV, and THCV — which are present in full-spectrum CBD extracts — reduced the production of sebum in sebocyte cells, suggesting that they “show promise to become highly efficient, novel anti-acne agents” (7).

Consider Dosage

How much CBD you should take is one of the most common questions we encounter. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to suggest or prescribe a single CBD dosage for cystic acne or any other condition that will work for everyone.

The optimal CBD dosage depends on many factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and the type of product you’re using.

The best advice we can give you is to look for a topical product that contains at least 4 mg of CBD per ml. This will ensure that you’re getting enough CBD to produce the desired effect.

Choose High-Quality, Third-Party Tested CBD Brands

The CBD industry is notorious for its lack of regulation. That’s why it’s important to do some research before settling on a brand you can trust.

We highly recommend only buying from CBD companies that use third-party testing. Performed by an independent lab, third-party tests verify that a CBD product contains as much CBD as it should.

These tests can also check for the presence of pesticides and other potentially harmful substances. You should be able to easily view the results of these tests on the company’s website before making a purchase. The lack of third-party testing is a huge red flag.

Aside from that, it also helps to choose transparent companies that clearly state how their CBD is sourced. You want to look for brands that use organic American hemp cultivated in states such as Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon. Hemp grown in Europe is also of high quality.

Can You Apply CBD Oil to Cystic Acne?

Yes, you can apply regular CBD oil directly to cystic acne on your skin, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some improvements. And if you’ve already purchased a CBD oil tincture for other benefits, that’s a great way to check whether CBD will help your cystic acne or not.

Having said that, CBD oil is designed to be put under the tongue — what’s called sublingual absorption.

That’s why we recommend using dedicated, CBD-infused topical products instead. As an added benefit, you’ll also be getting many other beneficial topical compounds that might help with cystic acne, such as tea tree oil.

CBD and Cystic Acne: Worth a Try

Although CBD seems to be remarkably effective for many people, especially for common issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and pain, it’s not a magical pill. The point being, not everyone with cystic or regular acne will see positive results from CBD for one reason or another.

Having said that, it’s certainly worth a try, especially if you’ve tried other products and either found them ineffective or undesirable due to significant side effects (hello Accutane).

We’ve put together a list of the best CBD topicals for acne if you’re interested in trying out effective and reliable products.


Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.

CBD Oil for Acne: Can CBD Treat Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition found primarily in young adults. It is associated with changes in hormone status and usually can last for several years into adulthood.

It is characterised by elevated sebum production and inflammation of the sebaceous glands and a combination of non-inflammatory elements like blackhead and whiteheads and inflammatory acne lesions including papules and pustules. You can have acne in mild, moderate and severe forms.

What are the main causes of acne?

It can be a frustrating experience, but one that you are not alone in! It is the most common skin condition across the planet and is persisting with increased levels of stress, pollution, and chemicals impacting our busy lifestyles.

Changes in your hormone count can be a primary factor in developing acne, along with the presence of harmful bacteria. Genetics can also play a role in our skin, just as it decides the colour of our hair, or how long our legs are (or aren’t – thanks Dad.)

Factors such as stress and diet are more likely to affect existing acne despite what teenage rumours will have you believe.

How do we treat acne today?

Today, the treatment we have against inflammatory skin diseases like acne and psoriasis can be rather hard on the body. You often need systemic therapy for moderate and severe acne, which means some kind of tablet or pill.

First-line systemic treatment for acne is 8 weeks of antibiotics. As most people are familiar with, one of the side-effects of antibiotics can be damage to our microbiome, which can result in unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.

Do acne products have any side effects?

Further down the line of system treatments of acne, we find drugs like retinoids, which are also used for topical first-line treatment. Retinoids are toxic to human embryos and can cause severe deformities in early pregnancy. Since the average population treated for acne also are young and fertile individuals, this can cause problems in some cases. Furthermore, this treatment demands blood tests to control the effect on the liver, kidneys and bones – this is serious business.

Can CBD skincare treat acne?

While CBD has, so far, been used to treat mostly internal maladies, CBD’s natural anti-inflammatory qualities have proved effective in helping acne. Research is currently being done on the relationship between CBD and excessive oil production and build-up which results in acne.

CBD, inflammation, and oil production for the skin

A study investigating the benefits of CBD with acne found that CBD can prevent the build-up of oil. It also has the ability to calm oil-producing glands using anti-inflammatory properties. Acne is recognised as an inflammatory condition: a match made in heaven with CBD.

CBD has also been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal effects, which could help prevent the excess of pollutants in urban environments. After a busy day back and forth on the tube, OTO’s Ritual CBD Serum is the perfect formula for cleansing, and even promotes collagen synthesis.

CBD as an antioxidant

The antioxidants present in CBD helps to protect against skin damage caused by the environment and the free-radicals that tag along. In combination with its anti-inflammatory effects, the antioxidants can over time provide a more even skin texture and reduce visible signs of aging.

What are the best types of CBD skincare products?

CBD creams and lotions

Often, CBD moisturisers and lotions are combined with hemp seed oil which contains vitamin E, as well as omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. All of these nutrients nourish and hydrate the skin by drawing moisture in and locking it inside.

Unlike many other moisturisers, CBD skincare will not sit on the skin, but instead absorbs quickly. It won’t leave the skin feeling greasy or clog up your pores.

CBD serums

A CBD serum will usually consist of pure CBD, derived from Hemp, combined with a naturally derived carrier oil. A peaceful way to end your day, and a great alternative to moisturising with a lotion if you need something deeper to combat dry skin.

As CBD oil can help soothe skin and reduce the appearance of irritation, it may be useful for those who have sensitive skin.

A selection of popular carrier oils that can be paired with your CBD dosage include:

CBD face masks

CBD face masks are gaining popularity due to the calming, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant advantages of cannabidiol . A convenient way to reduce irritated and stressed skin, CBD beauty masks can rejuvenate the topmost layers of skin while antioxidants defend the skin against harmful environmental damage.

What other types of CBD are good for the skin?

Since the anti-inflammatory compounds within CBD are still active (but not psychoactive, an important difference to remember) when you buy the product, buying a sublingual CBD oil to combat acne could also prove effective.

Most studies so far have suggested that to treat skin issues, CBD is best applied topically in order to activate the sebum-producing cells in the skin.

CBD edibles are similar to the sublingual CBD products in that they will work less directly with the skin. In this format, it is more commonly used for on the go calm, or socially, as opposed to implementing them into your skincare routine. But feel free to test out a calming CBD routine that works for you: it could combine various CBD tinctures, gummies, and facial serums to combat daily stress.

How to use CBD for acne

How to apply CBD oil to the skin

If you’re looking to start using CBD beauty products, a good place to start is a CBD face oil. Whether it is for anti-ageing, dry, or acne-prone skin, simply apply 4-5 drops of oil onto the palm of your hand.

With your finger, dab the oil in small dots onto cleansed face skin, avoiding your eye area. Finally, gently smooth and press the oil onto your face, using the whole surface of your hands. Make sure your hands are clean first to avoid bacterias interfering with your acne treatment / daily skincare routine.

Can you put CBD oil on your face?

CBD skincare products are ideal for sensitive skin, as long as they are paired with other natural products. In comparison to many popular chemical acne treatments, CBD skincare products are gentle on your skin: instead of fighting the spots that arise, the CBD gets to the root of your pores to work with your skin.

What are the best CBD products for acne?

This Works CBD Booster + Cica Extract

This magical serum comes from a company that needs no introduction, with its vast array of natural oils and sprays. CBD meets its match with Cica extract: with similar antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, this product will prevent redness and calm other effects of acne.

This Works CBD Booster + Aha Complex

Not as funny as the name might suggest, but definitely just as effective. AHA complex describes three naturally derived alpha hydroxy acids which focus on providing a more even surface to your skin and more consistent pigmentation. The product is perfect for your calming evening routine. It gently exfoliates clogged pores, ideal for acne-prone skin.

OTO Ritual CBD Serum

A previously mentioned product, the OTO Ritual CBD Serum completes our trifecta of recommendations. This serum works with the CBD’s antioxidant qualities to achieve an anti-ageing appeal while working to heal your skin in the long term. While it is more of an investment, it more than makes up for it in quality and is a great product to implement into your acne treatment.

Can CBD treat other skin conditions?

Eczema & Psoriasis

As skin conditions are linked to your immune system, CBD can help to balance this by activating your endocannabinoid system. More research is needed to understand this internal correlation; however, CBD lotions can help ease the skin irritations caused by these conditions.

Wrinkles and fine lines

With its aforementioned anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers, general skin health can be improved over time. Signs of ageing, for some, are reduced with consistent use. Products that are infused with (for example) collagen-stimulating compounds, or vitamin E, may provide even greater results.

What are the signs of a high-quality CBD skincare product?

There are plenty of factors that you should consider before buying a CBD skincare product. Checking that the product and other products from that company have been third-party tested is a great place to start. This ensures the quality of the CBD that you’re investing in.

The hemp used should also be high quality: reading into the company’s hemp sources, their ethics, and even customer reviews can help you find the CBD skincare products that are right for you.

The other ingredients used in the product should also be naturally sourced. Steer clear of lots of chemicals in a product, no matter how much the CBD might help you on your road to glowing pores.

While CBD is completely safe and natural, make sure to always consult your doctor and do your own research before embarking on a new skincare mission. Enjoy the glowing effects of your new CBD balms, lotions, and serums, and throw a Gua Sha in there for good luck.