CBD And Skin Care: Everything You Need to Know
Cannabidiol or CBD is a compound that occurs naturally in cannabis plants—both hemp and marijuana. In fact, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is one of two main active ingredients in cannabis.
But unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, so taking it doesn’t cause you to feel high. In fact some research indicates CBD can counteract some of THC’s effects.
More importantly, though, research shows that CBD may be an effective way to treat anxiety, chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, migraines, neurological symptoms such as cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s Disease, and seizure disorders like epilepsy.
What’s more, this potent medical herb is now legal thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, so long as the CBD is derived from the industrial hemp plant, which contains 0.3 percent THC or less. But what about CBD and skin care specifically?
CBD And Skin Care: What the Science Says
Although the research above along with other science proves that CBD has plenty of medical benefits, what about the skin specifically? The science behind the skin care benefits is newer, although we have seen cannabinoids as beneficial antioxidants for a while now. We also know that many essential amino acids are found in CBD, as well as B-complex vitamins.
Fortunately, as the legal status of cannabis relaxes in the US, people also seem to be researching CBD more. Now we know that the skin has an endocannabinoid system of its own, which works to keep the skin in a healthy, balanced state. Just like the body’s endocannabinoid system, the goal is stasis, or keeping various systems and organs in the body on an even keel. This includes the skin.
The root cause of most skin disease and problems is some kind of an imbalance. CBD can potentially help restore that balance. While a lot of research still needs to be done, this is what we know about CBD and skin care so far:
Acne. CBD isn’t a total cure for acne, much of which is caused by hormones, but CBD helps fight the inflammation related to the swelling and redness of acne. The research shows that CBD helps normalize skin cell growth.
Inflammation. CBD is truly powerful at fighting inflammation, and this means it has a lot of promise for many skin issues such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Transdermal CBD reduces pain and inflammation in rats, for example.
Itching. Research shows that CBD can soothe itching, blocking the sensation through the nerve endings. CBD has also been shown to effectively treat chronic, treatment-resistant itching.
The World Health Organization has deemed CBD safe and the cannabinoid works with any skin type and if you’re looking for internal administered relief check out our post on the best CBD oils for relieving pain.
How Does CBD Work in Skincare Products?
Awais Spall, a formulation chemist and cannabis researcher, with a background in skincare, explains that CBD’s health-promoting benefits primarily come from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system and cross-talk of these pathways with various other receptor pathways in the body.
”We’ve recently discovered that the outer layer of our skin, the epidermis has a dense network of CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD interacts with these pathways and other nerve pathways across the epidermis and dermis,” says Awais.
Since CBD is a regulatory and balancing compound, it can be beneficial for a wide variety of skin types and conditions.
What Skin Conditions is it best for?
CBD has antioxidant properties that allow it to be very soothing and restorative for skin inflamed and irritated skin.
“Many people dealing with rosacea and eczema have found CBD to be helpful in stopping the inflammatory cascade of itching and dryness,” explains Awais. “CBD can also effective in moisturizing dry skin, improving cell regeneration by upregulating cell-turnover, and reduce pain and itching by easing inflammatory nerve pathways known as transient receptor potentials.”
If you’re specifically looking to relieve pain, check out our post on the best CBD creams for pain relief.
What CBD products are most impactful on the skin?
Depending on the user’s end goals, different CBD products can have a different impact on the skin.
According to Awais, a facial CBD serum would be an excellent choice for getting the CBD’s benefits as an anti-oxidant. CBD lotion can also to be an excellent choice to maintaining moisturized skin. For shorter-term relief, or if you want to gradually incorporate CBD into your skincare, then you can try CBD soap, or a wash-off cleanser.
“However, they do have to be formulated correctly with transdermal properties,” explains Awais. “These properties allow the CBD creams to penetrate beyond the epidermis and interact with the deeper endocannabinoid system that can promote wound healing and reduce inflammation.”
Why Cannabis Is the Buzziest Ingredient in Skin Care
The beauty world has been sparking up lately: Cannabis is proliferating in beauty products, and it’s poised to take your skin-care routine to a higher level. That’s because the star ingredient, known for its reputed stress-reducing and pain-relieving (among many others) benefits in the wellness space, has incredible prowess when it comes to topical, skin-boosting use.
“For 5,000 years, cannabis has been helping everyone,” says Cindy Capobianco, co-founder of Lord Jones, a brand that makes CBD-laced edibles and body lotion. “Before 1937, when it was prohibited, there was a cannabis elixir on every shelf. It reduces inflammation and pain in a way I’ve never seen anything work.”
Keep reading for more on how cannabinoids work in beauty products, the skin-care benefits, and which products to add to your top shelf.
Photo: Stocksy/Cameron Zegers
You already know that inflammation is the root cause of oh-so-many skin woes, from acne to rosacea. Because of cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, using it can reduce puffiness, swelling, and even soreness, says Jessica Assaf, The Cannabis Feminist. “It’s this all-in-one solution because of its ability to target those problems simultaneously,” she says.
“It’s this all-in-one solution because of its ability to target all of those problems simultaneously.”
Studies have shown that CBD can potentially be helpful for fighting acne, too, and may even give your skin a more youthful appearance, thanks to its inflammation-fighting prowess. And here’s yet another anecdotal way cannabis is becoming a BFF for holistic types: It can potentially help relieve pain. Capobianco says she has witnessed cannabis lotion provide super-quick relief countless times. “I could tell you a hundred different stories of people standing in front of me with tennis elbow, a shoulder injury, or some sort of pain, and they use our lotion and 10 minutes later they don’t feel it anymore.”
Science shows why this is the case: “CBD binds to a special set of receptors in the skin known as TRPV-1 receptors, where it can help feelings of heat, itch, and pain,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. “This explains why it has a soothing effect on the skin. Just as other natural oils are used in skin care, the natural fatty acids and antioxidants in hempseed oil make it a good choice for people with dry skin and eczema.”
The wide world of cannabinoids
While CBD is the compound popping up in beauty products, it’s not the only one within the cannabis plant to be aware of. “There are nearly 100 [naturally occurring compounds called cannabinoids], and CBD is the one that’s most well-known for its health and wellness benefits,” says Capobianco.
Real talk: There are a lot of chemicals within cannabis, and our body has an entire system that regulates them. All of this comes into play when you slather the plant’s extracts on your skin.
“If you just have one cannabinoid, such as CBD, you’re missing out on the over 100 additional cannabinoids that work together to produce the entourage effect,” Assaf explains. “I really believe in the whole plant, full-spectrum extract or oil as the active ingredient in skin-care products.” In other words, you want the whole system working together, she says.
Your body’s endocannabinoid system has receptors, and Capobianco notes that the full spectrum of cannabinoids work in concert more efficiently and effectively than one on its own—hence it’s good to look for the whole plant’s extract in the beauty aisle. “It’s like with supplements, you need black pepper in order to absorb turmeric,” explains Assaf. “You need all of the cannabinoids to connect with your body’s receptors.”
But then, there is the legality issue. “Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states,” notes Capobianco. “By contrast, cannabis-infused products are regulated at the state level and cannot cross state lines.” And obviously, full-on cannabis is illegal throughout the US.
“Legally, as long as the plant (either cannabis or hemp) is grown with under 0.3 percent THC [the cannabinoid that gets you high] it is considered legal, so theoretically it doesn’t matter whether it is hemp or cannabis,” adds Assaf. And hemp’s legal to import, but you can only grow it legally under an educational pilot program because of the Farm Bill—which is how most companies get away with growing it domestically, she explains.
Photo: Stocksy/Kristen Curette Hines
What to look for in the beauty aisle
As is the case in the food industry, knowing where your extract comes from is crucial, Assaf says. “It’s important to know the source. It’s not enough to say you’re getting CBD or hemp extract,” she says. “Some could be processed so intensely that the phytonutrients are stripped away and you’re left with a CBD isolate that’s just a white powder, which is missing all the potent cannabinoids.”
Capobianoco compares whole plant extract to extra virgin olive oil. “It’s a pure extraction method where you’re left with a brownish oil,” she says. “It’s key to look at this when purchasing, so that you’re getting something effective. It [also] helps with our overall goal and mission to de-stigmatize and normalize the plant. The last thing we want is someone to use something and think it does nothing and is a hoax.” So, according to Assaf, look for whole plant extract on the packaging to confirm what you’re using isn’t simply capitalizing on the buzz around the ingredient.