Young Woman Cleaning Face While Standing In Bathroom

CBD for Acne: Can It Help?

As much as we’d all love to have luminous, clear skin, most of us struggle with acne from time to time. And for some of us, it’s a bigger struggle than others.

Of course, what we want is a natural cure-all for those embarrassing blemishes, but is CBD actually helpful for acne? Well, here’s the short version. We have some studies that suggest that CBD products could be helpful for acne – due to its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as its ability to reduce excess oil production 1 Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628 .

We need more clinical studies before we can say for certain, but so far the early research is promising that using CBD for acne could be a beneficial treatment. Here is what we found for CBD for acne, does it work?

Woman applying CBD facial mask to treat acne

What is Acne?

According to one study, acne is “the most common human skin disease, affecting the quality of life for millions worldwide.” 1 Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628 But despite decades of research, a simple fix has proved elusive, and scientists are still trying to get to the roots of this condition.

Of course, we all know what acne looks like – the pimples, pustules, and painful nodules – and most of us have experienced it at some point. It usually appears on the face and forehead, and many people also have it on the chest, upper back, and shoulders. It can come and go throughout the lifespan, though it often starts at adolescence 2 Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Acne. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/acne .

What Causes Acne?

Simply put, acne occurs when pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells 3 Mayo Clinic. Acne. (2020). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047 . According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the kind of acne you get depends on what exactly clogs your pores 4 American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: Who Gets and Causes. (2021). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/acne-causes .

When it comes to who gets it, there is a genetic link. So if you have a family history of acne, and in particular a close blood relative who experienced it, you’ll have a greater chance of getting it yourself 4 American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: Who Gets and Causes. (2021). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/acne-causes .

According to the Mayo Clinic, four main factors that can cause an acne outbreak 3 Mayo Clinic. Acne. (2020). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047 .

  • Excess oil (sebum) production: Human pores connect to oil glands under the skin (sebaceous glands). Under normal conditions, sebaceous glands produce sebum to keep our skin from drying out. When they produce too much (due to hormonal changes or other factors), then we run into problems.
  • Clogged Hair Follicles: When a gland produces too much sebum it mixes with dead skin cells and begins to plug up the follicle. This starts a cascade of unfortunate events which will eventually result in an acne outbreak.
  • Bacteria: Our skin has bacteria on it – and its presence is generally both normal and harmless. However, when hair follicles become plugged by too much sebum (oil), then that bacteria can contaminate and infect the follicles. This causes papules, pustules, nodules, or even cysts.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation is a major cause of acne. When sebum builds up and bacteria begin to cause contamination in the follicle our bodies respond by sending white blood cells to help out. This inflammatory response causes the redness, pain, and swelling associated with the worst acne outbreaks.

What Studies Support the Use of CBD for Acne?

So how might CBD work for acne? While studies on CBD for acne are in the early stages (we don’t have large-scale clinical trials to draw on) we know a bit about CBD’s benefits and early research has shown that these benefits may make CBD an effective anti-acne treatment.

Specifically, there is good evidence that CBD is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and has the ability to reduce sebum production 5 Karas, J. A., Wong, L., Paulin, O., Mazeh, A. C., Hussein, M. H., Li, J., & Velkov, T. (2020). The Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabinoids. Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland), 9(7), 406. https://doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics9070406 6 Eagleston, R., Kalani, N., Patel, R. et al. (2018). Cannabinoids in dermatology: a scoping review. Dermatology Online Journal, 24(6):1 . If you look back at the list of the most common causes of acne above, you’ll notice that this covers a great deal of territory when it comes to treatment.

2021 Study: The Antimicrobial Potential of Cannabidiol 7 Blaskovich, M., Kavanagh, A. M., Elliott, A. G., Zhang, B., Ramu, S., Amado, M., Lowe, G. J., Hinton, A. O., Pham, D., Zuegg, J., Beare, N., Quach, D., Sharp, M. D., Pogliano, J., Rogers, A. P., Lyras, D., Tan, L., West, N. P., Crawford, D. W., Peterson, M. L., … Thurn, M. (2021). The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Communications biology, 4(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01530-y

We all have bacteria on our skin, but they don’t cause trouble till they begin to contaminate clogged follicles. CBD’s antimicrobial activity may be able to help.

We are just beginning to learn about the potent antimicrobial benefits of CBD. This study evaluated its potential as an antibiotic treatment for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and found that CBD “had excellent activity against biofilms, little propensity to induce resistance, and topical in vivo efficacy.”

2019 Study: CBD-Enriched Ointment for Scarring 8 Palmieri, B., Laurino, C., & Vadalà, M. (2019). A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. La Clinica Terapeutica, 170(2), e93 - e99.

This 2019 study found that topical CBD ointment helped 20 patients with scarring from skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema. Study results showed that the topical CBD “significantly improved” skin appearance without causing irritation or allergic reactions.

2016 Study: CBD and Sebum Reduction 9 Oláh, A., Markovics, A., Szabó‐Papp, J., Szabó, P.T., Stott, C., Zouboulis, C.C. and Bíró, T. (2016), Differential effectiveness of selected non‐psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Exp Dermatol, 25: 701-707. doi:10.1111/exd.13042

This study used cultured human sebocytes (sebum-producing cells) and a human skin organ culture to explore the effects of CBD on human sebaceous gland function.

The researchers found that CBD is able to limit sebum production (sebocyte lipogenesis). This benefit, in addition to CBD’s antiproliferative (it tends to suppress cell growth) and anti-inflammatory benefits, led to the conclusion that “CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”

2013 Study: Cannabinoids and Skin Inflammation 9 Oláh, A., Markovics, A., Szabó‐Papp, J., Szabó, P.T., Stott, C., Zouboulis, C.C. and Bíró, T. (2016), Differential effectiveness of selected non‐psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Exp Dermatol, 25: 701-707. doi:10.1111/exd.13042

CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits are one of its most studied and documented benefits and, according to the authors of this study, “Acne is a skin disease with complex pathogeny, with inflammation at its center.” They cited evidence that CBD is able to exert anti-inflammatory effects via adenosine receptors, with benefits for acne (but also for other inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis).

How to Use CBD for Acne

There are so many ways to take CBD oil, but we’ll focus here on topical skin treatments. While CBD topicals tend to focus on joint and muscle pain, there are a number of high-quality CBD-infused facial products as well.

If you like facemasks, why not try a CBD-infused one? Moon Mother combines the benefits of CBD with those of manuka honey in their Hemp and Manuka Honey mask. Or if you prefer a sheet mask, CBDFX has a whole line of CBD-infused masks.

CBD facial serums are another wonderful way to benefit from CBD’s anti-inflammatory goodness. We recommend Frigg’s Attuning Facial Potion which is packed with nourishing botanicals. (You can read about this wonderful company here).

Lord Jones is another top-notch CBD company that has created CBD products for facial skin. The company’s Acid Mantle Repair CBD Moisturizer was formulated specifically to support the skin’s moisture barrier (which helps block bacteria).

CBD for Acne Cautions

CBD is generally a very safe substance However, as with any CBD product, if you are using other medications for your acne (whether they be oral or topical) you should absolutely consult a physician before adding CBD to your regime. CBD can interact negatively with other medications, and you don’t want to start experiencing increased side effects or lower efficacy.

Also, if you find that a CBD product causes irritation, you should discontinue use. CBD has a good safety profile, but listen to your body!

It’s always a good idea to check third-party lab reports to make sure that a CBD product actually has CBD in it. Many skincare companies are throwing “CBD” on the label without giving much thought to dosing properly. It’s worth taking the time to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

Summary

We need large-scale clinical trials before CBD can be touted as an acne treatment, but the early studies are very promising. CBD’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and sebum-limiting potential make it well worth further scientific research. If you want to try CBD for acne, just be sure to buy from a reputable company, and check those third-party lab reports!

The information provided is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to treat or cure any health ailment or condition. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any new product. We are not responsible for any adverse reaction(s) you may have to any of the products featured on this site. See our T & C for more information.

Sources
  1. Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Acne. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/acne
  3. Mayo Clinic. Acne. (2020). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acne/symptoms-causes/syc-20368047
  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: Who Gets and Causes. (2021). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/causes/acne-causes
  5. Karas, J. A., Wong, L., Paulin, O., Mazeh, A. C., Hussein, M. H., Li, J., & Velkov, T. (2020). The Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabinoids. Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland), 9(7), 406. https://doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics9070406
  6. Eagleston, R., Kalani, N., Patel, R. et al. (2018). Cannabinoids in dermatology: a scoping review. Dermatology Online Journal, 24(6):1
  7. Blaskovich, M., Kavanagh, A. M., Elliott, A. G., Zhang, B., Ramu, S., Amado, M., Lowe, G. J., Hinton, A. O., Pham, D., Zuegg, J., Beare, N., Quach, D., Sharp, M. D., Pogliano, J., Rogers, A. P., Lyras, D., Tan, L., West, N. P., Crawford, D. W., Peterson, M. L., … Thurn, M. (2021). The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Communications biology, 4(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01530-y
  8. Palmieri, B., Laurino, C., & Vadalà, M. (2019). A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. La Clinica Terapeutica, 170(2), e93 - e99.
  9. Oláh, A., Markovics, A., Szabó‐Papp, J., Szabó, P.T., Stott, C., Zouboulis, C.C. and Bíró, T. (2016), Differential effectiveness of selected non‐psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Exp Dermatol, 25: 701-707. doi:10.1111/exd.13042
  10. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034

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