Updated on June 4, 2021.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of hundreds of naturally occurring plant compounds derived from the cannabis plant, shown in clinical studies to reduce inflammation as well as support healing. This makes it an ideal candidate for treating a variety of skin conditions such as acne, eczema/psoriasis, sensitive skin, allergies and rash, discoloration and itch. CBD may even have promising pain and anticancer applications as well.
CBD’s non-psychoactive effects and suitability for topical use have made it a hugely popular ingredient in the skincare industry, in over-the-counter elixirs, supplements, aging/wellness products and more.
How hemp helps skin and body
Just as other nut and seed oils are used in skin and hair care, hemp-derived CBD oil is safe to use for all skin types, and packs a nutritive punch. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, CBD contains all 21 known amino acids and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This makes CBD a great skin protectant against everyday abuses like sun exposure and dry and polluted air.
CBD interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for our body’s internal balance). It also binds to receptors in the skin that mediate sensations of heat, itch and pain, which likely explains its reported soothing effects.
Another beauty of CBD is that its effects are more than skin deep. Potential positive applications range from headache and muscle aches, to celiac disease, to epilepsy, to sleep problems, to anxiety and depression. Not bad for the less-exciting, oft-overlooked husband (hemp), to his far more infamous and controversial wife (weed).
Overhyped fad, or a CBD-panacea?
CBD is one of the most well-known of all the cannabinoids because of its health and wellness benefits. But there has been little research on CBD due to state and federal regulations on both hemp–CBD’s plant source–and its cannabis cousin. The Farm Bill Congress passed in 2018 aims to open up channels to access, research and more.
Even as new and useful applications of CBD arise, if used in isolate, there’s a natural limit to CBD’s efficacy. Just as some supplements work better together (vitamin C helps us absorb iron, for example), the more cannabinoids available to connect to your body’s own receptors, the more powerful the effects. Full-spectrum products often combine two or more cannabinoids to maximize results. Given that there are over a hundred cannabinoids, and CBD is just one of them, full-spectrum products are a level up for those in states where higher percentages of THC combined with high CBD levels are legal. But even in states where it’s not, full spectrum CBD products are available with trace amounts of THC (no more than .3% by law—nowhere near enough to get high), added to aid absorption and boost efficacy.
Anecdotally at least, CBD is being touted as something of an anti-aging, all-in-one elixir for youthful-looking skin. And though those claims remain disputable, what’s harder to dispute is CBD’s more readily observed beautifying powers: reducing puffiness, swelling, treating and healing acne, reducing inflammation from skin conditions such as rosacea, dry skin, rashes—and even flare-ups due to allergies and eczema.
Incorporating CBD into your skincare routine
If you’re struggling with any skin-related issues, you may want to consider using pure or concentrated CBD oil or related products. As always, consult your doctor and/or dermatologist before doing so.
Conveniently, it’s now possible to purchase hemp-derived CBD legally in all 50 states—though where you get it, and in what form and potency, will depend entirely on where you live. Aim for full-spectrum CBD in therapeutic doses upwards of 500-1,000 mgs (where available). As always, we encourage you toresearch your state’s medicinal cannabis laws.