Can CBD Help Treat Acne?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

People have used natural treatments for thousands of years to promote beautiful, healthy skin. One option that’s increasing in popularity is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from the cannabis plant.

Products containing CBD are everywhere — from topical pain relievers to skin softeners and potential acne remedies.

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Read on for more information about CBD as a potential acne treatment and how to find high-quality products.

Does it work for acne?

Acne is a condition that occurs when excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells clog pores. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes can build up in the pores, causing angry, red blemishes.

With this in mind, acne treatment involves keeping the skin clean, free from acne-causing bacteria, and cutting back on excess oil that can clog the skin.

In this study, researchers measured the effects of CBD compounds on human skin samples and oil-producing glands in a laboratory.

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The researchers found that CBD inhibited oil production and also had anti- inflammatory effects on oil-producing glands. They concluded CBD was a “promising therapeutic agent” for acne treatment.

Does it work for body acne?

Because body acne occurs by the same mechanisms that facial acne does, it’s possible that CBD-containing products could help reduce body acne. Many skin care product manufacturers incorporate CBD into soap bars or body washes.

Although CBD products may not be specifically marketed to people with body acne, their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may provide some benefit.

What about acne scars?

Acne scars occur due to underlying disruptions in the skin caused by enlarged pimples and skin picking.

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After the three-month period, the researchers found that the CBD ointment significantly improved the skin’s appearance in categories like elasticity and hydration.

Although the study was small and not performed on those with acne scars, it does show promise that CBD products could help reduce the appearance of acne scars.

How about other skin problems?

CBD may be helpful in treating other skin woes, too. Here are some examples.

Psoriasis

The researchers theorized that cannabinoids could have the potential to “shut off” the receptors that caused excess skin cell buildup in people with psoriasis.

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Because the researchers didn’t conduct the study on living skin — they used human cadaver skin — it’s hard to say if they could duplicate the results. However, the study shows promise for those hoping to use CBD products to reduce their psoriasis symptoms.

Itchy skin conditions

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), one of the most promising uses for CBD is in the treatment of itchy skin.

The journal cited a 2005 study that found 81 percent of hemodialysis patients with itchy skin who used a CBD-containing cream experienced complete resolution of their symptoms.

Any drawbacks?

The researchers found the most commonly reported side effects were fatigue, diarrhea, and appetite changes. However, these side effects are largely for people who ingest CBD, not for those who apply it topically.

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It’s possible that a person could experience an allergic reaction to topically applied CBD.

If you have symptoms like skin swelling, itching, or skin peeling after applying CBD-containing products, wash the affected area with soap and water. You may wish to apply cold compresses to soothe irritated skin.

Discontinue use of CBD products if you think you’ve had an allergic reaction.

Available products

Many skin care manufacturers are beginning to sell CBD products. Some of the products you can currently purchase include:

  • Flora + Bast Age Adapting CBD Serum, $77 at Sephora.com: This oil-only serum is designed to clear acne blemishes and smooth skin.
  • Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, $49 at Kiehls.com: This facial oil is designed to reduce skin redness and decrease blemishes.
  • Myaderm’s CBD Calming Cream, $24.95 at Myaderm.com: This skin-soothing cream is intended to moisturize dry skin areas and soothe acne-related redness.
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In this study, the researchers tested 84 products that had a CBD label. They found 26 percent of the products tested had less CBD oil than advertised, which could affect how well the product works.

The good news is the researchers did find that oil formulations containing CBD were most commonly correctly labeled. Most acne treatments are oils.

As a consumer, one way you can ensure your product is high-quality is to buy it from a company that uses an independent laboratory to confirm the labeling.

A note about legality

In 2018, the Congress passed a bill called the Agricultural Improvement Act, or Farm Bill. This act made industrial hemp legal at the federal level.

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According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if a cannabis plant has less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it’s considered to be hemp. If it has more than 0.3 percent THC, it’s considered to be marijuana.

THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes a high. CBD, however, doesn’t cause a high.

Because CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana, the legality over products can be confusing.

Whether you can get CBD skin care products delivered to your home or buy them in a store depends on where you live. Your state and local laws may dictate if you can legally buy and use CBD products.

The bottom line

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To say that CBD products are an effective treatment for acne, dermatologists need large-scale studies on living skin. Until researchers conduct those, smaller laboratory studies do show promise.

If you do buy CBD products for acne, read the labels carefully, and buy from reputable businesses whose products are tested in independent laboratories.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

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