CBD Oil for Acne: Information, Treatment, Effectiveness & Studies

Girl with acne free skin examining her face.

What is Acne?

Acne is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that causes whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts. The most common areas that these blemishes are found are on the upper body, primarily around the face, shoulders, back, neck, chest, and upper arms. Most commonly this condition occurs during young age, especially during puberty when the sebaceous glands activate.

This skin condition is the most common in the United States affecting up to 50 million Americans each year. Over 85 percent of people in the US experience acne of some kind between ages 12 and 24 years old. The immediate visual appearance of acne has been studied to cause other self-esteem issues like depression or social anxiety.

Acne Symptoms

There are varying signs that point to acne. The following are ordered by severity:

  • Whiteheads (closed, clogged pores)
  • Blackheads (open, clogged pores)
  • Papules (small, tender red bumps)
  • Pimples (small, tender red bumps with white puss at the tip)
  • Nodules (large, painful lumps beneath the skin's surface)
  • Cysts (large, painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the skin's surface)

What Causes Acne?

The skin is lined with pores that connect to oil glands under the surface. Follicles, small sacs that produce and secrete liquid, connect the glands to the pores. These glands produce an oily liquid called sebum. Sebum carries dead skin cells to the surface of the skin through the follicles. Each follicle has a small hair that grows out through the surface of the skin.

When these follicles become blocked, oil builds up under the skin. As a result, skin cells, sebum, and hair will plug the pore. The blockage becomes infected with bacteria resulting in swelling and redness. The bacterial propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes) lives on the skin and contributes to the infection.

The following triggers are known to increase the risk of acne:

  • hormonal changes (puberty)
  • diet
  • genetics
  • greasy cosmetics
  • stress
  • drugs containing corticosteroids, testosterone or lithium
  • menstruation

Treating Acne with CBD Oil

A growing body of research has suggested that CBD may be a safe and efficient topical for reducing this inflammation and reducing sebum production. These properties may reduce the appearance, severity, & occurrence of acne.

Research and anecdotal evidence focus mainly on the treatment of acne through the use of topical CBD products. While on-site application directly targets the infected and inflamed areas, ingesting products like capsules and tinctures may help reduce symptoms in addition to the other known benefits, though research has not directly correlated the two.

Additionally, other cannabis compounds including Cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) show promise to become 'highly efficient, novel anti-acne agents'. For this reason, full spectrum CBD oil products should be considered over an isolated form of CBD for the treatment of acne-related skin conditions.

Notable Acne Related Cannabidiol Research

  • A 2008 study showed that sebaceous gland dysfunctions including acne and dry skin should be further researched.
  • A 2010 study claimed that CBD may be more efficient than vitamin A derivatives like Accutane.
  • A 2014 study stated, "due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris."
  • A 2015 study found that a cream extracted from cannabis seeds "could be suggested for treatment of acne vulgaris, seborrhea, papules and pustules to get (an) attractive facial appearance."
  • Quoting from a 2016 study: "Our data suggest that CBG and CBGV may have potential in the treatment of dry-skin syndrome, whereas CBC, CBDV and especially THCV show promise to become highly efficient, novel anti-acne agents. Moreover, based on their remarkable anti-inflammatory actions, phytocannabinoids could be efficient, yet safe novel tools in the management of cutaneous inflammations."

Originally Published: January 7, 2019 | Last Updated: January 7, 2019

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