EducationFive key CBD skincare benefits

Five key CBD skincare benefits

8 min read

Sam North

Five key CBD skincare benefits

CBD skincare is big news, with hundreds of products hitting the market in recent years. They claim to offer many benefits, from reduced scarring to increased healing, but how do these claims stack up?


The skin is the body’s largest organ and is responsible for many important functions, including keeping germs out and protecting the body’s internal organs from infection. It prevents loss of moisture, protects organs from UV exposure and acts as a sensory organ detecting touch. It also regulates temperature and produces vitamin D, which is critical for building bone.

In short, the skin is a remarkable structure. However, like any part of the body, it can become damaged, and sometimes it requires a little extra help to keep it in top condition. There is a growing body of research which demonstrates CBD has a role to play in effective skincare.

CBD is an active cannabinoid compound derived from the cannabis sativa L. plant, which has been taken for thousands of years for its purported medicinal benefits. Thought to have originated in Asia, it is an extremely versatile and useful plant which is now cultivated around the world. It has been administered to help everything from skin inflammation and gastrointestinal diseases to depression, fertility, gout, cholesterol, and constipation. Research into its application for pain relief and the management of cancer pain is ongoing.

Scientists have to date discovered more than 110 cannabinoid compounds in cannabis which have potential therapeutic effects. The best-known and most active are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of transmitters and signal cells involved in a range of critical bodily functions, including skin regulation and healing, to produce a range of beneficial outcomes. However, while THC causes the high associated with cannabis administration, CBD has no known psychotropic effects.

CBD is, however, believed to offer a range of skincare benefits when applied topically because it reacts with ECS receptors in the skin to help regulate various skin functions such as inflammation, scar tissue production and oil production.

Anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is a natural process, a sign that your body is reacting to something and attempting to heal itself. It can present itself in several ways including dryness, irritated or sore skin, flat, raised or bumpy rash, skin thickening, warmth, or burning in the area, increased sensitivity to products and flare-ups of conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Acute inflammation like getting a cut lasts a few days. However, chronic inflammation can lead to permanent damage to healthy cells, DNA changes, death of cells, and scarring.

For people suffering from skin inflammation, it can be irritating at best and life-limiting at worst with an impact on mental health, physical activity and social interactions. But CBD can decrease redness and, in the case of conditions like eczema, it may dampen down the itch.

Research from the University of Bialystok, Poland, has shown CBD can improve anti-inflammatory effects and reduce the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Another systematic review of CBD showed that it could reduce inflammation across a range of bodily processes. However, it added that its therapeutic applications remained controversial and more research was required.

With that said, CBD has been shown to improve the outcomes of acne sufferers, another inflammatory response by the body when sebaceous glands become blocked and infected. The research revealed it offered soothing benefits with reduced inflammation and reduced production of inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, when applied to the skin, it was found to be well-tolerated, safe and non-irritating.

Moisturising properties

Moisturising the skin can help to keep it in good condition and reduce the chances of skin problems. It can prevent the skin from becoming too dry or too oily – both extremes can cause conditions like acne or psoriasis.

The skin on the face, head, ears, neck, and chest is also more sensitive and sheds skin cells more rapidly. It needs moisture for repair and to allow young skin cells to rise to the surface.

According to a study published in the Italian Journal of Clinical Therapeutics in 2019, CBD ointment improved skin hydration by moisturising it and preventing water loss. The 20 participants were all sufferers of either eczema or psoriasis – skin disorders which can be improved if moisture levels are increased – and all reported some improvement. Researchers said it could be due to fatty acids in the ointment but was also likely due to the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD.

Many dermatologists will prescribe steroid-based creams to treat skin problems, but they carry risks of skin thinning with long-term application and can even make symptoms worse. CBD could potentially be a non-steroidal alternative treatment if further studies confirm its effectiveness.

Antioxidant properties

Free radicals are a by-product of the process in the human body which creates energy from food. They can also be introduced by other means, such as stress or toxins. While free radicals are a normal part of our makeup, the production of them over time can disrupt molecules, leading to tissue damage and ageing of cells and organs. Antioxidant skincare products are designed to reduce the production or effect of free radicals, in theory slowing the ageing process and creating younger looking skin.

Antioxidants work specifically by scavenging free radicals in cells and preventing or mitigating damage caused by oxidation. A Polish study found that CBD had an effect on the levels of both oxidants and antioxidants, leading researchers to conclude that it could potentially have a beneficial effect on skin health.

Further research by Kopustinskiene et al. described the antioxidant properties of CBD as comparable to that of vitamins C and E.

Acne reduction

Acne is a common skin condition which will affect most people at some point in their lives, though it’s particularly prevalent in puberty and results from hormonal changes. It occurs when skin follicles become blocked with oil and dead skin cells and presents as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, nodules, or cysts on the skin. It most commonly develops on the face, but people can also suffer acne on their back and chest.

There is no cure, and it can cause irritation and scarring. It’s also often associated with negative self-perception and low self-esteem. Various creams and medications can help control it, but it’s a complex condition and many of the treatments have serious side effects.

However, CBD is showing signs as an alternative treatment by interrupting the processes that cause it, such as excess oil build up. One of the most promising studies appeared in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, in which researchers looked at the effects of CBD on human samples and oil-producing glands in the laboratory. They found that CBD had an anti-inflammatory effect on the glands and inhibited oil production.

Wrinkle reduction

Wrinkles are a sure sign of ageing and can be distressing for some. Consequently, a whole industry has sprung up to reduce their appearance. There are many products on the market which claim that, although not all of them are scientifically backed. However, emerging research suggests that CBD may work both as a standalone treatment and in conjunction with other therapies.

As we’ve already said, CBD has antioxidant properties which can reduce the presence of free radicals and play a role in skin regulation by interacting with the ECS. Interrupting these processes can reduce skin damage and therefore skin ageing. 

Inflammation can increase the damage to skin cells, but as CBD also has anti-inflammatory properties it can reduce this too. Poor sleep is also known to increase inflammation in the body, but CBD can potentially improve the quality of sleep.

CBD - A new era of skincare?

Research into CBD’s role in skin maintenance and recovery is still ongoing, but the evidence certainly points towards it having a beneficial effect. With further clinical trials and positive data, it’s highly likely we’ll see more skincare products and medications containing CBD entering the market. 

As with any treatment, however, different people will experience different benefits, which is why an individual and personalised approach is needed when choosing the best product. For the best possible results, it is advised to reach out to a doctor that has experience prescribing medical cannabis for skin care. They will be able to advise you on the best route.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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