How good is CBD reducing the symptoms of rosacea?

How good is CBD reducing the symptoms of rosacea?


With 5 years of cannabis journalism behind her after graduating from De Montfort University and writing for cannabis publications such as The Cannavist, Lucy is a dedicated journalist passionate about cannabis education and culture.

No one likes turning red in a social situation – it can be embarrassing and hit your self-confidence where it hurts. But for rosacea sufferers, this is an all-too-regular occurrence, reducing their quality of life and making them feel self-conscious. Rosacea may be an extremely common skin condition, but it can cause deep and heavy mental anguish. The most recent research pointing to the potential effectiveness of medical cannabis options, and CBD in particular, as a treatment has thrown sufferers a welcome lifeline.

Rosacea can affect anyone, though typically it is seen more frequently in people over 30 who are fair-skinned, particularly women. It causes redness on the face, neck, and chest and while not life-threatening, it can certainly be difficult for sufferers as well as cause them irritation and discomfort.

It normally presents with people blushing or becoming flushed more easily, and sufferers may experience periodic flare-ups. Moreover, it is a lifelong condition with no known cure, and it can have an impact on mental health. One 2013 study found, it could lead to low self-esteem and shattered confidence.

In a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society, 90% said the condition had lowered their self-esteem, while 52% had avoided face-to-face contact because of it.

Rosacea – what causes it? And what are the conventional treatment options?

It’s unclear what exactly causes rosacea, though there are several possibilities. Potential culprits include environmental factors, bacteria on the skin, immune system dysfunction and genetics. Factors which make the blood vessels in the face get larger, such as hot or cold temperatures or stress, are thought to contribute to periodic flare-ups.

Treatments tend to be topical creams or oral medications to help people manage symptoms during a flare-up. Doctors will also prescribe antibiotics and, in severe cases, surgery may be required to address any disfigurement due to scarring.

Rosacea and CBD – what does the science say?

The cannabis sativa L plant has been used by humans for thousands of years for a variety of health treatments, but because of its well-known psychotropic effects, its application in therapeutic situations has long been seen as controversial. However, over the last 50 years, there has been a surge in interest surrounding how cannabinoids (or phytocannabinoids to be more precise), compounds found in cannabis, react in the human body.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are the two cannabinoids found in the highest concentrations in most cannabis and hemp cultivars. THC is the psychoactive element and gives the characteristic ‘high’ while CBD confers many potential therapeutic benefits but with no intoxicating effects.

CBD interacts with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – a vast network of neurotransmitters, chemical signals (endocannabinoids), and cell receptors. The ECS is responsible for a range of critical bodily functions including immune system regulation, central nervous system control and skin homeostasis. CBD is similar in makeup to endocannabinoids the body produces naturally, and so is able to also interact with the ECS receptors.

For rosacea, it is believed CBD, working through the ECS, will bind with specific receptors to alleviate symptoms. It may also be able to restore skin balance. One scientific review has found the activation of the CB2 receptor by CBD can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Research has also shown it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, all of which may improve the appearance of rosacea when applied topically.

CBD also possesses possible analgesic properties, which could help with pain and irritation. Current treatment for chronic rosacea cases is based on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), but these can carry heavy unwanted side effects.

Using CBD for rosacea

Treatment for rosacea starts with great skincare and there are many topical CBD products available including creams, ointments, and oils which can be incorporated as part of a daily regime. CBD oil can also be rubbed directly onto the skin. In addition, CBD can be taken orally in the form of drops under the tongue.

Follow these four steps to keep your skin in optimal condition:

  1. Use a daily cleanser – Choose one that is gentle on the skin and use it first thing in the morning and late at night. A CBD-based cleanser may help support your skin’s well-being.
  2. Moisturise – After cleansing, it’s important to moisturise to help soothe the area and reduce irritation.
  3. Use sun protection – Even if it’s cloudy or rainy, the sun can still have an effect. Choose a high SPF factor and use it during your daily life, particularly if you know your rosacea is triggered by the sun.
  4. Avoid triggers – It’s not always obvious what these triggers may be, but it’s sensible to avoid the common ones like alcohol and spicy food. Both of these can cause facial blood vessels to dilate, increasing the chance of a flare-up.

If you do decide to add a CBD-based product to your daily regime, it’s essential to follow the guidelines on dosage and application.

Product strength will vary. For the best possible outcomes, you should always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new skincare treatment, especially when it comes to medical cannabis options. Only specialist, registered doctors can prescribe cannabis-based products here in the UK, and while you can find many ‘over-the-counter’ options, these come with much less stringent regulatory oversight than medicinal options. A doctor will also be able to guide your best in terms of dosage and application method.  

If you do decide to go down the consumer route, start with a lower amount and assess its effectiveness regularly, only increasing if and when you need to.

Is CBD safe?

CBD has been shown, time and again, to be well-tolerated and without the more serious side effects people may experience with NSAIDs, steroids, and antibiotics. One study on transdermal gel reported no serious adverse side effects. However, 85% reported one adverse event, such as mild dryness or a mild rash.

Common side effects when taken orally can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety

CBD can also interact with other medications, and in particular increase the effect of blood-thinning drugs. If you are planning to take CBD and are currently taking prescription medications, it’s important to speak to your doctor first.

CBD – giving hope to rosacea sufferers

With rosacea negatively impacting people’s quality of life, it’s not surprising that they look for complementary treatment options that might alleviate symptoms. Research has shown strong potential for the therapeutic benefits of CBD, but more studies are required to fully assess its safety and effectiveness.

If you need an alternative approach to manage your health condition, Releaf is here to help. Our monthly packages are based on your cannabis prescription, and we offer specialist consultations for medical cannabis and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

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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