How CBD Can Safely Deliver Skincare Benefits
The CBD revolution is well underway. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve tried a CBD product before (such as an oral tincture) to help with pain, reduce stress, and aid in a variety of other ways. But have you tried it on your skin?
The mechanism of action for CBD is somewhat figured out: we have something called the endocannabinoid system in our bodies. This system has a wide spectrum of functions that regulate the body including memory, appetite, energy, and stress. Even without cannabis, this system still functions all the time. It just so happens that cannabidiol (CBD) activates the CB1 receptor of this system which results in its therapeutic benefits.
The use of CBD in skincare is a new field. Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout both the brain and body and can be activated through many different routes of administration. Does this mean that CBD could have a positive impact when used topically? Some studies indicate that topical CBD may help to comfort skin. In this article, we will investigate the credibility of these claims and determine if the research supports them or not.
Is CBD Safe?
First of all, you may be wondering if there are any potential downsides of putting CBD on your skin. For oral consumption, there has not yet been a single confirmed lethal overdose from cannabis in humans from THC or CBD. The lethal dose would be thousands of times greater than a typical dose.
For topical use, the studies so far haven’t shown any adverse skin reactions either. Overall, the level of toxicity in CBD is extremely low, especially when compared to other common skincare ingredients like parabens, phthalates, alcohol, and aluminum.
CBD is generally safe to use on the skin although a patch test is always recommended when trying new skincare ingredients. Although there needs to be further research conducted specifically on topical CBD, there are still more studies on CBD skincare than many other skincare ingredients due to the high-profile interest surrounding CBD.
What is Inflammation?
Before getting to CBD, we need to talk about inflammation. What exactly is it? Although we tend to associate the word “inflammation” with something that’s bad, inflammation refers to our body’s natural response when faced with harm. It’s the body’s way of fighting off outside invaders. Inflammation is simply part of the body’s immune function. Inflammation itself isn’t always bad but it can indicate if something is hurting our bodies.
The word “inflammation” is often used to refer to acute and chronic inflammation, two cases in which the body may experience pain, heat, and swelling. These types of inflammation can still be completely normal. By increasing blood flow and heat to the impacted areas, inflammation acts as a first line of defense against things like physical injury and harmful bacteria. Too much inflammation causes problems and is associated with a vast number of diseases including cancer, arthritis, and many other auto-immune diseases.
Whether it’s on the skin or other parts of the body, inflammation leads to damage when it runs amok.
How CBD Can Help Skin (and Reduce Itching)
A few CBD studies have shown that CBD can reduce certain types of skin inflammation. One study showed that CBD reduced the proliferation of keratinocytes. Keratinocytes form the outer layer of the skin. Psoriasis is caused by the hyperproliferation of keratinocytes due to inflammation. The interesting thing about the study is that the CBD reduced inflammation through a non-CB1 mechanism. The CB1 receptor (activated by CBD) is mostly responsible for the therapeutic qualities of CBD so it’s promising to see benefits outside of activating this receptor.
Another way that CBD can reduce inflammation is by reducing the urge to itch. A study on pruritus (the urge to scratch) reduced itching by 38% after applying topical cannabinoids twice daily for three weeks. Itching is typically caused by inflammation. Scratching relieves itching by counteracting the itchy feeling with a small amount of pain. This leads to nerve damage which results in further inflammation and a need to itch. Reducing itching can have a dramatic effect on skin health. Much of the redness in our faces comes from us knowingly or unknowingly scratching it leading to redness caused by inflammation.
How CBD Impacts Skin Barrier Function
Since the cannabinoid system is found throughout our entire body, CB1 and CB2 receptors are also found in our skin and aid in the function of the epidermis. A study on rats suggested that CBD may help to improve epidermal barrier function which could help with skin conditions like Aoptic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema). The skin barrier is vital to healthy skin, protecting it from outside elements and locking in hydration.
Another study sought to measure the amount of CB1 and CB2 receptors in skin. The study compared the skin of two groups of dogs, one healthy and the other with Atopic dermatitis. The study found greater immunoreactivity of CB1 and CB2 in the group with eczema, suggesting that the cannabinoid system helps to protect the skin as part of its immune response. However, this study did not establish a causal link on whether or not CBD improves eczema symptoms or other skin conditions.
How CBD Can Protect Against Nerve Damage
CBD is known to reduce pain but may also help to protect against nerve damage. A study on osteoarthritis looked into the efficacy of localized CBD treatment in rats. Osteoarthritis is the type of arthritis caused by wear-and-tear on the joints rather than via an autoimmune response (as with Rheumatoid arthritis). This damage causes a low but persistent level of inflammation that can lead to greater nerve damage over time.
The study found that topical CBD treatments in rats reduced a process called leukocyte trafficking. Leukocyte trafficking is part of a key process that sends cells to the site of inflammation. Although it’s part of a healthy body’s immune response, when this process gets out of hand, it can lead to nerve damage. This study did not specifically deal with skincare, but it certainly has some strong implications. Nerves run throughout the entire body including the face. When damaged, the appearance of the skin can change because nerves send signals throughout the body. This can result in problems like reduced cell growth.
Conclusion - Why CBD May Be Worth Trying for Your Skin
CBD has a bright future ahead of it. It cleared major legal hurdles with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized CBD from hemp and removed it from the federal list of controlled substances. It’s no wonder why people are seeking CBD to treat a variety of ailments.
How about CBD for the skin? Even if CBD or THC didn’t exist, the cannabinoid system would still play an important role in our bodily functions and immune system, including our skin. It just so happens that we’ve discovered a drug that can interact with these receptors for a positive outcome. Via the CB1 receptor, even when applied topically, CBD can relieve pain and itching and may even protect against nerve damage.
Outside of the CB1 receptor, CBD may reduce inflammation in other ways such as reducing the hyperproliferation of keratinocytes (as with psoriasis). Research in this area is a bit thin at this point, but non-CB1 topical benefits of CBD certainly deserve further attention after seeing some promising results.
Due to the low toxicity of CBD and positive conclusions from early studies, you may consider trying CBD as part of your skincare routine, especially if you are dealing with inflammation. Those with sensitive skin and chronic skin conditions should tread carefully, but it may also provide them with an even greater benefit.
- Cannabidiol bioavailability after nasal and transdermal application: effect of permeation enhancers: https://www.medicinalgenomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Transdermal_CBD1.pdf
- Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
- Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis: https://www.jdsjournal.com/article/S0923-1811(06)00315-X/fulltext
- Attenuation of early phase inflammation by cannabidiol prevents pain and nerve damage in rat osteoarthritis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5690292/
- The Role of Cannabinoids in Dermatology: https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(17)30308-0/fulltext
- Cannabinoid receptor type 1 and 2 expression in the skin of healthy dogs and dogs with atopic dermatitis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22738050