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CBD Topicals for Skin Conditions: How Does It Act on the Skin?

While it may seem like CBD is seen as the universal cure for a variety of conditions, there still seems to be a gap in the current knowledge. Though recent evidence suggests that topical application of CBD may be helpful for some skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and inflammatory conditions, confirmed ways and mechanisms by which it works on the human body are yet to be fully identified. This article covers an update on CBD research advances and how it can be used for managing various skin conditions.

Key takeaways:

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is generally found in 3 types: endocannabinoids. phytocannabinoids, and synthetic. Of these, nine types of endocannabinoids are found in human skin. The endocannabinoid system (EBS) is an evolutionary network comprising various molecular signaling pathways. It is the most well-established in the central nervous system, but a similar network is also found within the skin.

How does CBD help with skin conditions?

The EBS within the skin is responsible for maintaining skin homeostasis and helps in keeping its barrier function intact. CBD and its effect on the EBS has been implicated in various skin disorders like atopic dermatitis, itch, acne, hair growth/loss, and hyper/hypopigmentation.

CBD for eczema and atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder associated with many potential causes, such as environmental triggers, damaged skin barrier function, microbiome imbalance, genetics, and an altered immune response.

Cannabinoids have been shown to modulate inflammatory responses, and hemp extracts have antimicrobial and antibiofilm activities against Staphylococcus aureus, the most common organism responsible for aggravating atopic dermatitis. Though the efficacy of CBD is yet to be clinically confirmed, a recent study validated the anti-inflammatory properties in the setting of allergic contact dermatitis.

CBD for wound healing

Wound healing is a complex process, and the proposed ways in which CBD helps are through regulating the skin growth cycle and suppressing inflammation.

A single study reported three patients suffering from epidermolysis bullosa (a rare skin disorder characterized by pain and blistering) had faster wound healing, less blistering, and pain suppression with self-reported topical use of cannabidiol. However, total evidence of the usefulness of CBD for wound healing is scarce, and much needs to be delved into.

CBD for acne

Studies have shown that CBD can effectively control acne by reducing redness and excessive sebum production. The primary mechanism is the ability of CBD to suppress the inflammation. Researchers found that CBD oil could inhibit oil production and exert anti-inflammatory effects, helping manage facial acne.

While CBD has not been found to cure acne, it has been found to relieve its symptoms and possibly reduce the severity and duration of the condition. Researchers speculate that hemp seed extract could indeed be used for treating acne vulgaris because of its ability to suppress sebum production, inflammation, and antimicrobial properties, which are the leading causes of the development of acne in the first place. However, there are no human clinical trials to validate the idea.

CBD for skin pigmentation

The pigmentation of human skin is the manifestation of the synthesis of a dark pigment called melanin, and the role of CBD in blocking the formation of this pigment is still under evaluation. While some studies find that CBD stimulates pigment formation, which marks the potential role of CBD for skin conditions lacking pigment, such as vitiligo, other studies propose the contrary. We still need data to ascertain the role of cannabinoids in the synthesis of melanin and its role in skin pigmentation.

CBD topical formulation types

Various CBD topicals, such as CBD creams, lotions, gels, and salves, are available today. It is essential to choose one based on your needs and skin requirements.

  • Cream or lotion. If you are looking for an everyday moisturizer with the added benefits of CBD, a cream or lotion will be a good option.
  • Oil. If you are looking for extra hydration, especially when tackling dry skin, CBD oil will be a better option as the oily formulation will prevent moisture loss from the skin.
  • Salve. A salve is a semi-solid substance that gets absorbed rather slowly. Hence, it is preferably used when extended effects are desired, such as pain relief.

Tips for using CBD topicals

While CBD is available in various formulations, it is worthwhile to remember a few points before using it over the skin.

  1. Patch test. Like any new skincare product, perform a patch test and learn how your skin reacts to the CBD topical before incorporating it into your routine.
  2. Wet skin. When using CBD topicals for dry skin conditions, apply the CBD moisturizer to your skin after drying off directly from the shower. This will help seal in the moisture and get the active ingredient's benefits.
  3. Scars and scabs. Avoid using CBD or any other active ingredient over raw skin surfaces.
  4. Expiration dates. Remember that CBD oil can lose its potency over time, reducing its effectiveness. Hence, if you have a bottle that has stayed on the shelf for too long and you don't see any effect when you try it during a future flare, it'll be worth investing in a new bottle instead.

Another cautionary word, as noted by the FDA, is that CBD products are often marketed with misleading claims. Since these products do not need a prescription, they are readily available, making people think it is harmless. However, there have been reports of rashes after using CBD oil; consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new product.

The potential benefits of CBD in various skin conditions, especially acne, eczema, and atopic dermatitis, are promising. Its use for different conditions continues as researchers further explore and test its benefits. However, further clinical trials are required before a definite claim can be made. Indeed, it is an ingredient worth further investigating if you have considered incorporating it into your skincare regimen.

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