Updated: Sep 1, 2019
The CBD boom is here! I am seeing CBD in all kind of products from bath bombs to facial cleansers. While there is mounting evidence that CBD taken internally helps a wide range of ailments like anxiety and chronic pain, can CBD really benefit your body if used topically?
First, just a quick reminder on what CBD is. CBD (cannabediol) is a chemical compound that is found in certain plants, with hemp and marijuana being the most commonly used for extraction. CBD is a chemical part of the plant, but is not the chemical property that gets you high. THC, on the other hand, is the chemical compound that has the psychotropic effects. Every system in our bodies has cannabinoid receptors that react in the presence of cannabinoids. The goal of cannabinoids when combined with the receptors is always to achieve homeostasis, or a normal healthy level of being. So for example, if you have redness caused by irritation or infection, the cannabinoids will reduce the inflammation and create healthy normal tissue by fighting the infection. There are many components and many different types of plant chemicals related to CBD, and they all work on different issues.
CBD is introduced into your body by ingestion or inhalation. It should be noted that putting CBD on your skin is an extremely poor way to get CBD into your body and to your internal tissues. So you would not expect to help your clogged arteries or anxiety by putting CBD lotion on your skin, for example. Interestingly, when CBD is paired with certain terpenes (chemical components found in essential oils), the effectiveness is boosted dramatically!
So what is the science behind using CBD for skin issues? From the limited science we have currently on CBD use and skincare, it seems that CBD is very useful in several areas:
Eczema and psoriasis: These skin conditions are caused, in part, by an over proliferation of cell production. This causes scaly, itchy, sometimes oozing areas of the skin that are not only bothersome, but are very unhealthy and can open the skin and body up to infections. CBD signals the skin cell producing mechanism in your body to slow down and normalize. This ultimately improves symptoms, but it does not seem to cure the condition completely.
Acne: Inflammation and oil are key components that lead to inflamed acne, the acne that forms red painful bumps filled with pus. Using a CBD product on the skin for acne can improve the condition significantly, as CBD kills bacteria, reduces inflammation, and reduces excess oil production.
Itching: There are conditions such as advanced kidney disease or side effects from certain medications that cause severe and almost debilitating generalized itching. CBD shows some promise in blocking the skin nerve receptor that causes the itch.
Being a nurse (in my former life), I know there are 3 components when treating a condition with a product.
What amount of the active ingredient does the product contain?
What amount of the active ingredient are you applying to the area?
How often are you applying it to get the desired effect?
So if I have a bottle of CBD topical oil, it contains 300 mg/ounce, and I am told to apply 5 drops to the effected area 3 times a day, I have all the pieces I need to get the best results. However, if I have a product marked "CBD oil" and I am told to "rub it on the effected areas for relief of pain", there's a lot of key information missing. Products like CBD bath bombs might smell nice, but the CBD is not doing anything in this case except raising the price of the product.
It should be noted that there is currently no known dosage for CBD when using it topically and the science suggests that at least 300-500 mg/oz is needed to get any kind of effect at all in the skin. Again, using CBD this way does not get absorbed into your body, it only treats the skin. Not only that, but the dosage seems to be shaped like a bell curve. In other words, the symptoms are reduced by a certain dosage, but once you exceed a certain dosage, the symptoms return. More is not better in this case. But if you want to use CBD for other ailments, there are no known side effects or harmful effects from doing so.
In my practice, I make custom CBD topical oil in conjunction with other products to help fight acne. I have also had some amazing results when applying high dose CBD oil to atypical "bumps" on the skin. These bumps have been deemed by a doctor to be nothing more than excess skin growth and are not abnormal or harmful, but the CBD oil had a significant reduction in them when used in the high dose 5mg/drop concentration.
There is also some evidence that CBD stimulates melanocyte production, which is a great way to protect the skin from damage caused by the sun. In theory, the CBD could cause you to look slightly tan over time without the deep tissue damage caused by the sun's radiation (and increased risk of skin cancer). But these are the same cells involved with creating hyperpigmentation or "sun spots". Using CBD on the skin if you are trying to lighten those dark spots may have an undesirable effect of darkening them, but the jury is still out on that.
The takeaway here is to educate yourself before using CBD topically. Don't believe everything you are told or what read on the packaging. From what we know now, CBD will not make you look younger or reduce wrinkles. If you see a product that looks promising, ask for the science to prove what the company is stating. Be very thorough in scanning the label, and look for things like how much CBD is in the bottle and how much you are supposed to apply. And don't expect to treat internal issues like anxiety with topical CBD products.
I'd love to help you with your skin issues naturally, and incorporate CBD into a custom product if it is a good fit for your skin. Please check out the services page and book your holistic facial with me!