Can CBD Help Clear Up Acne?

Products containing CBD are everywhere from topical pain relievers to skin softeners and potential acne remedies. Read on for more information about CBD as a potential acne treatment.
Written by 
Janelle Lassalle, Cannabis Journalist.
|Last Updated:
CBD and acne

It’s no news that Cannabidiol (CBD) products are high in demand. After all, CBD has been shown to demonstrate a variety of therapeutic properties. A few of these include the ability to act as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic (painkilling) compound.

These two properties also make topical CBD products such as lotions and creams extremely popular. In fact the use of topical CBD products accounts for 20% of the market today.

Another surprising benefit associated with CBD topicals is they may help treat several skin conditions including acne.

Cannabidiol and Acne: What We Know

We’ve known about Cannabidiol’s remarkable anti-inflammatory properties for some time now. But how does this apply to acne?

The production of acne, surprisingly enough, is regulated by another key player in the cannabis space: the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cell signaling occurring in the cutaneous layer of skin via the ECS regulates many functions relating to skin health. These include the production of waxy, oily substances that can create acne as well as other disorders such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and keratin diseases.

Human sebocytes are cells which produce waxy sebum, or your body’s natural oils. Research has shown that when CBD is administered to sebocytes, CBD inhibited the lipogenic (fat/wax producing) actions of these cells. This action resulted in downregulation at the site, i.e. the decrease of cell signaling. Additional anti-inflammatory effects were exerted through the A2A adenosine receptor.

All in all, researchers summarized CBD’s effects on acne as: “…our findings suggest that, due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and antiinflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne (vulgaris).”

How do topical CBD products work?

CBD’s effects on skin have made it a popular subject for topicals. A CBD topical is any cosmetic formulation such as a lotion, balm or cream that has been infused with CBD. Oftentimes CBD is used in its oil form. Other manufacturers may opt to use chemically extracted CBD isolate powder instead of oil.

Topical products often utilize a number of other anti-inflammatory and analgesic ingredients in their formulations. A few you’ll probably encounter often include capsaicin, menthol, curcumin, aloe vera, cocoa butter and jojoba oil. These ingredients often work by stimulating our ECS systems just like CBD does. In fact we even have a special type of receptor, known as TRP channels, exactly for this purpose. When capsaicin interacts with these channels it decreases TRP activity, causing a reduction in pain.

This mechanism of action by which capsaicin works parallels the way CBD acts on the ECS. In fact, the antiproliferative (anti-acne) properties of CBD are mediated through activation of TRP channels, too.

While we know quite a bit about CBD, the research showing how topicals work is still in its infancy. We do currently know that a topical preparations is affected by intrinsic product lipophilicity, or how efficiently fats in the product can absorb through skin. Several studies are currently evaluating topical CBD formulations, also known as transdermal formulations, for pain and inflammation.

CBD Skin Receptors

Why Sourcing Matters

Topical administration of CBD is ideal for localized pain. However topical CBD products have one major drawback: namely, the low permeability of skin. Some compounds, especially hydrophilic (water based) solutions won’t absorb very well through skin.

This means you have to take extra care to ensure the topical you’re buying is a good fit. A few ways to do this include:

  1. Finding the most potent topicals possible, i.e., those containing the largest amount of CBD in the smallest volume of liquid/material.
  2. Using full spectrum products as full spectrum CBD doesn’t taper off after a certain dosage.
  3. Examining lab results for all topicals [Certificates of Analyses (COAs)]. You should see passing grades for all tests, especially pesticides, as hemp can be a bio-accumulator.
  4. Choosing products that contain terpenes as these can strengthen CBD’s effects via the Entourage Effect.
  5. Making sure CBD is the first, or one of the first ingredients in your topical. Be wary of topicals whose primary ingredient is not CBD.

We here at Leafreport take special care to thoroughly evaluate as many CBD products as we can. A few of our favorite CBD topicals that meet our high standards include RE Botanicals Extra Strength Relief Body Oil (which scored a 100!), Lazarus Naturals’ Unscented Full Spectrum CBD Lotion and Receptra Naturals Serious Relief + Arnica Targeted Topical. You can also search for other topicals here.

Does CBD Help With Acne?

We already know CBD can act as an anti-inflammatory agent. We also know that when applied topically, CBD can inhibit wax and fat production that leads to the worsening of acne. While more research is ultimately needed, the evidence we currently have indicates CBD may be a good choice for treating acne.

Janelle Lassalle
Janelle Lassalle
Cannabis Journalist
Janelle is a writer, artist and cannabis/cannabidiol (CBD) expert. Her works have appeared in a variety of top-tier publications including Forbes, Rolling Stone, BBC and VICE. She’s also the co-founder of The Full Spectrum Revolution, a cannabis publication dedicated to educational and lifestyle cannabis content.

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