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Why is CBD beneficial for our skin?

Learn about CBD’s anti-inflammatory, antipruritic, anti-aging and antioxidant properties as an alternative to traditional treatments for skin afflictions.

Why is CBD beneficial for our skin?
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The benefits of CBD for your skin

Cannabinoids have demonstrated their anti-inflammatory, antipruritic, anti-aging and anti-tumor properties through various mechanisms, including the Endocannabinoid System. This discovery may be an alternative to traditional treatments for skin afflictions. In this article we focus on the therapeutic properties, for our skin, of one of the most studied phytocannabinoids, Cannabidiol.

Cannabidiol

Cannabidiol, known by its initials, CBD, is a substance present in the Cannabis Sativa L plant. The WHO recognizes its medicinal and therapeutic potential due to its multitude of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, antibacterial and anxiolytic properties.

The skin: The epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis

We will start by defining what our skin is. Our skin is the largest organ of our body, it accounts for 1/7 of our weight and is made up of a complex multilayered barrier, whose function is to protect us from external factors. Our skin consists of 3 layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis.

  • The epidermis is the outermost portion of our skin and is composed of four distinct layers of differentiated skin cells. The epidermis plays a critical role as a barrier to infection, pollutants, and UV damage while also preventing dehydration caused by transepidermal water loss. Because our epidermis is continually exposed to harsh, damaging environments its specialized skin cells, called keratinocytes, are programmed to constantly and rapidly renew themselves in order to repair and reform the epidermis. For these reasons, it is arguably our greatest defense and strongest barrier.
  • The dermis is located directly below the epidermis and provides a supportive foundation for a healthy epidermis and acts as an environmental sensor. It it more complex than the epidermis and consists of a multitude of cell types, capillaries, and is where most of our sensory cells, called neurons, are found. This layer of our skin is responsible for sending nerve impulses to the brain to inform us of external factors, transmitting the sensation of cold, heat, pressure, touch, etc. It is in this layer of the skin where we find the sweat glands and the sebum-producing glands. In addition, it’s where we find hair follicles and where we create substances that acts as scaffolds for our skin, such as collagen and elastin.
  • The hypodermis: The hypodermis, the last layer, connects our skin with our body, it is made up mostly of fat, connective tissues and water. It could be defined as a small pillow for our joints and bones. Another of its functions is synthesizing hormones and vitamins necessary for our organism such as Vitamin D. The easiest and most efficient way to provide our body with its daily dose of Vitamin D is by exposing our arms and legs to direct sunlight, without sunscreen for at least 15 minutes (but after 15 minutes put some sunscreen!!).

The skin has a multitude of functions and its relationship with other parts of our body is important. It is part of our neuro-immuno-endocrine network which we can regulate through our Endocannabinoid System.(2)

The Endocannabinoid System and our skin

Our Endocannabinoid System, also known by its acronym in English, ECS, is a system discovered just 30 years ago. The ECS is known for its regulatory function of almost all the physiological functions you could imagine. We’re talking about a complex intercellular communication system in charge of regulating different processes in our body, one of the organs where it is present is our skin. In recent years, the important role of ECS in regulating the processes of our skin has been discovered. This is due to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors in our skin.(2) In a 2019 study “Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the Endocannabinoid System”, the intrinsic role of the ECS in the regulation and balance of our skin is gathered, noting that a variety of afflictions such as; Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, depigmentation, itching, and some tumors can originate from ECS imbalances. The ECS regulates such important functions of our skin as:

  1. The production of cytokines, important signaling proteins of our immune system that can promote inflammatory or anti-inflammatory responses.
  2. The production of sebum, our natural fat.
  3. Production of cells, responsible for regenerating and repairing our skin.
  4. Cannabinoids help us regulate the imbalances that can occur with all of these processes.

(1)(2)(3)(4)

The benefits of CBD for our skin

CBD offers a multitude of benefits without any known serious side effects. It should be noted for its regulatory and but not overly inhibitory action. Many of the substances that are used to treat diseases and topical problems include potent, and sometimes harmful, chemicals, steroids, corticosteroids or other ingredients that are responsible for strong inhibition of beneficial natural processes that create uncomfortable symptoms, but they do not get to the root of the problem. Inhibiting natural processes makes it harder for our body to reach homeostasis, this includes our skin.(6) CBD interacts with our skin by activating the Endocannabinoid System to help regulate its processes, offering its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic properties. It is one of the most studied cannabinoids with promising results for the treatment of topical afflictions such as atopic dermatitis, acne, pruritus and psoriasis.(5)(6)(7)

CBD benefits for different skin types

Now that we have a better understanding of how our skin, the Endocannabinoid System and CBD work, let’s distinguish how CBD can help different types of skin.

For atopic skin and / or with atopic dermatitis or psoriasis

CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can help calm and reduce itchiness in people with atopic dermatitis. Cannabidiol has been studied for a variety of topical afflictions including atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and pruritus (chronic itching). These topical afflictions are autoimmune diseases, that is, the immune system itself is unbalanced and damages healthy tissues and / or organs. One of the substances that is most used to treat these afflictions are corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are immunosuppressive substances whose job is to shut down inflammatory immune processes, processes that are beneficial and necessary for fighting infections so long as they are not attacking our own system. That is why corticosteroid treatments can make people more susceptible to infection and are suitable only for certain cases. On the other hand, Cannabidiol offers us a natural option that helps regulate but does not appear to inhibit our immune system, enabling our body to reach a balance so that our immune system won’t attack our healthy tissues, but is still able to respond to infections.(9) Numerous studies show the capacity of CBD to activate anandamide, this endocannabinoid has a series of antipruritic and analgesic properties that inhibit TRPV1 activity on pain-sensing neurons and itch-sensing neurons, called nociceptors. Overactive or hypersensitive TRPV1 activity can lead to excess transmission of pain and the sensation of itching, which is why reducing TPRV1 activity may offer a promising treatment for people with atopic dermatitis or pruritus.

For oily and / or acne-prone skin

Acne is one of the most common skin afflictions and affects 80% of people at some point in their life. Treatments focus on reducing the amount of oil, bacteria, and skin inflammation. Before we talked about the functions of the Endocannabinoid System in our skin, one of the functions is sebum production (our natural oils) regulation. Appropriate levels of sebum production is protective, aiding in our skin’s elasticity, barrier function, and much more; however, people with oily or acne-prone skin over-produce these natural oils which can clog pores and allow bacteria to grow. CBD regulates the production of lipids (such as sebum) in addition to containing antibacterial properties, making it a perfect substance to help balance our skin’s oil production and prevent the appearance of infections and blackheads (1). Its anti-inflammatory effects also help lower the redness, swelling, and pain associated with acne breakouts to ease uncomfortable and painful symptoms. In preclinical studies, CBD is shown as a potential cannabinoid for the treatment of acne vulgaris. CBD suppressed sebocyte proliferation by activating the TRPV4 receptor, influencing the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism.

For sensitive skin

CBD can be a great ally for people with sensitive skin. It regulates the production of sebum, reduces redness, calms, hydrates and provides a natural glow to the skin. Its great potential to regulate skin processes offer a natural remedy to soothe and calm the dermis. Its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness of skin prone to irritation and itch.

For mature skin

CBD not only contains high levels of antioxidants, but may also tell our skin to engage its natural antioxidant pathways. These antioxidants and antioxidant pathways work together to prevent damage, slow down the skin’s ageing process, and smooth wrinkles by fighting free radicals and contamination. The endocannabinoid system has an important role in regulating the regeneration of the skin cells, also known as cell turnover. If we enhance our endocannabinoid system with CBD, we can ensure quality cell turnover, replacing dead skin cells with news one and preventing excessive accumulation that can make our skin look dull, helping our skin regain its natural glow.

The benefits of other cannabinoids for the skin

Right now most of the cannabinoid studies focus on CBD and THC due to their increased presence in the Cannabis Sativa L plant. However there are more than 113 cannabinoids with different promising effects. More research is needed but every day we get closer to knowing more about this plant and its beneficial uses for our skin. Here are some of the next cannabinoids to enter the market.

  • CBG: Cannabigerol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with potential to treat dry skin and inflammation due to its moisturizing, analgesic and antibacterial properties. CBG is extremely promising, however CBG is not found in such high quantities inside the cannabis sativa plant as for example, CBD or THC.
  • THC: Known for its psychotomimetic actions, THC has significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been studied topically to help relieve itching from atopic dermatitis. However there are studies indicating that THC is not absorbed as efficiently into the skin as CBD. (8)
  • CBN: Cannabinol has very interesting anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties for topical use.(8)
  • CBC: Cannabichromene has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and regulatory effects on sebum production. With the advancement of studies, we will know if this cannabinoid could be an ally to treat acne.

Conclusion Most studies on the dermatological treatment of CBD are preclinical with a few exceptions of clinical evidence. However, research within the scientific community is continually identifying properties of Cannabidiol and other cannabinoids that suggest it can nourish our skin and may help treat certain topical afflictions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, premature ageing, itching, acne and redness. Doing so with fewer harmful results than traditional treatments.   Sources:

  1. Oláh A, Tóth BI, Borbíró I, et al. “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes”. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(9):3713?3724. doi:10.1172/JCI64628
  2. Mounessa, Jessica S. et al. “The role of cannabinoids in dermatology” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 77, Issue 1, 188 – 190                
  3. Eagleston, Lauren et al. Cannabinoids in dermatology: A scoping review” UC Davis Dermatology Online Journal, 24(6). 2018
  4. Casares L, García V, Garrido-Rodríguez M, et al. “Cannabidiol induces antioxidant pathways in keratinocytes by targeting BACH1”. Redox Biol. 2020;28:101321. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2019.101321
  5. Tóth KF, Ádám D, Bíró T, Oláh A. “Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System”. Molecules. 2019;24(5):918. Published 2019 Mar 6. doi:10.3390/molecules24050918
  6. Misuraca, Melinda. “Can CBD help your complexion?” Project CBD. 2019
  7. Sheriff, Tabrez & Lin, Matthew & Dubin, Danielle & Khorasani, Hooman. (2019). The potential role of cannabinoids in dermatology. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 1-7. 10.1080/09546634.2019.1675854.
  8. Stinchcomb AL, Valiveti S, Hammell DC, Ramsey DR. Human skin permeation of Delta8-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and cannabinol. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004;56(3):291?297. doi:10.1211/0022357022791
  9. Russo, Sara. Fundación Canna. Cannabis Healing autoimmune diseases.

Christina Schwertschlag (Author)

Christina dedicates her time to research and development in the cannabis world. With experience in design, innovation and sustainability projects, she seeks to unite different entities in the cannabis world to help destigmatize the plant and make it more accessible to users.

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Joanna Kreitinger (Reviewer)

Joanna Kreitinger is a cellular biologist and immunologist currently leading dermatology and autoimmune disease research for the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions. Throughout her training and career, Joanna has been committed to understanding the ways in which exposure to pollutants, pathogens, and plant-derived chemicals can suppress the human immune system, with keen interest in harnessing these mechanisms for translational therapeutics to treat autoimmune diseases.

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