Why is CBD beneficial for our skin?
Cannabinoids have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic, anti-ageing and anti-tumour properties through various mechanisms, including the Endocannabinoid System. This discovery may provide an alternative to traditional treatments for skin afflictions.
In this article we focus on the therapeutic properties for the skin of one of the most studied Cannabinoids, Cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol, known by its acronym CBD, is a substance found in the Cannabis plant. It belongs to the group of non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids (phyto=plant derivative) and is recognised by the WHO for its medicinal and therapeutic potential due to its multitude of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, antibacterial and anxiolytic properties.
The skin: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis
The skin is an organ of our body, composed of a complex, multi-layered barrier, whose function is to protect us from external factors. It is the largest organ in our body, accounting for up to 1/7 of our weight. The skin consists of 3 layers: The epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis.
- The epidermis: The epidermis is the outermost part of our skin and is composed of four distinct layers of differentiated skin cells. The epidermis plays a vital role as a barrier against infection, pollutants and UV damage, while preventing dehydration caused by trans-epidermal water loss.
Because our epidermis is continuously exposed to aggressive and damaging environments, its specialised skin cells, called keratinocytes, are programmed to constantly and rapidly renew themselves to repair and reform the epidermis. We could say that the epidermis is our greatest defence against external factors.
- The dermis: The dermis lies directly beneath the epidermis and plays a vital role in the health of the epidermis. It also acts as an environmental sensor.
The dermis is more complex than the epidermis and is made up of a wide diversity of cells, nerves and capillaries. It is where most of our sensory cells, called neurons, are located.
This layer of our skin is responsible for sending nerve impulses to the brain to inform us of external factors, conveying the sensation of cold, heat, pressure, touch, etc. It is in this layer of the skin that we find the sweat glands and the sebum-producing glands. It is also where we find the hair follicles and where we create substances that act as scaffolds for our skin, such as collagen and elastin.
- The hypodermis: The last layer of our skin, the hypodermis connects our skin to our body and is mostly made up of fat, connective tissues and water. It could be defined as a pillow for our joints and bones. Another of its functions is to synthesise hormones and vitamins that are important for our body, such as Vitamin D. Controlled sun exposure of our arms and legs is the easiest way to provide our body with its daily dose of Vitamin D.
The skin has many functions and its relationship with other parts of our body is important. It is part of a neuro-immuno-endocrine network which we can regulate through our Endocannabinoid System.
The Endocannabinoid System and the skin
Our Endocannabinoid System, also known by its acronym ECS, is a system discovered only 30 years ago. Today we know that it regulates almost every physiological function you can imagine. We are talking about a complex inter-cellular communication system responsible for working in the regulation of different processes in our organism, one of the organs where it is present is our skin.
During the last few years the important role of the ECS in the regulation of our skin processes has been discovered. This is due to the discovery of ECS receptors in our skin.
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 highlighted, noting that a variety of afflictions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, depigmentation, itching and some tumours can be caused by ECS imbalances.
The ECS helps to regulate important functions of our skin, such as:
- The production of cytokines, proteins in our immune system that can produce inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses.
- The production of sebum, our natural oil.
- The production of cells, responsible for regenerating and repairing our skin.
This is why cannabinoids can help us to regulate the imbalance of any of these processes
The benefits of CBD for the skin
CBD offers a wide range of benefits without serious side effects. Of particular note is its regulatory rather than inhibitory action. Many of the substances used to treat topical diseases and problems include harmful chemicals, steroids, corticosteroids or other ingredients that inhibit some of the symptoms, but do not control the root of the problem. By inhibiting our body's natural processes we cannot achieve a stable balance in our skin.
CBD interacts with our skin by activating the Endocannabinoid System to help regulate skin processes, offering its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic properties as well as its fatty acids and other nutrients needed by our skin. 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.
Benefits of CBD for different skin types
For atopic skin and/or skin with atopic dermatitis or psoriasis
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of CBD may help soothe and reduce itching in people suffering from atopic dermatitis.
Cannabidiol has been studied for a variety of topical conditions including atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and pruritus (itching). These topical afflictions are autoimmune diseases, i.e. the immune system itself becomes the damaging factor and damages healthy tissues and/or organs.
One of the most commonly used substances to treat these types of afflictions is corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are immune-suppressing substances whose job is to shut down autoimmune processes, which are beneficial and necessary to fight infections as long as they are not attacking our own system.
That is why corticosteroid treatments can make people more susceptible to infections and are only suitable for certain cases.
Cannabidiol on the other hand offers us a natural option that helps regulate but does not seem to oppress our immune system, allowing our body to reach a balance where it will not attack our healthy tissues and is able to respond to infections.Numerous studies report CBD's ability to activate anandamide, this endocannabinoid has a number of antipruritic and analgesic properties that inhibit TRPV activity in pain-sensitive neurons, called nociceptors, and itch-sensitive neurons, called nociceptors.
Overactive or hypersensitive TRPV1 activity can lead to excessive transmission of pain and itch sensation, so 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 conditions and affects 80% of people at some point in their lives. Treatments focus on reducing the amount of sebum, bacteria and inflammation of the skin.
Earlier we talked about the functions of the endocannabinoid system in our skin, one of the functions is the regulation of sebum (our natural oil) production. Adequate levels of sebum production are protective, aid in the elasticity of our skin, protect against external factors 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) as well as containing antibacterial properties, making it a perfect substance to help cleanse, balance our skin's oil production and prevent the appearance of infections and blackheads. Its anti-inflammatory effects also help to reduce the redness, swelling and pain associated with acne breakouts and relieve uncomfortable and painful symptoms.
In preclinical studies, CBD is shown to be 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 sebum production, reduces redness, soothes and moisturises and brings a natural glow to the skin. Its great potential to regulate skin processes offers a natural remedy to soothe and calm the dermis. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce redness in skin prone to irritation and itching.
For mature skin
CBD not only contains high levels of antioxidants, but can also signal our skin to activate its natural antioxidants. These help the skin to regain its natural glow. These antioxidant pathways work together to prevent damage, they can also slow down the skin's ageing process and smooth wrinkles by fighting free radicals and pollution.
The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating skin cell regeneration, also known as cell renewal. By enhancing our endocannabinoid system with CBD, we can ensure quality cell turnover, replacing dead skin cells with new ones and preventing excessive build-up that can make our skin look dull, helping our skin to regain its natural glow.
The benefits of other cannabinoids for the skin
Right now most cannabinoid studies focus on CBD and THC due to their greater presence in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant. However, there are more than 113 cannabinoids with various promising effects. More research is needed but every day we are getting closer to knowing more about this plant and its beneficial uses for the skin.Below we will mention the therapeutic potential of other cannabinoids to treat skin afflictions.
CBG: Cannabigerol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with potential to treat dry skin and inflammation due to its moisturising, analgesic and antibacterial properties.
THC: Known for its psychoactive effects, THC has significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been studied topically to help relieve the itching of atopic dermatitis. However, studies indicate that THC is not absorbed as efficiently into the skin as CBD.
CBN: Cannabinol has very interesting anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties for topical use.
CBC: Cannabichromene has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and sebum-regulating effects. As studies progress, we will know if this cannabinoid can be an ally in the treatment of acne.
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