What Does Cannabis Oil Actually Do to Your Skin?

Cannabis oil and it's effect on the skin

Image Credit: By Maxim Getman on Shutterstock

Confused about cannabis oil and what it can do for your skin? You’re not the only one. Marketing jargon and complicated scientific language can make figuring out the world’s biggest wellness trend even more difficult, and the amount of inaccurate information online doesn’t help. Don’t despair, though — here’s a simple but thorough breakdown of everything you need to know about cannabis oil for your skin.

The phrase “cannabis oil” is used to refer to all oils derived from cannabis sativa plants (a genus that includes both hemp and marijuana), with two of the most prominent being CBD oil and hemp oil. It’s vague, broad, and easy to misinterpret, though it does act as a useful umbrella term for the ever-expanding taxonomy of cannabis and CBD products.

CBD oil is a form of cannabis oil that contains cannabidiol, or CBD. It can be extracted from the stalks of both hemp and marijuana plants, though the flowers and leaves are much richer sources (and marijuana plants contain much more than hemp). This is one of the most well known compounds in cannabis, and it’s becoming a huge trend not only in the health and wellness industry, but also in other sectors like skin care and food.

However, not all CBD oils are the same. There are three main types: full spectrum, partial/broad spectrum, and isolate, or pure, CBD. Full spectrum CBD oil contains THC and other chemicals too, as well as terpenes and fatty acids. Broad/partial spectrum contains a smaller range of ingredients in which THC is always excluded, while CBD isolate contains just the cannabidiol itself.

Medical experts believe full spectrum CBD oil is the best option because of a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect,” in which the presence of THC boosts the medicinal properties of the other ingredients.

Hemp seed oil is, as you might guess, extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. People often confuse it with CBD oil and brands are guilty of perpetuating this confusion, but the bottom line is that there is no CBD in hemp seeds, or by extension, in hemp seed oil.

So, when we talk about cannabis oil we’re talking about all of the above generally and none specifically.

5 Ways Cannabis Oil Helps the Skin

When it comes to the skin, all of these oils have some amazing health benefits. Here are five of the most important:

1. It’s Anti-Aging

Researchers have discovered that both CBD and THC (two of the best known chemicals in cannabis) have powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants kill off free radicals, the tiny molecules in the body that attack healthy skin cells and cause fine lines and wrinkles.

Up until now, vitamin C and E were thought to be the most potent natural antioxidants and have been used widely in skin care as a result. But now, scientists think CBD and THC are even more effective at preventing the seven signs of aging on the skin.

2. It’s Anti-inflammatory

One of the most common uses of cannabis oils is for the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. But their anti-inflammatory properties are just as useful in skin care as they are for more serious conditions. Skin complaints like acne can cause red, inflamed, and even painful skin. Allergies, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea also cause inflammation of the skin.

Animal studies show that the chemicals contained in cannabis oils could be just as effective at reducing inflammation as standard anti-inflammatory drugs. Skin care topicals that are infused with cannabis oil can treat the symptoms of this condition and significantly reduce their severity.

3. It’s Antibacterial

Cannabis oils have antibacterial properties. This is a major advantage for anyone suffering from acne, which is caused by a bacterial infection. It can also be very helpful to anyone experiencing a cold sore outbreak or any other condition that is susceptible to infection. Cannabis oils can fight off bacteria and fungi to prevent infections and speed up the healing process without causing negative side effects.

4. It Prevents Breakouts

Cannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemicals produced by the cannabis plant, and they’re remarkably similar to the chemicals produced in the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system acts like the skin’s internal regulator and corrects imbalances such as the overproduction of sebum. Too much sebum is the root cause of acne, as the oil collects and clogs pores, trapping dead skin cells and other debris and breeding acne bacteria.

By using a cannabis oil or cannabis oil product, you can prevent or correct excess oil production and treat or avoid breakouts.

5. It Soothes Sensitive Skin

Everyone’s skin is different and some people’s skin is much more sensitive than others. Sensitive skin can react to harsh skin care and beauty products, detergents, fragrances, and other allergens. There are also lots of skin conditions that can cause itchy, irritated skin.

The good news for those suffering with them is that cannabis oils have been proven to be very gentle, giving them the ability to relieve and soothe even the most sensitive skin.

How to Use Cannabis Oil for Skin

Cannabis oils come in many shapes and forms. You can take a cannabis oil capsule with your morning cup of coffee, or munch on cannabis-infused candies during your daily commute. Vaping cannabis oil is widely popular, as is ingesting the oil sublingually (under the tongue). But the most effective way to harness the benefits of the oil for your skin is to apply it topically using a good quality skin care product.

This doesn’t mean that any cannabis oil product will work wonders on your skin, though. Good skin care isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon — and making informed choices will benefit your skin far more than mindlessly buying the sexiest products on the market.

There are a few key questions you need to ask yourself before buying. What are the other ingredients in this product? Is it organic/fair trade/cruelty free? Has it been well reviewed online, and does the price feel right?

When on the hunt for a good topical for your skin, keep in mind our earlier explanation of the different types of cannabis oil and opt for a product that contains full spectrum CBD oil. For added peace of mind, ask if it’s been third-party lab tested.

Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell is a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer based in Ireland whose work has appeared in The Irish Times and The Independent, among others. In 2017, she founded the lifestyle brand “Self Love and Sarah” to promote healthy self image and body positivity for women.

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