By the year 2025, the market for skin care products infused with CBD is expected to be worth at least $1.7 billion, according to analytics firm Grand View Research. Despite the backlash against CBD beauty — driven in large part by the prevalence of substandard products and the revelation that many CBD brands are intentionally misleading consumers — people still can’t seem to get enough of this non-intoxicating cannabinoid in their various lotions, creams, serums, and balms.
Given what we know about its shortcomings, why is CBD skin care so popular? Good question. Sure, the answer likely has at least a little to do with the trendiness of anything that can be associated with “cannabis.” But this isn’t just a case of mindless consumerism (not entirely, anyway). It turns out there are a variety of ways in which CBD could benefit your skin, at least if it’s applied properly in the right amounts.
Here are some of the most intriguing ways CBD could help improve your skin.
When CBD is applied topically, it isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream like it is when it is consumed or placed under the tongue (unless you’re using a transdermal product). Instead, it acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the skin.
These receptors are part of your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS influences the body in different ways, with one of the most notable being helping maintain homeostasis or balance. That sounds nice in theory, but what does it actually mean in practice?
Sebocytes, the glands in the skin that produce oil, can overproduce oil and cause pores to become clogged with bacteria. This results in breakouts. In 2014, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation noted that the topical application of cannabidiol helped balance oil production. This means that it could help prevent breakouts from happening in the first place, or at least reign in their severity when they do happen.
Inflammation of pores and hair follicles can also cause acne, and reducing inflammation can help individuals better manage their breakouts. The same study mentioned above observed anti-inflammatory effects on human skin cells and sebocytes cultured in a lab. While that’s not quite the same as observing those effects on an actual person, it’s an encouraging first step for this still-nascent field of research.
In 2019, a small study in the journal La Clinica Terapeutica observed the results of topical application of CBD in participants diagnosed with psoriasis, dermatitis, or scars. The researchers found that CBD helped reduced the severity and visibility of these inflammatory skin conditions.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by the overproduction of skin cells. This results in scales and dry patches on the skin caused by skin cell buildup. Individuals dealing with psoriasis experiencing both itching and painful irritation.
The National Psoriasis Foundation endorses CBD as an alternative treatment in addition to other, more conventional options. They cite research from 2007 that found the topical application of cannabidiol to slow down skin cell production.
People who suffer from chronic skin conditions, like psoriasis or eczema, know that the symptoms of these conditions can be very uncomfortable. Products that help manage itchiness or irritation can greatly improve their quality of life.
In 2017, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study that showed CBD had promising potential in management of itchiness and skin irritation. While that’s not the same as an ironclad endorsement of CBD’s skin-soothing powers, it does mean that people with a chronic, itchy skin condition might find a topical cream or ointment with CBD to be a useful addition to their medicine cabinet.
While so much of the research about cannabidiol is fairly new, one 1998 study established something about this hemp-derived product early on — its antioxidant content makes it a potent weapon against free radicals, which contribute to wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Not only that, but the unchecked proliferation of free radicals has also been linked with the development of more serious conditions like skin cancer. Again, it’s too early to suggest that CBD is a silver bullet against any of these issues, but when used in conjunction with sunscreen and other preventative measures, it does seem like it could be useful in preventing or repairing the effects of skin damage.