Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to positively affect acne in 4 major ways. These include decreasing oil overproduction, limiting the growth of new oil producing cells, reducing various markers of inflammation, and combating acne-causing bacteria.
Acne is a common skin condition that can cause angry red inflammation, painful blemishes, pimples, and cysts. Research suggests that both oral and topical CBD products can be helpful for treating acne.
This article discusses current CBD and acne research, how CBD elicits its effects, other compounds in hemp oil with research-backed benefits for acne, CBD's efficacy for other skin problems, directions on how to use CBD for acne, and important takeaways.
Acne is the most common skin disease in humans and it affects the lives of millions of people around the world.[ 1]
Research evidence supports that CBD oil may be helpful in treating acne as well as various other skin conditions.[ 2] However, because acne can be caused by a variety of triggers, it's usefulness may vary slightly for each individual.
Acne occurs when excess dirt, oil, and dead skin cells clog pores. This affects healthy cell turnover and leads to overgrowth of the bacteria Cutibacterium acnes ( C. acnes), which has been linked to the establishment of acne for over 100 years.
C. acnes (formerly called Propionibacterium acnes) can build up in the pores causing inflammation as well as painful bumps, pustules, and pimples.
CBD oil may reduce the amount and severity of acne by regulating sebum or oil production, managing inflammation, and mitigating the acne-related bacteria C. acnes.
Traditional acne treatments involve managing oil production, inflammation, and the overgrowth of C. acnes bacteria.
Current research suggests that CBD oil may target all of these.
At least four pathways have been proposed to explain CBD oil’s potential efficacy in treating acne. These include:
1. Reducing sebum or oil overproduction
2. Limiting unwanted sebocyte proliferation
3. Decreasing inflammation markers
4. Managing the bacteria C. acnes
Besides reducing oil production, another desired effect of an anti-acne agent is to reduce the unwanted growth of new oil producing skin cells.[ 4]
A 2014 CBD and acne study found CBD exerted complex anti-inflammatory actions and reduced excessive sebum production by oil making cells known as sebocytes. Researchers also observed that CBD limited the growth of new sebocytes, without causing damaging existing cells.[ 1]
Sebocytes are cells that produce sebum or oil. They have been found to exhibit strong antimicrobial activity, and transport antioxidants to the skin. Sebocyte cells also express pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties.[ 5]
These functions make healthy sebocyte activity critical to protecting our skin from the outside world. Overactive sebocytes, however, can be a problem.
Several experimental models have demonstrated CBD’s anti-inflammatory actions.[ 6] The 2014 study also observed CBD to have anti-inflammatory actions.
Specifically, CBD prevented the elevated expression of TNFA a key inflammatory cytokine in the development of acne.[ 7]
CBD has also been shown to exhibit potent antimicrobial activity against gram positive bacteria like C acnes.[ 8]
While preliminary results point to CBD as a promising acne treatment, human trials are still lacking. For doctors to recommend CBD oil for treatment and prevention of acne, human studies will need to provide direct evidence.
CBD is just one of the hundreds of therapeutic compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. In fact, some researchers refer to Cannabis sativa as the plant of one thousand and one molecules.[ 9]
Full spectrum hemp oil and hemp seed oil both contain a variety of these active Cannabis compounds.
Full Spectrum Hemp Oil
Unlike CBD isolate which contains only the cannabinoid CBD, full spectrum hemp oil is a whole plant extract. This means full spectrum hemp oil retains hundreds of different bioactive compounds with varied therapeutic properties. These compounds include CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, stillbenes, flavonoids and others.
Full-spectrum hemp oil contains many terpenes that have been shown to have anti-microbial effects against C. acnes.[ 10] Research suggests that terpenes found in full-spectrum hemp oil including myrcene, α-pinene, β-caryophyllene, possess significant antimicrobial properties. 
Studies also suggest that the various Cannabis compounds present in full spectrum hemp oil work together to enhance each other’s desired effects.[ 14] So, a combination of terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids will have stronger effects than any of these compounds alone. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
Therefore, full spectrum hemp oil may be more effective in treating acne than CBD alone.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is extracted from hemp seeds and also contains a variety of bioactive compounds with various skin benefits and healing properties. Hemp seed oil does not contain CBD.
One study by Jin et al examined the effects of hemp seed extract on Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) induced inflammation and oil production in vitro.
Researchers found that hemp seed extract exhibited anti-microbial activity against C. acnes. The study also showed that hemp seed extract exerted anti-inflammatory effects, regulated oil production, and promoted collagen synthesis.[ 15]
CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant effects in the body may contribute to its usefulness in the treatment of other skin conditions.
Skin allergies: Contact dermatitis is a red, itchy skin rash caused by contact with an irritant or allergen. One in vitro model of human allergic contact dermatitis showed that CBD exhibited anti-inflammatory properties. This suggests CBD may help reduce the negative effects of allergic skin reactions.
Eczema and psoriasis: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant effects may be helpful for inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. One 2019 study examined effects of CBD ointment on psoriasis and resulting scars. Researchers concluded that CBD ointment significantly improved skin parameters and symptoms.
Aging and wrinkles: Researchers have found that CBD improves the production of collagen. Studies have found that free radicals and oxidative stress increase collagen breakdown. CBD’s antioxidant effects protect cells from free radicals and are thus thought to be helpful in improving collagen levels. CBD’s antioxidant effects may help reduce the appearance of find lines and wrinkles by supporting collagen production.
Topical CBD for acne can be applied directly to the skin whereas CBD tincture can be taken orally for long-term prevention.
For topical use directly on the skin, CBD should be mixed with a carrier oil. For example, our hemp oil face moisturizer blends CBD-rich full spectrum hemp oil with hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, rosehip oil, eucalyptus oil and lavender oil, all of which possess known skin benefits.
Taking CBD oil orally may also help with acne, as its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial compounds remain active when they enter the body.
A combined whole-body approach of oral and topical CBD oil is likely to be the most effective.
When choosing a CBD skin care product it is important to confirm its actual CBD content.
In 2017, researchers tested 84 different CBD products available to consumers. Of those 84 products, 26% contained less CBD than was advertised on the label.[ 19]
Most reputable CBD skincare companies will provide third-party laboratory test results. You can view ours here.
Acne can be a problem for people of all ages and natural ways to fight acne are a welcome alternative to pharmaceuticals.
Full-spectrum hemp oil, which is rich not only in CBD but also a variety of other cannabinoids and bioactive plant compounds, has a wide array of therapeutic properties that may help reduce acne and improve the appearance of your skin.
Using CBD for acne is most effective as a whole-body approach.
A combination of topical CBD application directly to the skin and internal consumption of CBD oil under the tongue will likely yield the best results.
CBD May Help:
- Regulate Sebum Production
- Manage Inflammation
- Improve Cell Turnover
- Reduce the Negative Effects of Bacteria, Fungus and Viruses
- Support Skin Elasticity and Collagen Production
Many variables influence the development of acne, including hormonal imbalances, excess sebum production, inflammation, and genetics. Factors such as diet, exercise, stress, and certain medications can also impact the severity of an individual’s acne symptoms. Thus, although CBD’s benefits are undeniable, an overall healthy lifestyle is critical to maintaining acne-free skin.
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