Skin care is in, and the beauty industry is on the lookout for the next natural, plant-derived super serum.
Cannabinoids, or CBD, are a chemical compound found in marijuana, and they might be the ideal ingredient.
Marijuana has gotten more sophisticated in recent years, as weed has become legal in more and more states.
Currently, marijuana is legal recreationally in nine states and the District of Columbia, and medicinally in 29 states and Washington, D.C.
Now, marijuana is being rebranded to appeal to millennials, women, and the wellness movement, with new lingo like “flowers” used to describe the drug instead of “dank” or “reefer.”
Several studies have found skin care benefits of topical CBD, which doesn’t have psychoactive properties like THC. There’s potential for topical CBD to treat acne, itch, eczema, and psoriasis, according to a recent analysis of existing research.
The authors of the analysis pointed to a small study on 3 percent cannabis cream for acne.
The study found that people with acne and redness who applied CBD cream on one side of their face two times a day saw significant decrease in sebum (the oil that can cause acne) and redness.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD were found to be an effective topical treatment for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, a California-based dermatologist, spoke at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recently about the potential of using topical CBD for skin care and said that cannabis may also be the next big thing in antiaging skin care routines.
“There are two recent studies that show the importance of CB1 receptors [cannabinoid receptor] in the skin for healthy basal cell regeneration,” she said. “Basal cells have to regenerate and grow. If they don’t, you look much older.”
That doesn’t mean cannabinoids will be a fountain of youth.
“Using CBD oil for antiaging won’t be like retinol,” she explained. “CBD is just an extra thing to add to the mix as part of a skin care regimen. Unsaturated fatty acids help with moisturizing and CBD helps with inflammation.”
CBD can be sold in all 50 states, as long as it’s derived from industrial hemp only.
But many brands choose to manufacture and distribute creams with higher concentrations of CBD in states where recreational use is legal. Jacknin considers these more-potent brands to be the best choice for consumers who live in a state where marijuana is legal.
After years of experiencing psoriasis on her abdomen, Cheryl Carpenter tried topical CBD cream.
Psoriasis patients are seeking CBD skin care
Consumers themselves are driving the demand for topical cannabis skin care products, according to Jacknin.
Many patients have learned about topical CBD’s pain-relieving qualities, and seek out CBD creams and patches for relief.
But more people are also experimenting with CBD to help manage conditions like psoriasis, an auto-immune disease that results in cycles of rough, scaly skin that can be itchy and painful.
Cheryl Carpenter has lived with psoriasis on her scalp and abdomen for several years.
“My doctor has prescribed many different medications to help my psoriasis. Most of them have been topical steroids,” she said.
Carpenter said these drugs are “astronomically expensive” — up to $300 for a month supply that isn’t covered by her insurance.
“[They] only temporarily alleviated my psoriasis symptoms, if at all,” she told Healthline.
After hearing that research has shown CBD can help some skin conditions, she was eager to try it herself. Carpenter, who lives in Massachusetts, where medical marijuana is legal and decriminalized, “religiously applied” Medterra’s CBD Pain Cream three times a day.
“The cooling effect of the cream gave me relief immediately from the itching and discomfort associated with my psoriasis,” she said.
There were also longer-lasting effects, she said.
“Over the course of the seven days, the psoriasis gradually faded [and the inflammation decreased] and by the seventh day, I could barely tell it was ever there,” she explained.
Another psoriasis-sufferer, named Boris, told Healthline he “wanted to find a natural solution that still allowed me to be outdoors.”
Boris, who asked to only be identified by his first name, is based in California and explained that many topical pharmaceutical options for psoriasis steroids can thin your skin.
“Doctors recommend you do not expose your skin to sun when using these creams,” he said. “The sun’s rays actually help our skin produce Vitamin D and aid in managing dryness and flaking [caused by psoriasis].”
He tried Papa and Barkley cream, sold in California, to manage his symptoms without the same side effects. It worked for him.
“Topical cannabis product, if used daily, can completely control flaking and redness associated with psoriasis. However, it needs to be used daily, and it needs to be applied multiple times,” Boris pointed out.
“This is where some people move back to steroid topical solutions: you can use it for two to three weeks and be clear for multiple weeks thereafter, but you are sacrificing your skin’s durability,” he said.
What to know before you buy
“I think there’s tremendous potential for CBD to help people with a lot of illnesses, not just skin,” Jacknin stated.
But she warned that topical cannabis is a new industry, and non-hemp-derived products are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“What’s on the label is not necessarily what’s in the product,” Jacknin said. The quality of the ingredients, the amount of CBD in the product, and the efficacy depend on the brand, she pointed out.
“It’s important to do your research on reputable brands and to be cautious,” she advised.
One pointer she shared: “Read the back label. If CBD or cannabinol is the very last ingredient listed, there’s barely going to be any in the product.”
Jacknin herself has done a lot of vetting to determine which topical cannabis companies are reputable. Depending on what state you’re located in, you may have access to the following brands she considers high-quality:
There’s also a need for additional, larger studies on topical CBD.
“Our government hasn’t allowed us to do the really good scientific research on cannabis. The research comes from all over the world,” she pointed out.
The skin care of the future won’t just be limited to CBD creams.
“Other plants with similar skin-healing properties are just beginning to be discovered,” Jacknin said.
One potential ingredient you may start seeing in your skin care products is hops, the plant used in beer.
“We’re on the cutting edge of a whole industry and field of study,” Jacknin said.