Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis for Skin Care

Prepare yourselves for the newest CBD hype: Skin care. In addition to regular appearances in the Goop feed, it’s being praised by celebrities, trendy dermatologists, and that gluten-free friend who swears by dry-brushing and jade rollers. So, everyone.

Our hot take? There’s definitely something there, but beware of the exaggerated hype. Cannabis does have healing properties that can provide hydration, nourishment and protection for the skin but the jury is still out on whether it’s a full-blown game-changer. Either way, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that it can be a positive ingredient to add to your skin care routine.

In fact, if you look deeper through these seemingly cutting edge, uber-trendy breakthroughs, you’ll notice that 'cannabis in skin care' has been around for over 20 years, ever since a Hemp-based skin care line launched from The Body Shop in 1998. All those years of Bath & Body Works' Sun-Ripened-Raspberry Lotion when we could have had CBD? Smh.

Keeping the hype in check, here’s our rundown of everything you need to know about cannabis for skin care, including tips on how you can start to experiment yourself.

Reminder: Cannabis vs Marijuana vs Hemp.

Here's the five second refresher. Cannabis is the overarching name of the plant, from which both marijuana and hemp grow. Cannabis plants have over 100 cannabinoids which are active ingredients that produce specific effects. The two most popular are THC (the cannabinoid that gets you high) and CBD (mostly known for its health benefits).

Marijuana is the plant that includes high levels of THC while Hemp characteristically has 0.3% or less THC and, instead, often boasts high levels of CBD. Because of this, Hemp is legal across all 50 states and can be sold online. Marijuana is held to federal regulations but 30 states (and counting) having legalized the plant for medical purposes.

Hemp with CBD Offers the Most Skin care Benefits.

Hemp is packed with Omega-3, Omega-6, and vitamins A, B, D and E, which means it can provide hydration, nourishment and protection for the skin. The CBD within the Hemp plant is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, can have a positive effect on the immune system, and can be easily absorbed into the skin. CBD derived from hemp has 6 main properties that help with skin care:

  1. Healing Properties. CBD has therapeutic and anti-inflammation properties and can work better than vitamin C and A as an antioxidant.

  2. Produces Lipids. These are essential components of skin and play a crucial role in the skin’s barrier function.

  3. Anti-Bacterial. Due to the presence of terpenes, CBD has strong anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and sebum-reducing components.

  4. Immunosuppressive. CBD can partially or completely suppress the immune response of an individual, helping it to work on skin conditions from the inside out.

  5. Ultraviolet Protection. Hemp oil is loaded with fatty acids that address sun damage.

  6. Stimulates the Endocannabinoid System. CBD stimulates activity in the body’s endocannabinoid system which plays a key role in maintaining homeostasis for the body, including the skin. More on the endocannabinoid system here.

Nine Ways to Use Cannabis for Healthy, Glowing Skin

Curious? Here are ten skin ailments that cannabis may be able to help with.

1. Clear Acne

For when you miss your skin care routine one night and wake up with a face ready for Dr. Pimple Popper.

Research into how CBD can help with acne is early but findings are positive. A study by the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the National Institute on Health found that CBD has the ability to reduce sebum production which is one of the main causes of acne. In summary, they find that CBD can “suppress acne itself.” Move over, Proactiv.

2. Fight Aging

Sure, there’s Botox and dermal fillers and photofacials and dermaplaning, but why not just rub a plant all over your face to keep the wrinkles at bay?

Linoleic and oleic acids, two nutrients that can’t be produced by the body but are found in Hemp CBD, can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles and act as a preventative way to slow the development of signs of aging. Board-certified dermatologist Jeanette Jacknin, who specializes in topical cannabinoids in skin care, says that studies have shown that “CBD can help the skin look more radiant and youthful,” and referenced a study suggesting that CBD could slow down the visible signs of aging in mice.

The jury is still out on the true impact Hemp CBD can have on fighting aging skin, but it sure is less painful than taking a needle to the forehead every 3 months. 

3. Reduce Inflammation for Redness, Puffiness & Swelling

There’s nothing worse than watching your husband wash his flawless skin with hand soap while you’re doing the ten step Korean skin care routine on your flushed, bloated cheeks.

Perhaps CBD’s most famous (and scientifically proven) health benefit is its anti-inflammatory effects. Working with the receptors in the skin, CBD has proven to be useful in reducing redness, irritation, and swelling of the skin. Hemp CBD is particularly useful for Rosacea, a common skin condition characterized by emerging blood vessels in the face, inflammation, and irritated bumps. The CBD’s polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3), improves blood circulation and vascular functionality even in the thin capillaries of our face.

4. Manage Skin Pain

The scene: you finish your summer hike and realize you never put on sunscreen. You now have a blistering sunburn, scratches from random branches, and bug bites all over. CBD to the rescue.

As we’ve talked about before, it has been scientifically proven that CBD works with receptors in your body to manage the feeling of pain. Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatologist, says in more detail that “CBD binds to a special set of receptors in the skin known as TRPV-1 receptors, where it can help feelings of heat, itch, and pain…which explains why it has a soothing effect on the skin.” Consider switching out that Aloe Vera and Calamine lotion for some CBD cream pronto.

5. Nourish Dry skin

Real talk: we wouldn’t do much for a Klondike Bar, but we’d do some sketchy stuff for nourished skin.

Just as other natural oils are used in skin care, the natural fatty acids and antioxidants in Hemp CBD oil make it a good choice for people with dry skin. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, backs this up saying that “Cannabis seed oil is rich in fatty acids and can help with hydration when used in topical skin products,” suggesting CBD creams, lotions and balms to apply topically.

6. Protect Against Ultraviolet Rays

A woman’s right of passage is her moment of enlightenment with the sun: a cheerful villain set out to ruin our skin and age us with a thousand spots, dots, and wrinkles.

The hero? Cannabis. Its vitamin A and D that contribute to the skin’s natural barrier function as they stimulate cell regeneration for healthier skin. These vitamins help to protect the skin against damage from the sun, smoke, and other environmental pollutants. Moreover, fatty acids also protect and strengthen your skin’s outer layer, giving you healthy and more radiant skin.

7. Manage Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin disorder that causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal, making the skin build up into bumpy red patches covered with white scales. To treat Psoriasis, CBD can work on skin conditions from the inside out by using its immunosuppressive properties to suppress the immune response of the individual.

8. Treat Eczema

Eczema is a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed with blisters that cause itching and bleeding. With its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-itch qualities, CBD can treat both the pain and the itching of eczema by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors in the skin to reduce the symptoms and appearance.

Research is backing these claims. In a human trial for patients with eczema, a CBD cream improved the severity of itch and loss of sleep by an average of 60 percent. Twenty percent of subjects were able to stop their topical immunomodulators, 38 percent ceased using their oral antihistamines, and 33.6 percent no longer felt the need to maintain their topical steroid regimen by the end of the study.

9. Reduce Anxiety

For when your skin care is on point…and all the other organs are begging for help.

We hate it when the professionals say this but it’s true: healthy skin is more than just your skin care routine. Being mindful of what you eat, how you sleep, and handling stress (among many other things) are part of the equation. We love CBD because it can help reduce anxiety, provide pain relief and help improve sleep.

What to Know Before You Buy

As long as you’re trying hemp-based CBD products, you won’t get high. Most (if not all) skin care products you try will be applied topically so that if any THC were absorbed into your bloodstream, it would be in such small doses that and psychoactive effects would be undetectable.

Because of this, dosage levels are fairly lenient. Most products will include dosage recommendations, but feel free to use as much or little as your skin is asking for.

Additionally, label regulations in the Hemp CBD industry are loose, making it hard to determine quality. Here are a few tips to consider when reading labels:

  • Choose a product that includes the words “whole plant formula” or “full-spectrum extract” rather than “isolate.”This ensures that the product is using most (if not all) of the cannabinoids in the plant, allowing them to work together for better results.

  • Make sure CBD (cannabidiol) is on the label. Oftentimes, the phrases “CBD Oil” and “Hemp Oil” are used interchangeably, but they are two different products: CBD oil is rich in concentrated CBD whereas Hemp Oil only contains trace amounts of CBD. For health and wellness, you want as much CBD as possible.

  • Always go with a domestic, American-made product. With the recent legalization of Hemp CBD, more products are coming in from abroad that have different (read: less) controls on health and reliability. Be sure the hemp plants are grown here in the U.S. with no pesticides or harmful chemicals. Most reputable brands will include this information on their website.

Ready to explore? Here are our Top 8 Cannabis Skin Care Products to Try Right Now. Spoiler alert: you can buy all of them online. Just don’t forget to exfoliate.


Why Cannabis is the buzziest ingredient in skin care


6 Eye-opening ways cannabis benefits your skin


Leafly: Part 2, 5 Best THC-Infused Beauty Products


New York Magazine: What does CBD in skin care actually do?


CBD Oil’s Benefits for Skin: Can it Help with Acne, Anti-Aging & Other Skin Issues?


Healthline: Hemp oil for skin


National Eczema Association: Can Marijuana help eczema?


How Cannabis and Hemp can reduce symptoms of rosacea


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©2020 by Molly Jones

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

This website contains general information about diet, health and nutrition. The information is not advice and is not a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional.