CBD in Skincare

CBD products have exploded in popularity recently, especially in the cosmetics and skincare market. There is a wide variety of formulations available, from face oils and creams to serums and even lip balms. This is not surprising considering all the benefits that CBD is purported to have. Evidence suggests it can potentially work on common skin problems such as acne, wrinkles or redness [1]. Nevertheless, cosmetics are topical formulations, which means ingredients have to penetrate through the skin to demonstrate their activity. Therefore, consumers may have doubts over whether CBD in cosmetic products can really work, as it is applied onto the skin. As we have already explained the permeation of CBD through the skin in a previous post (How CBD Absorbs into the Skin), we will focus on analysing the potential functions of CBD that can improve the appearance of your skin.

One of the benefits promoted for CBD is its function as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is increased redness, swelling, and other visual changes in the skin which are caused by imbalance of the skin natural processes – this is referred to as leaving homeostasis (the natural state of the body) [2]. Studies suggest that these effects are caused by the immune system in response to infections [2]. The immune system is partially regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS) [3], therefore, cannabinoids applied topically might function in anti-inflammatory, anti-erythema, and pain-relief capacities because they connect with cannabinoid receptors present in the skin [4]. Cannabinoids are considered even more effective than orally administered drugs as first-pass metabolism (where the body breaks down most of the compounds that come in through the digestive tract) is avoided. Hammell et al., in their study, claim that CBD can be absorbed topically up to a certain concentration. They compared two gel forms of CBD, one at 10% and another at 1%, and their results indicated no increase in the absorption rate between the two. However, their research also suggested that using higher concentration of CBD could be beneficial as the amount of CBD is increased locally, thus potentially enhancing the effectiveness [4].

Since the ECS is responsible for the homeostasis of the human body [5], can it be assumed that the connection of CBD with the ECS receptors indicates more than just the effects mentioned above? The answer is yes, there are many more benefits that CBD can potentially offer to improve the appearance of the skin. Studies indicate that CBD can be used in cosmetics as an antioxidant [6]. Antioxidants prevent the harmful actions of free radicals, such as damaging the atoms that make up our cells. Different factors like UV rays, smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol or fried food can cause the formation of atoms with unpaired electrons – the free radicals mentioned above. These free radicals are unstable and therefore can react with other substances, such as oxygen. Free radicals of oxygen molecules influence oxidative stress, which is a chain reaction caused by the continuous bonding of oxygen free radicals with other molecules (such as the molecules that make up skin). Oxidative stress can damage cells which is often observed as the appearance of wrinkles [6]. This is the reason why antioxidants are an essential part of anti-aging skincare. The antioxidative function of CBD causes the capture of free radicals to prevent them damaging the skin, or transforms them into less active forms which are less harmful [6]. Furthermore, CBD may also change the activity of the body’s natural antioxidants, as the ECS is involved in oxidation balance. CBD can impact antioxidant enzymes by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors– CB1 and CB2 [7]. By activating or inhibiting the receptors, CBD thus influences antioxidative characteristics and expression [7].

Another skin disorder that CBD may help with is acne. Acne is mostly caused by over-production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) and inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles [8]. Different studies indicate that CBD could be used in acne treatment by influencing proliferation of the cells that produce sebum (sebocytes), sebum production, and inflammation of the skin [9]. One example of this research (Olah et al. )[10] was conducted on SZ95 cells – immortalised sebocytes that are used for these types of tests [11]. There was no significant change in sebum production when these cells were treated with CBD only. However, after initially treating the cells with anandamide – a cannabinoid presents naturally within the human body – CBD treatment normalised sebum production [10]. Furthermore, when the effects of CBD were tested on other oily compounds like arachidonic acid, excessive sebum production was inhibited too. Hence, it can be assumed that CBD can help not only in reducing the overproduction of sebum, but it can provide balance in sebum production independently from its effects on the ECS by affecting the skin cells directly [9]. Effectively, CBD can potentially prevent the overproduction of sebocytes. This promotes homeostasis as well as normal sebum production [10]. Therefore, it normalises excessive sebum production by affecting both the cells that produce it (sebocytes) and the amount of sebum produced by these cells.

Another crucial factor in acne treatment is an overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes, a bacteria that lives on the skin that has been shown to contribute to acne. Therefore, to treat acne correctly, we need to look at antimicrobial function. There is research that investigates the effectiveness of hemp seed extract as an antimicrobial ingredient, though the content of CBD was not reported [12]. Some small clinical studies [12] do prove CBD can inactivate certain bacteria, including C. acnes, though further research is required to conclusively prove the anti-microbial features of CBD. That means CBD can be considered an effective ingredient in skincare for acne-prone skin as it not only leads to normalised sebum production but may exhibit antimicrobial features to better control C. acnes levels.

There are many reasons why CBD can be a useful ingredient in topical applications other than those mentioned above. For example, CBD is proven to normalise unwanted skin cell growth, a major contributor to the skin condition psoriasis. Ramot et al. [13] demonstrated that cannabinoids could have the potential to “shut off” the receptors that caused excess skin cell build-up in people with psoriasis. Activation of the CB1 receptor inhibited human hair growth and decreased the proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes, the outer layer of protein cells in the skin. Therapeutic modulation of CB1 can inhibit both proliferation and inflammation, which could lead to future management of other skin diseases, such as psoriasis. The same research indicates that production of proteins by CB1 occurs mainly above the part of the epidermis where keratinocytes proliferation occurs. Hence, excessive skin protein cell growth can be reduced by CBD as it binds with CB1 receptor and reduces the cell growth back to normal levels – returning it to a state of homeostasis. This research proves that CBD can potentially be an effective ingredient in treating skin disorders connected with overproduction of skin protein cells.

Until recently, CBD was known only as a good moisturiser in skincare products. However, from the studies described here it can be claimed that the use of CBD in cosmetics is appropriate for a variety of skin types and disorders. Not only can CBD be effective in acne treatments, but it can also reduce the redness of the skin and may demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, the addition of CBD in anti-aging skincare may reduce wrinkles through its antioxidant properties. While the effects of CBD in topical formulations still requires more research to fully understand, the potential of CBD in skin application is quickly gaining popularity.


References:
[1] Nikita Jhawar, Elizabeth Schoenberg, Jordan V. Wang, Nazanin Saedi, The growing trend of cannabidiol in skincare products, Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 37, Issue 3, 2019, Pages 279-281, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2018.11.002
[2] Punchard, N.A., Whelan, C.J. & Adcock, I. The Journal of Inflammation. J Inflamm 1, 1 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-9255-1-1
[3] I. Khan, M. et al., 2016. The therapeutic aspects of the endocannabinoid system (ecs) for cancer and their development: From nature to laboratory. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(12), pp.1756–1766.
[4] Hammell, D.C. et al., 2015. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 20(6), pp.936–948.
[5] Bíró T, Tóth BI, Haskó G, Paus R, Pacher P. The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Aug;30(8):411-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 Jul 14. PMID: 19608284; PMCID: PMC2757311.
[6] Bickers DR, Athar M. Oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of skin disease. J Invest Dermatol. 2006 Dec;126(12):2565-75. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700340. PMID: 17108903.
[7] Atalay, S.; Jarocka-Karpowicz, I.; Skrzydlewska, E. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants 2020, 9, 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021
[8] Joseph Genebriera, Mark Davis, CHAPTER 70 – ACNE, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, W.B. Saunders, 2009, Pages 973-981, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-3291-5.50074-3.
[9] Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, Rajgopal A, Malik K, Yim S, Stern N. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020 Dec 8;13:927-942. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S286411. PMID: 33335413; PMCID: PMC7736837.
[10] Oláh A, Tóth BI, Borbíró I, Sugawara K, Szöllõsi AG, Czifra G, Pál B, Ambrus L, Kloepper J, Camera E, Ludovici M, Picardo M, Voets T, Zouboulis CC, Paus R, Bíró T. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. J Clin Invest. 2014 Sep;124(9):3713-24. doi: 10.1172/JCI64628. Epub 2014 Jul 25. PMID: 25061872; PMCID: PMC4151231.
[11] Zouboulis, C.C. et al., 1999. Establishment and characterization of an immortalized human sebaceous gland cell line (sz95)1. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 113(6), pp.1011–1020..x
[12] Blaskovich, M.A.T., Kavanagh, A.M., Elliott, A.G. et al. The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Commun Biol 4, 7 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01530-y
[13] Ramot, Y., 2013. Peer review #1 of “A novel control of human KERATIN Expression: Cannabinoid receptor 1-mediated signaling Down-regulates the expression of keratins K6 And K16 in human Keratinocytes in vitro and in situ (v0.1)”.

CBD products have exploded in popularity recently, especially in the cosmetics and skincare market. There is a wide variety of formulations available, from face oils and creams to serums and even lip balms. This is not surprising considering all the benefits that CBD is purported to have. Evidence suggests it can potentially work on common skin problems such as acne, wrinkles or redness [1]. Nevertheless, cosmetics are topical formulations, which means ingredients have to penetrate through the skin to demonstrate their activity. Therefore, consumers may have doubts over whether CBD in cosmetic products can really work, as it is applied onto the skin. As we have already explained the permeation of CBD through the skin in a previous post (How CBD Absorbs into the Skin), we will focus on analysing the potential functions of CBD that can improve the appearance of your skin.

One of the benefits promoted for CBD is its function as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is increased redness, swelling, and other visual changes in the skin which are caused by imbalance of the skin natural processes – this is referred to as leaving homeostasis (the natural state of the body) [2]. Studies suggest that these effects are caused by the immune system in response to infections [2]. The immune system is partially regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS) [3], therefore, cannabinoids applied topically might function in anti-inflammatory, anti-erythema, and pain-relief capacities because they connect with cannabinoid receptors present in the skin [4]. Cannabinoids are considered even more effective than orally administered drugs as first-pass metabolism (where the body breaks down most of the compounds that come in through the digestive tract) is avoided. Hammell et al., in their study, claim that CBD can be absorbed topically up to a certain concentration. They compared two gel forms of CBD, one at 10% and another at 1%, and their results indicated no increase in the absorption rate between the two. However, their research also suggested that using higher concentration of CBD could be beneficial as the amount of CBD is increased locally, thus potentially enhancing the effectiveness [4].

Since the ECS is responsible for the homeostasis of the human body [5], can it be assumed that the connection of CBD with the ECS receptors indicates more than just the effects mentioned above? The answer is yes, there are many more benefits that CBD can potentially offer to improve the appearance of the skin. Studies indicate that CBD can be used in cosmetics as an antioxidant [6]. Antioxidants prevent the harmful actions of free radicals, such as damaging the atoms that make up our cells. Different factors like UV rays, smoking tobacco, consuming alcohol or fried food can cause the formation of atoms with unpaired electrons – the free radicals mentioned above. These free radicals are unstable and therefore can react with other substances, such as oxygen. Free radicals of oxygen molecules influence oxidative stress, which is a chain reaction caused by the continuous bonding of oxygen free radicals with other molecules (such as the molecules that make up skin). Oxidative stress can damage cells which is often observed as the appearance of wrinkles [6]. This is the reason why antioxidants are an essential part of anti-aging skincare. The antioxidative function of CBD causes the capture of free radicals to prevent them damaging the skin, or transforms them into less active forms which are less harmful [6]. Furthermore, CBD may also change the activity of the body’s natural antioxidants, as the ECS is involved in oxidation balance. CBD can impact antioxidant enzymes by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors– CB1 and CB2 [7]. By activating or inhibiting the receptors, CBD thus influences antioxidative characteristics and expression [7].

Another skin disorder that CBD may help with is acne. Acne is mostly caused by over-production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil) and inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles [8]. Different studies indicate that CBD could be used in acne treatment by influencing proliferation of the cells that produce sebum (sebocytes), sebum production, and inflammation of the skin [9]. One example of this research (Olah et al. )[10] was conducted on SZ95 cells – immortalised sebocytes that are used for these types of tests [11]. There was no significant change in sebum production when these cells were treated with CBD only. However, after initially treating the cells with anandamide – a cannabinoid presents naturally within the human body – CBD treatment normalised sebum production [10]. Furthermore, when the effects of CBD were tested on other oily compounds like arachidonic acid, excessive sebum production was inhibited too. Hence, it can be assumed that CBD can help not only in reducing the overproduction of sebum, but it can provide balance in sebum production independently from its effects on the ECS by affecting the skin cells directly [9]. Effectively, CBD can potentially prevent the overproduction of sebocytes. This promotes homeostasis as well as normal sebum production [10]. Therefore, it normalises excessive sebum production by affecting both the cells that produce it (sebocytes) and the amount of sebum produced by these cells.

Another crucial factor in acne treatment is an overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes, a bacteria that lives on the skin that has been shown to contribute to acne. Therefore, to treat acne correctly, we need to look at antimicrobial function. There is research that investigates the effectiveness of hemp seed extract as an antimicrobial ingredient, though the content of CBD was not reported [12]. Some small clinical studies [12] do prove CBD can inactivate certain bacteria, including C. acnes, though further research is required to conclusively prove the anti-microbial features of CBD. That means CBD can be considered an effective ingredient in skincare for acne-prone skin as it not only leads to normalised sebum production but may exhibit antimicrobial features to better control C. acnes levels.

There are many reasons why CBD can be a useful ingredient in topical applications other than those mentioned above. For example, CBD is proven to normalise unwanted skin cell growth, a major contributor to the skin condition psoriasis. Ramot et al. [13] demonstrated that cannabinoids could have the potential to “shut off” the receptors that caused excess skin cell build-up in people with psoriasis. Activation of the CB1 receptor inhibited human hair growth and decreased the proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes, the outer layer of protein cells in the skin. Therapeutic modulation of CB1 can inhibit both proliferation and inflammation, which could lead to future management of other skin diseases, such as psoriasis. The same research indicates that production of proteins by CB1 occurs mainly above the part of the epidermis where keratinocytes proliferation occurs. Hence, excessive skin protein cell growth can be reduced by CBD as it binds with CB1 receptor and reduces the cell growth back to normal levels – returning it to a state of homeostasis. This research proves that CBD can potentially be an effective ingredient in treating skin disorders connected with overproduction of skin protein cells.

Until recently, CBD was known only as a good moisturiser in skincare products. However, from the studies described here it can be claimed that the use of CBD in cosmetics is appropriate for a variety of skin types and disorders. Not only can CBD be effective in acne treatments, but it can also reduce the redness of the skin and may demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, the addition of CBD in anti-aging skincare may reduce wrinkles through its antioxidant properties. While the effects of CBD in topical formulations still requires more research to fully understand, the potential of CBD in skin application is quickly gaining popularity.


References:
[1] Nikita Jhawar, Elizabeth Schoenberg, Jordan V. Wang, Nazanin Saedi, The growing trend of cannabidiol in skincare products, Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 37, Issue 3, 2019, Pages 279-281, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2018.11.002
[2] Punchard, N.A., Whelan, C.J. & Adcock, I. The Journal of Inflammation. J Inflamm 1, 1 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1186/1476-9255-1-1
[3] I. Khan, M. et al., 2016. The therapeutic aspects of the endocannabinoid system (ecs) for cancer and their development: From nature to laboratory. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(12), pp.1756–1766.
[4] Hammell, D.C. et al., 2015. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain, 20(6), pp.936–948.
[5] Bíró T, Tóth BI, Haskó G, Paus R, Pacher P. The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Aug;30(8):411-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 Jul 14. PMID: 19608284; PMCID: PMC2757311.
[6] Bickers DR, Athar M. Oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of skin disease. J Invest Dermatol. 2006 Dec;126(12):2565-75. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700340. PMID: 17108903.
[7] Atalay, S.; Jarocka-Karpowicz, I.; Skrzydlewska, E. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants 2020, 9, 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021
[8] Joseph Genebriera, Mark Davis, CHAPTER 70 – ACNE, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, W.B. Saunders, 2009, Pages 973-981, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-4160-3291-5.50074-3.
[9] Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, Rajgopal A, Malik K, Yim S, Stern N. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020 Dec 8;13:927-942. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S286411. PMID: 33335413; PMCID: PMC7736837.
[10] Oláh A, Tóth BI, Borbíró I, Sugawara K, Szöllõsi AG, Czifra G, Pál B, Ambrus L, Kloepper J, Camera E, Ludovici M, Picardo M, Voets T, Zouboulis CC, Paus R, Bíró T. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. J Clin Invest. 2014 Sep;124(9):3713-24. doi: 10.1172/JCI64628. Epub 2014 Jul 25. PMID: 25061872; PMCID: PMC4151231.
[11] Zouboulis, C.C. et al., 1999. Establishment and characterization of an immortalized human sebaceous gland cell line (sz95)1. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 113(6), pp.1011–1020..x
[12] Blaskovich, M.A.T., Kavanagh, A.M., Elliott, A.G. et al. The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol. Commun Biol 4, 7 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01530-y
[13] Ramot, Y., 2013. Peer review #1 of “A novel control of human KERATIN Expression: Cannabinoid receptor 1-mediated signaling Down-regulates the expression of keratins K6 And K16 in human Keratinocytes in vitro and in situ (v0.1)”.

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Ewelina

Ewelina Balec

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