How do CBD and THC support overall beauty, skin health, and healthy aging goals?
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is an integral component of skin homeostasis. Your body's first line of defense, your skin relies on the ECS to regulate its chemistry and bring it to balance. It plays an essential role in inhibiting proinflammatory cytokines, and increasing the synthesis of lipids, including fatty acids and ceramides, which play an important role in maintaining skin barrier function and integrity.
Studies reveal that topical and ingested CBD helps to enhance your ECS tone to inactivate the inflammatory cascade, neutralize free radicals, promote fatty acid, ceramide, and collagen production, and repair skin barrier function. It also exerts potent antioxidant effects, protects your cells from dysfunction that leads to death, and promotes and improves Glutathione levels, your master antioxidant.
THC activates ECS receptors located in our nervous system to relieve pain and inflammation.
What are the three most common skin conditions cannabis can help with?
Pre-clinical and clinical studies demonstrate that cannabinoids like CBD and THC are useful for treating skin conditions caused by dysfunction of the skin barrier: Eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
How do CBD and THC benefit the skin?
CBD and THC are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiproliferative, making them effective at combating eczema and psoriasis. CBD also regulates oil and sebum production, helping with acne. Finally, CBD, is extremely hydrating and promotes collagen production. As a bonus, cannabis is antimicrobial, which helps to reduce skin complications.
Is using cannabis topically enough?
No. Certain skin diseases are caused by internal health issues such as gut dysbiosis, and therefore, internal treatments are also necessary to reduce symptoms.
However, chronic stress, a risk factor for many diseases, has been shown to decrease your endocannabinoid signaling and neurogenesis in the brain, which subsequently leads to alterations in gut microbiota composition. As such, studies suggest that enhancing your ECS tone with CBD can help support your topical skin care regimen by restoring the health of your gut-brain axis.
Even though cannabis has only just made its way into skincare, it’s likely that our ancestors were using topical forms of cannabis long ago. But more than just making your skin glow, there's increasing clinical evidence that cannabinoids can also help with skin diseases caused by the dysfunction of our skin barrier, such as psoriasis or eczema.
That's because cannabinoids like CBD and THC deliver distinct benefits that are critical to your skin health:
- Control oil and sebum production.
- Relieve inflammation and localized pain.
- Neutralize free radicals. CBD and THC are both potent antioxidants. In addition to protecting you from UV damage, their antioxidant action helps brighten skin tone, fight signs of aging, and promote collagen production.
- Promote skin homeostasis. CBD and THC are studied to boost your ECS (endocannabinoid system) tone, which is essential for regulating skin homeostasis.
Above and beyond factors of beautiful skin, failure to manage difficult skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema can subsequently lead to other physical and mental complications. So, treatment is essential.
While topical treatments are usually effective on their own, more severe treatments may require additional ingestible support in the form of CBD oil. In this article, we delve deep into some common skin diseases and their causes. Next, we review the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and its role in maintaining healthy skin function, before diving into how to use these cannabinoids to treat your skin concerns.
What are some common skin diseases and their causes?
Skin is extremely complex and there are many causes to its dysfunction.
In both traditional and Westerm medicine, the skin is an organ of protection and elimination. So by virtue, diseases of the skin often have to do with underlying, internal health problems and require holistic treatment approaches.
Let’s check out a few of the most common skin diseases and what causes them.
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, refers to an itchy, bumpy, inflammatory rash that appears on the skin. Eczema is likely caused by a dysfunction of the skin barrier that exposes the skin to irritants. It’s believed that this dysfunction is caused by a gene alteration, although evidence is contradicting.
In fact, the skin barrier dysfunction that leads to eczema may be related to immune dysregulation that triggers an exaggerated inflammatory response. It’s also been suggested that eczema can be a result of gastrointestinal problems.
The final result is an itchy rash that is sometimes dry and flaky, and sometimes seeping and wet. It is sometimes triggered by certain irritants such as pollen, and in others flares up during stressful periods.
Psoriasis is interestingly different from eczema. For starters, rather than appearing as a rash, it appears as a raised plaque of skin that’s flakey, itchy, inflamed, and painful. Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition and autoimmune disease, meaning that part of the body's own immune system becomes overactive and attacks normal tissues in the body.
One major complication?
Up to 30% of people who can't manage the condition will advance to psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic psoriasis and painful arthritis.
There are multiple forms of psoriasis, all of which triggers a slightly different skin disease pattern.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is even life-threatening, and causes the skin to peel off the body. It can cause hypothermia and can be fatal if it isn’t managed properly.
Overall, psoriasis is considered a more visceral condition than a disease strictly related to dermatology. There are more internal forces at play than the simple dysfunction of the skin barrier as we saw in eczema.
Acne is the result of the hair follicles on the skin becoming clogged with debris, dead skin cells, and skin oils. Depending on whether the pores are open or closed, this can cause blackheads or whiteheads.
Acne is most commonly associated with teenagers because hormonal changes can affect the amount of sebum (or oil) produced by glands in the skin. Excess production of sebum can cause the blockage of pores and hair follicles and lead to acne.
However, the gut microbiome has also been implicated in acne.
The skin microbiota of those with acne is different from the skin microbiota of those that don't have it — and imbalances in gut microbiomes are thought to be at play. This is likely caused by factors such as chronic stress, which has an adverse affect on our brain-gut axis, homeostasis, and is implicated in a number of disease pathologies.
Ultimately, skin disease is complex, and it should be obvious now why, in certain cases, topical treatment isn’t sufficient. As we demonstrated with acne, sometimes probiotics are used to restore the gut microbiota. However, probiotics are merely a bandaid that don't address the underlying factors upsetting the gut microbiome, such as the brain-gut axis.
Instead, researchers are finding that CBD and THC may have a restorative effect on your skin barrier by targeting the root of the dysfunction at its source.
Let’s check out what cannabis has to say about skin diseases.
Cannabis and dermatology.
As we mentioned, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of cannabis for different skin diseases, from inflammatory conditions to stress-induced alterations.
First, cannabis's antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory qualities make it an effective skin therapeutic . It’s also a potent pain reliever, which is important when treating painful skin conditions, and is demonstrated to have anti-itch properties, which helps to prevent further itching, inflammation, rashing, and pain.
Second, there is mounting evidence that chronic stress, a risk factor for many diseases, decreases endocannabinoid signaling and neurogenesis in the brain. Because your ECS regulates your skin's homeostasis, a weakened endocannabinoid signal threatens the integrity of both your skin homeostasis and brain-gut-immune axis. This subsequently leads to changes in gut microbiota composition, which triggers further inflammation and exacerbates skin barrier dysfunction.
The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in various functions of the skin, and the skin itself actually has its own little endocannabinoid system. That’s to say that the skin actually produces endocannabinoids and receptors. Because endocannabinoids act on so many different cell types, stress-induced changes in the skin’s endocannabinoid system can affect the whole skin.
The endocannabinoid receptors in your skin control the production of lipids, such as fatty acids and ceramides, that keep it elastic, even, and plump. It also governs proliferation, differentiation, and hormone production from certain cell types. For example, it controls sebaceous gland activity, which is overactive in acne. Lastly, it regulates cytokine production, which is beneficial for those with eczema or allergic skin reactions.
Ultimately, the ECS plays a supreme role in maintaining skin barrier function and integrity by:
- inhibiting an exaggerated inflammatory response,
- restoring the gut-brain-immune axis
- regulating the production of various lipids, hormones, and cell types
Though a body of preclinical evidence suggests topical application of CBD may be efficacious for some skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, pruritis, and inflammatory conditions, confirmed clinical efficacy and a proper understanding of underlying mechanisms have yet to be fully identified.
The rest of this article pokes around the advances in CBD research to date and how it can be applied to different skin concerns.
The research that supports cannabis for skin diseases.
In 2007, researchers at Nottingham University put cannabinoids to the test to see if they could stop skin cells from proliferating. They tested THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG. The researchers found that cannabinoids inhibited skin cell proliferation and concluded that this would be a useful quality in the treatment of psoriasis.
Another study was published in 2014 that found CBD in particular to have sebostatic and anti-inflammatory actions on human sebocytes. Sebocytes are the cells in the skin that produce sebum, the oily substance that is responsible for blocking pores and causing acne. In exerting a sebostatic quality, it can help to reduce acne formation and therefore, poses a potential avenue of treatment for acne.
Interestingly, it seems that cannabinoids might not be the only potential therapy for skin diseases when it comes to cannabis. In 2005, researchers investigated the effects of internally consumed hempseed oil on patients with atopic dermatitis/eczema. They found that the daily consumption of hempseed oil changes plasma lipid profiles and that this reduces the symptoms of eczema.
On top of all of this, cannabinoids have been shown to have antimicrobial activity. This is important for those with autoimmune diseases or skin diseases because infection is a complication.
There seems to be a high affinity for cannabinoids and the skin, making cannabis especially useful in skin diseases where inflammation or proliferation or itching are major factors. So while cannabis and cannabinoids might not be useful on all skin diseases, it does seem like cannabis can provide symptomatic relief, and in some circumstances, curative results in certain skin conditions.
Differentiating between dermatology and skincare.
There is a whole world of cannabis skincare out there. Cannabis loves skin, it beautifies it, and it keeps the balance of fats on the skin’s surface balanced. This isn’t quite the same as dermatology which is about curing skin diseases and dysfunctions. What does make them alike is the fact that what goes in your body shows on your body. And so taking care of your skin, whether it’s sick or healthy, always involves a dietary or internal medicine aspect.
Taking care of your skin on a daily basis might include eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and using cannabis skincare products. But dermatological treatment might include a specialised diet (some foods are allergens), internal treatment to manage hormones or gut issues, and topical cannabis treatment.
Cannabis is good for virtually any skin, but it could be especially useful when treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, or acne. But this is always coupled with a healthy or specialised diet and necessary internal treatment, depending on the cause and the severity.
Have you ever used cannabis to treat a skin disease? How did you use it and was it effective? Let us know in the comments!