cannabis and acne

Can CBD Help Treat Acne?

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People have used natural treatments for thousands of years to promote beautiful, healthy skin. One option that’s increasing in popularity is cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from the cannabis plant.

Products containing CBD are everywhere — from topical pain relievers to skin softeners and potential acne remedies.

Read on for more information about CBD as a potential acne treatment and how to find high-quality products.

Acne is a condition that occurs when excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells clog pores. The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes can build up in the pores, causing angry, red blemishes.

With this in mind, acne treatment involves keeping the skin clean, free from acne-causing bacteria, and cutting back on excess oil that can clog the skin.

Most of the research surrounding acne and CBD is related to CBD’s power in stopping the processes known to cause acne, such as excess oil buildup. One of the most promising studies was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation .

In this study, researchers measured the effects of CBD compounds on human skin samples and oil-producing glands in a laboratory.

The researchers found that CBD inhibited oil production and also had anti-inflammatory effects on oil-producing glands. They concluded CBD was a “promising therapeutic agent” for acne treatment.

Does it work for body acne?

Because body acne occurs by the same mechanisms that facial acne does, it’s possible that CBD-containing products could help reduce body acne. Many skin care product manufacturers incorporate CBD into soap bars or body washes.

Although CBD products may not be specifically marketed to people with body acne, their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may provide some benefit.

Acne scars occur due to underlying disruptions in the skin caused by enlarged pimples and skin picking.

A study published in the journal La Clinica Terapeutica studied 20 participants who had scars related to psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The participants applied CBD-enriched ointment to scarred areas of skin twice daily for three months.

After the three-month period, the researchers found that the CBD ointment significantly improved the skin’s appearance in categories like elasticity and hydration.

Although the study was small and not performed on those with acne scars, it does show promise that CBD products could help reduce the appearance of acne scars.

CBD may be helpful in treating other skin woes, too. Here are some examples.


A study published in the journal PeerJ Life & Environment found promising results for those who have psoriasis. The study found that cannabinoid receptors in the skin have the power to reduce excess skin cell growth, a common problem in those with psoriasis.

The researchers theorized that cannabinoids could have the potential to “shut off” the receptors that caused excess skin cell buildup in people with psoriasis.

Because the researchers didn’t conduct the study on living skin — they used human cadaver skin — it’s hard to say if they could duplicate the results. However, the study shows promise for those hoping to use CBD products to reduce their psoriasis symptoms.

Itchy skin conditions

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), one of the most promising uses for CBD is in the treatment of itchy skin.

The journal cited a 2005 study that found 81 percent of hemodialysis patients with itchy skin who used a CBD-containing cream experienced complete resolution of their symptoms.

The authors of the JAAD article theorized that cannabinoids have the power to turn off signals that transmit to the brain from nerve endings in the skin that indicate skin itching. When coupled with skin-soothing ingredients in lotions and oils, the effect can be itch-relieving.

Research on CBD’s safety published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found CBD has a “favorable safety profile.”

The researchers found the most commonly reported side effects were fatigue, diarrhea, and appetite changes. However, these side effects are largely for people who ingest CBD, not for those who apply it topically.

It’s possible that a person could experience an allergic reaction to topically applied CBD.

If you have symptoms like skin swelling, itching, or skin peeling after applying CBD-containing products, wash the affected area with soap and water. You may wish to apply cold compresses to soothe irritated skin.

Discontinue use of CBD products if you think you’ve had an allergic reaction.

Many skin care manufacturers are beginning to sell CBD products. Some of the products you can currently purchase include:

  • Flora + Bast Age Adapting CBD Serum, $77 at This oil-only serum is designed to clear acne blemishes and smooth skin.
  • Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, $49 at This facial oil is designed to reduce skin redness and decrease blemishes.
  • Myaderm’s CBD Calming Cream, $24.95 at This skin-soothing cream is intended to moisturize dry skin areas and soothe acne-related redness.

A word of caution

Lots of manufacturers are eager to add their products to the CBD oil craze. Unfortunately, not all contain CBD as marketed, according to a research study published in the journal JAMA .

In this study, the researchers tested 84 products that had a CBD label. They found 26 percent of the products tested had less CBD oil than advertised, which could affect how well the product works.

The good news is the researchers did find that oil formulations containing CBD were most commonly correctly labeled. Most acne treatments are oils.

As a consumer, one way you can ensure your product is high-quality is to buy it from a company that uses an independent laboratory to confirm the labeling.

In 2018, the Congress passed a bill called the Agricultural Improvement Act, or Farm Bill. This act made industrial hemp legal at the federal level.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , if a cannabis plant has less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it’s considered to be hemp. If it has more than 0.3 percent THC, it’s considered to be marijuana.

THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that causes a high. CBD, however, doesn’t cause a high.

Because CBD can be derived from hemp or marijuana, the legality over products can be confusing.

Whether you can get CBD skin care products delivered to your home or buy them in a store depends on where you live. Your state and local laws may dictate if you can legally buy and use CBD products.

To say that CBD products are an effective treatment for acne, dermatologists need large-scale studies on living skin. Until researchers conduct those, smaller laboratory studies do show promise.

If you do buy CBD products for acne, read the labels carefully, and buy from reputable businesses whose products are tested in independent laboratories.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

CBD may be a promising treatment for acne and other skin conditions. More research is needed, but CBD may have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce oil production.

Does smoking weed cause acne?

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  1. What causes acne?
  2. Does cannabis make acne worse?
  3. Could cannabis reduce acne?
  4. Tips for healthy skin
  5. Bottom line on cannabis and acne

Acne is a frustrating skin condition for as many as 50 million Americans. While acne affects 85% of adolescents, chronic breakouts can persist into adulthood. Multiple factors can contribute to the formation of pimples on the face and body, but does smoking marijuana cause acne?

Here you’ll learn about the different causes and risk factors for acne and the research on cannabis and acne. Plus, we’ll offer some expert tips to keep your skin glowing.

What causes acne?

There are plenty of myths surrounding dairy products and sugary sodas when it comes to acne. But the scientific evidence points to one primary cause — genetics. “Although there was once thought to be a link between acne and smoking tobacco, the evidence hasn’t supported this idea,” explains Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps.

Some other common causes of acne:

  • High testosterone levels and excess androgens
  • Skin-clogging cosmetics
  • Oily hair care products that make contact with the face
  • Bacteria from dirty phones, pillowcases, and other objects that come in contact with the face
  • Chronic stress, often stemming from a lifestyle lacking adequate sleep and balanced nutrition

Another common cause is normal hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle when testosterone levels are higher. Acne breakouts are, in fact, more prevalent in adult females than males due to the shifting hormones of menstruation and, eventually, menopause.

But does smoking marijuana cause acne, and can cannabis exacerbate skin conditions that are already problematic?

Does cannabis make acne worse?

Current research indicates that smoking weed does not make acne worse in most people. There is only one study that has shown an association between adolescent cannabis smokers and acne.

While smoking weed does not make acne worse in most people, some young adults who consume cannabis regularly, with a combination of fluctuating hormones and diet, have been linked to moderate to severe acne. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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That study was conducted in France in 2015 and published in the scientific journal Dermatology. It showed that regular cannabis smoking (along with the consumption of chocolate and other sweets) was linked to moderate to severe acne in participants aged 15 to 24. However, other factors may have played a role in the subjects’ acne, as young adulthood is marked by fluctuating hormones and represents the time when people are most likely to have acne. In other words, it is unclear whether smoking weed was the sole (or even the primary) cause of acne in these individuals.

Could cannabis reduce acne?

It is possible that certain cannabis products could help reduce or prevent acne, according to Dr. Rae. “Cannabis seed extract measurably reduces sebum in healthy adults. Sebum can plug hair follicles and lead to acne. Hemp seed oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation and sebum production, in vitro,” Dr. Rae says.

Creams containing cannabis seed extract can reduce sebum in healthy adults, making it a safe and effective way to manage acne. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Dr. Rae cited one 2015 study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, which showed that a cream containing 3% cannabis seed extract was a safe and effective way to manage acne. Specifically, the cream appeared to have a calming effect on the sebaceous glands of men’s cheeks, decreasing the production of sebum and the appearance of acne.

“In human skin tissue, CBD has also been shown to reduce inflammation and sebum production. CBC and THCV also appear to reduce sebum,” says Dr. Rae. In fact, one 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD on human skin cells in the laboratory. The researchers determined that CBD looks promising for treating acne.

However, not all cannabinoids may be beneficial in managing acne. Dr. Rae points out that in certain studies, CBG and CBGV actually increased sebum production.

Tips for healthy skin

Genetics may be the most prominent factor in maintaining clear skin, but a healthy lifestyle of sufficient sleep, sensible nutrition, and moderate exercise can also help maintain healthy skin.

Some other ways you can protect your body’s largest organ:

  • Practice stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing
  • Wash your face twice daily, but avoid over-washing
  • Exfoliate once a week to slough off dead skin cells, open the pores, and boost collagen production
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Steer clear of junk food and other possible dietary triggers

Bottom line on cannabis and acne

Cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients can be confident that smoking weed is not likely to have a significant connection to acne. But that doesn’t mean there’s no role for the plant.

“There isn’t enough evidence to support the idea that cannabis smoking causes acne. There is, however, a growing body of promising evidence that cannabinoids and other oil extracted from the seed of the plant may be effective ingredients in a new generation of acne treatments,” says Dr. Rae.

While dermatologists may not be prescribing cannabis as a treatment, certain cannabinoids may ultimately be integrated into a complementary acne-fighting regime.

Learn about the different causes and risk factors for acne and the research on cannabis and acne.