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CBD & Skin Care: What Benefits Are Starting to Emerge in this Sphere?

Now, with the technology to produce CBD isolates and the communicative power of the internet, CBD oil has become a popular ingredient in products ranging from health supplements to topical lotions. This oil is currently available for sale in all of the states where medical marijuana is legal, comprising 33 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the primary cannabinoids in the cannabis and hemp plants that works in synergy with the other chemical components of the plant (including THC and terpenes) to create the plant’s unique medicinal and recreational effects. The active compounds in cannabis act on the endocannabinoid system in the body, activating the natural functionality of CB1 and CB2 receptors and supplying additional phytocannabinoids that can be recognized and utilized by this important system.

To produce cannabidiol oil, the flowers and leaves of the hemp or cannabis plant are combined with a solvent or put through a pressurized process using supercritical CO2 to extract the plant material’s essential oils—from which the CBD is then isolated and mixed with an inert carrier oil to produce the final product.

Differences between CBD Oil and Hemp Oil

Preliminary studies about medicinal uses of cannabis-derived oils generally focus on CBD oil or hemp oil. While both of these oils are extracted from forms of cannabis sativa, they have some important differences:

  • CBD Oil – CBD oil is found in both the hemp plant (an industrial form of cannabis with low levels of THC and CBD) and the cannabinoid-rich marijuana plant. As a result, an oil that is labeled as “CBD” could have come from either of these plants and may contain higher levels of these (psycho)active cannabinoids if extracted from a marijuana plant than if extracted from hemp.
  • Hemp Oil – Hemp oil, by definition, must be derived from the hemp plant (and not the marijuana plant), but may contain different amounts of THC and CBD depending on which part of the plant is used. If taken from the seeds via a cold-pressed extraction method, the oil contains no CBD or THC. In contrast, oil extracted from the resin glands could contain high amounts of CBD and trace amounts of THC. 

When discussing studies about the potential of CBD oil for skin care, the term “CBD,” “CBD oil,” or “hemp oil” will be used to clarify the ingredient that was used in the study.

Skin Care Nutrients

Loving your SkinAccording to Healthline, oils taken from the hemp plant contain a number of important nutrients that are of interest for skin care. Among these, we can find essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, and vitamins A, C, and E. Some of the essential fatty acids that are especially prominent in CBD oil are gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), linoleic acid, and oleic acid.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are important for promoting healthy skin as they provide the building blocks for healthy cell membranes. They also play a role in producing the natural oil barrier that keeps skin hydrated and youthful. When applied in the form of topical CBD oil, these essential fatty acids are thought to moisturize the skin and contribute to a more youthful appearance.

Essential Amino Acids

Continuing on the theme of naturally rejuvenating ingredients, essential amino acids have also been shown to have an anti-aging effect by promoting collagen protein synthesis in the skin of UV-irradiated mice. Collagen is the protein that provides the skin with its firmness and structure, and when damaged or deficient, this can contribute to signs of aging such as sagging and wrinkling.

Vitamins A, C, and E

Finally, CBD oil contains three key vitamins for skin health and youthfulness: Vitamin A stimulates the production of healthy tissues, vitamin C stimulates collagen production, and vitamin E helps to reduce the effects of free-radical damage.

Potential Benefits for Skin Health

Girl Smiling in WaterWhile research on CBD and hemp oils in skin care is still very much in its infancy, some initial studies and anecdotal reports are beginning to provide direction. The presence of essential fatty acids places CBD oil in the category of a skin moisturizer. However, the benefits that are of interest to researchers are its potential for use for anti-aging formulations and for inflammatory conditions such as acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis.

The Anti-Aging Market

People want to look beautiful, and the images of beauty that are shown to society through television and in magazines emphasize the importance of youthful and wrinkle-free skin. This quest for the fountain of youth can be seen in money spent on anti-aging products, with the worldwide anti-aging market being worth approximately 50.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2018.

  • Collagen Synthesis and a Healthy Skin Barrier – Could CBD oil offer real anti-aging benefits for those wanting to retain a youthful appearance? As we have already seen, it contains essential amino acids that promote collagen protein synthesis for firmer skin and reduced appearance of wrinkles and sagging. Its essential fatty acid content also helps by protecting the skin barrier and promoting the building blocks for healthy skin.
  • Free-Radical Protection and Moisturization – In addition to these two factors, it also appears to act is a potent antioxidant—slowing down collagen loss and reducing free-radical damage. Furthermore, its oil-balancing and anti-inflammatory properties (which will be explained soon) help to keep the skin moisturized and calm for a more even, youthful tone. 


Just as CBD oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties when taken internally, this useful oil also appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect when used topically. Studies have shown that CBD and hemp oil, specifically, could help in the natural treatment of cutaneous inflammation—including acne vulgaris and atopic dermatitis. Please note that the atopic dermatitis study participants took hemp oil internally rather than topically.


In addition to hemp and cannabidiol’s generalized anti-inflammatory properties, CBD oil is being shown to act in specific ways on factors that contribute to acne. One of these is by calming the inflammatory cytokines implicated in acne vulgaris. The other is by controlling sebum overproduction in the sebaceous glands.

Anecdotal reports indicate that CBD oil may be helpful for psoriasis, although this link has not yet been studied comprehensively by researchers. However, based on studies on essential fatty acids, it is reasonable to expect that the moisturizing and skin barrier-repair properties of omega-3 fatty acids present in hemp could help with this irritating skin condition. A thorough skin analysis would be necessary to indicate the best products for each patient’s needs.

Hemp for Hair

While not exactly a skin care application, hemp oil is becoming known in the natural health community as an excellent ingredient for maintaining healthy hair. Similar to its effects on skin, the omega-3 content of hemp is thought to strengthen and moisturize hair while adding shine and taming frizz. More research is needed to confirm these claims.

The Market

Beauty product shoppingCurrently, CBD oil is available in states where medical marijuana is legal, and hempseed oil is generally available everywhere (as is contains no cannabinoids). While CBD has not been approved by the FDA as a regulated health supplement, companies are making and marketing it for everything from human and pet consumption to cosmetics and lotions. Among the products designed for topical application, we can find:

  • Cosmetics
  • Bath bombs
  • Facial masks
  • Acne creams
  • Anti-aging creams
  • Body butters
  • Exfoliating cleansers
  • Lotions
  • Soaps and body bars
  • Shampoos and conditioners

Customer reviews attribute multiple benefits to these products, including:

  • Smoother skin
  • Reduced bodily aches (including aches due to arthritis)
  • Minimized eczema symptoms
  • Reduced stress

Where to From Here?

While further research is needed to test skin care applications for CBD and find the most effective modes of delivery, the preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence look very positive.

Going forward, it will be important to compare the effects of this oil to those of hemp oil and hempseed oil to provide the most accurate advice to skin care patients where CBD is restricted. Clinical trials involving specific concentrations of CBD and products that combine it with other botanical ingredients will also go a long way towards making this ingredient accessible and effective for widespread use in skin care.

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