The cannabis market has experienced enormous growth over the past decade. Cannabis is now a highly profitable and rapidly expanding industry which has gained recent attention for its purported benefits as a therapeutic skincare ingredient. Most of the clinical research so far has focused on the benefits of cannabinoids (the active chemicals in marijuana) when ingested orally or inhaled.

Medical literature is starting to emerge showing that CBD and other minor cannabinoids can play a role in the management of common skin conditions like eczema/dermatitis, acne, and psoriasis (Baswan et al., 2020; Sheriff et al., 2020).

Though most skin diseases are not fatal, they can have devastating effects on a person’s quality of life, resulting in both physical and emotional discomfort (Mian et al., 2019). Studies are showing promising results regarding the benefits of transdermal cannabis and preliminary data highlights an exciting possibility to discover more therapeutic benefits of the hemp plant.

Endocannabinoid System and Skin

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a chemical signalling pathway that plays a role in many biological processes within the body. At a dermatological level, the ECS has been shown to regulate the formation and maintenance of the skin barrier, along with some immunological and inflammatory processes (Bíró et al., 2009). Cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1 and CB2 receptors) are found at numerous sites within the skin structure, including epidermal keratinocytes, cutaneous nerve fibres, dermal cells, melanocytes, eccrine sweat glands, hair follicles and more (Baswan et al., 2020). The widespread occurrence of cannabinoid receptors found in skin is a sign that medicinal cannabinoids could provide a beneficial intervention at those receptor sites.

The current skincare data focuses predominantly on CBD, as it is the most abundant cannabinoid in the hemp plant and has the most clinical research data to support its uses. However, there is preliminary data which demonstrates the effects of minor cannabinoids (such as cannabigerol) on skin and how they might also be incorporated into skincare routines to help combat certain conditions and improve skin health (Schuetz et al., 2021; Martins et al., 2022).

Below is a summary of some common skin conditions and how cannabis may have the potential to help.


Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin and is one of the most common diseases treated by dermatologists worldwide. Acne is a complex disease, characterised by spots, inflammation and over production of sebum. Affecting 85% of individuals in their lifetime, acne can lead to psychological upset and low self-esteem (Bhate & Williams, 2013).

CBD is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemical (Atalay et al. 2019) which has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris. Studies have found that CBD, when administered to cultured human sebocytes (sebum-producing epithelial cells), inhibits the lipogenic (or oil-producing) actions of the skin and reduces inflammation (Oláh et al., 2014). This means CBD may help stabilise the overactive sebaceous glands, while also reducing redness and swelling.

Recent studies imply that cannabigerol (CBG), another phytocannabinoid found in Cannabis sativa L., may also be useful in the treatment of acne by inhibiting the growth of different acne-generative bacteria strains (Schuetz et al., 2021), such as Staphylococus aureus, which is a known strain of bacteria that causes acne (Fanelli, 2011).

CBG extracts can modulate the skin’s inflammation response by inhibition of the activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines (Robaina Cabrera et al., 2021). Cytokines are immunoregulatory protein molecules, which influence the response of proinflammatory cytokines (which cause inflammation) (Opal & DePalo, 2000). Therefore, it can be assumed that reducing the number of proinflammatory cytokines in the skin layers can positively impact anti-inflammatory effects.

Oxidative stress also induces cell damage and can result in chronic inflammation if left unchecked. It was demonstrated (Schuetz et al., 2021) that CBG reduces oxidative radicals in the dermis and hence, indicate antioxidative activity. Another feature that could make CBG an ideal component in skincare is that it is not prone to causing any skin or eye irritation (Schuetz et al., 2021).

Dryness & Itching

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory, dry skin condition which effects 10-20% of children and 1-3% of adults with patients prone to painful reoccurring flare-ups. (Leung & Bieber, 2003). The discomfort caused by dermatitis can have a severe impact on the patient’s quality of life – they are 1.7 times more likely to report stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than those without AD (Kwak & Kim, 2017) and 84% of dermatitis sufferers reported of difficulty falling asleep due to the discomfort caused by the itching sensation (Yosipovitch et al., 2002). The most common treatment for atopic dermatitis is topical steroids, but prolonged steroid use can come with a range of adverse side effects including skin sensitivity and scarring (Coondoo et al., 2014; Abraham & Roga, 2014). The need for a better alternative treatment is obvious, and emerging research shows CBD may be a more natural option for the management of this disease.

Topical cannabinoid agonists, like CBD, have been shown to have an anti-pruritic effect when applied topically at a 1% concentration, and patients experienced very few unwanted side effects (Ständer et al., 2006; Maghfour et al., 2021). Other studies have demonstrated that CBD can help to increase moisture (Stella et al., 2019) and reduce dryness and itching (Maghfour et al., 2020) in dermatitis conditions, without causing any adverse effects.

General benefits of cannabis for the skin:

While cannabis is an interesting research topic for the treatment of skin diseases, there are ways in which CBD can also be beneficial when included in a daily skincare routine, by helping to protect the skins natural barrier function and encouraging dermatological homeostasis.

The purported benefits of cannabis in skincare include:

  • Regulates cell proliferation (Biro et al., 2009)
  • Wound healing (Kongkadee t al., 2022)
  • Anti-inflammatory (Atalay et al. 2019: Robaina Cabrera et al., 2021)
  • Anti-bacterial (Appendino et al., 2008)
  • Analgesic (Xu et al., 2020)
  • Antioxidant (Atalay et al. 2019; Dawidowicz et al., 2021)

This emerging research demonstrates the potential of cannabinoids in the treatment of common skin conditions and that it should be considered as a natural and safe alternative to the current synthetic remedies which warrants further medical investigation.


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