Chances are, you know someone who rubs their joints with CBD balmbefore bed or spritzes on CBD oil to ease anxiety. A component found in cannabis that won’t get you high — the THC in marijuana is to thank for that — CBD, short for cannabidiol, is gaining popularity as a treatment for everything from muscle relief to insomnia. Just last month, the first CBD-based drug won FDA approval for treating epilepsy in patients as young as 2. It’s also been popping up in high-end skin-care creams, gels, and serums promising to smooth wrinkles, prevent pimples, and alleviate dry skin. We asked a dermatologist and a scientist studying CBD to break down these claims and reveal exactly how the cannabis compound works in skin care.
According to Jeanette Jacknin, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in topical cannabinoids in skin care, studies have shown that “affecting the endocannabinoid system — like with CBD — can help the skin look more radiant and youthful,” and referenced a study suggesting that CBD could slow down the visible signs of aging in mice. Tamás Bíró, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology at University of Debrecen in Hungary, is also the director of applied research at Phytecs, a company researching and developing drugs affecting the endocannabinoid system. “CBD has anti-inflammatory actions,” he says, which can be helpful for conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Bíró also conducted cell model research (as opposed to human testing, which has not yet been approved) that showed CBD inhibited sebum production and normalized overactive sebaceous gland cells — one of the main causes of acne.
While this is all promising, CBD in consumer skin care is still a bit like the Wild West. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found widespread mislabeling of CBD products sold online. “The problem is that there’s no study which indicates the proper dose,” says Bíró. Jacknin also cautions that “at this moment, CBD and marijuana products are totally unregulated and the ingredients in the jar don’t have to be the same as on the packaging because no one is checking.”
Finding the best requires a bit of homework. “There are some good companies out there, and the best way to identify those is to call the companies up and ask what they do to assure accuracy and consistency in product,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, the lead author of the JAMA study. “They should also be willing to provide test results, and those should be current.”