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By Luke Sholl

According to current scientific knowledge, we are now sure that cannabinoids are important biochemical mediators in the skin, even if their mechanisms have not been well understood yet. After years of lab research, the treatment of skin ailments and conditions with cannabinoids is finally entering an “informal” clinical stage, with more and more patients using cannabis oils, creams, and balms to treat or control their skin problems.

When we speak about skin, we are all patients somehow, as everyone experiences at least some kind of irritation in their life. In the worst cases, skin conditions can be devastating, affecting the general well-being of the patient. Furthermore, when you have to deal with persistent or severe skin ailments, picking the right remedy can be challenging—even for a professional.

Over the past few years, research has begun to explain how cannabinoids can trigger biochemical reactions in animal bodies, helping to heal or protect the skin from the symptoms of different dermatological conditions.

Skin Cannabis Ointment


Inflammation is the cause of the majority of skin diseases, and cytokines are the main inflammatory chemical messengers secreted by immune cells in cases of distress. Cannabinoids exert their anti-inflammatory properties mainly by reducing cytokine production and regulating skin cell functionality through their action on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of biochemical receptors spread throughout our entire body, influencing various physiological processes. Cannabinoid receptors are located all throughout the skin, and their modulation by endogenous or external cannabinoids can control the balance and health of skin cells.

Several studies are available to help us understand the specific action of cannabinoids on our skin. One piece of comprehensive research refers to the skin’s endocannabinoid system[1] as a target for new therapeutic opportunities, listing all the possible conditions that might soon be treated. These include dermatitis, acne, seborrhoea, psoriasis, and even skin tumours. While these results were being published, millions of people in the world were already adding hemp and CBD products to their daily skincare routine or to their skin-treatment tools.


Most people have had acne in some form. This condition happens when skin secretions clog up the pores. Cleansers, moisturisers, and exfoliators are available to deal with acne, alas, often without completely solving the problem. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in the regulation of sebum production by modulating the activity of the sebaceous glands, and it looks like CBD is particularly capable of decreasing sebum production. A recent study tested CBD in a model of inflammation[2], looking to determine if it displayed sebostatic properties. The research highlights that the anti-acne action is expressed by slowing down the abnormal lipid production under the skin by reducing cell proliferation and by lowering the excess cytokines that cause inflammation.



Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease triggered by different external factors. In this condition, the inflammatory state accelerates the growth and death of skin cells, leading to skin tissue breakage. Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of other diseases, and there is no actual cure. However, some treatments can effectively control the symptoms.

Studies are testing an array of cannabinoids, including THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG, in models of skin cell proliferation[3]. When overactive, this mechanism causes too many skin cells to accumulate at once, leading to psoriasis symptoms. Researchers are also looking into the role of the endocannabinoid system when it comes to taming psoriasis symptoms, and how cannabis might work to hack this regulatory system[4]


Pruritus is the most common symptom of different skin diseases, and it may also indicate systemic disorders. We don’t know the exact causes of various types of pruritus and atopic dermatitis or eczema. These conditions can improve, disappear completely, or come back, making it difficult to understand the effectiveness of any specific treatment. However, cannabis derivatives surely belong in the family of natural remedies that can help.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in the attenuation of allergic response[5] to contact allergens. A recent study on different animal models of acute and chronic contact dermatitis showed the symptoms of skin inflammation were attenuated by antagonists to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor.

Cannabinoids’ ability to reduce some of the skin’s immune inflammatory responses can inhibit the release of pruritogenic substances involved in many cases of dermatitis. Since the ECS has a role in central and peripheral control of sensory levels, cannabinoids can exert analgesic effects, inhibiting the transmission of signals of itch and pain in the nervous system.

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of CBD can also act as a first aid treatment for the skin, improving the healing process of burns and wounds and regulating the production of skin lipids that strengthen natural barriers. Once again, cannabinoids could surely be considered as a therapeutic option for these common skin conditions; however, double-blind, placebo‐controlled studies in the treatment of allergies, skin pain, and pruritus are still lacking.

Eczema and allergies


Knowledge about the antitumour effect[6] of endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids is accumulating. Lab research shows these compounds may inhibit tumour cell proliferation and enhance intra-tumour apoptosis (the spontaneous death of sick cells).

Starting from Rick Simpson’s case, there are plenty of anecdotal reports on cannabis extracts successfully applied to the skin in order to heal melanoma and other forms of tumours. These results were then confirmed in controlled environments, where cannabinoids were reported to inhibit the growth of melanoma cell lines by inducing apoptosis. Today, scientists actually consider cannabinoid receptors as promising targets for the treatment of melanoma[7]. However, while waiting for the research to enter a clinical stage, it is reasonable to consider cannabinoids just as complementary remedies to conventional surgical or pharmacological therapies.


Research is providing more and more confirmation that cannabinoids might be beneficial against several skin diseases. However, in order to translate lab results and positive anecdotal reports into clinical practices, we need a better understanding of the ECS, its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing functions, and its role in preserving healthy skin.

Cannabis topicals like skin creams, lip balms, oils, and ointments are today the most practical methods of application for CBD. Cosmetics companies are getting creative with CBD—and other cannabinoids—by blending them with popular skin-nourishing ingredients such as shea butter, vitamin E, and other botanical compounds. It’s still the early days, but we’re excited to see the cannabis-based cosmetics of the near future.

Unfortunately, we have to reinforce that most of the positive actions initiated by cannabinoids on the skin are nonexistent when weed is smoked. Even if you’ve selected a top CBD-rich strain, the free radicals caused by combustion negate the effectiveness of the remedy.

External Resources:
  1. The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of ps... - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  4. Cannabis for Refractory Psoriasis-High Hopes for a Novel Treatment and a Literature Review. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Attenuation of allergic contact dermatitis through the endocannabinoid system. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  7. Cannabinoid receptors as novel targets for the treatment of melanoma. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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