CBD Can Treat Acne, Study Finds
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CBD could be a safe and effective anti-inflammatory treatment for acne, according to a new review from scientists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Published in the Journal of Inflammation Research, the review identified a number of mechanistic actions that might point towards CBD’s effectiveness as a treatment for acne.
In light of these findings, the review authors say that large-scale human trials should be pursued in order to fully understand the impacts of CBD on acne, and whether CBD or hemp-based medicines could be an effective alternative to existing antibiotic treatments.
The problem with current acne treatments
Thought to affect approximately 85% of all adolescents, acne can have a significant negative impact on a young person’s self-perception and sense of self-esteem. Severe acne can also lead to facial scarring, which can further worsen these psychological distresses.
Pathologically, acne is an inflammatory disease that affects the body’s pilosebaceous units: the hair follicle and shaft and the sebaceous gland beneath the skin. Excess production of oily sebum, abnormal shedding of the cutaneous cells, an accumulation of Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) bacteria at the unit, and excess inflammation are all key elements of acne.
Current acne treatments are normally bactericidal agents (such as salicylic acid) or topical retinoids for their anti-inflammatory properties. Oral antibiotics and oral contraceptives are also sometimes given for moderate-to-severe acne as a way of controlling the C. acnes bacteria or hormonal fluctuations that may be triggering bad acne.
Unfortunately, many patients who are given these treatment options choose to discontinue treatment as the topical retinoids can irritate the skin and cause itching and redness. The long-term use of antibiotic treatments is also not recommended, as this can lead to issues with antibiotic resistance.
As the review highlights, more and more research supporting the use of CBD as a safe, well-tolerated anti-inflammatory agent is being published, and the cannabinoid has accordingly begun to attract attention as a possible treatment for acne. CBD’s ability to module the immune system, the pro-inflammatory transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 channel (TRPV1), and the Janus kinase/signal transducers and activators of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathway, gives CBD multiple different possible mechanisms of action through which to combat inflammation.
“Taken together, a mechanistic understanding of the pharmacological reduction of inflammation by CBD further supports therapeutic exploration of CBD as a novel and unique anti-inflammatory option,” the review authors wrote.
CBD for skin
The review specifically mentions several key studies involving CBD and “acne-like” conditions that have been conducted to date.
One study showed that CBD could dose-dependently suppress excessive lipid synthesis in sebocyte cultures that had been treated with acne-inducing inflammatory compounds, as well as reduce the expression of several pro-inflammatory cytokines in these sebocytes. This would strongly suggest that CBD could have clinical potential in the treatment of acne, the review authors said.
Another study using hemp seed hexane extract (HSHE) and a cell model of acne found that hemp extract could effectively reduce C. acnes-related inflammation by downregulating levels of the inflammatory cytokines IL-8 and IL-1β. Additionally, the hemp extract stopped the cells from overproducing inflammatory radical nitric oxide.
Finally, a human study intended to evaluate the safety and efficacy of cannabis seed extracts for acne found that treatment with a 3% cannabis seed extract cream could reduce skin redness and inflammation. Using this cream twice a day for twelve weeks was found to be safe and well-tolerated, as well as non-allergenic and non-irritating for the volunteer participants.
“Accordingly, the use of CBD for reducing inflammation in acne is supported and should be further explored,” the review authors wrote.
“Additionally, there is an evident need for large-scale human studies to understand the impact of CBD on acne at the clinical level. Future studies may also optimize the concentration and delivery of CBD for the treatment of acne.”
Cannabis and the skin
Other cannabis and hemp-derived compounds have also recently been investigated for use as skin treatments. Cannabichromene (CBC), another cannabinoid believed to have broad anti-inflammatory effects, has recently been shown to suppress excessive lipid production and inflammation at the skin’s sebaceous glands, raising the possibility that it too may be effective in acne treatment.
Another recent case study from Johns Hopkins Medicine has suggested that smoked cannabis could provide relief for the skin itch condition chronic pruritus.
After analyzing skin samples provided by a patient with the condition, the researchers found that traditional treatment avenues such as topical corticosteroids, phototherapy and butorphanol nasal spray were largely ineffective at combating this type of itch. But after initiating medical cannabis treatment the patient began to report significant reductions in the severity of the itch. This reduction was also maintained across several months of follow-up checks.
In light of these findings, the Johns Hopkins scientists said that they wished to see more controlled studies examining dosing, efficacy and safety for medical cannabis-based itch treatments, to determine which patients may benefit the most from this kind of therapy.