Ongoing research on the use of cannabidiol (CBD) has shown it to have numerous benefits in relieving symptoms in a range of medical conditions such as cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia and gastrointestinal disorders.  Mostly used for the relief of pain, its anti-inflammatory properties are increasingly being investigated for the treatment of a range of skin diseases.1-2

Cannabidiol is a natural compound present in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is only one of over 100 compounds in cannabis.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2017 concluded that topical CBD may be effective against eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis,2 while it is increasingly been used in skin products because of its anti-aging and protective capabilities.3

CBD’s effect on the skin can be ascribed to the skin’s own endocannabinoid system comprising of cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2).4 According to a literature review on the application of cannabidiol in the treatment of selected dermatological conditions4, several studies have suggested that the existence of a functional ESC is implicated in various biological processes in the skin including proliferation, growth, differentiation, apoptosis and cytokine as well the hormone production of various cell types of the skin and appendages, such as the hair follicle and sebaceous gland.4

The review cites the work of Biro, et al (2009) that suggests that the main physiological function of the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells. The disruption of this delicate balance might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin (e.g. acne, seborrhoea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis and cancer).4

According to Biro, CB2 activation in the sebaceous glands by locally produced endocannabinoids markedly enhances lipid synthesis, suggesting that agents such as CBD that suppress the local production of endocannabinoids in the diseased sebaceous glands and/or inhibit CB2 on the sebocytes (CB2 antagonists) might have therapeutic values.5

“Furthermore, transdermal penetration of cannabinoids is well established, raising the possibility that these agents could be efficiently applied topically to the skin in the form of a cream,” the authors noted, concluding that clinical evidence has demonstrated that cannabidiol can be used for certain dermatological ailments as supported by the clinical evidence although gaps still exist.4

Speaking at the 2018 American Academy of Dermatology Congress, Dr Jeanette Jacknin, a board-certified dermatologist in the US and author of the book: Smart Medicine for Your Skin, cited several scientific studies which support the topical use of CBD for anti-aging, psoriasis, eczema and acne. 6

“Cannabinoid receptors have been discovered in keratinocytes and other parts of the skin, such as the sebaceous glands, hair follicles, small nerves and immune cells. CBD works on them as part of the skin’s endocannabinoid system,” Dr Jacknin explained.

“Cannabis’s strong anti-aging and protective capabilities make this herb the next big thing in skin care, providing more than just moisturising and nutritive properties of hemp oil with only miniscule amounts of CBD,” she said.6

The senior author of the study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr Robert Dellavalle MD noted that the most promising role of topical cannabinoids may be in the treatment of itch. In his study, eight of 21 patients who applied a cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks completely eliminated severe itching or pruritus. He, however, cautioned that most of the studies done up until now are based on laboratory models and that large-scale clinical trials have not been performed.  That may change as more and more countries and US states legalise cannabis.


Hashim PW, et al. Topical
Cannabinoids in Dermatology. Cutis. July 2017;100(1):50-52

Dellavalle RP, et al. The role
of cannabinoids in dermatology. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
July 2017. Volume 77, Issue 1, Pages 188–190

Jhawar N, et al. The growing
trend of cannabidiol in skincare products. Clinics in Dermatology.
Volume 37, Issue 3, May–June
2019, Pages 279-281

The Application of cannabidiol
in the treatment of selected dermatological conditions.

Biro T, et al. The
endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: Novel perspectives
and therapeutic opportunities. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 2009 8,

ADD 2018: Topical Cannabidiol
Recommended as Adjunct Treatment for Acne, Eczema, and Psoriasis.