One of the most well-researched properties of CBD is its ability to control inflammation.
“The body has two CBD receptors (that we know of): CB1 and CB2, when applied to skin, CBD interacts with these receptors to turn down the inflammatory response,” says Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, professor at the Department of Epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.
This occurs by “decreasing the interleukins, which are chemicals that are like the immune system’s fire alarm that calls the fire department in an emergency. CBD may decrease the loudness of that fire alarm,” he explains. You may see less redness overall, and less redness in skin diseases, including eczema and psoriasis. A 2017 review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that CBD creams help reduce dryness, which can reduce itchiness.
In April 2019, a small study was published in Clinical Therapeutics where 20 participants with psoriasis, eczema, or scarring were treated with CBD ointment. They found that CBD improves measures of skin hydration (by moisturising and preventing water loss) and boosted elasticity in the skin. This bettered the quality of life of the participants. Whilst these effects could be due to the fatty acids in the ointment, the researchers said it was in part due to the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD.
Dr. Alster, who writes for the Dermatology Times, says “Topical CBD is safe and works effectively for all skin types. The products are easy to administer. Sufferers of serious medical skin conditions and those who are seeking innovative skincare options can benefit from topical CBD use. Anti-inflammatory properties associated with CBD are beneficial in treating such dermatologic conditions as acne, psoriasis and eczema due to reduction of dryness, irritation and redness. CBD-containing creams, oils, gels and serums not only moisturise and soothe the skin but are also showing encouraging results in relieving pain caused by certain skin disorders.” CBD has been shown to exert antioxidant activity, meaning it can repair the skin from free radicals which can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, as well as reduce breakouts and blemishes. According to Dr. Alster, “In addition, CBD-containing products are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which improve overall skin appearance and provide a more youthful glow.” Topical CBD is safe and has no known negative side effects. “The CBD skincare industry is still very young, so further research and experimentation is needed.” says Dr. Alster.
Peter Lio, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Founding Director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center, and contributor to the National Eczema Association, stated that there are very few studies of topical CBD and eczema.
A 2019 study published in Clinical Therapeutics investigated the effects of CBD ointment on people with atopic dermatitis. They found that CBD helped clear the skin and reduced itch, which improved the associated sleep loss. Research suggests CBD is antimicrobial, with some evidence showing it works almost as well as antibiotics at killing Staphylococcus aureus. Staph aureus can infect the skin of people with atopic dermatitis, which triggers flare ups and other complications. “Evidence in humans is still pretty limited, which means it’s hard to know how well CBD works for eczema, or the key components necessary for success,” Lio said. Hopefully there will be clearer answers about CBD and eczema soon. There will soon be results from a clinical trial of CBD gel in 200 people with moderate atopic dermatitis. So is CBD safe and worth-trying for people with eczema? Evidence shows that topical CBD is safe. “I think that for adults who want to try a CBD topical, there’s little to lose,” said Lio, who has many patients who benefit from the products. Like with any skincare product, CBD can cause a reaction, so we recommend testing a small area over a couple days before applying all over.