Cbd oil for severe acne

Can CBD Oil Help You Get Rid of Acne? (And How to Use It Effectively)

CBD has been shown to reduce the formation of acne & eliminate redness.

Learn how it works, how to use it, and which products to use.

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Roughly 1 in 10 humans suffer from acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

There isn’t any single cause for acne — there are many factors to consider.

In most cases, the cause of this skin condition is a combination of hormonal activity and excessive oil production. Diet, genetics, age, and gender can all play a role in the causes of acne.

CBD is now being used as a treatment option for acne — and the results are looking promising.

Here, we’ll go over how CBD can be used to eliminate acne and what else you can do to improve your skin’s health.

Let’s get into it.

Table of Contents
  • What To Look For in CBD Products For Acne
  • How Acne Forms
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Key Takeaways: Using CBD for Acne

Acne is caused by the overproduction of sebum — an oily substance secreted onto the skin to improve waterproofing and add a protective layer.

When too much sebum is secreted from the sebaceous glands on the face, the pores can become clogged. The redness and swelling we refer to as acne is caused by bacterial infection of the clogged pores — primarily from a species called Propionibacterium acnes.

For this reason, acne can be thought of as an inflammatory condition of the skin — something CBD is particularly good at treating.

There are a few ways to use CBD products for acne and skincare — including CBD under-eye serums, CBD creams and salves, and CBD-infused bath bombs for the whole body.

The benefits of CBD for acne include:

  1. Reduce redness & inflammation
  2. Regulates oil production in the skin
  3. Makes sebum less-viscous — preventing clogging
  4. Inhibits bacterial growth in the pores
  5. Promotes the regeneration of new skin cells

The Benefits of CBD Oil & CBD Cream For Acne-Prone Skin

One study referred to CBD as having a “trinity of cellular anti-acne actions” [1].

CBD’s Trinity of Cellular Anti-Acne Actions:

  1. Normalized problematic oil production in the sebaceous glands
  2. Suppressed cell proliferation (preventing the buildup of “sticky” skin cells in the pores)
  3. Reduced inflammation of the pores responsible for the production of acne

CBD can be used to reduce acne formation in a few different ways: starting with its robust array of anti-inflammatory benefits — which is a key process in the formation of acne.

Without inflammation, we would hardly notice pimples on the skin. The stages before inflammation are virtually unnoticeable on the skin. It’s only once the area becomes inflamed and swollen that acne tends to become a problem.

CBD (and some of the other cannabinoids) provide additional benefits through its ability to interact with the endocannabinoid receptors and vanilloid receptors (TRPV4) [1]. Both the TRPV4 vanilloid receptors and endocannabinoid receptors (CB2) were shown to play a role in the regulation of sebum production in the skin [1].

CBD can lower oil production, reduce inflammation, and reduce skin cell proliferation inside the pores — all leading to an overall reduction in acne symptoms.

Other cannabinoids have also been found to offer benefits for acne, especially cannabigerol (CBG) [2].

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you get the most out of your CBD skincare regime:

  1. Use a topical CBD product formulated with hemp seed extract
  2. Try transdermal patches for concentrated doses of CBD
  3. Find products specifically designed for your skin type
  4. For dry skin types, use CBD spot treatment rather than full skin coverage

What Are the Best CBD Products For Acne?

The best CBD products for treating acne are specifically designed for skin care and contain additional ingredients to make them more effective for clearing sebum from the pores and reducing inflammation and redness.

Topical CBD products that are too broad or designed with a focus on other uses (such as arthritis or pain reduction) should be avoided because they may include other ingredients that can irritate and clog the pores.

Top 7 CBD Products for Acne (2020):
  1. Life Elements CBD & Honey Everyday Skin Repair— Best CBD Acne Spot Treatment
  2. Royal CBD Oil— Best CBD Oil For Acne
  3. Lord Jones High CBD Formula Bath Salts— Best CBD Soak For Acne
  4. Leef Organics Nooks & Crannies Soap— Best CBD Soap For Acne
  5. Cannuka Nourishing Body Cream— Best CBD Cream For Body Acne
  6. Josie Maran Skin Dope CBD Argan Oil— Best CBD Face Oil For Acne
  7. Kush Queen Bath Bombs— Best Bath Bombs For Acne-Prone Skin

What To Look For in CBD Products For Acne

Here are some key points to consider when looking for CBD products for acne.

1. Look For High-Potency CBD Products

There are a lot of products on the market that promote CBD as an active ingredient but don’t contain enough CBD to do what’s advertised.

A good CBD topical will contain at least 10 mg of CBD per mL of cream or salve.

Anything less than this isn’t likely to provide enough cannabinoids to do what the product is advertising.

2. Look For Other Anti-Acne Ingredients

A good CBD acne salve or cream will contain other beneficial ingredients as well instead of relying purely on the CBD content.

Ingredients such as calendula, aloe vera, hemp seed oil, and essential oils of herbs such as lavender, frankincense, or grapefruit can make a big difference in how effective the product is for preventing or treating acne formation.

Some ingredients, such as certain oils, benzaldehyde, waxes, or coloring agents, are comedogenic — meaning they clog the pores and aggravate the symptoms of acne. Therefore, avoid products that contain these comedogenic ingredients if you’re considering incorporating CBD to your skincare routine.

What Is Acne?

Acne is a disorder of the pilosebaceous units — which comprise the hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and hair.

The pilosebaceous units are most abundant on the face, neck, and chest. They’re least abundant on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet.

These glands secrete sebum onto the surface of the skin. It mixes with dead skin cells and spreads evenly over the surface of the skin. It is designed to hydrate and waterproof the skin.

Acne forms as a result of issues with these pilosebaceous units — usually from overly viscous or abundant sebum production.

How Acne Forms

1. Increased Sebum Secretion Clogs Pores

The sebaceous glands on the skin are responsible for producing sebum. The sebum is released on the inside of the pore and mixes with skin cells before migrating out onto the surface of the skin.

Some people overproduce sebum — which can lead to a buildup inside the pores themselves.

2. Sebum Builds Up in the Pores

This stage is referred to as a microcomedone.

On the surface, it doesn’t look like anything — no signs of swelling or redness has formed yet. At this stage, the cells that slough off and mix with the sebum become sticky and start accumulating in the pores instead of flowing out toward the surface of the skin.

Bacteria living in the pores feed off the sebum. They begin to grow at an accelerated rate as the sebum builds up. Acne begins to turn red as the bacteria multiply to larger numbers.

3. Whitehead/Blackhead Formation

A) Whiteheads

As the sebum and skin cells become more compacted in the clogged pore, the top of the pore eventually becomes blocked — resulting in what we know commonly as a whitehead (closed comedones).

B) Blackheads

If the sebum and skin cells don’t become completely blocked, it forms a blackhead (open comedones) instead of a whitehead.

4. Pimple Formation

As the whiteheads or blackheads grow, the pressure inside the pore builds up. If the pressure is high enough, the sides can rupture — leaking sebaceous material into the neighboring area.

The bacteria causes small infections in the local tissue, turning it red and sore. This is what we know as a pimple.

5. Pustule Formation

Pustules are very similar to pimples but involve the presence of white blood cells in the area. These white blood cells build up as the immune system attempts to fight off the infectious bacteria in the skin.

6. Cyst/Nodule Formation

The deeper the infection goes into the skin, the more damage it causes. Very deep acne causes cysts or nodules — which can be very red, swollen, and painful. They also tend to be the most resistant to treatment options compared with other forms of acne.

Why Acne is Worse During Puberty?

Acne is most common during puberty — a time involving rapid changes in hormone levels in both boys and girls.

Androgens (male hormones) in particular cause the sebaceous glands to grow in size and release more oil — therefore, increasing the chances of clogging.

Around age 20, as hormone changes become less severe, the sebaceous glands begin producing less sebum, which is why acne tends to decrease around this time.

Common Aggravating Factors for Acne

Conventional Treatments for Acne

Depending on the type of acne, there are a number of different treatment options available.

The first line of treatment for acne is to use topical skin care products designed to improve the flow of sebum from the pores, reduce oil production, or provide topical antibacterial support to fight bacterial growth responsible for the redness and inflammation involved with acne.

Herbal or nutritional supplements are also popular forms of acne treatment — such as calendula (Calendula officinalis), black walnut (Juglans nigra), and rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora).

There are also more dramatic treatment options, including medications that reduce sebum and skin cell production, or oral antibiotics that kill bacteria living inside the pores. Both of these treatment options come with a long list of negative side effects and should only be used under the supervision of a medical doctor.

Treatment Options for Acne
  1. Isotretinoin (Accutane)
  2. Benzoyl peroxide — kills the bacteria responsible for most acne
  3. Tretinoin products (Retin-A, Retin-A Micro, and Avita) — make the skin cells that mix with sebum less sticky and therefore less likely to clog the pores, and increase cell regeneration
  4. Salicylic acid 2% lotion — stops stickiness and limits inflammation
  5. Prescription topical antibiotics — kill the bacteria involved
  6. Prescription oral antibiotics — kill bacteria more aggressively
  7. Topical herbal products — calendula, rosewood, black walnut, curcumin, & more
  8. Internal herbal products — herbal bitters, bearberry, and vitex

Final Thoughts: CBD for Acne

CBD has a lot to offer acne sufferers and has even been referred to as having a “trinity of cellular anti-acne actions” in scientific articles.

CBD topicals are the best products to use for skin conditions in general — offering a high dose of CBD along with other helpful ingredients directly to the source.

It’s important to look for quality skincare products from reputable brands only. Avoid wasting your money on low-grade brands with exaggerated claims and impotent CBD products.

CBD Oil For Acne: Everything You Need to Know

Bryan is a contributing writer for Byrdie covering all things beauty and grooming. He has over 16 years of experience in beauty editorial and has been with Byrdie since 2020.

Rachel is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology. She has contributed to Byrdie, as well as Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Allure, Vogue, and the New York Times, and more

Madeline has been with Byrdie and Brides since 2021. Most recently, she lead social media at Glamour magazine where she covered pop culture, beauty, and fashion.

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Liz DeSousa for Byrdie

In This Article

CBD oil is seeping into virtually every beauty product category nowadays—even in deodorant and toothpaste. With its anti-stress, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory claims, it’s no wonder this so-called “wonder ingredient” is pushing its way into our self-care routines. Even more, according to the latest studies, CBD oil may be exactly what your breakout-prone, irritated skin needs to get back into shape.

Although there’s still a great deal of required research ahead to determine how best to use CBD to treat acne, we talked to a panel of experts, including cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat, Michele Green, board-certified dermatologist, Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology, and Rachel Nazarian of the Schweiger Dermatology Group to get the facts as well as the potential of using CBD oil for acne.

Keep reading to determine if CBD’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and oil-regulating properties actually work wonders for acne.

Meet the Expert

  • Ron Robinson is a cosmetic chemist at BeautyStat. is a board-certified dermatologist based in Manhattan.
  • Kenneth Howe is a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology.
  • Rachel Nazarian is a New York City-based dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.

Type of Ingredient: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, sebum-regulating.

Main Benefits: Reduces inflammation, healing and calming, regulates oil production, neutralizes free radicals.

Who Should Use It: It is recommended for those looking to treat mild to moderate inflammatory acne lesions at home. It’s also great for sensitive or those allergic to typical anti-acne ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol.

How Often Can You Use It: Products containing CBD oil can be used twice per day as part of your usual anti-acne skincare routine.

Works Well With: Ingredients designed to calm skin and decrease inflammation, including arnica, hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

Don’t Use With: Ingredients that can counteract the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD, such as alcohol. Also, be aware that CBD is still an unregulated ingredient, and ongoing research is still exploring CBD’s pathways and other ingredients it may or may not work well with.

What is CBD Oil?

CBD—which stands for Cannabidiol—oil is a compound derived from both hemp (cannabis sativa) and marijuana (cannabis sativa indica) plants, both of which are part of the cannabis family. When it comes to acne’s root causes—a combination of bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells getting trapped in your pores—CBD oil seems to have all bases covered. “CBD oil is beneficial to these conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It reduces sebum production and is also antimicrobial, so it works great for acne-prone skin,” says Green. She also cited a 2007 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science that showed CBD oil applied to the skin may inhibit the overproduction of keratinocytes (skin cells), thus eliminating yet another acne-causing culprit.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Acne

  • Reduces inflammation: CBD oil helps soothe irritation caused by acne, noticeably reducing overall redness and making breakouts appear smaller and less painful. This is especially helpful for acne-prone skin sensitivity, as CBD oil works without the dryness, redness, or irritation of conventional ingredients.
  • Controls oil production: “The most exciting finding of CBD oil is that it’s ‘sebostatic’—it cuts down on oil production in the skin,” says Howe. “Current evidence suggests the skin has its own endocannabinoid system, which is to say cannabinoids are active in the skin, binding to their receptors, and signaling for certain activities to occur or not occur.” How does that relate to oil production? Green explained that “the increase in sebum production is a result of endogenous cannabinoids (anandamide and 2AG) which are produced in the sebaceous glands. These endogenous cannabinoids act on CB2 receptors inhibiting the lipogenic action, therefore regulating sebum production.”
  • It’s an antioxidant: CBD oil is packed with potent antioxidants that help protect skin from free radicals resulting from environmental damage and improve texture and tone over time. While none of the dermatologists could vouch for CBD oil’s ability to fade post-acne marks, it could provide an extra measure of antioxidant protection into your anti-acne routine.
  • Acne multi-tasker: Rather than act as a spot treatment, acne-targeting products containing CBD oil may help manage the overall issues that contribute to acne formation. Nazarian says, “Because it works as both an anti-inflammatory and can decrease oil production, it has the ability to multitask as an acne product. It may be considered a gentler option and a safe option for many different skin types.”

Other Skin Benefits

One thing worth pointing out about incorporating CBD oil into your skincare routine is how kind it is to skin. “It’s gentle, and that’s what makes it stand out from other options,” said Nazarian. “Additionally, there are many skin types that are either too sensitive to use ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol on, or they have allergies to these ingredients. Having an additional tool in the ‘acne toolkit’ will always be useful in the fight for healthy skin.”

Side Effects of CBD Oil

Though rare, the known side effects of using CBD oil for acne include dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. CBD oil is also known to interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. While there are no known interactions with other topical products, you should start with a patch test if you’re concerned about a reaction. If you experience irritation, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re sensitive to CBD oil, and you should stop using it.

How to Use It

When it comes to actually using CBD oil to treat acne, you may find yourself wondering: supplement or product? Nazarian says, “The evidence supporting use of CBD in treating acne is purely topical at this point. Use of CBD was tested topically on skin cells and has shown promise. Oral supplementation or smoking of CBD formulations has not been evaluated in this manner and can not be recommended.”

The good news is, there’s no shortage of CBD-laced products. One of the most popular routes is face oil. Oils are still having their moment in skincare, as they’re ideal for virtually every skin type (depending on the formulation) and act as an excellent carrier for a variety of potent compounds—like CBD. Oils are also easy to incorporate into a multiple-step skincare regimen, so if you’re looking to up your anti-acne game with an extra product that has very little likelihood to interact with your existing products, a face oil containing CBD oil might be the perfect fit. There are also various cleansers, creams, lotions, and oils for the face and body, but it’s important to steer clear of any that might contain potential comedogenic ingredients.

While the doctors we spoke to were happy to recommend products, they were also quick to remind us that CBD is still an unregulated ingredient, making it difficult to gauge a product’s efficacy. There’s no way to specify the purity or optimal percentage of active ingredients required for the product to be effective.

The Best Products with CBD Oil for Acne

“This product packs a 100mg hemp oil lightweight formulation which also contains adaptogens” (plant-based roots and herbs that help calm our body’s reaction to stress), says Green.

This anti-blemish cream combines 200mg of CBD hemp extract with 1% salicylic acid to calm and soothe active breakouts and clear up blemishes, blackheads, and whiteheads while keeping skin smooth and hydrated.

These concentrated patches will help you forget everything you knew about spot treatments that dry zits into painful oblivion. It is packed with the ideal ratio of salicylic acid and hemp to reduce inflammation and speed healing, while hydrocolloid action stops the infection in its tracks.

Each scoop of these luxe bath salts contains approximately 20mg of CBD oil and a host of other de-stressing and body-boosting ingredients, including pink Himalayan salt, arnica, Epsom salts, and calendula. Plus, they get two thumbs up from Nazarian, who praises their ability to decrease inflammation and encourage relaxation. Great for a bacne-busting soak—make sure the water isn’t too hot.

When cleansing broken-out skin, it’s important to be thorough while still respecting the skin’s moisture barrier. While this refreshing gel cleanser doesn’t contain actual CBD oil, it’s stacked with Cannabis Sativa seed and green oregano oils.

The skin around the eye area is the thinnest and most delicate on the face, so while an eye cream isn’t exactly first on the list of anti-acne products, one containing CBD could tick off two essential boxes of your skincare regimen: eye care and soothing anti-acne action.

Rather than applied topically, a few drops of this ultra-pure, ultra-potent CBD oil taken each day orally may help balance out the stress levels and reduce inflammation.

CBD oil is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, controls oil production, and manages the overall issues that contribute to acne formation.

Yes, it’s especially beneficial for acne-prone skin. “It’s gentle, and that’s what makes it stand out from other options,” said Nazarian. “Additionally, there are many skin types that are either too sensitive to use ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol on, or they have allergies to these ingredients. Having an additional tool in the ‘acne toolkit’ will always be useful in the fight for healthy skin.”

Nazarian says, “The evidence supporting use of CBD in treating acne is purely topical at this point. Use of CBD was tested topically on skin cells and has shown promise. Oral supplementation or smoking of CBD formulations has not been evaluated in this manner and can not be recommended.”

Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

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Oláh A, Markovics A, Szabó-Papp J, et al. Differential effectiveness of selected non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Exp Dermatol. 2016;25(9):701-707.

Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (Cbd) for skin health and disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942.

Wilkinson JD, Williamson EM. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Journal of Dermatological Science. 2007;45(2):87-92.

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Lu J, Cong T, Wen X, et al. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. 2019;28(7):786-794.

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