Can CBD Help With Acne?

  • Acne is an inflammatory skin condition marked by clogged pores, blackheads, and pimples. When oil glands produce too much sebum (a waxy compound), the excess oil combines with dead skin cells, leading to inflammation and acne. 
  • A study showed that cannabidiol (CBD) might inhibit the growth of human sebocytes (sebum-producing cells), reducing the production of sebum(1).
  • Researchers of a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation noted the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD on human sebocytes(2).  
  • Oxidative stress caused by free radicals might be a precursor to the acne process(3). A study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that CBD might be useful in treating health conditions that are linked to oxidative stress(4). 
  • Experts advise individuals dealing with acne to try to manage stress, as it can make acne worse(5). Studies show that CBD may help with anxiety and stress(6).

Why People Are Using CBD for Acne

Evidence suggests that CBD oil may help treat acne and its symptoms. With CBD’s purported therapeutic benefits, this all-natural hemp extract may help provide relief to people looking for alternative acne treatments. 

Acne is an inflammatory skin condition marked by plugged (clogged) pores, blackheads, and pimples. 

Oil glands (called sebaceous glands) are connected to hair follicles. These glands secrete sebum, a wax-like compound that moisturizes the skin and hair.

The sebum moves typically up the hair follicle and exits onto the skin. However, when oil glands produce too much sebum, the excess oil combines with dead skin cells. Then, the hair follicles become plugged, leading to inflammation and acne. 

There are some effective treatments available for acne. However, acne can be persistent. As bumps and pimples slowly heal, new ones begin to appear. 

Acne breakouts often appear on the face, chest, shoulders, and upper back. 

CBD for Reduced Sebum Production

The ECS is involved in regulating the production of sebum(7). Too much sebum or oil production can lead to oily skin and clogged pores(8), causing acne. 

Sufficient sebum production keeps the epidermal barrier functioning properly, promoting skin homeostasis (balance).

In a laboratory, the authors of a study examined the effects of CBD on human skin samples and oil-producing glands(9)

Results showed that CBD might help inhibit the growth of human sebocytes (sebum-producing cells), reducing the production of sebum.

CBD for Inflammation

Plugged follicles cause inflammation characterized by swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Inflammation causes acne.

A study found in the Journal of Dermatological Science noted that cannabinoids inhibited the overproduction of human keratinocytes (skin cells)(10), making it potentially useful in treating inflammation.

Researchers of a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation noted the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD on human sebocytes(11).  

CBD for Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is caused by the imbalance of free radicals (unstable molecules) and antioxidants in the body(12). 

In a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, results suggested that oxidative stress caused by free radicals might be a precursor to the acne process(13)

In a study with acne patients, researchers found oxidative stress in individuals with acne. They recommended the use of antioxidant drugs for acne treatment(14). 

Antioxidants are compounds that can inhibit or reduce cell damage caused by free radicals.

People usually associate antioxidants with anti-aging. The reason could be because oxidative stress is also linked to aging, defined by the loss of tissue and organ function over time(15). 

A study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that CBD might be useful in treating health conditions linked not only to inflammation but also to oxidative stress(16). These conditions include Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

Another study showed that CBD’s antioxidant characteristics are more potent than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or tocopherol (vitamin E)(17)

CBD for Bacterial Infection

Bacteria are present in small amounts on the skin. However, the harmless bacteria that live on the skin can contaminate the plugged follicles and cause infection(18). 

Pimples develop when the plugged hair follicles become inflamed or infected with bacteria(19). 

A study showed how cannabinoids, including CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affect disease-causing bacteria(20). 

The results of the study also noted that CBD might be useful in fighting treatment-resistant strains of bacteria.

CBD for Pain

The swelling and inflammation that comes with acne make the skin tender and painful. Meanwhile, CBD has been shown to help suppress pain. 

In one study, results suggested that CBD presence in Sativex, a medication with a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, was influential in attaining significant pain relief(21).

CBD for Anxiety and Stress

Acne and acne scars can be emotionally distressing due to its effects on an individual’s physical appearance. 

Having to deal with this issue can cause anxiety and may affect one’s self-esteem and social relations(22). 

Stress can make acne worse. Experts advise individuals dealing with acne to try to manage stress by getting enough restful sleep and practicing some relaxation methods(23).

Studies show that CBD may help with anxiety and stress. A study published in the Frontiers in Immunology Journal indicated that CBD could be a potential remedy to depression linked to stress(24).

How CBD Oil Works to Help With Acne

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that influence most body functions. 

The ECS also gathers and interprets signals from cannabinoids, like CBD. There have been studies that showed evidence of cutaneous (skin) cannabinoid signaling(25)

This activity is primarily involved in the maintenance of skin homeostasis and the formation and regeneration of skin barriers.

Any obstacle in the signaling can be a contributing factor to several skin diseases and disorders, including acne, atopic dermatitis, pigmentation disorders, tumors, and itchiness(26).

An understanding of how the ECS works may be useful when searching for new therapeutic possibilities in acne treatment(27)

Studies demonstrate the primary physiological function of skin ECS. It regulates the growth, differentiation, survival, and immune competence (tolerance) of skin cells(28)

The activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors by the endocannabinoids on keratinocytes (skin cells) helps suppress cellular proliferation, inflammations, and apoptosis (cell death)(29)

CB1 receptors are involved in pain sensation, appetite, mood, motor regulation, memory processing, and sleep(30).

On the other hand, CB2 receptors are prevalent among cells of the immune system. When activated, these receptors help suppress inflammation, reduce pain, and minimize damage to tissues(31). 

Researchers believe that compounds that activate CB2 receptors need to be explored(32). These compounds may be useful in the management of skin diseases caused by sebaceous gland dysfunctions, like acne vulgaris. 

Sebaceous glands secrete sebum into the hair follicles to lubricate the skin and hair. Sebum hydrates the skin by locking in moisture, preventing dry skin.

The Pros and Cons of CBD for Acne


  • Studies show that CBD may help reduce sebum production, preventing acne. CBD may also help with acne signs and symptoms, such as pain, inflammation, bacterial infection, anxiety, and stress. 
  • CBD hemp oil containing less than 0.3% THC is legal, according to the 2018 Farm Bill. However, individual state laws and provisions still apply(33). 
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that CBD, a generally well-tolerated compound, has a good safety profile(34)
  • CBD is non-addictive(35), making it safe for everyday use. 
  • A prescription is not necessary to buy CBD in locations where they are legally available.


  • Acne comes in many forms and may be caused by several factors. More human studies are needed to prove that CBD can directly treat acne or its symptoms.
  • CBD’s potential risks and side effects include reduced appetite, dry mouth, diarrhea, and fatigue(36). 
  • CBD interacts with certain drugs. It may alter how certain medications are broken down and absorbed in the body(37). 
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD and cannabis plant-based products, leading to labeling inaccuracies(38). 

How CBD Compares to Alternative Treatments for Acne

Alternative approaches that may be useful in the treatment of acne include brewer’s yeast, fish oil, oral zinc, probiotics, and topical tea tree oil(39). 

Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar(40) and honey(41) can also be useful for acne treatment. 

Meanwhile, herbal medicines are gaining popularity due to their fewer side-effects, long history of use, higher patient tolerance, and cost-effectiveness(42). 

Studies have shown that many plants help inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses in vitro(43).

Thus, many medicinal plants with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are used in the treatment of acne and other diseases.

The seed oil of Cannabis sativus (a cannabis strain), for example, is useful for the treatment of acne rosacea, seborrhoeic dermatitis, eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. 

Sativa, Sativum, and Sativus are Latin adjectives that mean “cultivated.” CBD can be derived from these cultivated cannabis plants, either from hemp plants or marijuana.

Cannabis Sativa extract may also be useful in relieving pain in itchy skin. Researchers say the oil from its seeds improves skin strength, making it more resistant to viral, bacterial, and fungal infections(44). 

Hemp seeds are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, like omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid)(45). 

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that acne patients have reduced linoleic acid levels in their skin cells(46). 

Supplementing one’s diet with foods rich in essential fatty acids may help with acne treatment. 

How to Choose the Right CBD Oil 

There are three types of CBD oil to choose from: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.

A full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the phytonutrients from hemp, including THC, terpenes, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, and essential oils. 

A broad-spectrum CBD oil is similar to a full-spectrum oil but contains zero to less than 0.3% THC. Meanwhile, CBD isolates contain nothing but pure CBD. 

When choosing the best CBD products to buy, consider the following:

  1. Look for non-GMO, hemp-derived CBD oil products. Buy them from legitimate CBD brands known for their high-quality products. 
  2. Know the legal stipulations in the state where the products would be bought and used. 
  3. Read product reviews online before buying from any store. Check if the store is legally authorized by the government to sell CBD.
  4. Identify the extraction method used in making the CBD. The Supercritical-CO2 extraction technique is recognized as safe by the FDA(47)
  5. Ask for the product’s certificate of analysis (COA). It includes a list of all the cannabinoids and other compounds contained in the product.
  6. Pay attention to the CBD dosage contained in a product. Know the concentration of CBD contained in each serving or dose.
  7. Compare CBD company claims with its third-party lab testing reports. Reputable companies value transparency with their consumers. 

CBD Dosage for Acne

A CBD dose generally depends on an individual’s age, body chemistry, and medical condition. 

To date, there is no officially recommended CBD dose for any specific medical condition.

Consult with a medical professional experienced in cannabis use before using CBD for acne or its symptoms. 

A dermatologist can provide guidance and advice on dosing, as finding the right dose may require some experimentation at first. 

Following instructions indicated on product labels is a good starting point. Err on the side of underdosing or start with the lowest dose possible, gradually increasing it until the desired effects have been achieved.

How to Take CBD Oil for Acne

CBD is best taken either orally or topically for acne. Both topical application and oral administration are practical and effective ways of delivering essential fatty acids to the skin and bloodstream(48). 

Oral applications include CBD tinctures (drops) and CBD edibles (gummies, capsules, and CBD-infused foods and beverages).

Tinctures may be taken sublingually by placing a few drops of the hemp extract under the tongue for a few seconds before swallowing. 

Taking CBD sublingually allows for CBD oil to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. A dropper that comes with every bottle of CBD tincture ensures accurate and convenient dosing.

CBD edibles contain fixed amounts of CBD for every piece or serving. They are precise methods of consuming CBD quickly and effectively. They may be taken as they are or mixed with food or beverages.

CBD topicals include CBD skincare products, such as lotions, face creams, balms, salves, transdermal patches, and massage oils. CBD enters the skin where it is readily absorbed. 

Massaging topicals onto the skin may help relieve pain and itchiness and reduce scarring(49).

The therapeutic benefits of CBD may boost the potential of massage in acne treatment. CBD topicals that contain hemp seed oil as a carrier oil may be an ideal choice for individuals looking to treat acne. 


It takes more than the use of beauty products to achieve healthy skin. A well-balanced diet, an active lifestyle, and stress management are equally important to those who want to protect their acne-prone skin.

Studies show how CBD may be useful in helping to prevent acne or treat some acne symptoms. 

With CBD’s good safety profile, as vouched by the World Health Organization, it may help people of different skin types deal with their skin problems, like acne.

However, the use of CBD, like any natural product, comes with risks. Also, the long-term effects of CBD have not been studied. 

Before using CBD to combat the symptoms or causes of acne, consult first with a dermatologist experienced in cannabis use for guidance and advice.

  1. Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724.
  2. ibid.
  3. Bowe, W. P., Patel, N., & Logan, A. C. (2012). Acne vulgaris: the role of oxidative stress and the potential therapeutic value of local and systemic antioxidants. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD, 11(6), 742–746
  4. Booz G. W. (2011). Cannabidiol as an emergent therapeutic strategy for lessening the impact of inflammation on oxidative stress. Free radical biology & medicine, 51(5), 1054–1061.
  5. Mayo Clinic. (2020, Feb 18). Acne. Retrieved from
  6. Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019;41(1):9–14. DOI:10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015.
  7. Oláh, A et al. op. cit.
  8. Rohrig B. Demystifying Gross Stuff. American Chemical Society. Retrieved from,
  9. Oláh, A et al. op. cit.
  10. Wilkinson J, Williamson E.  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 Volume 45, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 87-92.
  11. Oláh, A et al. op. cit.
  12. Betteridge D. J. (2000). What is oxidative stress?. Metabolism: clinical and experimental, 49(2 Suppl 1), 3–8. 
  13. Bowe, W. P., Patel, N., & Logan, A. C. op. cit.
  14. Arican, O., Kurutas, E. B., & Sasmaz, S. (2005). Oxidative stress in patients with acne vulgaris. Mediators of inflammation, 2005(6), 380–384.
  15. Flatt T. (2012). A new definition of aging?. Frontiers in genetics, 3, 148.
  16. Booz G. W. op. cit.
  17. Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259.; Hampson AJ, Grimaldi M, Axelrod J, Wink D. Cannabidiol and (-)Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998;95(14):8268–8273. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.14.8268.
  18. NHSUK. (2019, July 12). Acne Causes. Retrieved from
  19. Mayo Clinic. (2020, Feb 18). Acne. Retrieved from
  20. Giovanni Appendino, G et al. Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A Structure−Activity Study. Journal of Natural Products 2008 71 (8), 1427-1430. DOI: 10.1021/np8002673.
  21. Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259.
  22. Mayo Clinic. (2020, Feb 18). Acne. Retrieved from
  23. ibid.
  24. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009. Published 2018 Sep 21. DOI:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009.
  25. Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A. (2019). Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(5), 918.
  26. ibid.
  27. Bíró T, et al. The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009;30(8):411–420. doi: 10.1016/; Kupczyk P, Reich A, Szepietowski JC. Cannabinoid system in the skin – a possible target for future therapies in dermatology. Exp Dermatol. 2009;18(8):669–679. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2009.00923.x.
  28. ibid.
  29. ibid.
  30. ECHO. (2017, April 18). Retrieved from
  31. Turcotte, C., Blanchet, M. R., Laviolette, M., & Flamand, N. (2016). The CB2 receptor and its role as a regulator of inflammation. Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS, 73(23), 4449–4470.
  32. Dobrosi, N., Tóth, B. I., Nagy, G., Dózsa, A., Géczy, T., Nagy, L., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., Kovács, L., & Bíró, T. (2008). Endocannabinoids enhance lipid synthesis and apoptosis of human sebocytes via cannabinoid receptor-2-mediated signaling. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 22(10), 3685–3695.
  33. US FDA. (2020, March 11). FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from
  34. WHO. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. (2017, Nov 6-10). Cannabidiol (CBD). Retrieved from
  35. Nora Volkow. NIDA. Researching Marijuana for Therapeutic Purposes: The Potential Promise of Cannabidiol (CBD). National Institute on Drug Abuse website. July 20, 2015. Accessed January 31, 2020.
  36. Bauer, B. (2018, Dec 20). What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use? Retrieved from, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154.
  37. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154.
  38. Bonn-Miller, M. O., Loflin, M., Thomas, B. F., Marcu, J. P., Hyke, T., & Vandrey, R. (2017). Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA, 318(17), 1708–1709.
  39. Mayo Clinic. op. cit.
  40. Vijayakumar, C., & Wolf-Hall, C.E. (2002). Minimum bacteriostatic and bactericidal concentrations of household sanitizers for Escherichia coli strains in tryptic soy broth. DOI:10.1006/fmic.2002.0459
  41. Derek D. Schramm, Malina Karim, Heather R. Schrader, Roberta R. Holt, Marcia Cardetti, and Carl L. Keen. Honey with High Levels of Antioxidants Can Provide Protection to Healthy Human Subjects. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2003 51 (6), 1732-1735. DOI: 10.1021/jf025928k
  42. Nasri, H., Bahmani, M., Shahinfard, N., Moradi Nafchi, A., Saberianpour, S., & Rafieian Kopaei, M. (2015). Medicinal Plants for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: A Review of Recent Evidences. Jundishapur journal of microbiology, 8(11), e25580.
  43. ibid.
  44. ibid.
  45. USDA. (2019, April 1). Food Data Central. Seeds, hemp seed, hulled. Retrieved from
  46. Downing, D. T., Stewart, M. E., Wertz, P. W., & Strauss, J. S. (1986). Essential fatty acids and acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 14(2 Pt 1), 221–225.
  47. Kankala RK, Chen BQ, Liu CG, Tang HX, Wang SB, Chen AZ. Solution-enhanced dispersion by supercritical fluids: an ecofriendly nanonization approach for processing biomaterials and pharmaceutical compounds. Int J Nanomedicine. 2018;13:4227–4245. Published 2018 Jul 23. DOIi:10.2147/IJN.S166124; Djerafi R, Masmoudi Y, Crampon C, Meniai A, Badens E. Supercritical anti-solvent precipitation of ethyl cellulose. J Supercrit Fluids. 2015;105:92–98
  48. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Health. Retrieved from
  49. Cho, Y. S., Jeon, J. H., Hong, A., Yang, H. T., Yim, H., Cho, Y. S., Kim, D. H., Hur, J., Kim, J. H., Chun, W., Lee, B. C., & Seo, C. H. (2014). The effect of burn rehabilitation massage therapy on hypertrophic scar after burn: a randomized controlled trial. Burns : journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, 40(8), 1513–1520.
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