Are you interested in adding a CBD product to your skincare routine to help with skin conditions like acne? CBD Clinicals has all the information you need regarding CBD, its effects on acne, and how it can contribute to one’s overall wellness

How CBD May Help With Acne

Acne is a skin condition that frequently occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil, leading to blackheads, whiteheads, or pimples(1).

Various acne treatments are readily available in the market. However, since acne vulgaris affects millions of people worldwide, researchers are keen on finding safe and curative anti-acne agents, which target numerous acne pathogenesis(2).

Cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, is a cannabinoid present in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the mind-altering effects of cannabis, CBD does not produce a euphoric high.

Additionally, it is believed that CBD may counteract some of the adverse effects of THC(3).

Both CBD and THC may interact with the ECS (endocannabinoid system)(4). In the skin, the ECS regulates oil production, hair follicles, and sweat glands(5).

The ECS comprises cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), enzymes, and endogenous cannabinoids.

The skin is abundant with CB1 and CB2 receptors. These cannabinoid receptors are present in various cell types that the skin produces.

Meanwhile, endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) are naturally occurring chemical substances in the body which bind to the cannabinoid receptors to trigger specific responses.

Researchers suggest that plant-based cannabinoids like CBD and THC may mimic the action of the endocannabinoids(6).

Hence, cannabinoids may help with various skin conditions, including acne and psoriasis(7), a skin disease that causes red, itchy, scaly patches. Cannabidiol, in particular, has shown promise on multiple occasions.

For instance, a research article from the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that CBD may provide anti-acne actions due to its anti-inflammatory properties and potential to control sebum production(8).

Sebum refers to a waxy and oily substance produced by the body.

Oláh and colleagues examined CBD’s biological action on the human sebaceous gland. The researchers indicated that CBD may prevent excessive lipid synthesis of human sebocytes induced by pro-acne agents.

The primary function of sebocytes (sebum-producing epithelial cells) is to produce lipids that help in moisturizing the skin.

However, a study from the British Journal of Dermatology showed that human sebocytes may actively participate in the skin’s inflammatory processes by communicating with immune cells(9).

It is believed that although CBD may not decrease the viability of human sebocytes, the non-psychoactive compound may reduce their proliferation(10).

Additionally, CBD may exert universal anti-inflammatory effects, suggesting CBD’s potential as a therapeutic agent for treating acne(11).

These findings seem promising. However, they are still inconclusive. Therefore, more longitudinal studies are warranted to elucidate how CBD may help with acne.

Benefits of Using CBD for Acne

Using CBD may benefit those with acne because the compound has the potential to increase the levels of anandamide(12), an endogenous cannabinoid that may help with wound healing(13).

CBD may also act on its own to curb oil glands through different mechanisms while providing anti-inflammatory effects(14).

Furthermore, a study indicated that cannabidiol is one of the antibacterial cannabinoids of Cannabis sativa(15).

CBD’s antibacterial activity may help against acnegenic or acne-causing Propionibacterium acnes strains(16), suggesting that the compound may behave as a potent anti-acne agent.

A 2020 study from the journal Antioxidants suggested that CBD has potential antioxidative properties, which may help counter oxidative stress(17).

According to a study from the Annals of Clinical and Laboratory Science, oxidative stress may play a vital role in acne progress(18).

Aside from its purported benefits on acne vulgaris, CBD has also shown promise in providing therapeutic relief for skin conditions, such as psoriasis and or eczema (atopic dermatitis)(19).

If you want to use CBD for acne and other skin conditions, talk with a healthcare professional experienced in cannabis use.

Remember that CBD is available in various formulations and concentrations. Therefore, a professional may help you choose the best CBD product for your specific skin issues.

How to Use CBD for Acne

To learn the various ways you can use CBD, you should know its different delivery methods. These routes of administration are categorized by the path by which CBD is taken into the body(20):

  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion
  • Sublingual (under the tongue) absorption
  • Topical absorption
  • Transdermal route (active ingredients are delivered across the skin for systematic distribution)

Individuals with acne or other skin conditions may try CBD topical products for localized relief. Topical CBD can be lotions, oils, balms, and salves.

It is believed that CBD may help with inflammation when applied topically(21).

Compared to other forms, CBD topicals are not absorbed into the entire body(22). This route could make the topicals safer, considering how little is known about CBD’s long-term safety.

The onset of CBD via the topical route is between 10 and 15 minutes, and the compound’s effects may last from 2 to 4 hours(23).

How Long Does CBD Take to Help With Acne?’

How long CBD takes to help with acne depends on several factors like the administration method used, CBD potency, the severity of one’s condition, and individual body weight.

The quickest way to benefit from the effects of CBD is through vaping. When you inhale CBD via vape pens, you will usually feel the compound’s effect within 2 to 15 minutes(24).

However, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warn people against the use of THC-containing e-cigarettes or any vaping products, mainly from informal sources(25).

Most lung injury cases in the United States are associated with vaping(26).

On the other hand, you will feel the effects of CBD from topical products between 10 and 15 minutes(27). Even if a topical contains traces of THC, it should not cause detrimental side effects because the compound does not enter the bloodstream(28).

How Long Will CBD Help With Acne?

How long CBD helps with acne after it starts to take effect usually depends on its bioavailability.

Bioavailability is the extent to which a particular substance becomes entirely available to one’s system.

A study from the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology mentioned that the bioavailability of CBD following smoking was 31%(29). Meanwhile, since CBD topicals do not enter the bloodstream, cannabidiol’s bioavailability via the topical route is zero(30).

How to Shop for CBD for Acne

You can purchase cannabis-based items, including the best CBD oil for acne, from your local dispensaries.

Generally, you can find tinctures, gummies, vapes, and CBD creams in physical stores and online.

However, consumers must be cautious when shopping for CBD items because there are reports of labeling inaccuracy of CBD extracts sold online(31).

Of tested CBD-derived products, 26% of the items contained less cannabidiol than labeled, which could negate any possible clinical response(32).

For this reason, ensure that you verify whether the online store you choose is an authorized seller or not. In addition, it would be helpful to read customer reviews to have more insights about a particular CBD brand and the products it sells.

Below are more guidelines when shopping for CBD products for acne:

  • Choose CBD companies that are transparent about their farming practices, hemp sources, product ingredients, and third-party lab testing results.
  • Always check whether a CBD product comes with a COA (certificate of analysis), certifying that the item conforms to the customer’s requirements.
  • Some CBD skincare products are made for specific skin types, such as oily skin, acne-prone skin, and dry skin. Always read the ingredient list and see if particular ingredients may be detrimental to your skin type.
  • Find CBD products like cleansers, face masks, and lotions with added vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is a form of antioxidant that may help reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation(33).

Meanwhile, freeze-dried aloe vera extract is a natural ingredient that may help improve skin hydration(34).

Shea butter is also used in the cosmetic industry primarily due to its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties(35). Shea butter may help with skin dryness.

Another ingredient common in acne products is tea tree oil. A randomized controlled trial suggested that 5% topical tea tree oil may help with mild to moderate acne(36).

Other Important Things to Consider When Choosing CBD for Acne

Individuals prone to breakouts and blemishes may benefit the most from full-spectrum CBD oil. A full-spectrum CBD variant contains all compounds of cannabis plants, including essential oils, flavonoids, terpenes, and other cannabinoids like THC. However, full-spectrum CBD products should only have less than 0.3% THC.

Flavonoids are active compounds present in cannabis. These compounds contribute to the plant’s aroma, pigmentation, and flavor, possibly due to flavonoids’ synergistic relationship with other active compounds like terpenes.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds present in the essential oils produced by many plants, including cannabis.

Full-spectrum CBD is known to provide the entourage effect, a theory where biologically active compounds of cannabis work better when administered together.

Meanwhile, the broad-spectrum CBD variant also contains all the natural compounds of cannabis. However, it is nearly THC-free. Another form of hemp extract is CBD isolate, made of pure CBD.

As for cannabis plant extraction, some common methods include solvent, ethanol, and carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction techniques.

In CO2 extraction, compressed CO2 is utilized as the extraction solvent instead of flammable and toxic chemical solvents(37).

In addition, it is worth noting that hemp oil (CBD oil) is different from hempseed oil. Hemp oil typically comes from the flowers and leaves of hemp plants. On the other hand, hempseed oil is made from the pressed seeds of hemp plants.

Hempseed oil does not contain CBD. However, it is rich in nutrients and fatty acids(38). Hemp seed oil is also a carrier oil, like coconut oil(39).

Risks and Side Effects of Using CBD for Acne

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), CBD is relatively safe and generally well tolerated in humans and animals(40).

No specific data exists examining the risks and side effects of using CBD for acne.

A 2019 study from La Clinica Terapeutica hypothesized that topical administration of THC-free CBD ointment may be a safe and efficient non-invasive alternative for patients with cutaneous scars and inflammatory diseases(41).

Cystic acne refers to a form of inflammatory acne that causes painful, pus-filled pimples to develop deep under the skin(42).

However, Mayo Clinic states that CBD carries some risks and may produce minor side effects, including fatigue, drowsiness, reduced appetite, diarrhea, and dry mouth(43).

Another cause for concern is CBD’s potential to interact with other medications when used concomitantly.

At high doses, CBD may inhibit the activity of cytochrome P450, a family of liver enzymes that metabolize approximately 60% of pharmaceutical drugs(44).

Dermatologists may prescribe antibiotics to individuals with acne to kill excess skin bacteria and reduce inflammation and redness(45). Antibiotics utilize the cytochrome P450 enzyme system and thus may interact with CBD(46).

Legality of CBD

The U.S. Congress ratified the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing the commercial use of industrial hemp and products obtained from hemp plants(47).

The Farm Bill states that Cannabis sativa L. and other derivatives of cannabis with less than 0.3% THC content on a dry weight basis are deemed legal under federal law(48).

The Federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 created a Schedule that classy substances into five categories based on the potential for drug abuse and possible medical use(49).

Some states like Colorado(50) have passed laws permitting recreational and medical marijuana use. Still, these state laws do not alter the fact that, under federal law, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug(51).

Substances listed in the Schedule I drug category have a high abuse potential with no accepted medical use.

Since rules and regulations regarding medical marijuana and cannabis-derived products seem confusing, consumers must familiarize themselves with various state laws to avoid legal repercussions.


  1. How can CBD help with acne?

CBD’s purported antibacterial activity may help against acnegenic or acne-causing Propionibacterium acnes strains, suggesting that the non-psychoactive compound may behave as a potent anti-acne agent(52).

  1. What evidence or research exists to say that CBD helps with acne?

A study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggested that CBD may provide anti-acne actions due to its anti-inflammatory properties and potential to control sebum production(53).

  1. Is there any evidence that CBD can make acne worse?

While there is no definitive evidence suggesting that CBD can make acne worse, some ingredients in CBD products may trigger an allergic reaction.

For instance, although essential oils are generally safe, a small number of people may experience allergic reactions or skin irritations from these liquid extracts(54).

  1. Will CBD interact with any current medication I may be taking for acne?

CBD may interact with antibiotics(55). Cytochrome P450, a family of liver enzymes, metabolizes antibiotics. At high doses, CBD may inhibit the activity of these enzymes, leading to drug-to-drug interactions(56).

An example of an oral antibiotic commonly prescribed to patients with mild to severe acne is erythromycin(57).

Always consult your dermatologist before using any CBD-derived acne product to avoid adverse interactions with any medications you are taking.

  1. Are there other treatments I should consider alongside CBD to help with acne?

Cleansers and leave-on products containing salicylic acid may help with acne(58). However, remember that salicylic acid is an active ingredient that may cause rashes or skin peeling(59).

Therefore, make sure to talk with your dermatologist if you are considering other acne treatments alongside CBD. This way, your doctor can also advise you regarding various skincare ingredients that should not be mixed.

  1. Can I fail a drug test if I use CBD for acne?

CBD is non-psychoactive, so it should not cause a euphoric high(60). However, some CBD products like full-spectrum CBD oil contain traces of THC. THC may build up in your body when you take it regularly in a span of four to six days(61).

An increased THC level in the bloodstream may produce a positive drug test. However, if you use CBD topicals before taking a drug test, the result will be negative. Remember that CBD topicals do not enter the bloodstream(62).

  1. What is the dosage for acne?

The FDA does not approve CBD as an acne treatment. Therefore, there is no standard CBD dosage for acne.

However, mid-range doses between 10mg and 100mg of CBD per day may help with pain and inflammation(63). Cystic acne is a form of inflammatory acne that causes painful pus-filled pimples(64).

Still, it is best to talk with a doctor experienced in recommending CBD for accurate dosing.

  1. What are the side effects of CBD oil on acne?

No scientific data explicitly examines the side effects of CBD oil when used for acne. Although generally safe and well tolerated, CBD may still cause minor side effects, such as dry mouth(65).

  1. Should you use CBD as a supplement or product to help with acne?

CBD has antioxidative, anti-inflammatory properties(66), and antibacterial(67). These potential therapeutic benefits may help people suffering from acne vulgaris. Nevertheless, it is best to talk with your dermatologist if you are considering adding a CBD product to your skincare routine.

  1. Is CBD for acne legal?

CBD and other cannabis derivatives with less than 0.3% THC are legal under federal law(68). However, the FDA has not approved CBD as a medical treatment for acne. Therefore, CBD products marketed as anti-acne medicines are unregulated.

  1. Acne
  2. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  3. Does Cannabidiol Protect Against Adverse Psychological Effects of THC?
  4. Cannabidiol
  5. Healing With CBD, page 175.
  6. The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator
  7. Healing With CBD, page 175.
  8. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  9. Sebocytes Contribute to Skin Inflammation by Promoting the Differentiation of T Helper 17 Cells
  10. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  11. Ibid.
  12. Healing With CBD, page 175.
  13. A New Role for Anandamide: Defective Link Between the Systemic and Skin Endocannabinoid Systems in Hypertrophic Human Wound Healing
  14. Healing With CBD, page 175.
  15. Antibacterial Cannabinoids From Cannabis sativa: A Structure-Activity Study
  16. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  17. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol
  18. Oxidants and Anti-oxidants Status in Acne Vulgaris Patients With Varying Severity
  19. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders
  20. Healing With CBD, page 189.
  21. Healing With CBD, page 210.
  22. How to Safely Use CBD: Should You Inhale, Spray, Apply, or Eat It?
  23. Healing With CBD, page 210.
  24. Healing With CBD, page 190.
  25. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products
  26. Ibid.
  27. Healing With CBD, page 210.
  28. Ibid.
  29. A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans
  30. Healing With CBD, page 210.
  31. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online
  32. Ibid.
  33. Vitamin C in Dermatology;year=2013;volume=4;issue=2;spage=143;epage=146;aulast=Telang
  34. The Moisturizing Effect of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Aloe vera Extract in Different Concentrations Assessed by Skin Bioengineering Techniques
  35. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils
  36. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study
  37. Understanding Dabs: Contamination Concerns of Cannabis Concentrates and Cannabinoid Transfer During the Act of Dabbing
  38. Hemp Seed Oil Properties
  39. Healing With CBD, page 205.
  40. Cannabidiol (CBD)
  41. A Therapeutic Effect of CBD-Enriched Ointment in Inflammatory Skin Diseases and Cutaneous Scars
  42. Cystic Acne
  43. What Are the Benefits of CBD — And Is It Safe to Use?
  44. Healing With CBD, page 114.
  45. Acne
  46. Healing With CBD, page 115.
  47. H.R.2 – Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018
  48. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)
  49. The Federal Controlled Substances Act: Schedules and Pharmacy Registration
  50. Ibid.
  51. HOUSE BILL 21-1317
  52. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  53. Ibid.
  54. Are Essential Oils Safe?
  55. Healing With CBD, page 115.
  56. Healing With CBD, page 114.
  57. Acne
  58. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments A Review
  59. Salicylic Acid Topical
  60. Cannabidiol (CBD)-What We Know and What We Don’t
  61. Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?
  62. Healing With CBD, page 210.
  63. CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis, page 129.
  64. Cystic Acne
  65. What Are the Benefits of CBD — And Is It Safe to Use?
  66. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes
  67. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol
  68. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)
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