Cannabinoid-Based Topicals and Skin Health

By Daniel Gana • LinkedIn

Scientists have discovered how cannabinoids and terpenes may promote skin health. According to their findings in a 2022 journal, cannabinoids and other compounds found in the cannabis plant can play significant roles in serving as a skin protector, reducing dryness, limiting the activity of pathogenic microorganisms, reducing inflammation, and slowing down the natural aging process.

While these activities are mostly attributed to the combined effect of cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, flavonoids, and other compounds, cannabinoids can provide quite a vast array of effects on their own. For instance, cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCV were reported by scientists to possess antifungal, antibacterial, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects on the body.

It is also pertinent to note that the skin contains a large concentration of cannabinoid receptors which interacts with cannabinoids in cannabis-based topicals to promote pain relief, reduce anxiety, and protects the skin.

One of the most researched therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant is The role of cannabinoids in pain management. This was succinctly explained in an article on Cannabox, a weed delivery service in Thailand. According to the article, cannabinoids have emerged as a potential solution to pain management in arthritis, multiple sclerosis, itching, and skin conditions. In most cases, users have attested to applying cannabis-based topicals directly on the skin for improved effect. How does this work? Let’s dive into cannabis-based topicals and their effect on skin health.

How can cannabinoid-based topicals affect skin health?
Cannabinoid-based topicals are available as oils, salves, and cannabinoid-infused creams. Apart from interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the skin, cannabinoid topicals also produce some therapeutic effects that may contribute to skin health. Some of these effects are described below;
Potentially reverse the signs of aging via antioxidant effect.

Cannabinoids like CBGa, CBD, THC, and CBG have been reported to possess some excellent antioxidant activity which may reverse the signs of aging like wrinkles. This therapeutic activity may also be useful in dealing with free radicals that expose skin to carcinogens and toxins.

Protective coating against harsh weather conditions
CBD was reported by a group of researchers from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, to form a protective coating on the skin. According to their 2023 study posted in Phytochemistry Reviews, CBD has a photoprotective effect when applied to the skin. Other therapeutic effects of CBD reported by the researchers include skin hydration, sebostatic, antipruritic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, wound healing, anti-tumoral, and anti-fibrotic effects. This may serve as supporting evidence for the use of cannabinoids in sunscreens.

Antimicrobial activity
The antimicrobial effect of cannabinoids has been reported by several scientists and summarized in this article. Cannabinoids like CBC, CBG, and CBD were identified to limit the activity of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a pathogenic bacteria mostly found on the skin. Several scientists also recorded the antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effect of cannabinoids.

Anti-inflammatory effects
The skin can be prone to several inflammations due to its role as the first line of defense in the body. The skin is directly in contact with the environment, thus predisposing it to lots of inflammations and inflammation-induced conditions.
The anti-inflammatory roles of cannabinoids will be useful in dealing with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

Other possible roles of cannabinoids on skin health include but are not limited to:
Anti-cancer effect
Promotes hair growth

Are cannabinoids safe on the skin?
It is pertinent to note that consumers don’t get high from using cannabis topicals. So far, science is yet to identify any possible side effects of cannabinoids on the skin. However, the major challenge with cannabis-based topicals is the traces of pesticides, fungal, bacterial, and other contaminants in some cannabis products.
In addition, some people may be allergic to certain cannabinoids, which may limit their activity. This allergic reaction may lead to excessive itching at the point of administration; hence, it is recommended that people apply topicals to a small area of the skin to notice its reaction before applying it to the whole body.

The skin serves as an excellent point of administration for cannabinoids. It is well supplied with cannabinoid receptors and plays a critical role in the overall effect of cannabinoids. While current research has shown a promising future in cannabinoid-based topicals, more research that looks into the possible side effects of cannabis topicals will be needed to understand the long-term effect of cannabinoids on the skin.

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