The use of cannabis, particularly in the form of extracts from the Cannabis plant, has entered into the realm of dermatological considerations, offering hope for a variety of skin conditions [1]. This article delves into the research into the effects of cannabis on skin health, focusing on the plant’s interaction with the human endocannabinoid system and the implications for skin related wellness.

Background information

Historically, cannabis has been utilized for its medicinal properties, with records dating back thousands of years [2]. In recent times, the dermatology community has shown a growing interest in the wellness potential of cannabinoids—the active compounds in cannabis. This interest is bolstered by the controlled clinical trials and anecdotal evidence suggesting potential wellness benefits that may affect skin health [1].

Cannabis and skin health

Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) present throughout the human body, including the skin. This system comprises cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoids, and neurons that help maintain the balance of bodily functions, including skin functions. For instance, cannabinoids from cannabis, like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can mimic these endogenous substances, potentially aiding homeostasis through their balancing effects and modulation of cell differentiation and immune response [3]. However, some of the exact mechanics and effects of cannabinoids on skin health remain mysterious, and more research is needed.

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Cannabis and specific skin conditions

Acne vulgaris

Acne, characterized by excessive sebum production and inflammation, creates unsightly pimples and blackheads, primarily on the face, head, and back [4].

Though more research is necessary to determine its efficacy, researchers celebrate findings that reveal CBD’s potential ability to affect lipid synthesis [5]. In the future, CBD-based medications intended to moderate acne may find their way into the mainstream market. In the meantime, CBD oil is not widely considered an acne medication. Thus, it’s crucial for acne sufferers to consult a dermatologist for treatment options.

Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis

Both psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are inflammatory skin diseases with symptoms like skin dryness and irritation [6]. However, they have some differences.

Atopic dermatitis (AD)

Commonly known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by itchy, red, and swollen patches on the skin. Sufferers often experience intense itchiness that can lead to scratching and further skin damage. Additionally, the skin may be cracked and sore, with occasional weeping or bleeding from affected areas. Flare-ups can be triggered by environmental factors such as allergens, irritants, changes in temperature, or stress. This condition can significantly impact the quality of life due to discomfort and visible skin changes. [6]


An autoimmune condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the skin’s surface. As a result, the condition leads to scaling and thick, red patches that can be itchy or painful. Notably, these patches, or plaques, commonly appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back but can occur anywhere on the body. Typically, psoriasis sufferers experience the disease as a lifelong condition with periods of exacerbation and remission. Beyond the physical symptoms, psoriasis can also lead to psychological distress and social stigma due to its visible nature, significantly affecting emotional well-being [6].

Can cannabis products ease symptoms?

In clinical assessments, researchers proposed that CBD-enriched ointment may help improve skin hydration and soothe skin outbreaks for some individuals [7]. Other researchers maintain that cannabinoids can modulate the immune system and potentially reduce the proliferation of skin cells [8]. However, these theories have not been proven. Thus, it’s crucial to follow the advice of a dermatologist before using cannabis ointment or any experimental medication for skin diseases such as psoriasis.

Skin cancer

Research into cannabinoids in dermatology has extended to skin cancer, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Notably, cannabinoids in these studies show promise [9]. Even though these studies give hope for future innovation in cannabis-based skin cancer treatments, they do not prove that cannabis can treat or mitigate skin cancer. Thus, individuals should approach cannabis cautiously when it comes to skin inflammation and diseases until more research reveals verifiable efficacy.

Challenges and considerations

Despite some promising trial results, the use of medical cannabis in dermatology faces several challenges. For example, the legal status of cannabis varies widely, affecting research and use. Additionally, the variability in cannabis products can impact treatment outcomes. Hence, healthcare providers must navigate these issues while considering any adverse effects or potential drug interactions associated with cannabis and skin care [10].

Future directions in research

Further research is essential to clarify the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis in dermatology. For example, future studies should focus on large-scale controlled clinical trials to establish standardized treatments and confirm long-term safety. Additionally, the exploration of synthetic cannabinoids and their specific binding to cutaneous receptors may also open new therapeutic avenues [11].

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Considerations against the use of cannabis on skin conditions

While the therapeutic potential of cannabis in treating skin conditions has sparked interest, several arguments caution against its widespread use in dermatology.

  • Risk of exacerbating skin conditions

Despite the potential anti-inflammatory and sebostatic properties of cannabinoids in general, opponents of cannabis-based skin care stress the risk that cannabis products might exacerbate certain skin conditions. For instance, some users may experience allergic contact dermatitis as a reaction to cannabis or its components. This response is particularly concerning given the sensitivity of individuals with skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, where the skin barrier is already compromised [10]. Therefore, it’s vital to explore any skin rejuvenation treatments under the guidance of a dermatologist.

  • Inconsistency in product quality

The variability in cannabis products poses a significant challenge when it comes to using cannabis on skin. For example, the concentration of active compounds like CBD and THC can vary widely in certain products, leading to inconsistent effects. This inconsistency creates problems in controlled clinical settings where precise dosages are critical for evaluating treatment efficacy. Ultimately, the lack of standardization can undermine the reliability of cannabis as a treatment option, making it difficult for healthcare providers to recommend it confidently [12].

  • Regulatory and legal barriers

The legal landscape for cannabis is complex and varies by jurisdiction. This variability complicates research efforts. As a result, dermatologists may not be able to ethically recommend cannabis-based treatments in certain areas, even if they feel it might be the best option for a patient. Furthermore, the classification of cannabis and cannabinoids under federal law can restrict access to necessary resources for in-depth studies. This inaccessibility may limit understanding of a full therapeutic value on skin health [13].

Potential for misuse

The psychoactive properties of certain cannabinoids, primarily THC, raise concerns about the potential for misuse and dependency. Although topical applications typically do not produce systemic effects, the perception of cannabis as a panacea can lead to overuse or misuse. This may be especially relevant because many states do not strictly regulate cannabis products as they might creams and oils with other ingredients [14].

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Exploring premium topical cannabis products

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Combining hemp-extracted CBD and CBG with over 25 natural herbs, including cinnamon leaf, ginger root, and lemongrass, this lotion absorbs quickly and completely into the skin. Its fresh aroma reflects the full spectrum of terpenes while the cannabinoids do their magic in the endocannabinoid system.

Containing hemp-extracted CBD and CBG with yellow beeswax and over a dozen all-natural oils, such as Roman chamomile and spearmint oil, this popular salve hydrates and soothes.

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Key takeaway: making sense of the effects of cannabis on skin conditions

While cannabis exploration in dermatology continues to spark hope in the dermatological world and beyond, legitimate challenges and concerns require consideration. Thus, more robust, high-quality research and clearer regulatory guidelines must come into play to help our understanding of cannabis’s role in treating skin disorders. Until these issues are resolved, healthcare providers and patients must approach cannabis use with caution, considering both its potential wellness effects and its limitations.

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Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up-to-date, but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis are evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers.


  1. Cannabinoids and Their Receptors in Skin Diseases
  2. A Potted History
  3. Everything You Need to Know About the Endocannabinoid System
  4. Acne Vulgaris
  5. Does CBD Play a Role in Acne Treatment?
  6. Atopic Dermatitis versus Psoriasis
  7. A Therapeutic Effect of CBD-Enriched Ointment in Inflammatory Skin Diseases
  8. Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin
  9. Roles of Cannabinoids in Melanoma: Evidence from In Vivo Studies
  10. The Skin and Natural Cannabinoids–Topical and Transdermal Applications
  11. Cannabinoids and Their Receptors in Skin Diseases
  12. Variability in CBD and Hemp Potency Calls for Advanced Analytics, Standards
  13. Challenges and Barriers in Conducting Cannabis Research
  14. Potential for Misuse in Cannabis-Based Cosmetics

Frequently Asked Questions

Cannabis contains several components, primarily cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Though THC garners some dermatological interest, researchers have primarily focused on CBD’s effect on skin issues due to its unique interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system [7].

Cannabinoids interact with the skin through the endocannabinoid system. This system includes cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body, including various skin cells. Notably, this system appears to regulate numerous skin functions. Dermatological researchers focus on the interaction of cannabinoids with this system to understand the potential effects on the skin [11].

Before using cannabis-based products for skin conditions, individuals should consult with healthcare providers to discuss their specific conditions and treatment options.