Your skin doesn’t get enough credit for all the work it does. It isn’t just the part of you that you present to the world, it’s the body’s largest organ, constantly active, constantly protecting you from environmental damage.
A lot of people may be surprised to know that as the first line of defense against injury and infection, the skin has its own immune system and produces its own hormones too. Taking care of your skin can keep you healthier, and conversely, a skin condition could be an indication of a deeper system that is off balance.
So much of the conversation around skin issues has been to tackle the symptom and not the underlying problem. You fix oily skin by using a product that dries your skin out or fixes dry skin by layering on rich products. What traditional beauty products have been trying to do is bring your skin back to a place of equilibrium or balance, but have they been going about it the wrong way?
The Endocannabinoid System – Bringing Balance
The endocannabinoid system or ECS is present everywhere in the body: the liver, heart, kidney, digestive system and skin, to name a few.
With its ability to affect pretty much every other major organ system, the ECS performs an essential function – maintaining balance, and restoring balance when it is lost. For instance, the ECS could signal to the digestive system if it is producing too much gastric acid and slow it down. It’s thought to play an important role in temperature regulation, mood, sleep, and more.
Remember the immune system and hormones produced in your skin? It brings balance to those too, which is why researchers started to wonder whether supporting the ECS with CBD could be beneficial for the skin.
How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work on the Skin?
The complex superhero that is your skin can be broken up into a few broad areas:
- The outermost is the epidermis, which protects the body against UV rays, microbes, extreme temperatures and more.
- The next layer contains hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. Hair follicles – as the name suggests – sprout hair; sweat glands regulate body temperature, and sebaceous glands produce oil to protect the skin’s surface.
But the skin also produces endocannabinoid molecules that act on all of the above processes: sweat, sebum production, hormones, hair growth, you name it!
It can cause an increase or decrease in cell turnover, depending on what your skin needs or it can suppress an overactive immune response (like skin allergies) when it’s not required. It also plays a pretty significant role in controlling inflammatory responses that cause pain, itching, or flaky skin.
What Happens if the ECS Can’t do its Job?
The endocannabinoid system does all of the above based on what the body needs, and to the best of its ability.
It might seem bizarre that a system meant to bring balance to the body can fall out of balance itself, but diet, exercise, and genetics can all lead to an unbalanced ECS, or what some call a poor ‘endocannabinoid tone’.
Research is continually unraveling the surprising effects of the ECS. For example, if something painful were to touch your skin, the ECS can control the development and spread of pain; and the same with irritating stimuli and itching. It does this by acting on nerve endings.
Newer research suggests that many of the most common disruptive skin condition can be caused by an out-of-balance ECS, including acne, psoriasis and allergic dermatitis. A poor endocannabinoid tone usually means an endocannabinoid deficiency – the body isn’t producing the endocannabinoids it needs to balance the other processes.
Could supporting it with CBD lead to healthier, radiant skin?
How CBD Can Help your Skin
Cannabidiol, or CBD is a compound referred to as a cannabinoid, or if you want to be technical, a phytocannabinoid because it comes from a plant. The body’s own cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids.
You’ve probably already heard of CBD if you haven’t used it. The hemp-derived supplement is growing in popularity for its therapeutic effects on the body and mind.
CBD works by acting on the ECS – making sure the endocannabinoids your body produces stick around longer. The longer they stay in your system, the higher their ‘balancing’ effect can be. And this can do wonders for skin:
- Lowered inflammation = relief for redness and dry, itchy skin as well as certain types of inflammatory acne.
- A more balanced immune response = fewer skin allergies.
- More balanced sebum production = less oily skin.
- Balanced follicular function = a reduction or increase in hair growth.
- Balanced cell turnover = less dead skin, more radiance.
It’s no wonder that CBD is the new buzzword in cosmetic aisles!
How to Use CBD for Your Skin
If you’re looking to add it to your beauty regimen, you have a few options with CBD.
If you want to start your CBD skincare journey with a ‘heal from within’ approach, try tinctures or capsules. Over time, as your endocannabinoid system falls back into balance, you should find your skin looking healthier, brighter and feeling great too. The key here is consistency – results won’t be immediate, but the wait will be worth it.
If you want faster results, or you want to target a particular spot and nothing else, CBD topicals are your best bet. For dry, itchy skin, try a CBD balm, preferably in an emollient base (like beeswax) for greater relief. You might feel better very quickly, but it’s important to maintain consistency too because regular use could have a greater, more lasting impact.
Whether you go the topical or oral route, choosing a good CBD product isn’t easy. The market is rife with misleading labels, untested products, and confusing ingredients. There are, however, a couple of best practices to make sure you take the right one home:
- Look for a brand that conducts third-party tests on their products so you know that the product is safe and as potent as the label says it is.
- Look for a brand that sources their CBD from organically grown hemp, preferably domestically. CBD from non-organically grown hemp can contain toxins, pesticides and heavy metals that could harm your skin. As things stand now, there is no FDA certification process for ‘organic hemp’, which is why any hemp product labeled as organic is false advertising. The best you can look for is organically grown hemp, and that information should be readily available on the company’s website.
- Look for simple ingredients with simple benefits. Very often, companies add long lists of ingredients that are impossible to read through or understand. Look for ingredients that are clearly beneficial. For instance, dry skin could use ingredients like beeswax or MCT oil. Inflammation could be reduced with some essential oils, like lavender or eucalyptus.
As the CBD craze grows (and it’s predicted that it will), skin care manufacturers will begin incorporating it into more beauty products. This could very well be the ‘next big thing’ in skincare, with benefits far beyond just improving your skin. Don’t be surprised if regular CBD use has you feeling more balanced in every way.
Sabina King is the co-founder of Hempure CBD. In addition to being an entrepreneur, she is a speaker, writer, and traveler who has been featured on HuffPost, Elite Daily, and others. Sabina believes empowering ourselves with the awareness of our own bodies, coupled with scientific knowledge, we can create a world that feels better.