CBD for acne – how does it work and is it worth a shot?

Health-promoting properties ​​of CBD oils are increasingly appreciated both among people struggling with serious, chronic diseases as well as those looking for natural methods to reduce stress and improve quality of life. Recently, thanks to the ever-growing interest of cannabis among scientists, we can hear a lot about cannabidiol as a very effective solution for various skin problems. Especially the acne ones. CBD for acne gives great results, because it works two ways – anti-inflammatory and sebostatic. How does it work and how can cannabidiol be used to improve the appearance of the skin?

Endocannabinoid system and acne

To understand how cannabidiol can affect our skin, we must first determine what the endocannabinoid system has to do with acne. It is through this system that CBD affects our body.


In sebaceous glands responsible for the production of sebum (which excessive amounts can cause acne), CB2 endocannabinoid receptors are found [1]. Through them, endocannabinoids naturally occurring in the human body inhibit sebum secretion. What’s more, they can even cause apoptosis (“programmed” death) of sebocytes, or sebaceous cells, and even regulate the expression of genes involved in lipid synthesis [1]. The endocannabinoid system is therefore crucial in regulating the secretion of oily substances in the skin.

But what does cannabis have to do with this? The answer is very simple – phytocannabinoids. Such as CBD. These are chemical compounds that have affinity for endocannabinoid receptors. Therefore they can, to some extent, act analogously to our own endocannabinoids or block their actions. So what do we know exactly about CBD for acne?

CBD is sebostatic…

Acne can be caused by a number of factors, including hormonal disorders, genetic factors, diet and even stress [2]. In most cases, however, the immediate cause of skin deterioration is excess sebum production. This waxy secretion of sebaceous glands is a natural protection for our skin. Its presence is not unusual or harmful. Sometimes, however, excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells or external impurities, and clogs the pores. In this way, blemishes and acne can be formed.


As it turns out, CBD copes very well with this problem. Research conducted in 2014 [1] shows that cannabidiol significantly limits the production of sebum by the cells responsible for it, the so-called sebocytes. However, this doesn’t happen directly through endocannabinoid receptors. A series of complicated cascade events have to be conducted. Nevertheless, the impact of CBD on reducing sebum production is indisputable.

… and anti-inflammatory

In the same study, scientists confirmed that the well-known anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may also apply to acne. Cannabidiol prevents the activation of cytokines, i.e. proteins that initiate, among others, inflammations. Even more – it prevents the expression of a key cytokine in the pathogenesis of adolescent acne (acne vulgaris).

CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid that has anti-inflammatory effect. In fact, most of the cannabinoids that have been recognized have such properties. Inflammation can be reduced, among others, by CBC, CBN, CBG. CBD’s homologue, the so-called CBDV, may be particularly promising for controlling acne. Its anti-inflammatory effect is oriented in particular on the skin [3].

Some forms of acne can be accompanied by even extensive inflammation. Anti-inflammatory properties are therefore very desirable if we want a comprehensive improvement of skin condition.

How to use CBD for acne?

Therefore, there is only one question left: how to use CBD to get the best results for acne? If we’re considering CBD oils, which are the most popular and the most readily available, we basically have two options. We can use them orally (a few drops under the tongue) or directly on the skin.

cbd for acne

Most research on the effects of cannabidiol on skin condition and sebum secretion focuses on direct application. We can therefore conclude that using CBD oil locally on the affected skin will give the best results [4]. In this case it is best to combine a small amount of low concentration oil (5% can give the desired effects [5]) with base oil, such as coconut, shea or argan oil [4]. Oral ingestion can be regarded as supportive, because the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are preserved, but their action is directed to the skin and its glands.

The effectiveness of cannabis and CBD for acne certainly depends on what causes such skin deterioration. It should be borne in mind that cannabidiol may not always give spectacular results. Still, its sebostatic and anti-inflammatory effects are well documented scientifically – so it’s worth giving it a try. In the case of problematic skin, any effective, natural substance is welcome.


  • [1] Dobrosi N., Tóth B. I., Nagy G., Dózsa A., Géczy T., Nagy L., Bíró T., 2008: Endocannabinoids enhance lipid synthesis and apoptosis of human sebocytes via cannabinoid receptor-2-mediated signaling. The FASEB Journal, 22, 10.
  • [2] Oláh A., Tóth B. I., Borbíró I., Sugawara K., Szöllõsi A. G., Czifra G., Bíró T., 2014: Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724.
  • [3] O’Sullivan S.: Biological effects of lesser known Phytocannabinoids. Fundacion CANNA: https://www.fundacion-canna.es/en/biological-effects-lesser-known-phytocannabinoids [received 19.03.2020].
  • [4] Johnson J., Carter A., 2019: CBD for acne: Does it work? Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324689 [received 19.02.2020].
  • [5] Spleman L., Sinclair R., Freeman M., Davis M., Gebauer K., 2018: 1061 The safety of topical cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of acne. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 138, s. 180.
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