A Guide to Using CBD Oil for Acne
Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? Your skin, or epidermis, is the surface epithelium of the skin, overlying the dermis. It protects your internal organs, and it acts as your first line of defense against external elements. But, because it faces so many attackers, your skin will likely lose a few battles. This is why most people suffer from some sort of skin condition during their lives. To help keep your skin in good condition, you need to wash regularly. And you also need to nourish your skin using natural products that allow it to thrive. Your face is sensitive and you should take care of it — especially your face — and should be a regular activity, like brushing your teeth. AND washing your hands! So, how can CBD oil be used for acne?
Acne is one extremely common skin condition, affecting so much of the population. Acne varies from mild to severe, but, in all its forms, acne affects your appearance and can mess with your self-esteem. That’s one of the reasons why acne-fighting products are always in demand. But what substance can actually alleviate acne, and how well can CBD oil work for acne?
In this piece, we will look at some of the causes of acne; we’ll also share some of the ways that CBD can naturally address those causes. Just continue reading this enlightening information for your acne-fighting tips.
What Is CBD?
Before we explore CBD and acne, we need you to really understand what constitutes Cannabidiol (CBD). You may associate CBD with other cannabis products, and you’ve probably heard at least something about the legal issues surrounding their consumption. And, since cannabidiol, popularly known as CBD, is a compound extracted from the cannabis plant, so you may be worried about legality. Plus, you might be wondering whether taking CBD will make you feel “high”? Even applying cannabinoids to your skin will transfer those cannabinoids into your body and thus your blood. Your skin is like a sponge, and why washing it regularly can be a good thing!
Note that while CBD comes from cannabis plants, it’s very different from THC, which is the plant’s psychoactive ingredient. Pure CBD like an isolate is not psychoactive, so you should not be worried about getting high. Full Spectrum CBD has a very small amount of THC which is three-tenths of one percent, or 0.3%, and will not get you high either. Instead, you should be excited about CBD’s potential effects in and on your body, all of which owe to the cannabinoid’s interactions with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). In recent years, scientists have connected the ECS to our immune and nervous systems, meaning it’s involved with our pain signals, anxiety, inflammation, and depression. When you understand all the systems of our ECS address, you can also understand why we study and focus on CBD for its effect on your experience of these systems.
But back to our original topic: can we use CBD oil with skin conditions such as acne? We’ll get to that topic in a minute, but first, let’s get a better understanding of acne’s underlying causes.
What Is Acne?
Acne vulgaris is a condition that results from inflammation of the sebaceous glands. There are various types of acne, and many suggested causes for each kind. Some suggest causes originate from the inside, and others suggest causes arise from outside elements, and others agree with both sides. Unfortunately, medical professionals haven’t settled on one root acne cause. But we can all agree that this condition can take a major toll on your mental health when you are dealing with stubborn acne issues. CBD is new and now it becomes another option that may have the potential to improve the skin.
While every type of acne presents with slight differences, skin inflammation is a common acne symptom. As a result, you’re likely to see redness around individual pimples. And, in more severe cases, this redness can spread across your whole face.
Acne is more common in teenagers, especially during puberty. Many adults, however, also struggle with persistent acne. They may even develop symptoms for the first time during adulthood, as a result of bodily hormonal changes and other catalysts. Basically, you’re never completely free from acne risk: it can hit at any point in your life, even if your breakout probability lowers as you age. One thing we are certain of is that when acne is an issue it has our attention.
In most cases, acne clears up on its own, and you won’t need any form of medication. So why are acne medications so prolific? The answer is simple: most people don’t have the patience to wait, even if some over the counter products worsen acne symptoms — people will seek solutions.
How is that possible? How can acne get worse, or skin become further irritated when using products that are supposed to help solve acne issues? Many acne medications contain dangerous chemicals that increase your skin’s sensitivity. So, while these products may clear up some pimples, they may also take a toll on your skin’s healthy appearance. Then, there are some medications that come with very serious warnings that can quite literally scare the prescribed user. Thus, adding to the stress of dealing with acne in the first place!
What Are the Common Types of Acne?
Blackheads develop when sebum hardens, clogging up your skin pore. Blackheads don’t become inflamed, but they can interfere with your desire for a smooth, uniform skin appearance. Without treatment, blackheads may oxidize your skin as they dissolve, leaving you with darker skin patches.
Whiteheads are small, white bumps that appear without inflammation. They can be caused by acne and a wide variety of other skin conditions. Small whiteheads may go unnoticed, and they are unlikely to leave you with significant scarring.
This is the most common type of acne. It is characterized by pus-filled nodules that can become inflamed. They have a white center when observed closely, but they could also show up as red, inflamed sections of skin. Eventually, nodular acne clears up on its own, but popping the pustule to expel its pus can leave you with scars.
This is the most severe type of acne, and it is rare. With cystic acne, your pustules form in your skin’s inner layers instead of on the skin surface. These pustules are so deep that it is quite hard to pop them, which can create swelling too. They come in clusters and can affect the entire appearance of your face.
What Makes Acne Worse?
While acne can clear up on its own, some of our habits actually worsen breakouts. Here are some acne-boosting habits to avoid:
Getting handsy: when you have pustules all over your face, it is tempting to touch them. This only makes your acne worse, however, since the bacteria in your hands get into your pores, increasing your risk for another breakout. Especially with all germs, touching your face is the easiest easy to transfer germs into your body. Just keep your hands OFF your face.
The food you eat also plays a large role in your acne breakouts. It’s good to avoid oily foods if you’re dealing with acne. Instead, choose nutritious fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins A, B5, C, D, and E .
Some studies suggest that avoiding dairy and alcohol may also help you avoid breakouts. And be sure to drink enough water to keep your skin hydrated, since dry skin actually starts producing more oily sebum.
How Can CBD Oil Address Acne?
Now that we have covered CBD, and if you’re still reading, you know what acne is, right? Many people use CBD products for acne because of its suggested anti-inflammatory properties. Since CBD may target inflammation in your body, and acne is an inflammatory condition, many people report reduced breakout intensity with CBD use.
Studies also indicate CBD sebostatic effects . This study suggests that CBD may act on the hyperactive sebum glands, helping restore them to their normal working condition. With these glands working regularly, acne breakouts pop up less often.
Additionally, since CBD works with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system to restore internal balance (homeostasis), CBD may impact your anandamide levels. Anandamide is an ECS component that regulates cell growth. CBD may help balance your anandamide levels, reducing acne-triggered hyper cell growth on your skin .
What Is the Best Way to Use CBD Oil for Acne?
You might be wondering how you can get CBD oil into your body to make it work for you? Well, you have a few options to consider:
The first, and most obvious method, is by applying CBD directly on your skin in the form of a CBD salve or lotion, or specifically formulated product for your face. Just read any product’s ingredient list carefully, making sure they’re free of substance that could actually cause another breakout.
You can also take CBD oil orally in the form of capsules. This allows you to control your exact CBD dose, and the effects may last longer. Tinctures are also a great option: just drop your dose underneath your tongue, hold in place for one or two minutes, and swallow any liquid that isn’t already absorbed.
What Are the Side Effects of Using CBD Oil for Acne?
CBD may change the appearance of acne, and it comes with very minimal side effects. Some users report dizziness, mood changes, and dry mouth, but these side effects are rare and usually only appear with higher-than-recommended doses. To avoid any issues, start by taking smaller CBD doses and see how it works for your body before increasing.
CBD is a natural and effective new option and way to find a solution that can address acne. While there are many other options on the market, most do not give their promised results, while they do expose your body to harmful chemical compounds. CBD, on the other hand, is a natural product option that carries minimal side effects. It is worth trying it as another solution that may work for you. It is also entirely legal, as long as you purchase hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC concentration. And, so long as you source your CBD from a reputable vendor, it’s safe and legal to explore CBD to target your acne.
CBD Oil For Acne: Everything You Need to Know
Bryan is a contributing writer for Byrdie covering all things beauty and grooming. He has over 16 years of experience in beauty editorial and has been with Byrdie since 2020.
Rachel is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology. She has contributed to Byrdie, as well as Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Allure, Vogue, and the New York Times, and more
Madeline has been with Byrdie and Brides since 2021. Most recently, she lead social media at Glamour magazine where she covered pop culture, beauty, and fashion.
Liz DeSousa for Byrdie
In This Article
CBD oil is seeping into virtually every beauty product category nowadays—even in deodorant and toothpaste. With its anti-stress, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory claims, it’s no wonder this so-called “wonder ingredient” is pushing its way into our self-care routines. Even more, according to the latest studies, CBD oil may be exactly what your breakout-prone, irritated skin needs to get back into shape.
Although there’s still a great deal of required research ahead to determine how best to use CBD to treat acne, we talked to a panel of experts, including cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat, Michele Green, board-certified dermatologist, Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology, and Rachel Nazarian of the Schweiger Dermatology Group to get the facts as well as the potential of using CBD oil for acne.
Keep reading to determine if CBD’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and oil-regulating properties actually work wonders for acne.
Meet the Expert
- Ron Robinson is a cosmetic chemist at BeautyStat. is a board-certified dermatologist based in Manhattan.
- Kenneth Howe is a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology.
- Rachel Nazarian is a New York City-based dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group.
Type of Ingredient: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, sebum-regulating.
Main Benefits: Reduces inflammation, healing and calming, regulates oil production, neutralizes free radicals.
Who Should Use It: It is recommended for those looking to treat mild to moderate inflammatory acne lesions at home. It’s also great for sensitive or those allergic to typical anti-acne ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol.
How Often Can You Use It: Products containing CBD oil can be used twice per day as part of your usual anti-acne skincare routine.
Works Well With: Ingredients designed to calm skin and decrease inflammation, including arnica, hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
Don’t Use With: Ingredients that can counteract the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD, such as alcohol. Also, be aware that CBD is still an unregulated ingredient, and ongoing research is still exploring CBD’s pathways and other ingredients it may or may not work well with.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD—which stands for Cannabidiol—oil is a compound derived from both hemp (cannabis sativa) and marijuana (cannabis sativa indica) plants, both of which are part of the cannabis family. When it comes to acne’s root causes—a combination of bacteria, oil, and dry skin cells getting trapped in your pores—CBD oil seems to have all bases covered. “CBD oil is beneficial to these conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It reduces sebum production and is also antimicrobial, so it works great for acne-prone skin,” says Green. She also cited a 2007 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science that showed CBD oil applied to the skin may inhibit the overproduction of keratinocytes (skin cells), thus eliminating yet another acne-causing culprit.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Acne
- Reduces inflammation: CBD oil helps soothe irritation caused by acne, noticeably reducing overall redness and making breakouts appear smaller and less painful. This is especially helpful for acne-prone skin sensitivity, as CBD oil works without the dryness, redness, or irritation of conventional ingredients.
- Controls oil production: “The most exciting finding of CBD oil is that it’s ‘sebostatic’—it cuts down on oil production in the skin,” says Howe. “Current evidence suggests the skin has its own endocannabinoid system, which is to say cannabinoids are active in the skin, binding to their receptors, and signaling for certain activities to occur or not occur.” How does that relate to oil production? Green explained that “the increase in sebum production is a result of endogenous cannabinoids (anandamide and 2AG) which are produced in the sebaceous glands. These endogenous cannabinoids act on CB2 receptors inhibiting the lipogenic action, therefore regulating sebum production.”
- It’s an antioxidant: CBD oil is packed with potent antioxidants that help protect skin from free radicals resulting from environmental damage and improve texture and tone over time. While none of the dermatologists could vouch for CBD oil’s ability to fade post-acne marks, it could provide an extra measure of antioxidant protection into your anti-acne routine.
- Acne multi-tasker: Rather than act as a spot treatment, acne-targeting products containing CBD oil may help manage the overall issues that contribute to acne formation. Nazarian says, “Because it works as both an anti-inflammatory and can decrease oil production, it has the ability to multitask as an acne product. It may be considered a gentler option and a safe option for many different skin types.”
Other Skin Benefits
One thing worth pointing out about incorporating CBD oil into your skincare routine is how kind it is to skin. “It’s gentle, and that’s what makes it stand out from other options,” said Nazarian. “Additionally, there are many skin types that are either too sensitive to use ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol on, or they have allergies to these ingredients. Having an additional tool in the ‘acne toolkit’ will always be useful in the fight for healthy skin.”
Side Effects of CBD Oil
Though rare, the known side effects of using CBD oil for acne include dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. CBD oil is also known to interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. While there are no known interactions with other topical products, you should start with a patch test if you’re concerned about a reaction. If you experience irritation, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re sensitive to CBD oil, and you should stop using it.
How to Use It
When it comes to actually using CBD oil to treat acne, you may find yourself wondering: supplement or product? Nazarian says, “The evidence supporting use of CBD in treating acne is purely topical at this point. Use of CBD was tested topically on skin cells and has shown promise. Oral supplementation or smoking of CBD formulations has not been evaluated in this manner and can not be recommended.”
The good news is, there’s no shortage of CBD-laced products. One of the most popular routes is face oil. Oils are still having their moment in skincare, as they’re ideal for virtually every skin type (depending on the formulation) and act as an excellent carrier for a variety of potent compounds—like CBD. Oils are also easy to incorporate into a multiple-step skincare regimen, so if you’re looking to up your anti-acne game with an extra product that has very little likelihood to interact with your existing products, a face oil containing CBD oil might be the perfect fit. There are also various cleansers, creams, lotions, and oils for the face and body, but it’s important to steer clear of any that might contain potential comedogenic ingredients.
While the doctors we spoke to were happy to recommend products, they were also quick to remind us that CBD is still an unregulated ingredient, making it difficult to gauge a product’s efficacy. There’s no way to specify the purity or optimal percentage of active ingredients required for the product to be effective.
The Best Products with CBD Oil for Acne
“This product packs a 100mg hemp oil lightweight formulation which also contains adaptogens” (plant-based roots and herbs that help calm our body’s reaction to stress), says Green.
This anti-blemish cream combines 200mg of CBD hemp extract with 1% salicylic acid to calm and soothe active breakouts and clear up blemishes, blackheads, and whiteheads while keeping skin smooth and hydrated.
These concentrated patches will help you forget everything you knew about spot treatments that dry zits into painful oblivion. It is packed with the ideal ratio of salicylic acid and hemp to reduce inflammation and speed healing, while hydrocolloid action stops the infection in its tracks.
Each scoop of these luxe bath salts contains approximately 20mg of CBD oil and a host of other de-stressing and body-boosting ingredients, including pink Himalayan salt, arnica, Epsom salts, and calendula. Plus, they get two thumbs up from Nazarian, who praises their ability to decrease inflammation and encourage relaxation. Great for a bacne-busting soak—make sure the water isn’t too hot.
When cleansing broken-out skin, it’s important to be thorough while still respecting the skin’s moisture barrier. While this refreshing gel cleanser doesn’t contain actual CBD oil, it’s stacked with Cannabis Sativa seed and green oregano oils.
The skin around the eye area is the thinnest and most delicate on the face, so while an eye cream isn’t exactly first on the list of anti-acne products, one containing CBD could tick off two essential boxes of your skincare regimen: eye care and soothing anti-acne action.
Rather than applied topically, a few drops of this ultra-pure, ultra-potent CBD oil taken each day orally may help balance out the stress levels and reduce inflammation.
CBD oil is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, controls oil production, and manages the overall issues that contribute to acne formation.
Yes, it’s especially beneficial for acne-prone skin. “It’s gentle, and that’s what makes it stand out from other options,” said Nazarian. “Additionally, there are many skin types that are either too sensitive to use ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol on, or they have allergies to these ingredients. Having an additional tool in the ‘acne toolkit’ will always be useful in the fight for healthy skin.”
Nazarian says, “The evidence supporting use of CBD in treating acne is purely topical at this point. Use of CBD was tested topically on skin cells and has shown promise. Oral supplementation or smoking of CBD formulations has not been evaluated in this manner and can not be recommended.”
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
Burstein S. Cannabidiol (Cbd) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorg Med Chem. 2015;23(7):1377-1385.
Oláh A, Markovics A, Szabó-Papp J, et al. Differential effectiveness of selected non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids on human sebocyte functions implicates their introduction in dry/seborrhoeic skin and acne treatment. Exp Dermatol. 2016;25(9):701-707.
Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (Cbd) for skin health and disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942.
Wilkinson JD, Williamson EM. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Journal of Dermatological Science. 2007;45(2):87-92.
Palmieri B, Laurino C, Vadalà M. A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. Clin Ter. 2019;170(2):e93-e99.
Atalay S, Jarocka-Karpowicz I, Skrzydlewska E. Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):E21.
Huestis MA, Solimini R, Pichini S, Pacifici R, Carlier J, Busardò FP. Cannabidiol adverse effects and toxicity. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019;17(10):974-989.
Casiraghi A, Musazzi UM, Centin G, Franzè S, Minghetti P. Topical administration of cannabidiol: influence of vehicle-related aspects on skin permeation process. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2020;13(11):E337.
Lu J, Cong T, Wen X, et al. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. 2019;28(7):786-794.
Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational investigation of the therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (Cbd): toward a new age. Front Immunol. 2018;9:2009.