How CBD Works - How does CBD work for Acne
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It's so perfectly made for CBD.
The endocrine system and immune system are top of the list.
One controls hormones and the other controls inflammation and repair in the body.
Okay...you just spelled out the root cause of acne!
We can dispel all the myths about pizza and cleanliness.
The bacteria that's primarily linked to acne is on all of our faces all the time!
Our body's reaction to it (inflammation) and a good hiding place (overactive oil and sebum production) are gasoline that gets added to the fire.
These are right in CBD's wheelhouse!
We'll learn all about how CBD works based on NIH research.
Acne products have been prone to lots of sales hype (just behind weight loss) so we want research.
We're also going to dive into interesting research dealing with histamines and acne flair ups!
This may lie at the heart of studies showing a connection with dairy, chocolate (sorry), and other histamine complicating foods.
You're going to have a different take on acne and a good deal of information to attack it with!
You can jump to any section here:
Let's get started.
A quick introduction to what's going with acne.
It's primarily driven by the following:
Here's the basic mechanics of how it works.
First, every part of your body, including your skin, is covered in bacteria.
That's just part of being on this Earth.
Some are good (essential even) while others are bad for us.
There's one bacteria called B Acne (aptly named).
We have this on most of our skin surface depending on the area of the body.
You can't really wash it off so don't get too fixated on it.
Most of the time, it's not doing much.
The issue is when our hormone levels go in flux.
This usually happens at specific times:
For example, the vast proportion of acne over age 20 happens to women.
Both genders experience acne during puberty.
If you've read any other article on this site, you realize just how powerful hormones are in the body.
Both men and women have testosterone (although men have more of it).
Testosterone is call an androgen hormone.
This just means that it can exert male gender specific influences on the body.
Testosterone is incredibly excitatory!
That's the medical term for something that revs up the body in different ways.
They put on muscle, experience increased aggression, and...wait for it...
Can develop severe acne!
In the skin, testosterone speeds up the production of sebum, skin, and hair
Sebum is just the naturally produced oil our body makes.
Without it, our skin would be dry, thin, and weak.
Too much of it, and it blocks up the little hair follicles and pores of our skin.
That's the trigger!
Remember those opportunistic bacteria hanging around?
Well they're hanging around in the follicles and pore and all of a sudden, it's blocked.
Their favorite kind of place to be!
Their explosion in numbers gets picked up by our immune system.
Bacteria. Large numbers!
The immune system goes into attack mode with T-cells, macrophages, cytokines, and an army different weapons.
The redness is just the inflammatory response from the body.
Get this OUT!
That...is the basic outline of acne.
Sometimes, it just a pimple.
It can also get very severe and appear red, inflamed, and cystic.
This is a function of the immune system's response.
It also points to why certain medications can cause acne.
Even some antibiotics (while others are used to quiet down acne).
Remember the good bacteria!
Most of them are in the gut and they turn genes on and off for our immune response.
Histamine release is part of the body's response to get things out!
Some foods are high in histamine....
Ah-ha! The chocolate and dairy connection!
So...let's look at the endocannabinoid system in regards to acne!
Discovered a few decades back but really only recently studied, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is critical to acne formation and treatment.
That's before T-Rex!
Eight times older than T-Rex.
Research is showing that it's tasked in balancing key systems in the body:
See what we mean about acne!
The first two are literally at the root of all acne.
It gets more interesting though and we'll talk about how this system (and CBD) govern sebum production!
Here's a quick vision of the system:
Keep in mind that this system is often taxed in today's modern (and chemical) world.
Does the endocannabinoid system even interact with the skin?
We hate to do this but we're going to lead with a smoking gun:
ECS is EndoCannabinoid System.
Did you read that laundry list of things that directly impact acne?
And finally...this gets ridiculous...
To decipher...sebaceous glands make SEBUM!
The oil that jams up the works at the beginning of the acne process.
We could literally stop there.
But we won't (we're difficult that way!)
What happens when this endocannabinoid system goes out of whack??
It's a laundry list of skin issues.
That speaks to the role of the endocannabinoid system in "balancing" other key systems.
It's not a hammer in one direction which is what makes it beautiful.
Let's dig deeper into the underlying research.
What about the over-production of sebum, hair, and skin (the initial roadblock that give bacteria a place to hide out):
Let's get out our medical translators.
Balance. Balance. Balance.
Remember what starts acne is an imbalance driven by revving up hormones resulting in too much oil, skin, and hair.
Just to prove the point on "balance", the endocannabinoid is equally faulted for dry skin!
Dry skin is the opposite of too much oil. It's not enough.
This shows how the ECS can work both ways and ultimately is about balance.
Just a head's up...balance means no acne.
What about the inflammatory response to the bacteria?
The redness. Swelling. Tenderness. Irritated skin.
Guess what system is tasked with balancing it's response?
Good work! The ECS.
We've written extensively on:
There's plenty of research on all those pages to support the endocannabinoids system's balancing effect on both the front end (hormones) and back end (inflammation) of acne.
The middle is the over production of sebum, skin, and oil which we showed above.
That's all great for the endocannabinoid system but what can we do about it!
Let's introduce CBD.
CBD is short for cannabidiol.
It's a cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant.
Unlike it's cousin, THC, it doesn't have a psychoactive effect (no high) and is not habit forming.
The list of CBD benefits keeps growing but let's look at CBD and acne.
Basically, the endocannabinoid system can get out of balance itself.
The autoimmune diseases are a perfect example of what happens when our ECS is overly taxed.
CBD can help to reinforce this system.
It works directly with the CB2 receptors throughout the body.
Let's look at acne specifically.
The first question is whether CBD actually penetrates the skin and affects the ECS system.
Good news there:
Next, they started to see if just cannabis oil itself would have a positive effect on sebum over-production:
The safety profile was also very strong and well tolerated.
Let's then look at CBD used directly for Acne Vulgaris (the main classification of acne).
In the study, let's break down all the important components of acne we discussed (with some deciphering)...
Okay...did we just name off all the component pieces of acne?
You could almost argue that acne is an ECS disease.
A disease of a dysregulated endocannabinoid system (get in line...there's plenty where that came from).
Keep in mind that most modern treatments hammer just one aspect of this equation with serious knock on effects.
Let's look at those.
The standard offering for acne is one of the following:
Let's walk through these.
The two peroxides (plus others) are mainly found in over the counter treatments.
Their goal is to try and remove the excess oil, hair, and skin from the skin while also providing a hostile environment for the bacteria.
It's a cleaning regiment really.
This is helpful on the surface but the issue is that deeper in the skin where it's blocked up.
It also doesn't stop the body from continuing to make new oil, skin, and hair.
Next, the antibiotics.
These are going after the bacteria in question that the body is responding to.
The downside of using over-using antibiotics is finally gaining traction in the medical community.
Check out the CBD and Gut article.
Secondly, you're still only addressing the one component.
Beyond this...we don't know everything that happens with antibiotics (except that farmers use them to fatten up livestock very quickly).
For example, a common antibiotic used for acne, doxycycline, affects a pathway the body uses to get rid of cells in the body (autophagy and apoptosis). That's important for proper maintenance of healthy tissue.
I found this out the hard way when I tore my cornea and it continued to re-tear at night for months.
Turns out my body has a robust pathway for clearing out tissue and wouldn't let the new cornea attached to the slippery surface below.
Doxycycline (after two horrible surgeries) fixed it instantly by slowing down that cell removal pathway.
You need that pathway to get rid of broken cells such as cancer.
I digress. It just shows how little we know about antibiotics.
Finally, our favorite (sarcasm is hard in written form)...Accutane.
Accutane is generally used for people with severe or scarring acne but it's also commonly given out to teens with acne that's expected during puberty.
It's a derivative from the Vitamin A that...
Didn't we cover that up top with CBD?
Granted, we didn't know about CBD when Accutane came out.
It's the side effects of Accutane (drug is call Isotretinoin).
Isotretinoin is available in a variety of brand names, including Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, and Sotret.
Do you know why it is no longer available as "Accutane"?
Due to lawsuits from side effects.
First...it's a hammer. It's not about sebum balance but sebum reduction!
Problem is that we need sebum to protect our skin.
Accutane can significantly dry out the skin.
Then there are the very serious birth defects for pregnant people using Accutane.
Missing eyes. Missing organs. Heart defects.
Then there's the little issue with brains.
The drug increases pressure in the brain.
This can result in
Finally, and maybe more importantly....the mental health issues.
Changes in mood. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. Psychosis.
Finally, let's not leave a body system untouched.
The Digestive Tract... you know...the seat of your immune system, gut bacteria, and the "second brain" where 80% of our body's serotonin is made?
Let's throw in blood, bones, and muscles so we can actually build a Frankenstein from all the body parts impacted.
Look...Vitamin can build up in our tissue. So can this Vitamin A extract.
We're not your doctor and we're not giving directions but it's absolutely crazy (in our opinion) to try Accutane before CBD.
Our 14 year old son was recommended Accutane pretty quickly and for pretty standard acne.
None of these side effects were discussed (and we LOVE that doctor).
He later took CBD for anxiety and his acne is completely gone!
That's anecdotal but anecdotes only matters when it's your son or daughter (or you!).
Look...Accutane was developed originally to be a chemotherapy agent.
To prescribe this for acne (outside of extremely severe acne) BEFORE CBD is highly suspect in our opinion.
That's a nice way to put it.
So...if we want to try CBD, what's the best type and way to take it?
First, there's the type of CBD to take.
This question takes two forms:
We've seen good evidence for both types of delivery.
Even though topical would appear to make sense for acne, the CBD oil addresses the issue systemically.
The inflammatory response and hormone imbalance in a system issue.
You can try both to test but make sure for the topical that the balm is very clean.
We don't want to further block up up the pores while we're trying to address acne.
The CBD oil's might be the better approach due to this.
Interestingly, CBD is both antibacteria and antimicrobial.
Secondly and this is interesting for acne and histamines.
You can learn all about Full Spectrum versus CBD Isolate here.
Let's look at the clues.
There are certain dietary triggers that can exacerbate (not necessarily start acne).
Chocolate and dairy both come to mind.
Both also happen to be top triggers for people with Histamine issues!
Learn all about Histamines and CBD here.
Research is showing a potential tie for acne in histamine in people who are susceptible:
An easy test is to see if anti-histamines have a calming effect on your acne.
We want avoid the excess plant material of Full Spectrum and concentrate on CBD Isolate for acne.
At least to start.
For CBD Isolate, the best valued options with 3rd party testing in our comparison is:
So how much CBD should we look at taking for acne?
The standard guidelines on CBD dosage apply here.
Start low at 25-30 mg doses to see how you body responds.
Take the CBD after a meal and away from medications (by 2 yours) to get the most out of it.
Keep in mind that the effects of CBD are cumulative and will build over time.
Effects on acute issues like anxiety, sleep, and pain will be faster.
Acne is a balancing issue so give it a few days.
We have seen pretty dramatic effects though with acne.
Most importantly, the safety profile of CBD is very strong.
Speaking of which, since acne is so prone during teenage years (puberty), can teenagers take CBD?
There is currently no age restriction for CBD in the US.
It's treated like a food supplement currently by the FDA.
The first FDA approved medication was just green-lit for seizures.
We can't directly recommend using CBD with teenagers but we also haven't seen anything in the research to say differently.
Personally, I have used CBD with my entire family including my 15 and 17 year old sons.
It works wonders with them for sleep, anxiety, acne, and pain (they're boys after all).
The alternatives (NSAID's, sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications, and acne treatments) have too many downsides and just aren't as effective in the end.
The research is fast and furious now in the CBD space (just look at the list of CBD benefits and research here).
The only CBD study we've seen is with a 10 year old girl who experienced abuse and had terrible insomnia and resulting PTSD nightmares and anxiety.
We need more research.
In the meantime, weigh the positives and negatives of the other treatments for acne and teenagers.
As parents, it became pretty clear where to start for us.
Again, please let us know your results! Spread the word.
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