Just as the endocannabinoid system brings balance to every major system in the body, the same can be said for the body’s largest organ, the skin. Endocannabinoid receptors are found abundantly in the skin, meaning they are primed for cannabinoids. These cannabis compounds maintain the immune strength of the skin along with managing well-balanced growth, balance, and life of skin cells. When this delicate balance is disrupted, a cascade of multiple pathological skin conditions can develop such as acne, seborrhea, itch, allergic dermatitis, psoriasis, pain, systemic sclerosis, hair growth disorders, and cancer.  For more information, see our article The Endocannabinoid System Explained.
Cannabinoids are well-known for their ability to regulate inflammation, and it seems that this role could be the key in their ability to reduce or treat psoriasis and eczema, which often leads to dry flaky red skin including itchiness and a rash.
Cannabinoids aside, cannabis products also containing oils from the plant are found to be rich in essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, omega-6, and gamma-linolenic acid GLA, making them even more beneficial in supporting skin health. Consuming these can assist with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis.
Researchers from one study discovered that people who consume dietary hempseed oil showed a noticeable reduction in the symptoms and appearance of atopic dermatitis after just twenty weeks. 
A 2006 study found that highly concentrated cannabinoid-rich cannabis balms and creams were effective for itching.  When applied topically to the skin, these compounds bind to cell receptors in the skin’s immune cells and treat allergic reactions on the skin - because cannabinoids are immunosuppressant, they help alleviate an overactive immune response causing the inflammatory rash.  The skin contains the highest concentration of cannabinoid (specifically CB2) receptors in the body. The more receptors, the more active cannabinoids will be in that area.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease also characterized partly through epidermal keratinocyte hyperproliferation. Cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory and have inhibitory effects on a number of tumorigenic cell lines, some of which are mediated via cannabinoid receptors. In a 2007 paper, researchers concluded that, “our results show that cannabinoids inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, and therefore support a potential role for cannabinoids in the treatment of psoriasis.” 
In a paper from 2019, researchers found that applying a CBD-rich cannabis balm to psoriasis led to an improvement in the skin condition. CBD has been found in several studies to be of value in the treatment in a variety of skin ailments and conditions.
Psoriasis and stress are intricately linked and although psoriasis has genetic factors, those genes are turned on or off by environmental factors such as stressful life events, and resulting states of chronic stress, leading to dysfunction endocannabinoid system and of the skin. Treating psoriasis from the inside out is crucial to long-term relief and healing. For more information on dosage and research, see our articles on CBD for stress relief, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Cannabidiol (CBD), seems to assist with acne by producing a response in the body known as apoptosis (a form of death sentence to cells that have gone rogue), specifically sebocyte apoptosis, alongside a variety of other terpenes present in cannabis could offer additional activity for assisting with skin conditions. The terpene limonene has been found to inhibit a form of acne known as Propionibacterium acnes (at a potency higher than that of triclosan). Pinene, another terpene, also prevents P. acnes, and linalool suppresses inflammation in response to acne. Researchers from a 2014 paper concluded that, “findings suggest that due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”  For more information on terpenes, read our Ultimate Guide to Terpenes.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice of any kind. Prior to making changes to your lifestyle or treatment plan, always consult with a licenced medical practitioner. It is recommended those wishing to utilize cannabis, do so under the guidance of a physician who has experience in prescribing CBD and medical marijuana so that the dosage and delivery method may be customized to the patient. At the same time, well educated and aware persons may be their own highly informed health consultants. Availability of cannabinoid and cannabis products will vary based on country of origin and legal status.
Topical products can be made using a variety of cannabis strains, whether they be high-CBD or high-THC, due to the fact that topical products made with THC containing strains affect the cells and layers of tissue near application but they don’t cross the blood-brain barrier, therefore, are non-psychoactive. To be clear, THC does enter the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain barrier, rendering it psychoactive, when applied orally, anally, or vaginally. Again, when applied topically to the skin, it is non-psychoactive.
Topical cannabis products can be found available as balms, oils, sprays, ointments, creams, and other forms. Select carefully, and search for ingredients most appropriate to treat the particular skin issue. Products can work well with varying ratios of CBD and THC (a ratio of 1:1 is often recommended as ideal for skin application). Studies show that products containing any of the major cannabinoids can be effective for skin disorders and that a high concentration of cannabinoids can be used safely when a stronger dose of topical medication is required. For serious conditions like skin cancer, pure cannabis oil in a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC is typically recommended to be applied topically.
For immediate relief of itching associated with skin issues, smoked or vaporized cannabis is also effective, along with cannabinoids taken orally. Be aware, it has been suggested that extremely high doses of THC can aggravate pre-existing acne. For all orally administered cannabis medicines, and to reduce or limit any potential of side effects, start low and slow, and titrate your way up until symptoms subside. Always start with a micro dose to test for sensitivity. Most common side effects of CBD are nausea, diarrhea, and an upset stomach. Though these are extremely rare with the health benefits being wide.
Popular cannabis strains for skin conditions include Cannatonic, Harlequin, and Purple indica varieties. The benefits of full spectrum CBD products derived from the cannabis plant and rich in fatty acids can exert their potent effects on the immune system, reproductive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, and many other critical bodily systems.
Yes, you can apply CBD oil topically for localized pain relief of the surrounding tissues, joints, and muscles. Rather than using an oral tincture, find a topical balm or cream to rub on the skin for potent analgesic effects. Better yet, use both. Administer an oral, and a topical product to promote healing from the inside out.
The Cannabis Health Index (CHI) is an evidence based scoring system for cannabis (in general, not just CBD) and its effectiveness on various health conditions based on currently available research data. Using this system, cannabis-based products for treating skin disorders rated in the possible-to-probable range (2.5 out of 5 points) of efficacy based on the studies available at this current time.
In a 2007 paper, researchers discovered that all of the major cannabinoids showed some level of effectiveness in preventing or stopping keratinocyte production in the epidermis, which is involved in psoriasis. The authors of the paper wrote that, “cannabinoid receptors have been found in even the smallest nerve fibers controlling hair follicles; keratinocytes have also been shown to bind and metabolize anandamide, the most prolific endocannabinoid.” 
In another study, researchers revealed that the phytocannabinoids CBG and CBD are transcriptional repressors that can control cell proliferation and differentiation. Meaning, they prevent overproduction, or under production of skin cells, along with deformities. Authors of the study stated that, “this indicates that they (especially cannabidiol) have the potential to be lead compounds for the development of novel therapeutics for skin diseases.” 
In a 2019 paper, researchers reviewed the best available evidence in the medical literature and found that CBD and a variety of cannabinoids may possess therapeutic potential, concluding that, “clinical trials are therefore invited to exploit the untapped potential of the cannabinoid system in managing skin diseases.” 
For more information, see our other articles on skin and hair;
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