The research on CBD for treating acne looks promising. It seems to curb acne causes like inflammation, sebum production, and bacterial growth. While it’s def not an acne cure-all, it might be worth a shot.

Much like keto butters, matcha lattes, or probiotics, cannabidiol (CBD) is having a serious moment atm. (A multibillion-dollar industry kind of moment, to be exact.)

Everyone – even dogs – seems to be taking CBD these days. And while you may already know that it’s known to treat anything from anxiety to IBS, research also suggests it might help clear up one of the most prevalent health probs out there: Acne.

According to the current research, CBD may be a legit treatment for zits due to its anti-inflammatory properties in particular. It also may have antibacterial properties and reduce the amount of acne-causing sebum that the skin produces. Here’s what to know.

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Photography by Atolas/Stocksy United

According to 2022 research, CBD has been shown to be an effective therapy or a number of inflammatory conditions, acne included.

To understand how CBD can help treat acne, it’s useful to know that the main causes of acne include:

  • overproduction of sebum (the oily, waxy substance your skin makes)
  • abnormal shedding of skin cells
  • growth of Cuibacterium acnes bacteria
  • inflammation

Researchers concluded that CBD has been found to reduce inflammation, curb sebum production, and diminish inflammatory cytokines, all of which are known to contribute to acne. As a result, scientists concluded that current evidence strongly suggests the clinical potential of CBD as a treatment for acne.

A 2016 review also noted CBD’s antibacterial and antifungal properties, which may help keep skin free of pore-clogging fungi or bacteria that contribute to acne.

But even though these initial results look pretty dang good, we need more human trials before doctors can recommend CBD as an effective treatment for acne.

Hormonal acne is typically caused by fluctuating hormones, especially in women. Triggers can include:

These hormone surges can trigger a lot more than a crying sesh in the middle of rush hour traffic. They also might provoke:

  • clogged pores
  • inflammation
  • increased sebum production
  • the growth of acne-causing bacteria
  • clogged skin cells

Hormonal acne typically pops up around the chin and jawline.

Although there isn’t any research on CBD’s ability to treat hormonal acne in particular, what we do know seems pretty promising.

Since CBD can curb the excess sebum production, inflammation, and clogged pores that contribute to acne in general, it makes sense that it can also help treat acne with hormonal causes.

Cystic acne and hormonal acne aren’t necessarily two separate beasts. The most severe type of acne is the cystic variety, and it may very well be caused by a hormonal rollercoaster.

It also may be related to:

  • genetics
  • humidity
  • pore-clogging cosmetics
  • other hormonal shifts

But unlike milder forms of acne, cystic acne brews deep beneath the skin’s surface. Since the clogged hair follicles originate so deep in the dermis, cystic acne tends to be more challenging to treat with topicals alone.

For that reason, CBD is prob not the best standalone treatment for cystic acne right now. Since the bulk of the research on CBD for acne is related to its topical application, you may need to combine it with another medication (like anti-androgens) to achieve more drastic results.

That being said, topical CBD may minimize some of the inflammation, oil production and bacteria growth associated with acne formation.

Right now, the research on CBD treatments for acne is mostly focused on its topical application. So, while CBD gummies or supplements may soothe inflammation or reduce the stress that can cause anxiety, we can’t say for that it will banish your latest breakout.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also still hasn’t approved any OTC CBD products yet, so it’s a good idea to vet that tincture you buy from Amazon like your own dang regulating agency. (You could also prevent yourself from puzzling over ingredient lists by checking out our picks.)

And we’re NGL… in general, using CBD to treat acne is pretty new terrain. So, we’re basically winging it at this stage. We don’t know exactly what percentage of CBD, type, or ingredients formulation is most effective for treating acne.

But even though it’s pretty new, there’s no shortage of products out there, including:

  • cleansers
  • oils
  • serums
  • moisturizers
  • spot treatments

If you have a fully stacked skincare routine already (respect 🙏), you may want to just incorporate CBD oil as a final step after your serums and before your moisturizer. You can also just add a drop of CBD tincture to your moisturizer.

So far, there’s no evidence that CBD will interact negatively with other skincare ingredients – whether that’s retinol, hyaluronic acid, or Vitamin C.

That being said, we also don’t know if it *can* cause probs – so do some trial-and-error to find out what works best for you.

According to 2022 research, CBD treatments are considered pretty safe and well-tolerated. But, some people might experience some side effects such as:

It’s also a good idea to talk to a qualified healthcare provider – like an MD, NP, or PA – before trying CBD. CBD may interact with some medications, including any with a “grapefruit warning” (like antibiotics, antihistamines, and blood thinners).

And while allergic reactions to CBD are rare, like with any new skincare product, you may want to do a patch test before applying it all over. Most side effects are also result of inhaling CBD, not applying it topically.

Though there’s no evidence so far that CBD can make your acne worse, everyone’s different. It may not jive with your skin, which is why it’s always a good idea to do that patch test before slathering it all over.

It’s more likely that another ingredient in your CBD skincare product could be irritating for your acne. For example, products with CBD may contain artificial fragrance, which can be drying or cause redness that worsens acne symptoms, especially for those with sensitive skin.

Other potentially triggering ingredients often combined with CBD include:

Mild acne can often be treated at home with OTC remedies, including CBD.

But if you have cystic acne or acne that doesn’t clear at home, a derm can give you some extra support to find a treatment plan that works or you. Especially if you have cystic or more severe acne, visiting a healthcare provider can help you identify triggers as well as prescribe medication that meets your needs.

In either case, if you have the means – it def makes sense to hit up a derm for support treating your acne. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so working with a pro can help you find individualized treatment for you.

A doctor can also help ensure that any meds or supplements you may be taking don’t interfere with your CBD topicals.

Even though the research on CBD for treating acne is somewhat limited right now, what we *do* know seems pretty promising. Evidence suggests that it can ease inflammation, curb sebum production, and combat bacteria growth linked to breakouts.

At the very least, CBD is known to be a safe ingredient and shouldn’t worsen your acne. Always read the ingredient list and follow the instructions on your skin care product to ensure it doesn’t interfere with any current meds or supplements you may be taking.