CBD Oil for Acne: Can CBD help your skin?

CBD Oil for Acne: Can CBD help your skin?

Can CBD really be used to treat and prevent acne? Now more than ever, people are turning to natural and sustainable alternatives for their skincare needs. Cannabidiol (known as CBD) is a natural compound derived from the Cannabis plant. Known for its relaxation properties, research shows that CBD oil for acne could be the next frontier in skin care. We break down how the numerous potential health benefits of CBD apply when it comes to acne and skin health — we translate the science, recommend the best CBD vessel for acne treatment, cover potential risks and side effects, and answer some FAQ.

The science behind using CBD for acne

Acne is one of the most common (and dreaded!) skin conditions. It’s caused by the clogging of your skin’s pores, typically with dead skin cells. Acne can be caused by many factors such as hormonal imbalance, genetic predisposition, or excess oil production. Simple, healthy lifestyle habits like washing your face daily with a gentle cleanser, taking off makeup before bed, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding stress can help curb the occasional breakout. 

These practices can be total lifesavers when it comes to preventing and treating acne. For some of us however, little habits alone are not enough to curb the cycle of unwanted pimples, blackheads, and breakouts. Many consumers today are looking for alternatives to harsh chemical treatments to acne that may cause dependancy or strip your skin of valuable protectants in the process.

Recent research shows that use of CBD and CBD oil for acne may be a helpful alternative to these kinds of treatments. Results may vary depending on the type of acne and it’s root cause, let’s go over how it all works.

A study in 2014 found that use of CBD prevented the overproduction of sebum in human sebocytes (these are the cells which create sebum, produced by your body’s sebaceous glands). What does that mean? If you have oily skin you’ve probably heard the term ‘sebum’ before. People who suffer from oily skin often produce an excess amount of lipids, the fatty molecules which make up sebum, which can lead to increased clogged pores, blackheads, and breakouts.

When the body produces healthy levels of lipids, sebum contributes to the necessary barrier that protects your skin from the outside world. People with dry skin for example often lack the sebum necessary for proper protection, leaving skin vulnerable to irritants. Balance can be hard to achieve, but if you have oily skin your body is likely producing too much sebum. This oily waxy substance can mix with dirt or other irritants to clog pores and produce acne.

Using CBD oil for acne can curb overproduction of sebum, helping reduce certain types of acne. The same study also states that CBD oil prompted an anti-inflammatory reaction in cells, preventing inflammatory cytokines from activating. Cytokines are signaling molecules that mediate and regulate inflammation and other processes. Reducing cytokines’ ability to trigger an inflammatory response may reduce breakouts. The study says, “these results strongly suggest that CBD’s universal sebostatic action is accompanied by substantial antiinflammatory effects, which would be very much desired in the clinical treatment of acne vulgaris.”

Not only did researchers find that CBD reduces inflammation and prevented overproduction of sebum, but an additional review in 2016 emphasized the antibacterial and antifungal properties of CBD. These properties may help reduce infection and alleviate other symptoms for sufferers of more severe types of acne (such as cystic or fungal) as it may help reduce infections caused by dirt and other pollutants trapped in pores and may even be beneficial in cases of a yeast imbalance.

Further and more comprehensive studies still need to be done in order to fully understand the effects CBD and CBD oil can have for people with acne. Results so far are promising, however. A 2020 study states that, “CBD could be a novel therapeutic in the management of acne by acting on pathways relating to sebum production, sebocyte proliferation, and inflammation.”

How CBD Oil For Acne Works

When applied topically to the skin in a cream or lotion or with a carrier oil, CBD for acne reduces sebum overproduction and may reduce symptoms of inflammation. Naturally antibacterial and antifungal, CBD may also help to treat more severe types of acne as well as other skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. 

Best Type Of CBD Product For Acne

The studies that explore the effectiveness of CBD as an acne treatment apply the CBD directly to skin cells. Taking CBD orally may still be effective for acne treatment as it will act as a general anti-inflammatory, but to get the best results we recommend topical application. 

Check out our simple step-by-step guide on how to make a cannabis-infused lotion or cream from home. Or, simply mix CBD with your preferred carrier oil and apply it directly to your skin. 

Some different carrier oils include: coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil, avocado oil, or olive oil. Different oils can affect people in different ways, try a spot test with your carrier oil before committing.

There are also many topical products containing CBD which may be effective for treating your acne. CBD Face serums or creams might be easier to work into your skincare routine if the DIY route isn’t for you. Always double check these products’ ingredients to see if there are any harsh additives or if the companies conduct outside studies for the efficacy of their products.

Possible Side Effects

CBD is naturally occuring and well known for having few side-effects. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic state that the most common side effects of CBD use are dry-mouth, fatigue, diarrhea, and appetite changes. These side effects are applicable largely for people who ingest CBD, not for those who apply it topically. If you experience any symptoms of allergic reaction, wash the affected area, and discuss your symptoms with your doctor. 


Recent studies have shown that CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties can be used to effectively alleviate many different types of skin irritation, such as reducing redness and preventing more serious symptoms of infection. CBD can help with acute symptoms or act as a powerful preventative skin-care tool, primarily because of CBDs ability to impede the build up of excess lipids in the skin which can clog pores and cause acne.

CBD oil may help effectively address symptoms of cystic acne. Cystic acne happens when bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells get trapped deep under the skin’s surface, creating bumps which can be large, painful, and filled with pus. Because cystic acne tends to occur in people with oily skin, CBD can be instrumental in preventing and diminishing the symptoms of this condition. 

Research on the effectiveness of CBD for treating different skin conditions is still ongoing, but there have been promising results so far. Check out our comprehensive guide to the best CBD oil for psoriasis. The article references a 2019 study performed in Italy which found that CBD reduced scarring from psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. They state that, “the topical administration of CBD ointment, without any THC, is a safe and effective non-invasive alternative for improving the quality of life in patients with some skin disorders, especially on inflammatory background.”

Olivia Wood Written by: Olivia Wood

Olivia Wood is a writer, researcher and poet based in Montreal.

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