It has antioxidant properties.
Hemp oil extract gets a lot of its benefits from its high cannabinoid content.* Cannabinoids are a group of chemically similar compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant and inside our bodies, and the two well-known ones are CBD and THC. Generally, there are negligible amounts of THC in hemp oil (that's why taking it won't make you feel "high"), but other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN—as well as essential-oil-like compounds called terpenes—are all present in a full-spectrum hemp product.
"When you mix all those phytocannabinoids together—and not just the phytocannabinoids but their supportive compounds and antioxidants that are in the [hemp plant] stalk—it's a whole mix," renowned integrative physician Robert Rountree, M.D., says of the potential of full-spectrum hemp oils. "There's this whole system at work."
These complementary ingredients have lots of healthy properties, but one of the most important ones is their ability to act as antioxidants.* If we rewind to high school chemistry for a second, antioxidants are well-known beneficial chemicals that help counter the effects of free radical production in the body. Some free radical production is a normal part of life, but things like aging, chronic stress, exposure to toxins, and tobacco or alcohol can cause us to produce too many free radicals and lead to cellular damage.
Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and protect your health (and the health and elasticity of your skin1) in the long term. Cannabinoids in hemp oil like CBD have demonstrated strong antioxidant properties2, so it makes sense that they could help promote skin health and texture.*
It could help regulate oil production in the body (which is good news for acne sufferers).
Acne is a complex condition, with a number of causes and triggers. One of the major factors that can cause acne is excess oil production in the sebaceous glands. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system (ECS)—which is the larger system of receptors and enzymes that cannabinoids interact with in our body—has been shown to play a role3 in the skin's oil balance in laboratory studies of skin cells and glands.*
In fact, though we still have a lot more to learn about the ECS, it seems to affect most of the body's processes in some way: "There is not a human experience the ECS does not affect," Jessica Knox, M.D., MPH, co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics and a preventive medicine physician, tells mbg. "From fertility and conception to moderating pain, mood, mental health, learning, sleep, and appetite as we grow and mature, to modulating brain health as we age."
It could help promote a healthy immune response.
Many cannabinoid receptors—the areas that cannabinoids bind to in the body—are found on our immune cells4, which implies they may play a role in immune regulation5 and the inflammatory response (though more research still needs to be done before we know for sure). If this theory shakes out, the cannabinoids in hemp could help manage skin conditions that have inflammation at their core such as psoriasis and eczema.*
The bottom line.
Early research shows that taking a hemp oil supplement could promote skin health, but you'll want to look for one that's full-spectrum so you get a mix of beneficial phytocannabinoids. Hemp oil is generally considered safe (although we do always recommend telling your doctor when you try a new supplement), so there's not a lot of downside to trying it out at a low dose to start and observing how your body and skin react to it.
Gretchen Lidicker has a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University. She's the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. A Kripalu Center for Yoga and Ayurveda-trained yoga instructor, expert bread baker, and farmers market fanatic, she believes that no day is complete without a good dance party.