This Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory Ingredient Might Just Revolutionize Skin Care

Photo by @mapodile

As more states pass laws that allow for the responsible sale, purchase, and use of medical or recreational marijuana, cannabis is quickly becoming about way more than just smoking weed. And it's not just about internal health, either. Face oils, bath salts, lotions, creams, and balms infused with cannabis, CBD, or hemp extract are quickly taking over the beauty and self-care scene. We're finding that both applying hemp oil topically and taking it internally could benefit our skin health.

But is hemp oil really great for our skin? And if so, what exactly makes it so beneficial? As the health editor here at mindbodygreen—and the author of the forthcoming book CBD Oil: Everyday Secrets—I've done my fair share of research on the topic and talked to experts in cannabis science from all over the world. As it turns out, there is a lot of reason to believe that products derived from cannabis—which include both hemp and marijuana—might be just what our skin has been waiting for. Here's why hemp oil and CBD are great to include in your daily skin care routine:

Hemp oil's antioxidant properties.

One of the main reasons for hemp oil's healing properties is its 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, but other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN—as well as essential-oil-like compounds called terpenes—are present. These ingredients have some pretty diverse healing 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 fight 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, which is not good for our health and has been linked to illnesses like cancer. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and protect your health (and the health and elasticity of your skin) in the long-term.

If you walk through the ground floor of your favorite department store, it'll be hard to avoid the hundreds of antioxidant-infused skin care products: vitamin C, astaxanthin, turmeric, vitamin E, resveratrol, green tea (I think you get the idea). Well, you can add cannabinoids like CBD to this long list, as they've demonstrated strong antioxidant properties. Similar to other antioxidant skin care ingredients, they can help promote skin health and texture, especially when it comes to aging. And that's just the beginning. Hemp oil has such a wide range of uses and benefits that your skin can benefit from it in more ways than one. (Looking for a good hemp-based beauty product? Check out some of my favorite CBD-infused beauty and self-care products.)

Photo: @Artfully79

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Hemp oil for acne and excess oil production.

Acne is a complex condition, with any number of causes and triggers, and a lot of people suffer from it. One of the major factors in 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—plays a role in the skin's oil balance. This makes a lot of sense when you learn that the ECS has been described as a "master regulatory system" that helps maintain our body's homeostasis. Research has also shown that certain cannabinoids can decrease oil production directly.

Another reason cannabis is an exciting ingredient for acne has to do with cell turnover and regeneration. Studies have shown that CB1 receptors are important to healthy cellular regeneration. One study, published in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Science, concluded that, "Collectively, it seems that the main physiological function of the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells." So, depending on your budget, that may make investing in this $120 Revitalizing Face Serum from Cannabliss sound like a pretty good idea.

The jury is still out on whether applying hemp oil of cannabis-based skin products topically is more effective than taking an oral tincture or supplement capsule, but the good news is that hemp oil is both completely natural and generally considered very 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 both delivery methods and observing the benefits.

Hemp oil for inflammatory and autoimmune skin conditions.

Speaking of immunity, many doctors, researchers, and cannabis experts are excited about hemp oil's implications for autoimmune and inflammatory skin conditions as well. Because, while cannabinoid receptors are located all over the body, CB2 receptors are found largely in the immune system, and researchers think they might play a big role in immune regulation and the inflammatory response, which could be important when it comes to conditions like atopic dermatitis and eczema—which have inflammation at their core.

When inflammation on the skin is chronic, it could mean an autoimmune skin disease like psoriasis, which is characterized by rough, scaly skin that can be painful and itchy and often requires prescription medication that can have undesirable side effects. There's reason to believe that topical CBD and hemp oil could treat psoriasis, and this is likely for a few reasons. For starters, it's helpful for reducing pain and itch (speaking of itch: Check out this Bug Bite & Insect Spray by Apothecanna, $26), but it also targets the root cause of the issue: inflammation and immune system balance. In fact, some experts have even predicted that cannabis-based treatments might become a whole new line of therapy for all types of inflammation. Products like this Salve from Green Mountain CBD, $30, and CBD-Infused Lotion, Lord Jones, $50, are rising in popularity among people suffering from these inflammatory skin conditions.

The research on hemp oil and skin health is mostly still in the initial phases, but it's progressing quickly, and we should know a lot more in the near future about how it might benefit specific conditions. From acne to general skin care to autoimmune conditions, we'll stay tuned for how we can use this versatile ingredient as a tool to achieve optimal health.

Ready to see what hemp oil can do for your skin? Here are 14 CBD-infused beauty and self-care products that should already be in your home.

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