In the burgeoning cannabis economy, the breakout stars have been the profusion of cosmetic creams and oils that have crossed over from the green ghetto of industry rags to the pages of the glossiest of glossy lifestyle magazines. In the calculus of the beauty-industrial complex, marijuana’s undisputed qualities as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory invest the plant with totemic powers of enloveliment and de-aging.
But it’s all built on shaky science. While it is true that the cannabinoids in cannabis can have some effect on the skin and can treat itching and even skin diseases like psoriasis, they do so in very specific and complex ways. It’s not just a simple matter of “locking in moisture” or “releasing the power of natural healing.”
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A variety of cannabis acne cures are available, both as retail products and DIY home remedies. (And if you are going the DIY way, we can’t stress it enough: please proceed with caution!) But the scientific support they offer tends to point back to the same single interview and two papers co-authored by Dr. Tamas Biro, who is Chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Debrecen in Hungary. Dr. Biro’s chief finding is that, while anandamide, a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in our bodies, stimulates the skin’s sebaceous glands, CBD from marijuana will impede this process, “especially if [it] was previously upregulated, as for example in acne.” Thus CBD “could be efficiently applied topically to the skin in the form of a cream.”
We have no reason to doubt Dr. Biro’s research, but we’d feel better if there were confirmation from more studies.
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So does cannabis work for acne? Color us skeptical for the moment. (What shade is skeptical, you ask? Kind of like a mellow chartreuse — with just a hint of tangerine. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right!) On the other hand, it won’t keep autobilling your credit card like a certain, more mainstream, celebrity-endorsed treatment, so there’s that.
Ultimately, as with many things in life, it comes down to trial and error. And trial. And error. At least until there is more robust science done on the issue.