Fun fact: Skin is the largest organ in the body. Its main job is to protect your body from bacteria and viruses. It also helps regulate body temperature.
However, this important organ is susceptible to developing skin conditions including acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. While many drug-based medicines are available to help with common skin conditions, marijuana offers an alternative treatment that’s largely risk-free and without side effects. Cannabis products may just be the solution to your skin problems.
The Most Common Skin Conditions
- Acne: It can affect babies, teenagers and adults alike, although it’s most common in teenagers. Acne causes pimples, blackheads and whiteheads in many areas of the body. Likely causes of acne include fluctuating hormones, bacteria and excess oil production. Certain medications, dietary patterns and stress can also exacerbate acne.
- Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, this is a skin condition that causes dry skin, severe itching and small bumps that become hard and cracked when scratched. Eczema is related to a gene deviation and may be attributed to food allergies and environmental influences.
- Rosacea: This skin condition is marked by redness on the chin, nose, forehead and cheeks, with acne-like bumps and broken blood vessels that tend to swell. Rosacea is often accompanied by eye redness, swelling, dry skin and eyesight problems.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis actually speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, which causes symptoms ranging from swollen joints to itching, cracked and scaling skin that’s usually painful and may bleed. There are several types of psoriasis, with the most common being plaque psoriasis (red, dry skin lesions) that can occur anywhere on the body.
Skin cancer: The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Most types of skin cancer are benign and don’t spread throughout the body, although malignant forms spread through the blood and lymph systems. Risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Exposure to ultraviolet light (sun, tanning beds)
- Immunosuppression from prior conditions such as HIV/AIDS or other forms of cancer
- Medication such as prednisone or chemotherapy
- Wart virus infections that are caused by sexual activity
- Age (elderly people are more likely to develop skin cancer)
How Cannabis Can Treat Skin Conditions
Cannabis comprises two major cannabinoids: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors—called CB1 and CB2—found throughout the body. When cannabis compounds interact with the ECS receptors, they can affect many of the body’s processes like inflammation, pain and stress responses
Research shows that human skin cell populations have both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the skin’s mast cells, adnexal tissues and cutaneous nerve fibres. So, marijuana can affect the ECS receptors in the skin to target psoriasis, dermatitis and even just to improve the skin’s overall health by encouraging healthy skin cell growth.
Cannabis also exerts a strong analgesic effect by activating these receptors to reduce pain and itchiness associated with skin conditions such as eczema. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis also help reduce skin inflammation in psoriasis.
The ECS could also regulate hair growth and help suppress sebaceous gland disorders. Sebum is an oil in the skin. People with oily skin produce too much sebum, while folks with overly dry skin don’t produce enough. A balanced ECS helps the body reach homeostasis, which is when production of things like sebum is regulated at the right levels.
The Best Form of Marijuana for Skin Conditions
Cannabis oil and cannabis creams, especially ones rich in CBD, are the most effective form of marijuana to target skin conditions. Although topical cannabis products aren’t yet legal in Canada, cannabis oils can be added to non-medicated creams to create DIY versions of topical cannabis. In the case that your skin condition doesn’t improve—or seems to worsen—with the use of cannabis lotion or salve, stop using it and talk to your doctor about other options.
Photo credit: Tanja Heffner