CBD for Acne

CBD for acne

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States, with around 50 million people suffering from it1. This condition often makes people self-conscious, leading to low self-esteem and physical scarring. It is beneficial to understand what happens in the body to trigger acne. Acne is an inflammatory disease affecting the pilosebaceous units (our oil-producing pores). The primary causes of acne include sebum (oil) overproduction, accumulation of a bacteria called Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes), and inflammation2. Science has displayed the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in the past. Although more research is needed, studies are highlighting the beneficial effects of CBD for acne. 

There is a fine line between helpful and harmful when it comes to our microbiota (the diverse species of bacteria that live in and on our bodies). It is essential to have a diverse makeup of bacteria rather than an overgrowth and colonization. One species that calls our body home is C. acnes, critical for maintaining balance within our skin and sebaceous (oil or fat) glands. However, this species overgrows and becomes predominant in a particular area of our bodies. In that case, it can spur the onset of acne3. Luckily, C. acnes is a bacterium that CBD is most active against. Specifically, CBD is both bacteriostatic (suppresses growth) and bactericidal (kills) against this bacteria4. C. acnes grows and dies quickly, leaving behind metabolic byproducts and bacterial debris, which increase the expression of inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and promote inflammation5. Thankfully, CBD has been shown to prevent the expression of (TNF)-α6.

Just like the systems that regulate our cholesterol and blood pressure, our body has an endocannabinoid system that allows the body to produce its endogenous cannabinoids (i.e., natural equivalents of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, such as CBD). Cannabinoids have a role in sebum production, acting as a natural moisturizer for our skin, scalp, and hair. However, the overproduction of sebum can lead to clogged pores and acne. Sebum production is upregulated during the local lipogenesis flux (i.e., fats and oils synthesis)7. CBD has demonstrated the ability to reduce lipid production and normalize lipogenesis during states of imbalance8, helping hinder oil production within sebaceous glands6

Humans have numerous cannabinoid receptors in our skin, so CBD has ample opportunity to work its magic in this area. Studies have shown that CBD decreases the expression of inflammatory mediators and increases the production of wound repair keratins needed for us to fight skin disorders and aging skin8. The immediate effects are reduced localized swelling, redness, and acne pain. Thus, CBD for acne seems like a great solution. 

The benefits of CBD for acne can be seen in different formulations. Topical formulations target the sebaceous glands of our skin cells, and most of the available research on CBD for acne focus on this delivery method. If using topical, CBD products are available in cream and oil formulations. At Dr. Peace Lily, we have an oil-based facial serum called the Arose Serum which is best used after applying moisturizer to lock in the hydration. 

Our skin, the largest organ, is interconnected with other body parts to maintain homeostasis. Hence, it is often advised to reduce inflammation in the body to target acne. The buildup of toxins and metabolic waste inside can lead to its exits through the pores if other organs are not functioning optimally. Research has shown that inflammation in our gut and liver can manifest in our skin9. CBD is known to reduce intestinal inflammation and improve liver function10,11. Ingestible forms such as tinctures and capsules target inflammation within our bodies. They are also an excellent approach to using CBD for acne.

This article was written by Dr. Peace Lily Scientific Communications Intern, Jessie Fox, and edited by Dr. Najifa Choudhury, PharmD.


  1. Skin Conditions by The Numbers. American Academy of Dermatology. Updated 2022. Accessed Oct 19, 2022.
  2. Peyravian N, et al. The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Acne. J Inflamm Res. 2022;15:2795–2801.
  3. Dreno B, et al. Cutibacterium Acnes (Propionibacterium Acnes) and Acne Vulgaris: A Brief Look at the Latest Updates. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2018;32:5-14.
  4. Karas JA, et al. The Antimicrobial Activity of Cannabinoids. Antibiotics (Basel). 2020;9(7):406. 
  5. Jiang Z, et al. Cannabidiol Inhibits Inflammation Induced by Cutibacterium acnes-Derived Extracellular Vesicles via Activation of CB2 Receptor in Keratinocytes. Journal of Inflammation Research. 2022;15:4573-4583.
  6. Olah A, et al. Cannabidiol Exerts Sebostatic and Antiinflammatory Effects on Human Sebocytes. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(9):3713–3724.
  7. Esler WP, et al. Human Sebum Requires De Novo Lipogenesis, Which is Increased in Acne Vulgaris and Suppressed by Acetyl-Coa Carboxylase Inhibition. 2019.
  8. Baswan SM, et al. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942. 
  9. Bowe WP and Logan AC. Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis – Back to the Future? Gut Pathog. 2011;3:1.
  10. De Filippis D, et al. Cannabidiol Reduces Intestinal Inflammation Through the Control of Neuroimmune Axis. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28159.
  11. Avraham Y, et al. Cannabidiol Improves Brain and Liver Function in a Fulminant Hepatic Failure-Induced Model of Hepatic Encephalopathy in Mice. Br J Pharmacol. 2011;162(7):1650-1658. 

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