Is Cannabis An Effective Treatment For Acne?

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Categories : Medical cannabis

Is Cannabis An Effective Treatment For Acne?

Acne is a condition in which excess sebum secretion through the skin causes the intrusion of bacteria, resulting in inflammation. Cannabinoids, specifically CBD, have shown great promise in regulating sebum production and may help to relieve the symptoms of acne.

Cannabis is known to treat and relieve a wide array of health conditions—so much so that in certain areas of the world, it’s available on a purely medicinal basis. The sheer diversity of conditions the herb is able to assist with is nothing short of amazing, with acne potentially being one of them.

Various scientific studies have assessed the effect of cannabis and its active constituents, namely cannabinoids, upon the skin and numerous skin conditions. Cannabinoids seem largely effective due to their ability to regulate bodily functions and tame processes that have, for some reason or another, spiraled out of control.

So, what exactly is acne, and how can cannabis possibly help it? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.


Acne is a common skin condition that can affect many people at different points in their lives, regularly occurring on areas of the body like the face, back, and chest. Acne isn’t just an array of red spots that it is frequently associated with; in fact, the condition can lead to the eruption of many different types of blemishes.

These include blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. As well as being mentally distressing due to the affect the condition has on one’s appearance, acne can also leave permanent scarring if not treated correctly.

Acne is especially common within the teenage population and among young adults.


Acne is known to be caused due to shifts in hormone levels, particularly during puberty. Often, specific hormones cause glands next to hair follicles to produce abnormal amounts of oil or sebum.

This excess sebum then triggers a skin-dwelling bacteria, known a P. acnes, to become more active, leading to inflammation. The irritation is also caused by dead skin cells and oils clogging skin pores.

Air pollution and humid weather conditions are also recognised as causes of acne.

Various conventional treatments are available for the condition, which include benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids, azelaic acid, antibiotics, and hormone therapy.


Cannabinoids, such as THC, are very similar in structure to compounds already found within the body, known as endocannabinoids. This similarity allows cannabinoids to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a series of receptors within the human body, influencing physiological processes as a result.

Interestingly, sebocytes, the cells that form sebaceous glands, have been found to posses cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, according to a paper published within the journal Dermato Endocrinology. These findings indicate that cannabinoids have the potential to regulate the function of such cells and glands that cause acne when overworking due to hormonal signalling.

Furthermore, the role of the endocannabinoid system within the skin has been shown to be involved in numerous important biological processes. A paper published within the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences states that the endocannabinoid system within the skin is involved in the proliferation, growth, differentiation, and apoptosis of skin cells, among other processes. More strikingly, the system also affects hormone production and the functions of hair follicles and sebaceous glands, factors directly linked within acne.

Is Cannabis An Effective Treatment For Acne?


CBD is a cannabinoid associated with the treatment of a whole host of health conditions, and may play an important role within the treatment of acne. A scientific paper published within The Journal of Clinical Investigation explores the effect of CBD on human sebaceous gland function. When administered to cultured human sebocytes, CBD was shown to suppress cellular proliferation.

The authors of this paper state that these findings suggest that the antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory actions of CBD in this context make it a promising treatment option for acne.


Although more of a controversial molecule due to its psychoactive nature, THC has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of many different conditions. THC may also play an important role in the treatment of acne due to its antibacterial properties. The bacteria P. acnes is at the root of the skin condition, meaning that an antibacterial molecule such as THC may work to reduce symptoms. A 1976 paper confirms the bactericidal potential of THC.


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