Just a few years ago, if you told a crowd of people about a CBD-infused face serum you love, you’d be met with a sea of confused faces. “CB-what?!” they would have said.
These days, CBD skincare products are everywhere—serums, cleansers, oils, and masks all included—and everyone knows about its beneficial antioxidant properties.
But what does that mean, exactly? Why is it that CBD is so good for our skin?
To answer these questions, we sat down with Dr. Kiera Barr, an integrative dermatologist, founder of Resilience Health Institute, and author of the book Skin Whisperer to better understand exactly how CBD acts as an antioxidant—and what exactly that means for our skin health.
Canary: Let’s start with the basics: What is an antioxidant, exactly?
Dr. Barr: Put very simply, antioxidants are substances that fight off damaging oxidizing agents, called free radicals, in our bodies. They help prevent oxidative stress, which is closely related to cellular damage.
Canary: So when you hear about CBD acting as an antioxidant in skincare, what does that mean?
Dr. Barr: Cannabidiol, along with cannabinoids like CBN and other ingredients in CBD oil, like terpenes, have antioxidant properties that can help strengthen and restore the skin integrity and barrier function in many ways.
Canary: Can you give us an example of this in practice?
One good example is a study that was done by researchers out of NYU that looked at the use of cannabidiol for oral mucositis (a common side effect of chemotherapy when the mucosal lining in the mouth atrophies and forms ulcers). What they found is that CBD oil was able to influence the gene expression of skin cells as well as other structures in the epidermis to decrease inflammation and protect from oxidative damage within the skin layers. As a result, improvements were seen in the skin as well as in mucosal strength, thickness, and barrier function.
Canary: Wow, that’s very cool. Could this apply to other skin conditions as well?
Yes, this could definitely apply to other conditions like canker sores and atopic dermatitis, just to name a couple. This benefit of CBD oil could parlay into sun damage as well.
Canary: Repair sun damage? Tell us more!
We’re starting to see that the antioxidant power of CBD and the terpenes in CBD oil can block some of the environmental damage our skin experiences every single day. When you’re exposed to the sun for too long, it can set off a cascade of cytokines and inflammation. The properties in CBD can help decrease that inflammatory cascade and help bolster the repair of damage that’s being done.
Canary: So CBD doesn’t necessarily act as a sunscreen, it more works more to repair the damage that’s already been done. Correct?
Dr. Barr: Right. It’s sort of an indirect impact. CBD works by using the body’s own mechanisms. It’s like flipping levers and switches that the body already has and turning them off and on in a sequence that you would want them to follow.
Canary: So interesting. Are you excited by this area of study?
Dr. Barr: Yes. I’ve had both personal and professional experience with melanoma, so the data that looks at the potential of CBD for blocking UV damage—and incorporate some of the components of CBD oil into sunblock—is really exciting for me.
Canary: We’ve been putting antioxidants into our skincare products for years, but CBD is new. How does CBD compare to other common antioxidants like vitamin C that we see so often in skincare?
Dr. Barr: Right now I don’t think there are any head-to-head studies. This means that it’s an exciting time in the world of CBD research, but also means it’s a “proceed with caution” time. At this point, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to say that CBD is a better antioxidant than other common antioxidants. That being said, we know that a full-spectrum CBD oil offers additional vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and vitamin E because of the entourage effect.
Canary: So by using CBD oil on your skincare product you could be getting a variety of antioxidants?
Dr. Barr: Yes, there’s more of a compilation of antioxidants and vitamins in CBD oil versus a product that uses just one isolated ingredient. Just remember that you’ll want to be using a full-spectrum hemp product to get this abundance of antioxidants and vitamins.
Canary: So then would it be safe to say that if a patient wanted to try CBD for their skin condition you would recommend ad full-spectrum product?
Dr. Barr: I would recommend a full-spectrum product, yes.
Canary: Okay. One last question: So many dermatologists lack knowledge about CBD or other natural remedies. When did you start learning about it and why?
Dr. Barr: One of the first articles I saw dates back to 2005 and 2006. But it was 2014 when a big article came out regarding CBD and acne and my attention was really sparked. Then, it just kept coming up in the literature again and again.
When I noticed so many more people were doing research on it I decided I should also become more familiar with it. And now with so many states legalizing cannabis, it’s becoming commonplace in skincare and everywhere!
THANK YOU, Dr. Barr!