Cannabis…it’s all the rage. The benefits of cannabis for many medical conditions are under the proverbial microscope, as regulations on this controlled substance continue to ease, likewise, the benefits for skin are being considered. Along with skin-soothing properties, there is reason to believe that cannabinoids can effectively treat psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne and have been found to reduce growth of melanomas and carcinomas.
Cannabinoids relief from inflammation is the most promising aspect for skin care, along with the treatment of itching and burns, according to the Robert Dellavalle, M.D., Ph.D. His study, “The Role of Cannabinoids in Dermatology,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This study explored current work on the drug’s effect on skin. More research is being done to determine specifically how cannabinoids interact with receptors in the skin.
“I see a very bright future for cannabis in skin products.” Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D.
Several topical brands have “cropped up” in dispensaries. Notably, Whoopi Goldberg entered the “budding” industry with her Whoopi & Maya line in early 2017. Per the brand’s website, its offerings including body balms and bath soak formulations to soothe the skin.
Mary’s Medicinals, a Colorado-based company, manufactures cannabis products, including transdermal patches and a topical compound which can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation, soreness and pain.
Due to the regulatory nature of cannabis, what limitations exist for brands producing skincare containing cannabinoids?
According to Jeremy Riggle (JR), Ph.D., chief operating scientist for Mary’s Medicinals, “This is a tricky question and will vary from state to state as regulators, legislators and public health officials determine their own limits on the amount of cannabinoids allowed in skin products. Obviously, the classification of cannabinoids as schedule 1 drugs greatly constrain their use in all products, not just skin products. It will be interesting to see how these laws evolve especially as more and more clinical evidence becomes available.”
“Topically-applied cannabinoids do not cross the stratum corneum, so people who use them topically don’t run the risk of getting high.” Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D.
How does cannabis affect the skin compared to other active ingredients?
JR: “The interesting thing about the skin is that it expresses the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Virtually all types of skin cells (keratinocytes, cutaneous nerve fibers, dermal cells, etc.) have both CB1 and CB2 receptors as well as the enzymes of the ECS. Phytocannabinoids also interact with transient receptor potential ion channels as well as other receptor systems.
When phytocannabinoids are applied to the skin they interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, among others, to reduce pain and inflammation, they contribute to epidermal cellular differentiation (help skin cells become the type of cells that are needed for optimal skin health), they mitigate psoriasis, dermatitis, acne (phytocannabinoids are antibacterial, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory) and have been found to reduce growth of melanomas and carcinomas. There is still a lot to discover regarding phytocannabinoids and skin but the pre-clinical data is very promising.”
What do you see in the future for cannabis in topical products and skincare?
JR: “I see a very bright future for cannabis in skin products (assuming regulations don’t completely eliminate the use of cannabis in skin products) and overall skincare. In addition to the ECS receptors in skin cells and their associated effects, cannabinoids also absorb UV radiation offering some protection against the sun’s damaging UV rays. Phytocannabinoids are also precursors to prevalent skin molecules, so they can indirectly contribute to the structure of the skin.
Does cannabis in skincare make you high?
JR: “Topically-applied cannabinoids do not cross the stratum corneum (outermost part of the epidermis), so people who use them topically don’t run the risk of getting high. I would also say that cannabinoids are extremely non-toxic and a safer alternative to some of the chemicals that make their way into skin products.”