By Thomas Wrona
Hemp is a holistic plant. While our current food supply chains may have gotten accustomed to growing single crops and harvesting single parts of them, hemp is different! It takes one back to more traditional times — times when every available part of the plant (or animal) was consumed or otherwise used.
Indeed, hemp’s seeds are among nature’s healthiest superfoods, and hemp’s oils are responsible for the current health craze surrounding CBD. Moving on to non-food parts of the plant, hemp’s bast fibers can be used to build houses and its leftover biomass can be used to make superfast superconductors. And in 1941, a hemp fiber-reinforced car was introduced by none other than Henry Ford.
Pretty amazing versatility, right? But since this is an article about hemp’s skincare-centric uses, we’ll focus on the benefits of CBD oil - and hemp seed oil - for now.
CBD For the Skin
We’ve already talked about CBD’s internal benefits; ranging from reduced inflammation to improved brain function, those are impressive enough as it is.
Yet could these inner changes be reflected in a newfound outer glow? Maybe. The skin is actually the body’s largest organ, and health experts from all backgrounds testify that skin health speaks volumes about what’s going on deeper beneath the surface.
"Healthy skin is a reflection of overall wellness."
Dr. Howard Murad, the father of internal skincare
One of Dr. Murad’s favorite skincare techniques? Relaxation. According to him, poor health and poor skin alike are caused largely by the stress inherent to modern culture. This cause-and-effect relationship is easy to see, anecdotally speaking - yet the science also backs it up.
When the human body is stressed, it produces a hormone called cortisol. This fight-or-flight hormone is helpful at first; it makes us more alert and more energized. But chronic cortisol overproduction can lead to all sorts of nasty stuff.
Notable among them? Acne - a 2017 study found clear connections between acne vulgaris and stress. Meanwhile a 2014 study on the “Brain-Skin Connection” thought bigger picture, describing how “neuroinﬂammatory conditions can be triggered or aggravated by stress, [such as] psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne, [and] contact dermatitis…”
Cortisol may also cause transepidermal water loss, where the skin becomes dehydrated and unable to ‘hold onto’ water. That’s not good for your skincare status, either. It seems like Dr. Murad was onto something!
But if you’re ever taken CBD, you probably know just how good it is at relieving stress. Studies dating back to the 90s describe how only a single dose of the compound can lower stress hormones like cortisol; it’s likely that CBD helps optimize related hormones (norephedrine, epinephrine) too. By reducing stress, CBD could put you in the perfect position to enjoy less inflammation and better skin health.
But CBD’s impact on skin health goes way beyond the indirect. The versatile compound may also directly improve skin health by binding to a very special group of cellular receptors called TRPV1.
CBD Receptors... In the Skin?
You may not have heard of TRPV1 before, and we can’t say we blame you. Yet the TRPV1 receptor system controls our perceptions of heat, pain, and other stimuli; it’s only thanks to this system that we can experience things as intense as the taste of a hot pepper or the sting of pepper spray.
Many TRPV1 receptors are located in the upper levels of the skin, where they’re positioned to quickly sense environmental changes (like the extreme examples listed above). If you accidentally touch a hot pan, for example, it’s TRVP1’s interaction with the nervous system that allows you to quickly and efficiently pull your hand away and avoid more serious injuries.
Getting back to skincare, CBD binds nearly directly to TRPV1, which could be just the thing needed for you to feel comfortable — literally comfortable — in your skin. “It can help feelings of heat, itch, and pain,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner describes to Well and Good, and the CBD-TRPV1 friendship explains why.
Further, the presence of CBD receptors in the skin implies that CBD can regulate skin health at a direct level. While this field of research is still young, a 2018 review study found that cannabinoids are useful for all sorts of skin conditions.
Their list included improvements in acne vulgaris, pruritus, atopic/allergic contact dermatitis, and systemic sclerosis. Yet CBD’s total list of skincare benefits might be even longer; as it turns out, the CB2 receptors that CBD activates can regulate all sorts of additional things.
Antioxidants + Your Skin = Anti-aging
Let’s say you don’t have any overtly obvious skin problems...what about using hemp products for overall skin health? We’d say go for it!
As NYC-based aesthetician Jordana Mattioli tells the New York Times, "Even if you don’t have any specific issues, everyone still needs a general antioxidant serum in the morning to protect from daily aggressors," Mattioli says.
This is where hemp’s other important oil - antioxidant-rich hemp seed oil - comes into play. Hempseed oil is a veritable superfood, rich in Vitamin C to help brighten the skin and B vitamins to accelerate collagen production and essentially decelerate aging. Oh, and it contains a near-perfect blend of essential fatty acids, too!
No wonder CBD-centric skincare has reached such heights of popularity that it’s now getting press in Forbes and Glamour. The compound really works, and in a sense it’s also worked to guide our culture back to natural skincare methods.
Could CBD also bring to light the idea that skincare isn’t just one isolated segment of health...but rather an outward reflection of one’s health as a whole? We hope so!
As Dr. Murad would say, "skincare is healthcare".
Thomas Wrona is a cannabis consultant, health + wellness advisor, and former professional athlete. He enjoys writing about all things CBD, both here and at Wrona Inc.