The epidermis, or the outer layer of skin, is always showing, and because of that, people are constantly searching for ways to keep their largest organ looking young and feeling soft. That’s a difficult goal to accomplish, especially when considering the absolute hell we put our skin through on a daily basis.
The skin is the body’s first line of defense against the creepy entities that star in that terrifying show on Animal Planet, “Monsters Inside Me.” The skin is a barrier to ever-present, ever-persisting pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and fungi. It also protects the body from the ravages of pollution, the elements, and the horribly dangerous weapons that surround us constantly, like walls, floors, and silverware. So it’s no wonder that people are constantly battling skin conditions like acne, dryness, eczema, or rosacea.
The endocannabinoid system refers to the network of cannabinoid receptors located all over the body and triggered by cannabinoids, chemical compounds such as CBD or THC. The endocannabinoid system’s primary function is to maintain homeostasis, or a stable environment, within the body. When homeostasis within the body is disrupted, medical ailments often ensue. But when the endocannabinoid system is maintained, those ailments can be alleviated and even cured.
What does this have to do with skin? Endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, including the skin, and are stimulated by the cannabinoids found in cannabis. If those reactors are stimulated by the cannabinoids present in topicals, superficial enhancements may only be the tip of the medicinal iceberg when it comes to cannabinoid skincare.
The method by which these cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system plays a large role in the outcomes, however. Smoking cannabis will not have the same effect on skin. In fact, smoking a joint may actually speed up the aging process since the wraps used to hold smokable cannabis contain the same carcinogens present in cigarettes. Those carcinogens inhibit the production of collagen, the protein found in skin responsible for its repair.
However, using topical cannabis avoids the damage caused by smoke inhalation. And while they harness the following benefits, cannabis topicals, even those with high levels of THC, will not inebriate consumers.
The skin absorbs them, but they do not enter the bloodstream.
While CBD has been lauded for its therapeutic qualities, it is important to note that it is the synergistic effect between both CBD and THC that results in the benefits many patients and recreational users seek when using cannabis topicals.
A 2000 study found that the cannabinoids CBD and THC were both found to be extremely potent antioxidants.
Antioxidants are important because our bodies constantly create substances called free radicals when food is converted to energy. We can even absorb free radicals from air and the sunlight. Free radicals create a negative chain reaction within our cells, resulting in cell dysfunction, death, and ultimately, the development of serious diseases.
Antioxidants help our bodies neutralize free radicals before the most important molecules in our bodies are damaged and we find ourselves very sick. Additionally, some argue that antioxidants remove free radicals that cause early aging.
A THC infused topical may, therefore, contain antioxidants that can expedite the healing process and minimize wrinkles and fine lines in the skin.
Skin inflammation is one of the most common conditions reported to dermatologists. Dermatitis, rosacea, and psoriasis are inflammation-related ailments that affect a large segment of the population.
The skin’s role as the first line of defense makes it easy to understand why inflammatory skin conditions are so common. The skin is constantly interacting with hostile pathogens and contaminants (allergens, UV radiation, irritants, etc.), and, in response, the skin will create cytokines and chemokines, inflammatory inducing hormones that damage the skin. But inflammation is responsible for more than just rashes.
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are both examples of inflammatory conditions that topical marijuana can soothe because both THC and CBD curtail the production of inflammation producing hormones.
Cannabis applied directly to the skin will not produce a high. However, consuming cannabis orally will, and this can potentially be another way to harness the benefits of THC on the skin. THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effect of cannabis, can, when taken at the right dose, alleviate anxiety in consumers. Additionally, some evidence suggests that anxiety disorders are the result of abnormalities in the endocannabinoid system, a problem that can be addressed by the consumption of cannabis.
What does stress reduction have to do with skin?
A lot, it turns out. Stress can induce chemical responses in the body that lead to slowed healing, acne, hives, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. Consuming cannabis in order to relieve stress can actually combat these stress-related skin conditions. However, the best way to consume marijuana for the purpose of skin treatment is through tincture, edible, pill, or drink. Using a vaporizer is better than using a bong, and using a bong is much better than smoking a joint or a bowl.
It’s Not Just About THC
While each cannabinoid present in a marijuana plant offers a host of benefits, it is important to remember that those benefits are most potent when working collaboratively with every cannabinoid and terpene the flower has to offer. Attempting to isolate one cannabinoid destroys the magic of the entourage effect, or the synergistic interaction between cannabinoids, terpenes, and all chemical compounds present in the cannabis plant. For example, THC alone can create an intense, paranoia inducing high. THC works best when it is tempered by the naturally occurring CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that blocks some of THC’s potency. Likewise, the medicinal effects of CBD are compounded by the presence of THC as both cannabinoids interact with different cannabinoid receptors in the body.
All that means is that cannabis topicals extracted from the whole plant are going be good not just because of the CBD, and not just because of the THC, but because cannabis and all of its glorious compounds are designed by nature to work together and to heal.