Did you know 1 in every 10 people will get eczema during their lifetime? This common condition affects 10.1% of people in the US, or more than 30 million individuals in the country [1]. While there are several different types of eczema, all of them involve an autoimmune reaction in the skin, which causes inflammation and discomfort. Today we’ll cover one of the newest possibilities that could treat eczema: cannabinoids.

What is eczema?

This term includes a group of conditions that cause the skin to get inflamed, itchy, and painful. Researchers distinguish at least 6 distinct types:

  • Contact dermatitis: this happens when the skin comes in contact with an allergen or irritant agent. This includes soaps, fragrances and foods you’re allergic to. It usually disappears once the allergy source is removed.
  • Atopic dermatitis: it’s the most common type and it usually begins during childhood [3]. Doctors don’t know the causes, but symptoms worsen when the affected area is irritated or in contact with allergens.
  • Stasis dermatitis: known as venous eczema, it happens when there’s poor circulation in the legs. When your leg veins aren’t able to push blood back, fluid leaks out. In turn, this causes itching, scaling, and dryness.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: also known as dandruff, it’s characterized by flaky skin caused by fast cell turnover, an overgrown yeast on the surface of the skin, or an overactive immune system.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema: this type causes itching and blisters that eventually become scaly patches. Usually, it happens in hands and feet. If left unattended, it can be painful.
  • Nummular eczema: it makes coin-shaped red marks appear on the skin. This type of eczema tends to happen after exposure to cold air or harsh irritants.

Current treatment focus on three goals: restoring the skin barrier, preventing infection, and lowering inflammation. To do this, doctors recommend applying hydrating creams and topical corticosteroids.

Unfortunately, long-term use of topical steroids can have negative side effects. These include abnormal adrenal gland function, localized edema, thinning skin and further damaging of the skin barrier [4].

Cannabinoids and the skin

As a compound, CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Because of it, it could improve atopic dermatitis [5].

Human skin has cannabinoid receptors, meaning CBD can act directly in the skin. Some studies show that topical CBD can slow down the growth of rashes and ease the pain [5]. Another study took 2500 patients that applied a CBD cream to problem areas. After 2 weeks, CBD helped with itching, inflammation, and rashes, as well as decreased the use of topical steroids. On the other hand, CBD-infused creams didn’t show any negative side effects.

Researchers from this study mention there’s a link between CBD and neurological responses associated to eczema like itching, inflammation and other immune reactions.

While researchers aren’t completely certain about how it works, it’s evident cannabinoids offer promising opportunities to care for damaged skin. What we do know is that both for patients and physicians, CBD improves quality of life and symptoms, as well as strengthening the skin barrier [5].

Should you add CBD to a healthy skin regime?

In general, trials show CBD could have a positive effect as an anti-inflammatory and serve to control pruritus. However, we still need larger, randomized trials to draw stronger conclusions and understand the concentration needed to get results.

Of course, nowadays CBD products are easier to find, so trying them out and testing if it helps with your skin conditions could be a possibility for you. If you’re just starting out, a CBD-infused cream, oil or supplement could improve your symptoms. Let us know your experience with it!

References

  1. Eczema prevalence. National Eczema Association. Available here.
  2. Eczema overview. National Eczema Association. Available here.
  3. Types of eczema. WebMD. Available here.
  4. Coondoo A, Phiske M, Verma S, Lahiri K. Side-effects of topical steroids: A long overdue revisit. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2014;5(4):416-425. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.142483
  5. Eberlein  B,  Eicke  C,  Reinhardt  HW,  Ring  J.  Adjuvant  treatment  of atopic    eczema:    Assessment    of    an    emollient    containing    N-palmitoylethanolamine   (ATOPA   study). J    Eur    Acad    Dermatol Venereol. 2008;22(1):73-82. [PMID: 18181976].