The Best CBD Products for Acne — Reviews and Research-Backed Guide

Article by: , last updated September 13, 2020

Overview

An increasing number of people are turning to topical CBD products to improve acne and other skin conditions.

Although research on CBD’s anti-acne effects and other skin benefits is in its early stages, the findings are promising. One 2019 study found that a CBD-infused gel improved the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema, acne scars and blemishes, and overall skin health. 

Unfortunately, finding the right CBD product for acne can be difficult. The market is filled with hundreds of products with varying levels of quality. 

That’s why we compared dozens of brands to come up with our top picks for the best CBD creams, balms, and other topical products for acne. Read on for our recommendations and an evidence-based buying guide.

CBD Terminology

  • Hemp: a legal variety of cannabis with low THC levels (0.3% or less).
  • Full-spectrum: A whole-plant extract containing CBD, THC, and all other beneficial hemp cannabinoids and terpenes. This is considered the most effective form of CBD.
  • Broad-spectrum: A whole-plant hemp extract similar to full-spectrum, but with THC removed.
  • CBD isolate: Pure CBD with all other hemp compounds removed.

Best CBD Products for Acne Reviewed

Best Overall — CBDefine Skin Care Cream

Our top choice for acne is the CBDefine skincare cream from Colorado’s CBDistillery. The company’s combination of high-quality, transparency, and affordable pricing is hard to beat.

This 30 ml cream contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD, so you’re getting the complete benefits of the hemp plant. It also contains other natural compounds that can help with inflammation and acne, such as tea tree oil and hemp seed oil.

This third-party tested cream is derived from organic, non-GMO hemp cultivated in Colorado, the leader of the American hemp farming industry. Like all CBDistillery products, it’s certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, which means adherence to strict hemp production standards.

CBDistillery’s CBDefine skincare cream costs $0.10 per mg of CBD. Compared to other CBD topicals on the market, this price is considered below-average. 

Pros:

  • Full-spectrum hemp extract
  • Additional anti-acne ingredients
  • Affordable price ($0.10 per mg)
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Third-party tested
  • U.S. Hemp Authority-certified

Cons:

  • No third-party tests for contaminants
  • One potency option

Best Value and Potency — Lazarus Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Balm

If you’re looking for the best value, we recommend the full-spectrum CBD balm from Oregon’s Lazarus Naturals.

It provides 300–1200 mg of CBD for only $0.04–0.05 per mg. Not only is this one of the lowest prices on the market but it also comes with the quality that Lazarus Naturals is known for. 

This balm is formulated with full-spectrum hemp extract, which means it also contains other cannabinoids, terpenes, and various beneficial hemp compounds. Aside from CBD, it also has standard skincare ingredients such as beeswax and mango butter.

Lazarus Naturals’ balm comes in two sizes, 0.5 oz and 2 oz, and five scents: unscented, Portland rose, lavender, cedar citrus, and soothing mint. It’s also one of the most potent CBD topicals available, providing 20 mg of CBD per ml. 

Although you don’t necessarily need a high-potency CBD product for acne, this does mean you can use smaller doses to get even more value. 

Lazarus Naturals is an employee-owned company and grows its own hemp in Central Oregon — a rarity among CBD companies. It also provides comprehensive third-party test reports directly on each product page to confirm the safety and potency of its products.

Pros:

  • Excellent price ($0.04–$0.05 per mg)
  • High potency
  • Extensive third-party testing
  • Lazarus grows most (70%) of its hemp
  • Employee-owned company
  • Extensive third-party testing
  • Free U.S. shipping

Cons:

  • No added anti-acne ingredients

Best Cleanser — CBDfx CBD Face Cleanser

For those who prefer to use a cleanser, we recommend the CBD face cleanser from CBDfx. What sets this product apart from other CBD topicals is its multi-ingredient formula.

It contains 50 mg of CBD as well as several ingredients that can reduce inflammation, counter acne-causing bacteria, and provide other benefits, such as charcoal, citric acid, and peppermint.

This 100 ml cleanser costs $0.60 per mg of CBD. Although that seems expensive at first, we have to remember it contains many other ingredients. In that sense, this product still provides decent value.

CBDfx is one of the most popular CBD brands in the U.S. All its products are derived from organic hemp cultivated in Kentucky and undergo comprehensive third-party testing.

Pros:

  • Additional anti-acne ingredients
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Extensive third-party testing

Cons:

  • Not a full-spectrum hemp product
  • Somewhat pricey ($0.60 per mg)
  • Small amount of CBD

Best with Salicylic Acid — CBDMEDIC Acne Treatment Medicated Cream

If you’re looking for a CBD product with salicylic acid, arguably the most reliable anti-acne ingredient out there, CBDMEDIC is a great option. 

This cream contains 1% salicylic acid alongside 200 mg of broad-spectrum CBD extract, which includes multiple beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes but zero THC. It also contains other natural compounds that can help with acne, such as tea tree oil and zinc. 

This 40-gram cream is sourced from Colorado and Oregon-grown hemp and tested by a third-party lab to verify its CBD content. It costs $0.15 per mg of CBD. Considering that you’re also getting salicylic acid, that’s a great price point for a CBD topical.

Pros:

  • Contains salicylic acid
  • Whole-plant hemp extract
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Third-party tested
  • Reasonable price ($0.15 per mg)

Cons:

  • No third-party tests for contaminants
  • Not as transparent as some other CBD brands

Best Balm — CBDfx Calming Balm

One of America’s top CBD brands, CBDfx is our go-to pick for an anti-acne balm. It contains 750 mg of CBD isolate, a >99% pure form of CBD, in a 2 oz (60 ml) jar.  

The ingredient list also includes staple skincare ingredients like beeswax as well as anti-inflammatory compounds that can help with acne, such as chamomile and tea tree oils.

This balm is derived from organic hemp cultivated in Kentucky. Like all CBDfx products, it undergoes comprehensive third-party testing to verify its safety and potency, with the results available online.

CBDfx’s calming balm costs $0.26 per mg of CBD. Relative to other CBD topicals, this price is higher than average. 

Pros:

  • Additional anti-acne ingredients
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Extensive third-party testing

Cons:

  • Not a full-spectrum hemp product
  • More expensive than average ($0.26 per mg)

Best Serum — CBDfx CBD Face Oil Serum

Serums are another popular option for acne. For this product category, we recommend the CBD face oil serum from CBDfx. Each 30 ml bottle provides 250 mg of pure CBD.

What makes this product stand out is the inclusion of multiple anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredients that can help with acne, such as chamomile extract, jojoba oil, and argan oil.

This product is derived from Kentucky-grown organic hemp and does not contain any animal products or potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens.

At $0.24 per mg of CBD, CBDfx’s face oil serum costs more than the average for CBD topicals. However, it’s also a unique product since CBD serums are quite rare. 

Pros:

  • Additional anti-acne ingredients
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Extensive third-party testing

Cons:

  • Not a full-spectrum hemp product
  • More expensive than average ($0.24 per mg)

Best Travel-Size — PlusCBD Oil Balm Gold Formula Hemp Stick

For those who want a product they can use on the go, PlusCBD Oil’s hemp stick is a great option. This balm is made with the company’s Gold formula, a concentrated full-spectrum hemp extract.

It also contains other ingredients that can reduce inflammation, help with dryness, and provide other benefits that can help with acne, such as sweet almond oil and white willow bark.

PlusCBD’s hemp stick comes in a 0.4 oz stick with 45 mg of full-spectrum CBD. It costs $0.33 per mg of CBD, which is a bit higher then average for CBD topicals.

One of the first companies to offer CBD products in the U.S., PlusCBD oil is known for its commitment to quality. It tests all of its products in-house in addition to third-party testing. 

On top of that, it’s one of the only CBD brands that holds both self-affirmed Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status and U.S. Hemp Authority Certification, two programs that signify compliance with the stringent manufacturing standards.

Pros:

  • Full-spectrum hemp extract
  • Additional anti-acne ingredients
  • High-quality hemp source
  • Comprehensive in-house and third-party testing
  • Self-affirmed GRAS company
  • U.S. Hemp Authority-certified

Cons:

  • Not as cheap as some similar products ($0.33 per mg)

Buying Guide for CBD Products for Acne

In this section, we’ll cover everything you need to know about topical CBD products and how they can help with acne.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 compounds called cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant (1). Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the cannabinoid most of us are familiar with — CBD is non-intoxicating. That means it doesn’t get you high. 

That’s why many people are using CBD-based products to benefit their health without any of the mind-altering effects of cannabis. CBD can provide numerous health benefits ranging from reducing anxiety to alleviating seizures.

CBD is usually derived from hemp, a variety of cannabis with low THC levels (<0.3%). It’s typically used in the form of CBD oil but also comes in many other products, including topical preparations.

topical-cbd-cream-acne

What are CBD Topicals?

Unlike CBD oil, topical CBD products are designed to be used directly on the skin. They can’t penetrate deep enough to reach the bloodstream, so they’re highly unlikely to cause any side effects.

CBD topicals come in many forms, including lotions and creams, balms and salves, oils and serums, and even cleansers. Although these products can have different uses, they all work as a way of applying CBD to your skin for beneficial effects.

Aside from CBD, topicals often contain many of the same natural, beneficial ingredients you’d see in standard skincare products. These can include common substances such as:

  • essential oils, like lavender and peppermint oil
  • shea and cocoa butter
  • beeswax
  • coconut oil
  • aloe vera
  • vitamin E

Also, CBD topicals designed specifically for acne can contain popular anti-acne ingredients such as salicylic acid and charcoal. The precise ingredient list will vary depending on the product. 

What is Acne?

Also known as acne vulgaris, acne is a skin disorder characterized by pimples (blackheads and whiteheads), oily skin, and scarring. Acne occurs as a result of your hair follicles becoming clogged with dead skin cells and oil.

Acne usually appears on the face, but can also occur on your chest, shoulders, back, and other parts of the body. It can happen in people of all ages, although teenagers are the most commonly affected group. Health experts estimate that acne affects about 9.4% of the world population, making it the 8th most prevalent disease (2).

The causal factors of acne include:

  • Overproduction of sebum, the oily substance produced by your sebaceous glands to lubricate the skin
  • Inflammation of sebocytes, the skin cells that make up the sebaceous glands
  • Overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes bacteria
  • Follicular hyperkeratinization, a process where the dead cells in your hair follicle are not shed normally and clump up, blocking the follicle (3)

Acne can be treated with a wide variety of approaches, including drugs and dietary changes. However, standard treatments are not always effective and can cause significant side effects.

CBD and Acne: The Research Evidence

Research into CBD’s anti-acne effects has only just begun. However, the findings are promising and suggest that CBD can help with acne in several ways.

One 2019 study looked at the effects of a CBD-infused gel in people with psoriasis, eczema, and scars from acne and these two conditions. The researchers found that CBD alleviated psoriasis symptoms, reduced scars and blemishes, and improved measures of skin health such as elasticity and hydration (4).

Meanwhile, the researchers of a 2014 study applied CBD to human sebocytes, skin cells that produce the oily sebum implicated in acne. 

They found that CBD lowered inflammation, the production of new sebocyte cells, and the production of sebum, three processes involved in causing acne (5). The researchers concluded that “CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”

How Does CBD Help With Acne?

As noted by the study above, CBD can improve acne by reducing inflammation and the production of sebum. It achieves this by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) (6). 

This system helps our bodies maintain a healthy state of balance called homeostasis. To do so, it regulates key processes, such as pain, immune function, sleep, mood, appetite, and digestion.

The ECS and its receptors are present in every part of the body, including the skin. Research suggests that it plays an important role in skin health by regulating inflammation, skin cell growth, and other processes (7).

CBD supports healthy endocannabinoid system function by elevating the levels of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by our bodies) (8).

Another way CBD can fight acne is through its antibacterial properties (9). There’s some evidence that overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes and other skin bacteria is involved in acne (10).

acne-cbd

Are CBD Topicals Safe?

CBD topicals are considered safe. A CBD topical will never make you feel high and there’s no evidence that CBD causes any side effects when applied to your skin. 

Also, because CBD cannot penetrate the skin effectively enough to reach the bloodstream, topical products are unlikely to cause drowsiness or other side effects that can occur with ingested products such as tinctures.

Having said that, it is possible to experience an allergic reaction or another negative effect from other ingredients present in a CBD topical.

Best CBD Extract Type for Acne

CBD products are made with one of three types of CBD extract:

  1. CBD isolate: a >99% pure form of CBD that contains no other compounds.
  2. Full-spectrum CBD: contains CBD alongside the full range of hemp cannabinoids (including <0.3% THC), terpenes, fatty acids, and other natural compounds.
  3. Broad-spectrum CBD: contains the same compounds as full-spectrum extract but has zero THC.

Full-spectrum hemp products are more effective than those made with CBD isolate because of the synergy between their many components (the “entourage effect”) (11). As such, it’s best that you use a full-spectrum CBD topical to deal with acne.

Topical CBD Dosage for Acne

Topical CBD products can range in potency from as little as 0.5 mg of CBD per ml to as high as 20 mg/ml. 

There isn’t enough research to suggest the ideal dosage of CBD for acne. Furthermore, the dose can depend on multiple factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and the formulation you’re using. 

Due to this, the best approach is to start with the dose recommended by your product, assess the effects, and gradually increase until you start experiencing the desired effects.

Topicals vs. Other CBD Products

There are some key differences between topicals and other types of CBD products:

  • Application: Topicals are applied to the skin rather than taken internally.
  • Effects: The effects of topicals are felt in the area applied rather than the whole body. That’s because they’re unable to reach the bloodstream like ingested products.
  • Onset time: Topicals typically start working within minutes and their effects can last longer (4+ hours) than tinctures.
  • Dosage: Topicals are more difficult to dose because this will depend on the amount used.
  • Price: Topicals tend to cost more than most other CBD products, especially if you use a complex, multi-ingredient product such as a serum.

How To Apply CBD Topicals for Acne

As with any skincare product, you can apply a CBD topical directly to the area of skin affected by acne pimples or scarring. Make sure the area is clean and dry and massage the product into the skin for best results.

It’s best to start with a small amount and see if you achieve the desired effects. You can always apply more later if needed or use a higher dose next time. 

Can Topical CBD Cause a Failed Drug Test for THC?

As noted above, it’s highly unlikely that a topical CBD product containing THC will cause you to fail a drug test. That’s because cannabinoids cannot effectively penetrate the skin to reach the bloodstream. 

However, research in this area is still ongoing. If you don’t want to take any risks, it’s best to use products made with CBD isolate (pure CBD) or broad-spectrum CBD.

Can You Apply Regular CBD Oil to Acne?

You can also apply regular CBD oil to your skin to help with acne and other conditions. However, this won’t produce the best results because it’s meant to be taken sublingually (under the tongue).

Summing Up: CBD for Acne

In conclusion, research suggests that CBD is an effective option for improving acne. Although more human studies are needed, the available evidence shows that CBD can counteract the processes that cause acne, such as the overproduction of sebum.

We’ve suggested some of the best CBD products for acne above, but you’re free to do your own research and find a brand you can trust.

If you’re interested in trying out CBD for acne highly recommend using a topical product rather than a sublingual CBD oil. Topical CBD products act directly on the skin area they’re applied to, which is the best way to combat acne.

As an added benefit, you don’t need to worry about any side effects because CBD is unlikely to reach systemic circulation when applied to the skin.

Referenced Studies

  1. Bruni, Natascia, et al. “Cannabinoid delivery systems for pain and inflammation treatment.” Molecules 23.10 (2018): 2478.
  2. Tan, Jerry KL, and K. Bhate. “A global perspective on the epidemiology of acne.” British Journal of Dermatology 172 (2015): 3-12.
  3. Thiboutot, D. M. “The role of follicular hyperkeratinization in acne.” Journal of dermatological treatment 11.2 (2000): 5-8.
  4. Palmieri, B., C. Laurino, and M. Vadalà. “A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars.” La Clinica Terapeutica 170.2 (2019): e93-e99.
  5. Oláh, Attila, et al. “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.” The Journal of clinical investigation 124.9 (2014): 3713-3724.
  6. Lu, Hui-Chen, and Ken Mackie. “An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system.” Biological psychiatry 79.7 (2016): 516-525.
  7. del Río, Carmen, et al. “The endocannabinoid system of the skin. A potential approach for the treatment of skin disorders.” Biochemical pharmacology 157 (2018): 122-133.
  8. Leweke, F. M., et al. “Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia.” Translational psychiatry 2.3 (2012): e94-e94.
  9. Appendino, Giovanni, et al. “Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure− activity study.” Journal of natural products 71.8 (2008): 1427-1430.
  10. Bhatia, Ajay, Jean-Francoise Maisonneuve, and David H. Persing. “Propionibacterium acnes and chronic diseases.” The Infectious Etiology of Chronic Diseases: Defining the Relationship, Enhancing the Research, and Mitigating the Effects: Workshop Summary., Knobler, SL et al.(eds.). 2004.
  11. Russo, Ethan B. “The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain.” Frontiers in plant science 9 (2019): 1969.

Leave a Reply