The Best CBD Creams & Topicals for Acne (Nov. 2022)

By | last updated November 23, 2022

Medically reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon, MD

Evidence Based 14

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Early research on CBD’s benefits for acne, eczema, and other skin issues is promising (1).

Unfortunately, finding the right topical CBD product for acne can be difficult. The market is filled with thousands of products, many of which contain less CBD than they should, carry contaminants, or aren’t strong enough to provide an effect.

That’s why we compared dozens of CBD creams and other topical products based on their formula, third-party lab test results, hemp quality, potency, customer reviews, price, and other criteria.

Here are the best CBD creams, lotions, and face masks for acne.

Top 3 Best CBD Creams & Topicals for Acne

  1. Best Overall: CBDMEDIC Acne Cream | full review
  2. Best Value: Lazarus Naturals CBD Lotion | full review
  3. Best Face Mask: CBDfx Charcoal Face Mask | full review

CBD Terminology

  • Terpenes: aromatic plant compounds with a wide variety of beneficial properties (2).
  • Minor cannabinoids: CBN, CBG, and other beneficial cannabinoids found in smaller amounts than CBD. For hemp, THC also counts as a minor cannabinoid.
  • Hemp: non-intoxicating cannabis variety with high CBD and low THC levels (less than 0.3%).
  • Full-spectrum: whole-plant hemp extract containing multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. This form of CBD is about 4 times more potent than pure CBD (3).
  • Broad-spectrum: whole-plant hemp extract similar to full-spectrum CBD, but with THC removed (may contain trace amounts).
  • CBD isolate: pure CBD with all other hemp compounds removed.

CBDMEDIC Acne Treatment Cream + Cleanser (Best Overall)

acne treatment cream cbdmedic

5/5

CBD Potency5 mg/g
Volume40 g
Total CBD200 mg
Cost per mg CBD$0.15
TypeBroad-spectrum 
Third-Party TestView report

Use coupon code CWEB10 for 10% off

Pros:

  • Contains anti-acne salicylic acid and other anti-acne compounds
  • Made specifically for acne
  • Anti-acne cleanser available

Cons:

  • Need product batch number to view third-party test report

Our top pick for acne is the CBDMEDIC medicated cream. What makes it special is the combination of CBD with 1% salicylic acid, one of the most reliable anti-acne ingredients out there (4).

It also carries other natural compounds that can help with acne, including bentonite, tea tree oil, and zinc. For optimal results, it’s recommended to use this cream together with the CBDMEDIC acne cleanser.

These products are sourced from organic American hemp and tested by a third-party lab to verify their CBD content. CBDMEDIC is part of Charlotte’s Web, one of the oldest and most reputable CBD brands in the industry.

Lazarus Naturals CBD Lotion (Best Value)

lazarus naturals cbd lotion

5/5

CBD Potency20 mg/g
Volume75-250 ml
Total CBD1500-5000 mg
Cost per mg CBD$0.01-0.02
TypeFull-spectrum
Scents2
Third-Party TestsView report

Pros:

  • Unbeatable value
  • Full-spectrum CBD
  • USDA-certified organic hemp source

Cons:

  • Lacks additional anti-acne ingredients

If you’re looking for the best value, we recommend the full-spectrum CBD lotion from Lazarus Naturals. It costs only $0.01–0.02 per mg of CBD. 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 high-potency lotion combines full-spectrum CBD with standard skincare ingredients such as jojoba oil and mango butter. It’s available in unscented and pacific pine scents.

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

CBDfx Charcoal Face Mask (Best Face Mask)

cbdfx charcoal face mask

5/5

CBD Potency20-50 mg
# of Masks1-10
Total CBD20-50 mg
Cost per mg CBD$0.06-0.14
TypeBroad-spectrum 
Third-Party TestView report

Use coupon code FXSAVINGS15 for 15% off

Pros:

  • Contains charcoal
  • Two potencies

Cons:

  • None

CBDfx is one of the only brands to offer CBD-infused face masks. They come in 5 formulas, with the charcoal one being ideal; several reviews mention that it helps with acne.

You can either buy one high-potency (50 mg) mask or a pack of 10 medium-potency (20 mg) masks. We recommend going with the 10-pack for greater savings and convenience.

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

How We Choose CBD Products

Here are the key criteria we use to choose the best CBD creams and other CBD products.

Look for Third-Party Tested Brands

Recent research has shown that topical CBD product labels are often inaccurate. Third-party testing is the best way to confirm the efficacy and safety of CBD products. Done by an independent lab, these tests check whether a product carries as much CBD as it says on the label. 

Third-party tests can also check for pesticides, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful contaminants. In this day and age, all reputable CBD companies utilize third-party testing and share the test results publicly. A lack of these tests is a big red flag. 

Check the Hemp Source

CBD comes from hemp, which means the plant quality and cultivation process are important. The best American hemp is organic and grown in one of three states: Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon. 

European countries are also an excellent source of hemp because many have been growing it continuously for centuries.

It’s even better if the company grows and extracts its hemp directly instead of buying it from another producer or uses USDA-certified organic hemp. You can find all of this info on the company website.

Choose Full-Spectrum CBD When Possible

As we highlighted at the beginning of the article, there are three main types of CBD: isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum. 

If you want to get the best effects out of a CBD product for acne or any other health issue, it’s best to use a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum product because they contain multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial hemp compounds.

Whole-plant CBD products benefit from the cannabis “entourage effect” — the combined effects of all these compounds working together in synergy, rather than CBD by itself (2). 

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 121 compounds called cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 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, cleansers, and face masks. Although these products can have different uses, they all work as a way of applying CBD to your skin.

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 (5).

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, one of the bacteria that can cause acne

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 (6).

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 secretion of sebum, three processes involved in causing acne (7). The researchers concluded that “CBD has potential…for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”

Another 2022 study found that CBD reduced inflammation produced by Cutibacterium acnes, a bacteria linked to acne (8).

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) (9). 

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 (9).

CBD supports healthy endocannabinoid system function by reducing the breakdown of anandamide, one of the two main endocannabinoids made by our bodies (11).

Another way CBD can fight acne is through its antimicrobial properties (12). There’s some evidence that overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes and other skin bacteria is involved in acne (13).

acne-cbd

Are CBD Topicals Safe?

CBD is considered a generally safe compound with few and minor side effects (14).

More importantly, 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’s possible to experience an allergic skin reaction from other ingredients present in CBD topicals, such as terpenes.

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. 

As such, 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.

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

Our top pick for the best CBD cream for acne is the CBDefine skincare cream from CBDistillery. It’s full-spectrum, contains other anti-acne ingredients, made by one of the most reputable CBD brands, and comes at an affordable price.

If you’re interested in trying out CBD for acne we 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 highly unlikely to reach the bloodstream when applied to the skin.

References

  1. Baswan, Sudhir M., et al. “Therapeutic potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disorders.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology 13 (2020): 927.
  2. Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology 163.7 (2011): 1344-1364.
  3. Pamplona, Fabricio A., Lorenzo Rolim da Silva, and Ana Carolina Coan. “Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: observational data meta-analysis.” Frontiers in neurology 9 (2018): 759.
  4. Arif, Tasleem. “Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology 8 (2015): 455.
  5. Tan, Jerry KL, and K. Bhate. “A global perspective on the epidemiology of acne.” British Journal of Dermatology 172 (2015): 3-12.
  6. 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.
  7. Oláh, Attila, et al. “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.” The Journal of clinical investigation 124.9 (2014): 3713-3724.
  8. Jiang, Ziqi, et al. “Cannabidiol Inhibits Inflammation Induced by Cutibacterium acnes-Derived Extracellular Vesicles via Activation of CB2 Receptor in Keratinocytes.” Journal of Inflammation Research 15 (2022): 4573-4583.
  9. Lu, Hui-Chen, and Ken Mackie. “An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system.” Biological psychiatry 79.7 (2016): 516-525.
  10. 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.
  11. Deutsch, Dale G. “A personal retrospective: elevating anandamide (AEA) by targeting fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and the fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs).” Frontiers in pharmacology 7 (2016): 370.
  12. Blaskovich, Mark AT, et al. “The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol.” Communications Biology 4.1 (2021): 1-18.
  13. 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.
  14. Larsen, Christian, and Jorida Shahinas. “Dosage, efficacy and safety of cannabidiol administration in adults: a systematic review of human trials.” Journal of clinical medicine research 12.3 (2020): 129.

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