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Are cannabinoids absorbed through the skin?

Are Cannabinoids Absorbed Through the Skin?

Cannabinoids are garnering interest in the world of science. Dozens of these molecules appear in the cannabis plant, and many of them are showing promising results in animal and human studies.


Do cannabinoids pass through the skin?

How cannabinoids interact with the skin

Cannabinoids and dermatological issues

Do cannabinoids pass through the skin?

Upon applying a cannabinoid product to their skin, people often assume the cannabinoid enters their bloodstream. But just how true is this supposition? Well, it really depends.

CBD and other cannabinoids can be applied to the skin in two distinct methods: topical and transdermal. Topical application refers to creams, ointments, and other cosmetic products designed to be massaged into the epidermis鈥攖he topmost layers of the skin. These products target the skin itself and don鈥檛 ferry cannabinoids into the blood vessels of the derma below.

In contrast, transdermal products deliver CBD in a manner that penetrates through the upper barriers of the skin and into the bloodstream. Animal studies have shown that CBD administered as a transdermal gel makes its way into the bloodstream and increases plasma levels of the cannabinoid.

Although studies on transdermal cannabinoids are few and far between, this method of application could serve as a way to bypass the digestive system and deliver cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream.

How cannabinoids interact with the skin

Although transdermal delivery manages to introduce cannabinoids into the bloodstream, topical products offer a different advantage. The skin鈥攎uch like many other areas of the body鈥攈arbours cannabinoid receptors.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a regulatory role in the body and helps many different biological systems maintain homeostasis. The skin is no exception. External cannabinoids share a similar structure to those found in the body, and also target the same receptor sites.

Cannabinoids and dermatological issues

Several studies have investigated the effects of cannabinoids on common dermatological issues. For example, a study in the Journal of Dermatological Science looked at the effects of this family of molecules against keratinocyte hyperproliferation, which is associated with red, flaky, and scaly skin.

Researchers also looked at how cannabinoids affect overproduction of sebum. When this oily substance builds up in the pores, bacteria can form and begin to cause red blemishes. Research published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation tested the effects of CBD on human sebocytes, cells that pump out excess sebum.

Conclusion: Cannabinoids and the Skin

Although research remains in the early stages, cannabinoids certainly produce intriguing effects in regards to the skin. The discovery of the ECS in our largest organ raises many questions on the role(s) of cannabinoids in dermatological research.


[1] Millar, S. A., Stone, N. L., Yates, A. S., & O鈥橲ullivan, S. E. (2018). A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9. [Source]

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