CBD and eczema – does it work?
If you suffer from eczema, you’ll know just how frustrating and upsetting the symptoms can be. For some people, the constant inflammation can have a serious impact on wellbeing and quality of life. Many swear by CBD, a natural anti-inflammatory, for relieving their symptoms, so we took a closer look at the science to see if CBD really can help eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema, sometimes referred to as dermatitis, is a broad term covering a range of skin conditions that cause inflammation. There are many types of eczema/dermatitis, but one of the most common is atopic eczema.
Atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic condition that usually shows up around the joints and skin creases, causing dryness, itching, flaky patches, and weeping sores. It’s not entirely clear what causes it, but it’s more common in people who are vulnerable to allergies.
Atopic eczema tends to come in bouts, ranging from mild and manageable to severe and debilitating. At its worst, it can interfere with your ability to work, sleep or socialise, and many sufferers say that their mood suffers too. When the skin becomes dry or cracked, it’s also more vulnerable to infection.
The most common treatments are topical steroid creams, but there are some unpleasant side effects associated with long-term use. Many people looking for a natural alternative swear by CBD to treat eczema, but does it really work?
CBD and eczema
In case you’re not familiar with CBD (short for cannabidiol), it’s a substance called a cannabinoid that’s found in the hemp plant. Hemp contains lots of other cannabinoids, along with compounds like fatty acids, vitamins, terpenes and flavonoids, all of which are said to have some pretty impressive health benefits.
CBD is extracted from the hemp plant and used to make products like CBD oils, capsules, and gummies. It’s also added to things like tea, toothpaste, massage lotions and even pet treats.
Your body actually makes cannabinoids of its own, called endocannabinoids. These are part of your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps to keep everything in your body in a state of balance. When you take external cannabinoids like CBD, they act on endocannabinoid receptors around your body, in a similar way to your own endocannabinoids.
If you’re using CBD to help with eczema, you’ll want a topical CBD product -- cream, lotion, gel, body oil, serum, ointment or balm -- that you can apply directly to your skin. You have lots of endocannabinoid receptors in your skin, and topical CBD is believed to act directly on these receptors to provide a relieving, anti-inflammatory effect.
Does CBD actually help with eczema?
Plenty of people say that topical CBD helps to relieve the itching, pain and inflammation that comes with eczema, giving them a better quality of life in the process. But what does the science say?
It’s early days research-wise, but so far the evidence is leaning towards CBD as a way to relieve eczema. Major organisations like the American Academy of Dermatology back this up, although they do point out that more research is needed.
In 2019, a study published in the Clinica Terapeutica journal asked participants with various skin conditions, including eczema, to apply a topical CBD ointment to the skin twice a day for three months. They found that the ointment soothed inflammation, reduced itchiness, and made it easier for sufferers to sleep.
Another 2020 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology looked exclusively at eczema sufferers, asking them to apply a CBD cream to affected skin. After two weeks, 67% of participants said it reduced itchiness, and 50% said that their overall symptoms had improved by at least 60%. There was also a significant reduction in the emotional impact of their condition.
CBD appears to help not just the symptoms of eczema, but also the complications. Dry, cracked skin is extra-vulnerable to infection, but research suggests that topical CBD can kill Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria responsible, about as well as antibiotics can. Considering the potential side effects of antibiotics (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and cramps, not to mention antibiotic resistance), this is great news for people looking to deal with painful infections and eczema flare-ups without adding to their troubles!
All in all, topical CBD seems to have some promising benefits for people living with eczema. While we do need further research to say for sure, the evidence so far supports what CBD fans have been saying for a while.
Choosing a CBD topical for eczema
Whether you’re looking at CBD oils, edibles or topicals, you’ll see one of three different names on the label: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate.
Remember all of those other cannabinoids and compounds found in the hemp plant? Full-spectrum CBD products contain all of those compounds, not just CBD. Broad-spectrum contains all of them, minus a cannabinoid called THC (AKA the compound that gets you high when you smoke cannabis). Isolate contains just CBD, nothing else.
When you take all (or most) of those compounds together in a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD product, they enhance each other in a synergistic way to boost the effects of the product. This is known as the entourage effect. Obviously, it’s a major benefit in many cases, but if you suffer from eczema, some of those compounds can actually aggravate your skin and make things worse. In this case, you might want to look for a CBD topical made with CBD isolate.
You should also look closely at the other ingredients in your chosen topical. Perfumes, acids and other harsh chemicals are bound to irritate sensitive skin, but even seemingly innocent, natural ingredients, like some citrusy essential oils, can set your skin off too.
It’s best to look for a CBD topical with minimal ingredients, ideally those that are proven to moisturise, protect and nourish sensitive or damaged skin. These include:
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Aloe vera
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Tea tree oil
Is CBD safe?
CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated by most people. Most of the common side effects, like digestive discomfort, happen when you take CBD by mouth, e.g. via oils, edibles or capsules. If you’re using CBD topically, though, only a tiny amount of CBD actually makes it into your bloodstream, so the chances of such an effect are minimal.
Of course, there’s always a chance of skin irritation, especially if you’re prone to inflammation or allergies. When this happens, it’s usually because of another ingredient in the product rather than CBD, so be sure to check the ingredients carefully before you buy. If you do have a reaction, it’s best to stop using the product and, if necessary, contact your GP for advice.
If you’re using other topicals to treat your eczema -- prescribed or otherwise – you should check with your doctor that topical CBD is safe to use alongside these other products. If so, it’s still a good idea to use them at different times to avoid any interactions.
Where can I buy CBD topicals?
There are lots of places to buy CBD topicals online. However, the CBD market is notoriously underregulated, so unfortunately you can’t always trust what you see on the label. If you suffer from allergies alongside your eczema, this can be especially risky! That’s why it’s important to buy CBD topicals, oils, and other products from a reputable seller who:
- Provides third-party lab reports showing you exactly what’s in each product.
- Has lots of positive, independent, verified reviews (hi!).
At CBD Shopy, you can shop a wide range of topicals like CBD balm to help provide natural, targeted relief for your skin. Every single product is made with organic hemp and backed by a third-party lab report, so you can always be confident you’re buying the best. Shop the range now and give CBD a try for yourself!