Research suggests that CBD may reduce inflammation, sebum, and other factors involved in causing regular and cystic acne. Here’s what you need to know. A woman on Reddit shared a before-and-after photo of her cystic acne, along with the exact products—like hemp oil, rose hip oil, and moisturizers—she used to clear and calm her skin. Cystic Acne: Acne in adults is most commonly a result of hormonal imbalance, stress, an unhealthy diet and inappropriate skin care.
Can CBD Help With Cystic Acne?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has surged in popularity in recent years. Millions of people are using CBD oil and other CBD products to help with a wide range of other health issues, including skin disorders such as eczema and acne.
Early research suggests that CBD may help with acne by reducing inflammation and sebum production, and possibly other effects.
As such, CBD may be able to help with cystic acne as well — the most severe form of this common condition. Here’s how CBD can help with cystic acne and the best way to use it.
Table of Contents
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a natural cannabinoid compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its close cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-intoxicating so it won’t get you high.
CBD has a long list of potential health benefits backed by a growing volume of scientific research.
What is Cystic Acne?
Cystic acne is the most severe form of acne vulgaris — the condition that causes pus-filled pimples to form on the skin. It usually affects people with oily skin, teens, and adults (mostly women) with hormonal imbalances.
The key things that separate cystic acne from regular acne are its larger size, the fact that it forms deeper in the skin, and is usually painful or tender to the touch.
Health experts aren’t exactly sure what causes cystic acne, but factors like elevated androgen (male sex hormone) levels, oily skin, and stress seem to play a role.
Cystic acne usually develops on the face, but like regular acne, can also affect the chest, back, and other parts of the body.
How Can CBD Help With Cystic Acne?
Early research indicates that CBD can help fight some of the root causes of acne, namely:
This was demonstrated by a 2014 study where researchers applied CBD to human sebocytes, the skin cells that produce sebum.
The treatment reduced inflammation, resulting in lowered production of sebum and new sebocyte cells (2). The researchers concluded that “CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.”
Studies have also shown that CBD has antimicrobial properties (3). That means it can help fight the overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes and other skin bacteria that may play a role in causing acne (1).
CBD and Acne: The Research Evidence
So far, only a few human studies have been done to see whether CBD can help with acne.
One 2019 Italian study tested the effects of a CBD-infused gel on people with various skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, and resulting scars. The study participants used the gel for 90 days.
The gel improved several markers of skin health, such as elasticity and hydration. It also reduced the appearance of acne scars (4 ). The researchers theorized that CBD helped by:
- Reducing elevated lipogenesis (the production of lipids that form sebum) caused by “pro-acne” agents
- Reducing sebocyte cell proliferation
- Preventing “pro-acne” agents from stimulating pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines
How to Use CBD for Cystic Acne
Here are some key tips to get the best results from using CBD for cystic acne.
Choose Topicals over Other CBD Products
You should use a topical CBD product for acne instead of CBD oil, capsules, or something else.
Although CBD oil is the most popular and commonly used form, you can also apply CBD to your skin in the form of a topical product. This includes creams, lotions, salves, and balms, which are the ideal option for cystic acne and other skin conditions.
Aside from CBD, these products can contain topical ingredients you might’ve already heard of, like beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, tea tree oil, and many other plant-based oils, green tea, aloe vera, and much more. Many of these natural compounds may also have anti-acne properties (5).
Look for Full-Spectrum CBD Whenever Possible
Full-spectrum CBD is a type of extract that contains all of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the hemp plant. It can also contain other beneficial hemp compounds, such as flavonoids, fatty acids, and minerals.
Full-spectrum is the most effective form of CBD thanks to what scientists call the “entourage effect” — the synergistic relationship between all of the active compounds in cannabis (6 ).
This means you’ll benefit not only from CBD’s synergy with these other compounds but also from their individual effects.
For example, one 2016 research study demonstrated that the minor cannabinoids CBC, CBDV, and THCV — which are present in full-spectrum CBD extracts — reduced the production of sebum in sebocyte cells, suggesting that they “show promise to become highly efficient, novel anti-acne agents” (7).
How much CBD you should take is one of the most common questions we encounter. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to suggest or prescribe a single CBD dosage for cystic acne or any other condition that will work for everyone.
The optimal CBD dosage depends on many factors, such as the severity of your symptoms and the type of product you’re using.
The best advice we can give you is to look for a topical product that contains at least 4 mg of CBD per ml. This will ensure that you’re getting enough CBD to produce the desired effect.
Choose High-Quality, Third-Party Tested CBD Brands
The CBD industry is notorious for its lack of regulation. That’s why it’s important to do some research before settling on a brand you can trust.
We highly recommend only buying from CBD companies that use third-party testing. Performed by an independent lab, third-party tests verify that a CBD product contains as much CBD as it should.
These tests can also check for the presence of pesticides and other potentially harmful substances. You should be able to easily view the results of these tests on the company’s website before making a purchase. The lack of third-party testing is a huge red flag.
Aside from that, it also helps to choose transparent companies that clearly state how their CBD is sourced. You want to look for brands that use organic American hemp cultivated in states such as Colorado, Kentucky, and Oregon. Hemp grown in Europe is also of high quality.
Can You Apply CBD Oil to Cystic Acne?
Yes, you can apply regular CBD oil directly to cystic acne on your skin, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some improvements. And if you’ve already purchased a CBD oil tincture for other benefits, that’s a great way to check whether CBD will help your cystic acne or not.
Having said that, CBD oil is designed to be put under the tongue — what’s called sublingual absorption.
That’s why we recommend using dedicated, CBD-infused topical products instead. As an added benefit, you’ll also be getting many other beneficial topical compounds that might help with cystic acne, such as tea tree oil.
CBD and Cystic Acne: Worth a Try
Although CBD seems to be remarkably effective for many people, especially for common issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and pain, it’s not a magical pill. The point being, not everyone with cystic or regular acne will see positive results from CBD for one reason or another.
Having said that, it’s certainly worth a try, especially if you’ve tried other products and either found them ineffective or undesirable due to significant side effects (hello Accutane).
We’ve put together a list of the best CBD topicals for acne if you’re interested in trying out effective and reliable products.
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.
The Exact Skincare Products That Helped Clear This Woman’s Cystic Acne in Just 3 Months
We wish we had known about this routine back in our hormonal, pimply teenage years.
Susan Brickell is a senior e-commerce editor at Meredith, covering products in the form of reviews, roundups, and gift guides. She’s been a market editor and writer for nearly a decade with her finger on the pulse of the latest activewear, outdoor gear, skincare, home decor, and more. When she’s not putting a pair of leggings or new eye cream to the test, you can find her hiking U.S. national parks, planning her next surf trip, or curled up with her dog, Ollie.
We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process . If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Many of us have dealt with acne at some point in our lives, whether it was hormonal pimples in high school, birth control breakouts, or acne that took us by surprise in adulthood (wait, now I have to pay off my student loans and combat zits that just won’t go away?!). WT-actual-F, universe? And why does it seem like adult acne is ten times harder to get rid of than uneven adolescent skin? At this age, a bottle of Proactiv just won’t cut it.
Reddit user DdoesKeto knew this struggle all too well—until she was able to get rid of her adult acne through the use of a few simple products. The Redditor posted a viral before-and-after photo of her acne treatment, and the difference in her skin is night and day. Her incredible results have us dying to know exactly what products she used to clear up her breakouts—and surprisingly, it’s all thanks to a very pared down routine, without the help of prescription medications or acne-targeting products. Seriously!
She begins her Reddit post in the thread r/SkincareAddiction with a side-by-side image of her skin: two photos that were taken only three months apart. She was so thrilled with her progress that she decided to share her journey and skincare routine with the rest of us. The best news? DdoesKeto may have discovered a natural product that works to banish acne for good.
DdoesKeto says that once she hit puberty, she began to experience problematic skin (like so many of us do). Her skin had always been tight, dry, and sensitive, but when pimples began to crop up, she started reaching for products tailored toward oily skin and acne.
At the start of December 2017, her skin was the worst it had ever been—covered with painful cystic pimples, pustules, and what felt like a million closed comedones—and she couldn’t pinpoint why. She tried using AHAs and BHAs (acids like glycolic acid and salicylic acid), signed up for Curology, and at one point even treated her breakouts as if they were fungal. Everything seemed to make her face worse.
One day, DdoesKeto walked into Sephora, where an employee in the skincare section suggested it wasn’t that her skin was oily and causing acne, but rather that her face was reacting to being extremely dry and irritated. The woman suggested she switch to an oil-based cleanser, cut out all additives, and make moisturizing a priority.
After practicing a ‘less is more’ approach to skincare for three months, DdoesKeto’s results are jaw-dropping. Ready for the super affordable hero products this Reddit user swears by to transform irritated skin into a brighter, smoother complexion?
Her morning routine consists of simply splashing her face with water, followed by hydrating with Stratia Liquid Gold, a skin repair moisturizer that includes ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. “It’s definitely not moisturizing enough on its own, but layered with other stuff it adds just the extra oomph for me,” DdoesKeto says. Afterward, she applies a mixture—just a few drops of each—of Jason Vitamin E Oil ($8; amazon.com) and Now Foods Rose Hip Seed Oil ($13 for 2-pack; amazon.com) and then moisturizes with CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($15; amazon.com). She finishes with EltaMD UV Shield Broad-Spectrum SPF 45 ($48; dermstore.com), an oil-free sunscreen that contains vitamin E to prevent damage from free-radicals and zinc oxide to protect from UV rays.
Other affordable rose hip oils to try for similar results: The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil ($10; sephora.com), an organic oil with a cult following, and Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil ($23; amazon.com), which is so effective that a bottle sells every 20 seconds on Amazon.
At night, she oil cleanses using natural Manitoba Harvest Organic Hemp Oil ($11; amazon.com). When she first started using hemp oil, she would massage it for a few minutes and get “grits.” Now she massages it around her face once, uses a warm baby washcloth (we suggest trying this hypoallergenic option by Bamboo Organics, $13; amazon.com) to wipe away all of the dirt and oil, and repeats until she feels her skin is clean. Afterward, she rinses her face with warm water, and follows up with Stratia Liquid Gold, her vitamin E and rose hip seed oil mixture, and CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. On extra dry days, as a final step, she’ll smooth on a thin layer of Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($13; amazon.com) to ensure that she wakes up with hydrated, glowy skin.
Someone who has really irritated and inflamed, flaky skin—like DdoesKeto describes—is probably dealing with underlying rosacea, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. To treat conditions that cause severe dryness, like rosacea and eczema, you want to repair the skin barrier and improve hydration with emollients and humectants, which will also help calm skin, she adds.
The fatty acids in the Stratia Liquid Gold keep the skin hydrated and plump, while the ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide in the CeraVe moisturizer protect the skin’s barrier, lock in moisture, and even out skin color, New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD tells Health. Vitamin E and rose hip seed oil can help to neutralize free radicals, slow down the aging process, minimize fine lines, and give the skin a radiant glow, she adds. DdoesKeto’s sunscreen choice is one of Dr. Jaliman’s favorites, and is a great option for anyone with oily or acne-prone skin.
As for the Redditor’s evening routine, not only is hemp oil anti-inflammatory, but it’s also deeply moisturizing , can regulate the skin’s level of oil production, and is non-comedogenic (read: won’t clog your pores.) Rich in GLA-Gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid), it can even help you achieve younger-looking skin by improving inner health, Dr. Jaliman notes. Even better news? It’s safe for all skin types.
One potential problem with oil cleansing is that if you do not follow up with a traditional cleanser, you could leave oil residue on your skin, and this film won’t allow skin-healthy ingredients to penetrate afterwards, Dr. Nazarian warns. You may want to consider using a gentle, hydrating cleanser—like this dermatologist-approved option from CeraVe ($14; amazon.com)—as a second cleanser.
While oil cleansing took some getting used to at first, DdoesKeto says that after sticking to her routine for three months, she’s now a convert for life. “My skin is no longer flaky, dry, and tight,” she shares. “I still am dealing with some bumps here and there as well as blackheads, but for the most part all of the gunk I had trapped beneath the surface has gone away.”
Cystic Acne – How does CBD help?
Our body is exposed to countless external factors every day, and not all of them are kind to it or beneficial. When our organism becomes imbalanced, the feedback it sends about the issue can quickly display on our skin. It is commonly said that our outer appearance is the reflection of our inner health.
Acne in adults is most commonly a result of hormonal imbalance, stress, an unhealthy diet and inappropriate skin care.
In adulthood, acne most commonly appears on the chin, the jawline and around our neck. It is caused by the increased secretion of sebum and the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. While sebum plays an important role in protecting the skin, it can also cause unwanted acne when too much of it is produced.
Acne can be categorised as:
- Non-inflammatory (blackheads)
- Inflammatory (reddened, inflamed skin changes that are embedded deeper into our skin)
How can we maintain clean, healthy and balanced skin?
Step 1. Balance the skin from the inside out
To keep our bodies balanced, we need to keep a healthy diet, maintain regular physical exercise, avoid stress and generally lead a healthy lifestyle. If the balance in our bodies is disturbed, one of the symptoms displayed will also be adult acne, a good indicator it is time to get your body back into a healthy and balanced state as soon as possible. The process of re-balancing your organism can be accelerated with the help of a special hemp-based active substance known as CBD.
CBD drops or CBD sprays are easy to use and provide skin with excellent support when dealing with adult acne.
Step 2. Proper skin-cleansing routine
It is a fact that cleansing the skin is one of the most important steps of skin care, as only properly cleansed skin can absorb all the beneficial substances of other skin care products. It is important to choose a product that suits the pH level of our skin and does not dry out or irritate the skin in the cleansing process. We must be careful that the cleaning agent does not contain artificial foaming agents, and instead contains natural active ingredients that have cleansing properties.
Non-comedogenic hemp oil with omega -3, -6 and -9 fatty acids unclogs pores and cleanses them deeply. The refreshing cedar that improves the appearance of the pores while acting as an antiseptic, and the chlorella algae that have long been renowned for their exceptional purifying and antioxidant properties, further increase the beneficial effects.
# Tip Treat your skin to a gentle facial exfoliation at least once a week. You can easily do this by adding a touch of fine groats to your cleansing agent and gently massaging your face with circulatory movements to remove dead skin cells. It is important to pamper yourself this way in the evening, as the skin may be a little more radiant after a peel.
Step 3. Moisturizing, soothing and protecting the skin
All skin types need special care that is tailored to its needs. We must make sure that our products are non-comedogenic (they do not clog the pores) and that they provide the skin with the necessary moisture, nutrition and protection. Skin imbalance can also be corrected by using products rich in CBD cannabinoids that target acne and soothe red, inflamed and irritated skin. It is also a good idea to choose products that support the self-purifying function of the skin, are rich in plant acids and can help improve the overall look of the skin pores.
Acne can, therefore, be a completely manageable affliction, which does require a lot of attention, but the results are definitely worth the effort. Radiant and healthy-looking skin is a reflection of a satisfied and happy face that can start the day with confidence – which is the final step that tips the scales to a skin that is luminous with health and not superfluous sebum 🙂