Get the Facts: CBD
From creams to body oils to facial serums and more, there’s a good chance you can find a CBD-containing topical at a grocery store, pharmacy or specialty shop near you. Many of these products promise to clear, heal and otherwise soothe symptoms of eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabinoid, a chemically active molecule found in plants in the cannabis sativa family, which includes both marijuana and hemp. Unlike the best-known cannabinoid, THC (delta -tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD isn’t “psychoactive.” In other words, it won’t get you high. Like THC, however, CBD has some potentially potent health effects.
“I think topical CBD is a very promising treatment for eczema; in theory, it could decrease itch, pain and inflammation. In the correct vehicle, it could also help heal the skin barrier,” said Peter Lio, MD, who is clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the founding director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center.
How can CBD help the skin?
Since the 1990s, scientists have known that humans (and many other animals) have a complex system of cannabinoid receptors running throughout the body, including in the skin. This endocannabinoid system helps regulate and normalize many physiological processes, including pain, mood, stress, sleep and immune system function.
The body makes its own cannabinoids that activate the system, and CBD and other plant-based cannabinoids also stimulate its healing effects. “Specifically, CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and anti-pain properties that make it extremely attractive as a medicinal compound, particularly in dermatology,” said Lio.
Is there any scientific evidence that CBD topicals improve eczema symptoms?
There are very few studies of topical CBD in people with eczema. A small study published in 2019 in Clinical Therapeutics that included a few people with atopic dermatitis found that a CBD ointment helped clear skin and reduced itch and the sleep loss it caused.
Research also suggests CBD is anti-microbial, with some data showing it works about as well as antibiotics to kill Staphylococcus aureus. Staph can infect the skin of people with atopic dermatitis, triggering flares and other complications.
“Evidence in humans is still pretty limited, which means it’s hard to know how well CBD works for eczema, or the key components necessary for success,” Lio said. Clearer answers about CBD and eczema may be available soon. The results from a trial of a CBD gel in about 200 people with moderate atopic dermatitis are due this year.
So, are CBD topicals safe—and worth a try—for people with eczema?
Research to date shows topical CBD is safe.
“I think that for adults who want to try a CBD topical, there’s little to lose,” said Lio, who noted he has many patients who said they benefit from the products. Like anything else applied to skin, CBD products can cause reactions, so test a small area over a few days before applying widely.
What else do I need to know before buying a CBD cream or oil?
Some CBD products are labeled “isolate,” which means CBD is the only cannabinoid they contain. Broad- and full-spectrum CBD products are made with multiple cannabinoids, sometimes including THC.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration doesn’t verify how well specific CBD products work, whether they’re safe or if they contain the labeled compounds. Lio suggests asking your dermatologist to vet specific products.
Reputable manufacturers may also offer a certificate of analysis (COA). Often found on company websites, COAs are compiled by an independent, accredited laboratory and detail the quantities of a product’s various cannabinoids.
Are CBD products legal?
Usually, but state laws vary. CBD is legal on the federal level and in most states. THC is legal in some states but still illegal under federal law. Check the laws in the state you’re living or traveling in if you’re unsure.
Does CBD for Eczema Really Work?
Lindsay Curtis is a health writer with over 20 years of experience in writing health, science & wellness-focused articles.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Emily Dashiell, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has worked in group and private practice settings over the last 15 years. She is in private practice in Santa Monica, California.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant that can be prepared as oils, creams, and other products for use as a therapeutic remedy for many common ailments and health conditions. Some people use CBD oil for eczema.
Eczema (dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes patches of irritated, itchy, dry, inflamed skin. There are many types of eczema. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system are believed to be potential causes and triggers.
There is no cure for eczema, but there are ways to manage symptoms, including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments. For people who prefer using natural remedies, CBD oil may help soothe and reduce their eczema symptoms.
Photoboyko / Getty Images
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabis plants contain unique chemicals called cannabinoids. The two major cannabinoids are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Has psychoactive properties that can make a person feel “high”
- Cannabidiol (CBD): Has no psychoactive effects but may provide therapeutic benefits
Both CBD and THC interact with a communication system in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex biological system that plays a role in appetite, mood, memory, and sleep.
Research has suggested that the ECS contributes to the function and reproduction of skin cells. A dysregulated ECS is associated with dermatological disorders, including eczema and atopic dermatitis.
When applied topically to the skin, CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the top layer of the skin (epidermis) and may offer therapeutic benefits including moisturizing the skin, reducing itchiness and inflammation, and promoting wound healing.
CBD oil comes in many forms, including creams, salves, balms, lotions, and oils.
Hemp Seed Oil vs. CBD
In your search for plant-based remedies for treating eczema, you may have come across different options that derive from cannabis and hemp plants, including hemp seed oil, hemp oil, and CBD oil.
Understanding the differences can help you know what to look for when you’re shopping for whole hemp plant products for eczema.
: Created by pressing the seeds of hemp plants (Cannabis sativa L.). This oil is rich in fatty acids and other nutrients, and research shows it can be helpful in treating skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis. Hemp seed oil does not contain cannabinoids—the chemical compounds in the hemp plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. : Made using the flower of the hemp plant, rather than the seed. Hemp oil contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids. CBD is just one of the cannabinoids in hemp oil. : Extracted from the entire hemp plant, including the stalks, flowers, and leaves. CBD oil does not come from the seeds of the cannabis plant (the seeds do not contain cannabinoids).
CBD for Eczema Symptoms
There are many types of eczema, and they can show up in different parts of the body. Eczema of all types can cause itchy, dry, flaky patches of skin. In some cases, it may cause painful sores and blisters, which can leave the skin more susceptible to infection.
Types of eczema that may benefit from topical CBD include:
- Atopic dermatitis (AD): This is the most common type of eczema. It is associated with dryness and itching. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be triggered by an overactive immune system. People with asthma and/or hay fever are more likely to develop AD. : This type of eczema is caused by an allergic reaction from contact with irritants such as fragrances, dyes, metal, some medications, and poison ivy/oak. Symptoms include intense itching, and burning or blistering of the skin. : This type of eczema is triggered by stress, seasonal allergies, and change in humidity. It causes itchy, irritating blisters on the bottom of the feet and palms of the hands. : This type of eczema is associated with pink or brown circular (sometimes oozing) spots on the skin. It is often triggered by dry, sensitive skin, insect bites, injuries to the skin, or chemical burns. : This type of eczema is commonly caused by cold, dry weather, genetics, and stress. It produces scaly, dry patches of skin on the scalp or body which tend to form where the skin is most oily, including around the eyebrows, mid-chest, upper back, and groin area.
What Research Shows
There are limited studies on the effectiveness of topical CBD for people with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. However, some of the research suggests that CBD oil may have therapeutic potential for treating eczema, healing skin wounds, and soothing skin symptoms.
A study published in 2019 found that CBD ointment helped reduce itchiness, soothed redness and inflammation, and enhanced sleep in people with eczema.
A 2014 study found that hemp seed oil was useful for treating eczema and other skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis. The study also showed that hemp seed oil strengthens skin and makes it more resistant to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
What Causes Eczema Flares?
Though eczema affects everyone differently, a number of common triggers can cause a flare-up of symptoms.
Common causes of eczema flares include:
- Dry skin: Brittle, rough, and tight skin can worsen eczema symptoms.
- Chemical irritants: Fragrances, chemicals found in shampoos and lotions, cigarette smoke, and environmental toxins can worsen or trigger eczema symptoms.
- Stress: Emotional stress can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. Anecdotally, many people use CBD to help manage stress. Early research has shown that it might be effective at relieving stress, anxiety, and sleeping problems.
Is CBD for Eczema Safe?
CBD is generally considered to be safe for use in treating eczema and other skin conditions. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD oil might help reduce irritation, pain, swelling, and redness from skin conditions like eczema.
As with any topical treatment, it’s best to test CBD oil on a small patch of unaffected skin before applying it to larger areas where you have eczema.
To do a patch test, apply CBD oil to a small area and watch for 24 hours to check for any side effects (e.g., itching, redness, swelling).
Talk to your primary care physician or dermatologist before you try CBD, as they will want to discuss the potential side effects of using CBD products, as well as make sure that it will not interact with any other medications, supplements, or treatments that you are using.
Best CBD for Eczema Flare-Ups
Topical CBD comes in many forms, including creams, lotions, serums, balms, and salves.
One of the best defenses against eczema is keeping your skin well hydrated. Thicker topicals that contain ingredients for both skin protection and moisturization can be especially helpful.
CBD products also come in different preparations. The availability of these products (especially those that contain THC) will vary from state to state.
- Isolate: CBD is the only cannabinoid contained in the product. : Contains multiple naturally occurring cannabis plant extracts, including terpenes and other cannabinoids, including up to 0.3% THC.
- Broad: Contains CBD and other components/cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but does not contain any THC.
How to Buy CBD
With many CBD and hemp oil options for eczema, it can be challenging to know what products to choose. Here are some key points to consider when you’re picking a product:
- Hemp source: CBD is derived from hemp plants. The quality and cultivation of the plants are important considerations. Look for products that come from organic hemp plants when possible.
- Certificate of Analysis (CoA): Responsible, reputable manufacturers should offer a CoA that details the quantities of a product’s cannabinoids. CoAs are conducted by an independent, accredited lab.
- Read the label: Read the full list of ingredients for CBD topicals. Make sure that any product you are considering does not contain fragrances or other potential irritants that could worsen eczema.
- Type of CBD: To get the best results, look for full-spectrum or broad CBD products, which may offer an “entourage effect” (combining multiple cannabis compounds that work in synergy to offer the most benefits).
A Word From Verywell
While there are many OTC and prescription treatments for eczema, if you are looking for a natural way to manage your symptoms, CBD products might be an option.
Research on how effective CBD is for treating skin conditions like eczema is limited, but has shown that products that contain CBD might help reduce the dry skin, itchiness, and inflammation that is associated with eczema.
It’s important that you talk to your doctor before you try a CBD product, as it can have side effects and might interact with other treatments that you use for eczema.
Before you use CBD on your skin, do a spot test on a place that does not have eczema on it to make sure that you do not have a sensitivity or reaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does CBD help with itchy skin from eczema?
CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce irritating eczema symptoms such as itching, pain, and dry skin.
How does the ECS work?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps regulate many physiological processes, including sleep, immune function, and pain.
Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system also plays a role in skin health. A dysregulated ECS is associated with dermatological disorders such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.
When applied topically, CBD’s anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and pain-reducing properties interact with the ECS, which might make it an effective treatment for many skin conditions.
Is CBD good for skin conditions?
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD is commonly used to treat skin conditions and soothe symptoms—especially the dryness, itching, and pain often associated with eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Is CBD for eczema safe?
CBD is generally considered to be a safe alternative treatment for eczema. However, as with any skincare product, you’ll want to do a patch test first to make sure that you do not have a sensitivity or allergy.
Apply CBD to a small patch of unaffected skin and wait for 24 hours, watching for symptoms of irritation such as itching, redness, and pain. If no symptoms develop, you can safely apply the product liberally to any eczema patches.