Cannabinoids & Skin Homeostasis
Our skin is in a constant state of renewal, sloughing off old layers, and regenerating new ones. These new layers are generated from stem cells in the basal layer of the epidermis, and as time progresses, these cells gradually change into different types of cells on their pathway to the surface of the skin, or the “epidermis.” These shape-shifting basal cells turn into spinous cells, then granule cells, and finally become corneocytes, which are the cells you see at the uppermost layer of your skin. The accumulation of these surface cells are called the stratum corneum, and are your body’s first defense against the rest of the world.1
This process, like all biological systems of the body, is an ongoing dance. Our systems are constantly being pushed away from their balance points. For example, when you drink a glass of orange juice, your blood glucose goes up. When this happens, a healthy body will generate an appropriate amount of insulin to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Like shooting arrows in target practice, our bodily systems are constantly responding to feedback and generating physical and chemical adjustments to maintain balance. This continual process of adjusting and returning to balance is known as maintaining homeostasis.
Interestingly, recent research about the use of certain cannabinoids has shown that they, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), can help our bodies maintain homeostasis in a number of ways, including balancing the mind, calming the gut, and supporting skin health.2–4 The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the widespread system within our bodies that acts as the control tower for all other systems (such as the digestive, endocrine, and nervous systems). When a system is out of balance, activation of the ECS helps bring the body back into equilibrium5. Research over the past two decades has confirmed that the ECS is widespread throughout our skin, and dysregulation of this important signaling pathway has been implicated in many dermatological diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, scleroderma, acne, and itch.6
This has led researchers to further understand how the application of cannabinoids might help to support healthy skin function. One such study evaluated 20 subjects with either psoriasis, atopic dermatitis or scarring using a CBD topical twice daily, and found that it significantly improved skin parameters, including hydration, elasticity and trans-epidermal water loss.7 The underlying mechanisms by which CBD might help maintain proper skin health is still unknown.
1) Frontiers in Microbiology, July 2018, pages 1–14
2) Molecules September 2018, pages 1-25
3) Dermatitis, January/February 2017, pages 22–32
4) Neuropsychopharmacology, February 2011, pages 1219–26
5) Neuroendocrinology Letters, February 2004, pages 31–39
6) Molecules, March 2019, pages 1-56
7) Clinica Terapeutica, 2019 pages 93–99