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The Critical Way Sebum Affects Your Skin (Plus, How CBD Can Help)

March 26, 2019

Though everyone’s first instinct when trying to achieve glowing skin (or at least not wake up to redness, patchiness, and a face full of zits) is to reach for the latest miracle cream, the answer may be more natural and inherent — and understanding how CBD can affect your sebum levels could be a gamechanger for getting the complexion you want.

Sebum is an oily substance that’s naturally produced by glands in the skin. It plays such a huge role in the health and appearance of the dermis that it’s nearly impossible to choose the right lotions, serums, and oils to support skin without first acknowledging its role.

How Sebum Affects Your Skin

The sebaceous glands are located in the skin across the entire body, with the exception of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. There are two different kinds of sebaceous glands — the pilosebaceous units (which are connected to hair follicles) and independent glands.

When the right amount of sebum is produced, it performs vital functions, like protecting your skin from pollution, sun damage, and other forms of light damage. Sebum also prevents dry skin by keeping the surface of the skin hydrated (cannabis body butters are especially useful for this), while keeping the skin and hair strong and healthy (which explains the rise of CBD hair products). And it reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by maintaining the skin’s suppleness (one of the many benefits of CBD anti-aging creams).

In short — your face and scalp need sebum to be at their best.

However, when the amount of sebum secreted is excessive it can become harmful to the skin. Excess oil begins to clog pores with dead skin cells, dirt, and grime. When this happens, unwanted “visitors” such as propionibacterium acnes are produced in the pores, and begin to breed and spread across the face. This is how acne develops and once it does, it isn’t easy to get rid of.

People with oily skin often have an overproduction of sebum, which is why they need to understand how sebum works and which products are most likely to bring their sebum production back to healthy levels.

How CBD Can Regulate Sebum?

You’ve almost definitely heard of CBD by now. This cannabis extract has been all over the media in recent months, thanks to the many discoveries that scientists have made in relation to it (for example, a single dose of CBD could reduce symptoms of psychosis).

Since it’s derived from the marijuana and hemp plants, studying CBD has been a challenge for many years. Lately, however, things are beginning to change: the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended removing it from the international list of banned substances, and federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have advocated for more research into cannabis and its derivatives like CBD.

So far, the early returns have been encouraging. In fact, that some suggest CBD is revolutionizing the skin care industry. It’s becoming a common ingredient in Korean beauty products, and even men are getting into CBD skin care.

But what’s behind CBD’s newfound dominance of the beauty world? As it turns out, the key lies in its ability to interact with one of your body’s least-understood — but most important — elements: the endocannabinoid system.

The Endocannabinoid System

In the 1990s, a scientist named Raphael Mechoulam discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS),  a vast network of neurotransmitters and receptors located throughout the body. Through his investigations he realized that the ECS was like an internal regulation machine, activated by chemicals called endocannabinoids. When the machine worked at its best, it was able to self-correct imbalances in the body (such as reducing sebum production) and restore its natural state of balance, known as homeostasis.

CBD and the ECS

He also discovered that endocannabinoids (the chemicals that activate the ECS) were remarkably similar to cannabinoids — the chemicals found in cannabis plants, including CBD — and that these chemicals have a similar effect. Suddenly the reason why our bodies respond so much to cannabis became clear: we have an internal system designed to process the chemicals it contains.

This is the reason why more and more skin care brands are now adding CBD to their formulas. Not only does CBD support the ECS to regulate sebum production, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties and anti-aging abilities. This cocktail of qualities makes CBD a powerful weapon in the battle against both dry skin and hair and oily skin and hair.

You don’t need to be a dermatologist to wrap your head around basic facial care. But trying to clear up acne or tackle dryness does require a basic understanding of how sebum affects your skin. Knowledge is power, after all.

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