Is Hemp Oil The Ultimate Sun Remedy?

We can lather on all the SPF in the world, but many of us will experience the dreaded sunburn at least once in our lives.

Marked by pain, redness, peeling, itching, and general misery, sunburns are definitely on the list of summer’s low points (along with humidity and mosquitoes, of course). 

Crowded beach scene

If you’re sunburnt, you’re almost definitely open to the idea of an all-natural remedy that will reduce symptoms and help you heal—STAT. So, what about CBD? Cannabidiol is quickly gaining traction as the ultimate remedy for a number of skin health woes—psoriasis, acne, and premature aging all included—so it’s only natural to wonder if CBD can help prevent and treat sunburns. Here’s what you need to know about CBD and sunburns. 

CBD and your skin health 

Diving into the connection between CBD and sunburns turns up more than you might think. For starters, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the system of receptors and enzymes cannabinoids interact with in our body, is also present in the skin and plays a huge role in its health. In fact, a study published in Trends in Pharmacological Science concluded that “It seems that the main physiological function of the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells.” 

The skin is also ripe with cannabinoid receptors, which are thought to play an important role in the inflammatory response in the skin; it’s also thought that a disruption in the delicate balance of the skin’s endocannabinoid system could contribute to acne, seborrhea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis, and even cancer.

CBD and sunburns 

As we just learned, there’s no doubt a strong connection between CBD and skin health, but does CBD really work on sunburns? According to Kiera Barr. M.D., integrative dermatologist and author of the book Skin Whisperer, “It makes sense that using full-spectrum hemp oil and CBD can help alleviate symptoms associated with sunburn because of its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects as well as its ability to reduce itching.” In other words: CBD might do more than just help reduce the side effects of too much sun, it might be exactly what your skin is begging for. 

CBD’s benefits might not end with burns from the sun, either. Pro-surfer Caio Ibelli told Svn Space that he tried putting CBD on an extremely painful burn he received from dropping boiling water on his foot. “As soon as I put the CBD on, it completely stopped hurting and I forgot that I had the burning,” he said. He also noticed a significant improvement in scarring between the areas on his foot where he used CBD and those that he left to heal on their own. 

CBD and long-term skin health 

Of course, you’ll want to wear protective clothing, sunscreen, and limit your exposure to avoid sunburn in the first place, but if you’ve had a few too many days in the sun, could using CBD on the skin help mitigate the damage? According to Dr. Barr, yes. “CBD also contains essential nutrients needed to support skin health including vitamins A and D, which help repair skin and support skin cell growth after UV damage,” she said. And it’s not just the CBD that’s taking an active role in protecting the skin. As Dr. Barr explained: “Vitamins C and E are additional potent antioxidants present in hemp oil and are both effective at combating free radicals generated from UV exposure. They not only protect the skin’s collagen from sun damage but help repair damage done by UV rays.”

When you hear the words “cellular damage” your next thought might be whether or not CBD has any benefits for preventing skin cancer. “While cannabinoids exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, studies suggest that they also have pro-inflammatory and anti-tumor capacity as well and may play a role in UV induced skin cancer,” said Dr. Barr, who also noted that much more research needs to be done in this area before anything becomes official. 

So, while there isn’t any research directly studying the effects of CBD on sunburn, from what we currently know, lathering your favorite CBD balm on those sunburnt shoulders/feet/legs/arms/ears is definitely worth a try.

Written by Gretchen Lidicker

Senior Health Editor & CBD Expert or Contributing Health Editor and CBD Expert. Gretchen is a writer, researcher, and author of the book CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide To Hemp-Derived Health & Wellness. She has a masters degree in physiology and complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University and is the former health editor at mindbodygreen. She’s been featured in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Forbes, SELF, The Times, Huffington Post, and Travel + Leisure.

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