The first visual indication to us and others that we are aging is the deterioration of the body’s largest organ: the skin. The skin has an unenviable job of having to protect us from exposure to harmful pathogens and environmental stressors. As the years go on, the skin forfeits some of its healing properties, loses its elasticity and starts to dry out. While there’s no cure to aging, there are products which can help our skin stay in good condition for longer.
But putting all of the conventional anti-aging treatments to shame right now is marijuana. That’s right, the herb best-known for getting people high can have a wondrous effect on the skin, even more so when it administered as a topical (e.g. skin creams, massage gels, balms).
The effects of aging on the skin
The skin needs collagen to maintain its firmness, and since collagen production decreases by 1 percent annually from the age of 20, it’s simply unavoidable that the condition of the skin will steadily worsen.
A lack of collagen makes the skin thinner and more fragile, while skin elasticity declines due to a reduction in elastin. Oil-producing glands become less effective with age, causing the skin to gradually dry out. All these factors contribute to natural intrinsic aging.
Extrinsic aging occurs due to external, environmental factors. These include exposure to smoke, pollution and to UV rays from the sun which damage the skin. Extrinsic aging factors speed up the decline in collagen and elastin production. Too much exposure to the sun without protection leads to dark sun spots – these can lead to wrinkling and deep lines, and also give the skin an aesthetically uneven look.
Interestingly, extrinsic aging accounts for 90 percent of all aging, with intrinsic aging responsible for a mere 10 percent. This means that most of the aging that happens to our skin is at least somewhat manageable. However, failure to protect the skin from such environmental stressors can increase the total harm caused. For instance, sun-caused skin damage can manifest into skin cancer.
As a protection mechanism, the skin can thicken to warn off environmental factors, however this tends to make the skin appear tough and leathery.
How cannabis is beneficial for the skin
Cannabis has so many beneficial properties, and scientists still haven’t even researched most of the compounds in the plant. Made up of more than 400 chemical compounds, over 100 of which are only found in cannabis (cannabinoids), this unique herb provides everything from pain relief to psychoactive experiences.
But of increasing interest to the beauty industry and the general public, especially those in the second-half of life, is the apparent skin-protecting and anti-aging properties of certain compounds in cannabis. Let’s discover the importance of marijuana’s antioxidant effects.
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Antioxidant properties of marijuana slows the aging process
Cannabis is not a substitute to sunscreen and will not protect the skin from UV rays, however its powerful antioxidant properties do an excellent job of extrinsic aging due to environmental factors.
Antioxidants stop the damage caused by free radicals – harmful, resource-leeching molecules which are present in pollutants, smoke and other nasties. These free radicals are neutralized by some antioxidant cannabinoids, thereby preserving the atomic resource in your skin’s cells and DNA. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are also classed as free radicals.
In today’s world, and in developing countries in particular, avoiding free radicals is extremely difficult – pollution, for one, is crippling burgeoning cities, sullying the skyline with a thick layer of smog. However, if we can find ways to limit our exposure to free radicals by dealing with the factors we have control over – such as smoking – we can give our skin a break and slow the aging process.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are potent antioxidants, which is perfect since these are the cannabinoids which appear in the highest concentrations. The antioxidant properties of CBD products and THC do not, on their own, confirm that these compounds are skin-protectors, however the anecdotal evidence fills in the gaps for where science hasn’t caught up. Furthermore, from the research that has been conducted, we can glean that cannabidiol’s antioxidant effects are more potent than those of vitamins C and E.
Antioxidants have extra responsibility in reducing the damage caused by free radicals, since the body’s immune system does not actively work to combat these molecules. Despite not being living organisms, free radicals can still do irrevocable harm to our cells. Therefore, it’s essential that we supplement our system with compounds that can neutralize them, as the body won’t do it alone.
In addition to reducing and preventing skin damage from free radicals, antioxidants also work to heal the skin. Therefore, if you are treating a skin condition, antioxidant medicine helps to clear up your complaint and stop it from coming back.
Using cannabis to treat and prevent dry skin
With age, the skin loses some of its ability to secrete oil, causing it to become dry and flaky. The skin is supposed to be kept waterproof and lubricated by sebaceous glands secreting body oil. However, oil secretion reduces over time due to the decline of sebaceous glands.
The revelation that endocannabinoids have an impact on oil production in the skin led scientists to further investigate the effects of cannabinoids on the skin. Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are alike in chemical structure and both operate in the endocannabinoid system – the only difference is that endocannabinoids are made by the body, whereas cannabinoids (aka phytocannabinoids) come from cannabis.
Endocannabinoids can help to modulate the amount of oil excreted by sebaceous glands, according to a 2008 study. The researchers used this finding to suggest that cannabinoid receptors could have an integral role in treating skin complaints which are caused by problems in the skin’s sebaceous glands.
Unfortunately, we are still waiting for a study documenting the long-term effects of using cannabis as an anti-aging treatment. However, it’s apparent that many people with eczema, psoriasis and similar sebaceous-related conditions are turning to cannabis and having unprecedented results.
It’s possible that if cannabis can regulate oil excretion in the sebaceous glands, that its compounds could be used in skin moisturizers, and in products which prevent dry skin. Only more research will confirm whether marijuana is a reliable solution.
How should I consume cannabis for anti-aging purposes?
Smoking may be the most popular and famous way of consuming marijuana, but the free radicals and other unwanted compounds in cannabis smoke means this method could create more problems for the skin than it offers benefits. After all, what good is providing the body with skin-protecting antioxidants if you are also exposing it to free radicals which promote aging?
Moreover, the nasty compounds in cannabis smoke affect collagen production, making the skin look worn, tired and loose sooner than it needs to.
Dermatologist Dr Bobby Buka went so far as to say that a bong would be a better method of delivery than smoking a joint, in an interview with the Huffington Post, although he didn’t recommend ripping a bowl either.
Buka explained that smoking a joint involves burning the rolling paper as well as the plant matter. While high-quality papers don’t contain as many harmful chemicals as cheaper alternatives, the skin is still potentially – and unnecessarily – exposed to free radicals. When there are cannabis creams, edibles and vape oils on the market, there’s simply no reason to smoke.
For smokers, vaping tends to the preferred option, as this allows the user to still get their cannabinoids quickly, absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs following inhalation. However, as this process involves no combustion, the lungs are protected from the debilitating byproducts of smoke.
Instead, a vaporizer heats the herb so that it activates the cannabinoids present – top-of-the-range vaporizers can have their temperatures set to the degree, allowing users to customize their experience and only activate the desired cannabinoids. For example, some choose to avoid the highest temperature settings to reduce the chances of a strong body high, which comes from the CBD.
Using topical cannabis for anti-aging
It’s possible to apply medical cannabis oil topically, although these products are best-suited to sublingual and oral consumption. There are a range of topicals to pick from, all exhibiting strong antioxidant properties. It’s even possible to make your own cannabis topicals.
Balms, creams, gels, lotions and oils are among the most popular cannabis topicals. In recreational and some medical states, you may come across products which include psychoactive THC and anti-psychotic CBD. Interestingly, when applied as a topical, THC does not produce the “high” its renowned for, since the compound is left to work in localized fashion, interacting only with the cannabinoid receptors in the skin, and not those in the brain or central nervous system.
Dispensaries and online stores stock a plethora of face masks, skin cleansers, massage oils and face creams. Name your favorite beauty or skincare product, and there’s probably a cannabis-infused version of it! But if the price tags are a little out of your range, don’t worry, you can make your own super-effective topicals using cannabis flower and virgin coconut oil.
Why coconut oil? This ingredient is extremely helpful, packed with antioxidant vitamin E and complemented with an array of essential fats – it’s a capable skin-protectant on its own. Therefore, a topical which combines coconut oil with another amazing antioxidant in marijuana is bound to be a delight for the skin.
If you want to finish your topical off with a sweet aroma, consider adding in some essential oils (organic if possible!). The benefits of cannabis topicals do not begin and end at rejuvenating the skin, these products also reduce localized chronic pain, combat inflammatory conditions and treat pain, tension and aches in the muscles and joints.
CBD topicals are made with extracts from either cannabis or hemp. Those produced using the latter are available online and legal in all 50 states. Cannabis-based topicals, particularly those infused with THC too, may require a medical marijuana card in some states. However, residents in recreational states can simply walk into a dispensary and purchase whichever cannabis topicals they like.
Benefits of antioxidant-rich hemp oil
Hemp oil is also imbued with many of marijuana’s extraordinary healing properties. Rich in antioxidants and essential omega fatty acids, hemp oil works to protect, replenish and moisturize the skin. Hemp oil is sold in stores and online.
Enhance your skincare routine by lavishing your skin with hemp oil on a regular basis. However, if you want a less messy consumption method, then a 2005 study revealed that dietary hemp is also excellent for the skin. It works to reduce inflammation and calm itchiness, dryness and redness in eczema patients.
As we age, it’s important for the sebaceous glands in the skin to keep up sebum production as, if left to their own devices, glands will produce less and less. Linoleic acid in hemp oil helps to achieve this and could even be described as an essential for those suffering with dry skin.
Anti-aging top tips
Using cannabis to take care of your skin will help immeasurably, but there are other changes you can make to your life that will stave off the wrinkles, sunspots and deep lines for as long as possible.
- Drinking plenty of water helps to protect the skin – around two liters per day should suffice
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking tobacco, which contains free radicals and offers no health benefits
- Use organic skincare products
- Move toward a plant-based diet and turn away from processed foods and refined sugars
Hopefully this article has outlined a few of the ways that you can maintain and repair your skin using cannabinoids from marijuana. These antioxidants are kryptonite for wrinkles and deep lines and stop free radicals in their tracks. Not to forget, cannabinoids have shown signs of regulating sebaceous oil production, preventing dry skin and thereby reducing the severity of skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis. And last but not least, the linoleic acid is the cherry on top for skin-promoting compounds and is found in abundance in hemp oil.
It seems that cannabis becomes more of a savior with every passing year. Our skin is the most exposed organ and it’s naturally going to deteriorate after decades of fighting off extrinsic aging factors. But consistent application of cannabis-infused creams or other topicals allows you a few more years looking at your youthful and vibrant best.
Do you have any experience with using cannabis creams – made either with CBD and THC or just the former – for anti-aging effects? Let us know your thoughts on creams and other topicals! Have they worked for you?