We all want our skin to look beautiful, radiant and healthy – and many of us spend a lot of time and money to make that happen! But how much do we know about what goes on inside our skin, what it does for us and what makes it healthy?
As new research emerges, we’re discovering that the skin is a complex and fascinating part of our bodies. The better we can understand it, the better we can look after it.
Did you know that the skin has its own microbiome – and that part of the endocannabinoid system is found in the skin? It pays to take a closer look at each of these. Knowing more about them will change not only the way we look at our skin, but what we put on it as well.
More than just a barrier!
Thanks to the skin, we don’t need medical attention every time we get hit or scratched by something. The scratch or bruise heals, while the rest of the body is protected. The skin also acts as a barrier against radiation and UV light, invading microbes, airborne allergens, all kind of chemicals and the many toxins and pollutants surrounding us.
But there’s more. The skin is a living, breathing ecosystem with its own immune system. That system fights off bacteria, viruses and other organisms and substances that try to enter our bodies.
And without the skin, we wouldn’t have our sense of touch!
The skin also plays an essential role in something called thermoregulation. When we get too hot or cold, we sweat or shiver; we lose or conserve heat. The skin plays a role in all these mechanisms, including the body’s detoxification process.
The skin is constantly replenishing and rejuvenating itself, every day of our lives. And it does this while keeping its many properties intact. It still needs to grow hair, keep itself hydrated, and maintain its elasticity and density.
What the Skin Is Made of
The skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the fatty layer. Since we’re interested in the skin’s microbiome and endocannabinoid system, we need to focus on the first two.
Whilst the epidermis is mainly responsible for creating a barrier to the external environment, it also helps to keep moisture in and maintain internal homeostasis. And this layer is where the microbiome is found.
The dermis is the middle layer; so much happens here! It’s mostly comprised of collagen and elastic tissue, but it’s also the home of the sweat glands, sebaceous glands (which secrete sebum), hair roots, nerve endings and lymphatic and blood vessels. This is where the skin gets its elasticity and strength. This is also where we find the endocannabinoid system.
The Skin Microbiome
Experts once believed that the skin was dead, but more recent research paints a far more interesting picture. It turns out the skin has its own microbiome, every bit as complex as the microbiome in our guts.
This microbiome, which lives on the surface of our skin, contains bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites that play an important role in maintaining the ecology of the skin. In return for a place to live and feed, they help to maintain the skin’s barrier, defend against harmful pathogens, play a role in tissue repair and assist in anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial responses.
For the most part, these microbial communities live in harmony with us and all is well. But many factors can influence them – and therefore the health of our skin. These factors include (but are not limited to):
- Aggressive detergents;
- Harsh skin products;
- Specific ingredients such as alcohol, sodium lauryl sulphate and certain fragrances;
- Hormone production;
- Cosmetic use;
- Sebum production;
- Amount of sweating; and
Many common skin diseases (acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and others) are now also being associated with (amongst other things) changes in the microbiota. To be healthy, our skin needs to be in in homeostasis – in other words, in balance.
Research is showing that when the skin has a diverse, resilient community of microbes, it’s more likely to be in balance and therefore happy and healthy. If there’s a disruption to the microbes (called dysbiosis), then it’s more likely that skin issues will manifest. That’s why we’re starting to see skin products with prebiotics, microbes and even postbiotics (the by-products of priobiotics) in their formulations. At the same time, they are also removing harmful ingredients in order to keep the skin microbiome happy so that the skin can be healthier.
The Endocannabinoid System, CBD and the Skin
The endocannabinoid system is a vast intercellular communication system found all over the body. It plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis, which is essential for survival.
This system consists of endocannabinoids (a type of neurotransmitter), enzymes and receptors such as CB1 and CB2. These components work together to influence the function of other cells, orchestrate immune and inflammatory responses and synthesize and release chemicals and hormones. They also regulate cell metabolism, the process responsible for the production of energy within the cell.
Keeping the skin healthy requires a well-orchestrated balance between cells that includes the hair, the sebaceous glands and the sweat glands as well. This wouldn’t be possible without the skin’s endocannabinoid system. When the endocannabinoid system doesn’t get what it needs and this homeostasis is disturbed, we experience problems like acne, seborrhea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain issues, psoriasis and even cancer.
Some plants, particularly cannabis, contain phytocannabinoids. These are plant-based cannabinoids that interact with the endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies. CBD (cannabidiol) directly supports the endocannabinoid system within the skin; research is showing that it has a number of potential skin applications. For example:
- It can help minimize allergic reactions, such as in eczema (atopic dermatitis).
- It plays a role in regulating the sebocytes that produce sebum; excess sebum leads to acne.
- When applied to the skin, its anti-inflammatory effects reduce itching and inflammation.
In fact, a small study (3) recently showed that CBD:
- Improved elasticity and hydration of the skin;
- Helped repair acne scars;
- Helped to calm skin inflammation and reduce acne; and
- Had the potential to assist in the treatment of psoriasis.
When choosing a natural product containing CBD, it’s important to make sure the ingredients are natural, non-toxic, cruelty-free, and environmentally friendly.
When it comes to the CBD itself, it’s important to understand whether it’s a full-spectrum product or merely an isolate. In an isolate, all the other active compounds (including THC) have been removed. In full-spectrum CBD, all plant compounds except THC have been kept intact.
The cannabis plant has a complex structure with over 100 active cannabinoids (CBN, THCV, CBC, THCA, CBG and more) as well as terpenes, flavonoids, essential fatty acids and many vitamins and minerals. Keeping these compounds intact allows for the entourage effect, meaning that they work synergistically to provide the optimal health benefit. This is why we prefer full-spectrum CBD.
Finally, cannabis (and therefore CBD) is a bio-accumulator. This means that it absorbs more toxins from the soil than other plants. Make sure your CBD product has been organically grown and 3rd-party tested for safety.
Balance Is the Key
As humans, we are naturally attracted to a beautiful face and healthy complexion. Many skin issues such as blemishes, wrinkles, acne and eczema often result in not only physical discomfort, but depression and anxiety as well.
The science tells us that our skin is a complex, living, dynamic ecosystem that is continuously responding to its internal and external environment. Bringing it into homeostasis (balance) is the way to achieve that flawless, gracefully ageing look.
Find out more about Skiiome Pure Skin Food, a bespoke handmade face cream made from natural ingredients.
1. Byrd, A., Belkaid, Y. & Segre, J. The human skin microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol 16, 143–155 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro.2017.157
2. Prescott, S.L., Larcombe, DL., Logan, A.C. et al. The skin microbiome: impact of modern environments on skin ecology, barrier integrity, and systemic immune programming. World Allergy Organ J 10, 29 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40413-017-0160-5
3. Palmieri, Beniamino & Laurino, Carmen & vadalà, Maria. (2019). A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. La Clinica terapeutica. 170. e93-e99. 10.7417/CT.2019.2116.
4. Oláh A, Tóth BI, Borbíró I, et al. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and anti-inflammatory effects on human sebocytes. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(9):3713-3724. doi:10.1172/JCI64628
5. Biro, Tamás & Toth, Balazs & Haskó, György & Paus, Ralf & Pacher, Pal. (2009). The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends in pharmacological sciences. 30. 411-20. 10.1016/j.tips.2009.05.004.
6. Scheau C, Badarau IA, Mihai LG, et al. Cannabinoids in the Pathophysiology of Skin Inflammation. Molecules. 2020;25(3):652. Published 2020 Feb 4. doi:10.3390/molecules25030652