The endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body is a network of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid molecules, and enzymes which work together to maintain homeostasis in the body. The skin produces endocannabinoid molecules such as anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG, synthesized by several cell types in the epidermis, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands. Endocannabinoids act on various cell types and contribute to their healthy physiological function. Cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are present in practically all cell types of the skin. The functions of the ECS on the skin include the following:
Epidermis: Regulates the function of the skin as a barrier and suppresses inflammation. Such activity may protect against infection and reduce symptoms associated with conditions such as eczema.
Immune cells: Provides surveillance over the skin’s immune and inflammatory functions, exerting anti-inflammatory effects, and preventing activation of the immune system when not required. These effects may regulate or suppress symptoms of autoimmune skin diseases or allergic skin reactions and may exert anti-oxidant effects to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Sebaceous glands: The endocannabinoid tone of the sebaceous glands regulates the production of lipid-containing sebum, the balance of which is essential to creating the waterproof skin barrier which protects against the invasion of bacteria and contributes to the homeostasis of healthy skin. The impact of this function may have implications in reducing the frequency and severity of acne breakouts.
Nerve endings: The cannabinoid tone of the skin may reduce the sensation of itch and inhibit the development and progression of pain. The possible applications of these effects include analgesic effects in a number of skin and nerve conditions, including peripheral neuropathy, among many others.
The use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil externally to the skin results in stimulation of the endocannabinoid system with all of its powerful surveillance activities to promote overall skin health and recovery.