The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s, when the existence of an endogenous receptor system, whose key component is a lipid molecule of the arachidonic acid family, was detected. From that moment, the interest in Cannabinoids has grown exponentially over the years.
Cannabinoids are divided into three families:
- endogenous cannabinoids, synthesized in the human body (ECB)
- phytocannabinoids, of vegetal origin (PCB)
- synthetic cannabinoids, obtained through chemical processes (SC).
Cannabis Sativa is the plant that contains cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that has no narcotic activity but has shown potential uses via oral intake and in recent times when applied topically, too. The interest of the cosmetic sector has therefore turned to the safe use of this molecule, especially for some skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis. Several studies have highlighted a protective effect of CBD against reactive oxygen species (ROS): oxidative stress induces chronic skin inflammation and cell damage, two conditions present in atopic dermatitis.
In addition, several studies have also shown a protective effect on cell membrane lipids, which would contribute to the protective action of the skin barrier. The psychotropic component of Cannabis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinoid), acts on receptors in the human body other than those of CBD, with well-known narcotic effects; those are the reason why the cultivation of Hemp has been forbidden by law for a long time.
Properties and benefits for the skin of CBD cosmetics
From a regulatory point of view, the cultivation of Cannabis became legal in Italy in 2016, with the law of December 02, n ° 242, as long as the content of the cannabinoid with psychotropic effect, THC, does not exceed in infloriscence the concentration of 0.2% for sellers and 0.6% for farmers. This law refers to the cultivation of hemp for industrial use, including cosmetic and non-pharmaceutical use. Hemp with a THC concentration <0.2% in the flower is not considered narcotic.
In 2021, CBD derived from Cannabis was included in COSING (Cosmetic Ingredients database), the European Commission’s database for information on cosmetic ingredients. This represented a great evolution in the cosmetic sector, because until then only CBD of synthetic origin was recognized in the European Union.
The recognition of the ingredient of plant origin is leading the market to an impetus towards the use of this raw material, which has many potential uses. In fact, there are many CBD receptors on the skin, involved not only in the skin barrier function, but also in the inflammatory and immune response and in apoptosis (programmed cell death).
The uses and efficacy of CBD cosmetics in some issues
Some studies have highlighted the ability of phytocannabinoids to improve atopic dermatitis not only by modulating the inflammatory response, but also by regulating the balance of the microbiome, acting on Staphylococcus aureus.
Finally, CBD has a positive effect on the skin’s lipid balance, making it an excellent cosmetic ally for fighting acne and seborrhea, by normalizing lipogenesis and lipid homeostasis. In this case too, the action seems to be determined by a rebalancing effect on the microbial species that colonize our skin.
CBD can be used in cosmetics as a concentrated extract or as a component of hemp oil, and in the latter case the oil is also a source of omega-3 and omega-6, the polyunsaturated fatty acids that are good for the skin and contribute to its hydration.
Contraindications of the use of CBD on the skin
To date there are no specific restrictions for the use of cosmetics containing CBD in pregnant women, although it is obviously important to respect the maximum limits of THC allowed, the methods of advertising (there must not be confusion between CBD and THC in consumers) and the specific provisions of the Member States and individual countries (for example in France only certain plant species are permitted).
The interest in CBD is therefore very high in the cosmetic sector, and certainly the ongoing scientific studies will help to better understand the mechanisms of action and improve the performance of the formulations.
To date, in the purpose of compliance with Article 3 of the Cosmetic Regulation 1223:2009, in order to protect the safety of consumers as the first objective in the marketing of products, the cosmetics industry is oriented to a trace THC content that is not revealed in laboratory analysis.
Harmonization of the regulatory system is hoped to help protect the safety and health of consumers, which has always been the primary objective of the cosmetics sector.