Scars are a normal part of healing, and for most people, they do not cause significant problems. However, for some people, scars can have a major impact on their quality of life. Not only may they be painful or itchy, but they can also cause psychological distress.
In recent years, scientists have made many discoveries about how cannabinoids like CBD could benefit the skin. This knowledge has led some people to wonder whether CBD oil could reduce scarring.
In this article, we explore how CBD could influence wound healing and whether it could help with scars.
Why Scars Form
Before we delve into how CBD might help scars, let’s look at what they are and why they form.
Scars occur following injury to the skin, whether it be a cut, a burn, or a skin condition such as acne. When the skin breaks, this causes an inflammatory response.
The body releases white blood cells, which protect the damaged area from infection. Cell fragments called platelets also travel to the area to help the blood clot.
Once any bleeding has stopped, cells called fibroblasts begin to produce a protein called collagen. It helps to strengthen the wounded area while it heals.
Collagen also causes the area to become bumpy or raised. Meanwhile, blood flow to the region increases, causing a red appearance. This is the first stage of scar formation, which can last for several months.
Over time, the extra collagen begins to break down, and blood flow returns to normal. At this point, a scar will usually flatten and fade. The process can take as long as 2–3 years, but scars do not often cause significant problems. However, there are always exceptions. Sometimes, scars can actually become worse over time.
Furthermore, there are several types of scar, and each one differs slightly.
Types of Scars
There are numerous types of scars, and they vary depending on the type of injury and the person’s genetic make-up. The most common scars include:
These are the most prevalent types of scar. Once fully healed, fine-line scars have a smooth, flat, and white appearance.
These can occur after surgery when movement during healing causes scar tissue to stretch and spread. Some people also consider stretch marks to be a type of widespread scar.
This type of scarring occurs due to skin conditions such as acne or chickenpox. As the name suggests, they have a pitted or sunken appearance.
These most often occur following a burn injury. Scar contractures cause the skin to tighten around an area and can make movement difficult.
This type of scar features a build-up of excess collagen, which leads to a raised appearance. In the medical world, this phenomenon is called fibrosis.
Hypertrophic scars may continue to thicken for several months after the injury occurs, but they usually flatten out after a few years. They do not extend past the site of the original wound.
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Like hypertrophic scars, keloid scars involve fibrosis. Collagen continues growing, even after the wound has healed. However, keloid scars differ from hypertrophic scars as they can extend beyond the site of the original injury.
Keloid scars can appear raised, red, or purple and may be itchy or tender. If they occur over a joint, they can also make movement difficult. Only some people develop keloid scars. They are more widespread in people with dark skin.
Thus, the most problematic types of scars are contracture, hypertrophic, and keloid scars. However, any scarring can be distressing, particularly if it occurs in a highly visible area such as the face.
Common Scar Treatments
Scarring is an unavoidable part of healing, and, unfortunately, it is often permanent. However, there are a few treatments that may help to improve their appearance or relieve symptoms such as itching.
Some of the most common scar treatments include:
- Silicone gel or silicone dressings
- Pressure dressings
- Steroid creams
- Laser treatment
- Skin camouflage/make-up
Nowadays, CBD is becoming more popular, especially as an ingredient in skincare products. This has led many people to wonder whether CBD could help with scars.
Does CBD Help with Scars?
CBD is just one of many active compounds that cannabis produces. It has entered the mainstream in recent years thanks to its lack of intoxicating effects. It is also possible to extract CBD from industrial hemp, making it legal in the majority of places.
The compound works by acting upon the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating a vast range of biological functions. It is present in most human tissues, including the skin. Here, it plays a role in cell growth and development. It also helps to regulate the inflammatory response.
Although we are only just beginning to understand the role of the ECS in skin health, it appears to play a vital part in wound healing.
A 2019 study by Toth and colleagues for Molecules suggests that it controls the action of fibroblasts (collagen-producing cells).
Therefore, by enhancing activity in the ECS, CBD could potentially aid healing and reduce scar formation. The authors even suggest that modulating the system’s effects might be “desirable to achieve scarless healing.”
A 2016 study by Zurier and Burstein for The FASEB Journal supports this theory. It suggests that cannabinoids like CBD have both anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties.
Furthermore, it seems that CBD could help to prevent acne scarring by relieving the condition itself. A 2014 study by Olah and colleagues for The Journal of Clinical Investigation found that it has sebostatic effects. This means that it reduces the production of sebum, the oily substance that builds up in the skin, causing acne. The authors conclude that CBD “deserves full clinical exploration as a potent, novel class of anti-acne agents.”
How to Use CBD for Scar Treatment
Current research suggests that CBD could play a part in enhancing wound healing and reducing scar formation. However, it is essential to use it correctly to derive the most significant benefits.
While most people use CBD oil orally, this is not effective for reducing scarring. For CBD to have an impact on the skin, it is necessary to apply it directly to the area. This means either applying CBD oil directly to the scar or using a specially formulated cream or ointment. The difference is that ointments are thicker and greasier than creams. They take longer to absorb and have more moisturizing properties.
A 2019 study by Palmieri and colleagues for La Clinica Terapeutica suggests that CBD ointment could be helpful for scars. The retrospective study included 20 patients with skin conditions, including scarring. They applied CBD ointment twice daily for three months. By the end of the study, the patients showed improvements in all skin parameters, including skin hydration and elasticity. Furthermore, there were no reports of allergic reactions or irritation.
However, it is essential to note that this study had a relatively small sample size. There was also no control group, so further research is necessary to confirm the accuracy of these results.
Anyone thinking about using CBD ointment for scars should remember it will probably not get rid of them completely. It may help to improve the overall appearance and texture of new scars. However, using CBD oil for old scars will probably have little effect.
To gain the most benefit, start applying CBD as early as possible during the healing process. That said, we do not recommend using it on broken skin. Wait until a scab has formed and then begin the application.
Can CBD Heal Scars? Final Thoughts
Research into CBD for scarring is currently limited, but it is an area of great interest. We know that the ECS is present in skin cells and could play a critical role in wound healing. For this reason, it seems logical that CBD could provide some benefits.
Although we cannot say for sure that CBD will improve scars, there is little risk in giving it a try. CBD causes very few side effects, especially when applying it topically to the skin.
However, it is always advisable to discuss CBD treatment with your physician before use. This is especially crucial if you suffer from a medical condition, are pregnant, or breastfeeding.
When buying CBD, choose a reputable brand and a product that contains few additional ingredients. It is best to avoid applying heavily perfumed or inorganic products to a scar. Look for a company that publishes third-party lab reports to know exactly what each product contains.
And finally, if any irritation or worsening of symptoms occurs while using CBD for scars, discontinue it immediately. In this situation, contact a dermatologist for further advice.