CBD has grown in popularity over the past few years. It is now in almost every type of health and beauty product imaginable, including items like CBD shampoo. Proponents suggest that it has a variety of benefits for hair and scalp health, but is this really the case?
In this article, we investigate whether CBD can benefit scalp health and how to use it for maximum effect.
CBD Oil and Scalp Health
CBD is one of the many medicinal compounds in cannabis and hemp plants. It works by interacting with the body’s innate endocannabinoid system (ECS).
This system is composed of cell receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids. It plays a crucial role in maintaining a state of balance throughout the body and mind.
Furthermore, CBD can bind with various other cell receptors outside of the ECS. These include TRPV1 receptors, which play a role in the perception of heat and pain.
All of these receptors exist in abundance on the skin of the scalp. Endocannabinoids are also concentrated in the hair follicles, where they help to regulate the growth cycle. Therefore, it makes sense that CBD oil will influence scalp health in several ways.
Let’s take a look at how CBD might provide relief from some common scalp problems.
How CBD Might Help with Common Scalp Problems
Having an unhealthy scalp can be a real pain. Unfortunately, many different issues can affect this area, and some are extremely common. Here are just a few of the most widespread scalp problems and how CBD could help:
As many as 25% of adults suffer from an itchy scalp. The problem often occurs alongside other issues such as dandruff, dermatitis, or psoriasis, which we will discuss in detail later.
The scalp produces large amounts of an oil called sebum. It helps to protect the skin and hair. It also controls the microbiota of the scalp. This is the population of microorganisms, including bacteria and yeast, that naturally live on the skin.
One particular species of yeast known as Malassezia has an intimate relationship with sebum. They convert it into free fatty acids, leaving a residue on the scalp. If this residue becomes excessive, it can cause scalp itching and irritation. It also contributes to problems like dandruff.
Can CBD Oil Soothe an Itchy Scalp?
Nerve endings on the scalp have a high concentration of cannabinoid and TRPV1 receptors. It is possible that, by interacting with these systems, CBD could help to relieve itching.
A 2006 study by Ständer and colleagues for the journal Der Hautarzt investigated. It found that 14/22 patients who applied a topical cannabinoid cream experienced a reduction in itching. The average decline was 86.4%.
However, the study used the cannabinoid n-palmitoyl ethanolamine (PEA), not CBD. PEA works by directly influencing cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. Although CBD does not work identically, it does have somewhat similar effects.
CBD also reduces sebum production and has antifungal properties. Therefore, it could potentially relieve scalp itching in three different ways. However, more research is necessary to confirm how effective it is.
Dandruff is another common problem, and up to 50% of adults experience it at some point in their lives. As well as causing itching and irritation, dandruff can be a cosmetic concern due to the flakes that it produces.
Like an itchy scalp, it is often related to sebum production and yeast overgrowth.
How CBD Could Help Dandruff
CBD may help dandruff in many of the same ways it could relieve itching. In fact, reducing itching could also limit scratching, which often leads to a flaky scalp.
There is currently no research specifically on CBD oil for dandruff. However, there is some evidence that it helps with the maintenance of healthy skin. Therefore, anyone suffering from this common condition could give CBD-infused products a try.
Yet another condition associated with sebum, yeast, itching, and dandruff is seborrheic dermatitis. In addition to the above symptoms, this skin condition can also cause redness and lesions on the scalp. It is a common problem in babies, where it is known as cradle cap.
Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect other sebum-rich areas of the body, such as the face and chest.
How CBD Could Relieve Seborrheic Dermatitis?
The primary cause of seborrheic dermatitis is the overproduction of sebum. A 2014 study by Olah and colleagues for The Journal of Clinical Investigations found that CBD has sebostatic effects. This means that it inhibits sebum release.
Most of the research to date has focused on how CBD could help acne. However, in combination with its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD could potentially provide an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis too.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition in which the skin cells grow too rapidly, forming thick patches known as plaques. These plaques can be itchy, red, and covered in scales.
One of the most common areas to get psoriasis is the scalp. As many as 80% of patients with psoriasis have it on their head.
One primary concern associated with scalp psoriasis is that it can also lead to hair loss. Therefore, people with psoriasis often feel self-conscious about their appearance as well as suffering discomfort from the disease.
How CBD Could Benefit Scalp Psoriasis?
A 2007 study by Wilkinson and Williamson for the Journal of Dermatological Science found that cannabinoids could have beneficial effects.
The researchers tested CBD, THC, CBG, and CBN on human keratinocytes (skin cells). The results showed all of the compounds inhibited cell proliferation in a concentration-dependent manner.
Furthermore, CBD appears to dampen the immune response, which is why it is such an effective anti-inflammatory. Therefore, it could have some benefits for autoimmune conditions like psoriasis.
Hair Loss (Alopecia)
It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs every day, and these hairs usually grow back relatively quickly. However, in some cases, they do not, leading to hair loss or alopecia.
There are many different types of alopecia. Some of the most common include:
- Androgenic alopecia: also known as male pattern baldness
- Alopecia areata: an autoimmune condition that results in patchy hair loss
- Traction alopecia: caused by stress on the hair follicles due to certain hairstyles
- Telogen effluvium: may be triggered by stress, medication, or hormonal changes
In some cases, the hair will grow back, and in others, it will not. Therefore, alopecia can be very distressing for those it affects.
Can CBD Treat Alopecia?
Whether CBD can help with alopecia depends on the underlying cause. For example, there is probably little it can do to help with age-related baldness as this is a natural process that genetics largely control.
However, as we mentioned earlier, there is a high concentration of endocannabinoids in the hair follicles. This suggests that they play some role in the hair growth cycle.
That said, their exact function is not yet clear. In fact, it seems that one endocannabinoid, anandamide, actually reduces hair growth.
Therefore, much more research is necessary before we fully understand whether CBD can help with hair loss.
How to Use CBD Oil for Scalp Health
The most effective way to use CBD oil for scalp health is by applying it directly to the head. This avoids it passing through the digestive system, where many of its active components are lost.
There are many different topical CBD products available. However, not all of these are suitable for applying to the scalp. This is why some companies have started making CBD-infused shampoos and hair care products.
It is also possible to apply regular CBD oil to the scalp. However, this will be most effective for people with one or two small problem areas. Applying CBD oil to the whole scalp will not only leave the hair greasy but also get expensive fast!
You can also make your own CBD scalp oil and use it as a deep treatment once or twice a week. Here’s a recipe that we love:
CBD Scalp Oil Recipe
This CBD scalp oil combines cannabidiol with a variety of other skin-nourishing ingredients, including coconut, tea tree, and rosemary oils.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- 1000mg/10mL bottle of high-quality CBD oil
- 90mL organic virgin coconut oil
- 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 5 drops of rosemary essential oil
- A clean 100mL glass jar for storage
- Place the coconut oil in a pan and heat gently on the stovetop until it melts.
- Remove from the heat, add the other ingredients, and mix well.
- Pour into the glass jar and allow to cool.
How to Use:
Massage the oil into the scalp once or twice weekly as necessary. It is quite greasy, so you may wish to apply it for a couple of hours before washing the hair with a mild shampoo. Test on a small patch of skin first to ensure no irritation occurs.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil and Scalp Health
Although the clinical evidence is limited, it appears that CBD may have several benefits for scalp health. It may help to reduce sebum production, control fungal overgrowth, relieve itching, and more.
Furthermore, CBD topicals have a very low risk of side effects, so there is little danger in giving them a try. However, anyone already using medicated scalp products should check with a pharmacist or physician first.