Cannabidiol (CBD) is making headlines not only for its potential to relieve symptoms of various health conditions, but also for its applications in the world of hair and skin care.
Along with CBD vaporizers, tinctures and edibles, a variety of CBD-infused soaps, shampoos and other hair care products promise benefits ranging from sleeker, shinier hair to relief from hair loss.
But do these CBD products work? Consumers say they do—and research on the way CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) suggests that this abundant cannabinoid can affect hair follicles in different ways.
Hair is a major part of the complex ecosystem of the skin and is made of a tough protein called keratin. A hair follicle anchors each individual hair to the skin. At the base of each follicle is an organ called the hair bulb, where living cells grow and divide to build the hair shaft.
As these cells accumulate, they push the hair shaft out of the follicle and through the surface of the skin. Blood vessels feed the cells in the hair bulb with oxygen, hormones and other nutrients that support hair growth.
Hair doesn’t grow at a consistent rate. Many factors can affect the process, including genetics, age and overall health. But in general, normal hair growth happens in three distinct stages:
Anagen, or the growth stage. Each hair spends several years in this stage of growth, adding length at about half an inch a month, or about six inches per year.
Catagen, a transitional stage. This is when hair growth starts to slow down over a period of weeks, and the hair follicle begins to shrink.
Telogen, the end stage of hair growth. Over several weeks or months, the hair stops growing. This old hair detaches from the hair follicle and falls painlessly out. Then a new hair begins to grow in the follicle, starting the process all over again.
Many things can interrupt this cycle. Because skin and blood vessels support and nourish hair follicles, things that affect these systems can also affect hair growth. Factors that can weaken hair follicles and make it more likely for hair to grow slowly or fall out include:
In some people, genetic factors that affect the production of hormones called androgens can cause hair follicles to fail. This is what causes the form of alopecia known as pattern baldness, which affects otherwise healthy men (and sometimes women).
However hair happens to behave, hair follicles are part of the skin—an often-overlooked organ despite it being the largest organ in the body. The skin provides protection against external factors, but it’s also a functioning organic system all its own, with neuronal networks and immune responses.
The skin is also rich in ECS receptors. The ECS is a network of receptor cells that activate in response to both natural endocannabinoids the body produces and cannabinoids from outside sources like the Cannabis sativa plant.
Hair follicles have an endocannabinoid signaling system based on the ECS receptor CB1 that manages hair growth in both negative and positive ways. This means that cannabinoids from internal and external sources can affect the activity of hair follicles. And new research shows that hair follicles actually produce two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). So, the information from these studies reveals that cannabinoids, including CBD, heavily influence the behavior of hair follicles.
CBD has documented properties for boosting the immune system, fighting infections and regulating many of the body’s subsystems. This is why it can help support healthy skin and hair. Since hair is a part of the skin’s ecosystem, all of the reasons CBD is good for the skin can also apply to hair.
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CBD oil contains all 21 known amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein. This means CBD can support the buildup of collagen and elastin in hair shafts. This buildup can make hair stronger and appear thicker.
CBD can also help regulate the glands in the skin that produce sebum, or oil, which can keep hair from being either too dry or too oily. CBD can also indirectly support healthy hair by relieving other conditions that contribute to hair problems:
For example, anxiety can contribute to thinning or unhealthy hair. CBD can relieve anxiety, and this can help hair look healthier. CBD also has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, so it can help reduce inflammation and eliminate infections that can contribute to unhealthy hair.
You can use CBD in a variety of ways to boost hair health. You can ingest it in the form of edibles, tinctures or oils, which can be helpful in treating health conditions that cause hair problems.
You can also apply CBD topically in creams, ointments and salves, so that it’s absorbed directly into the skin. And cannabis-infused shampoos can deliver CBD directly to the scalp, an area of the skin that’s usually rich in hair follicles.
When choosing CBD products, it’s important to read labels and buy only from reputable sources. CBD isn’t closely regulated, so some products can contain harmful chemicals or may not contain much CBD at all.
Be sure that CBD is high on the ingredient list of a product you’re interested in. Also, make sure that other ingredients in the product, such as carrier oils or flavorings, are safe to use and free of harmful additives. This way, you can make sure you’re using high-quality CBD products to tackle the root cause of your bad hair days.
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