Cannabidiol (CBD) is hitting the mainstream. According to a Consumer Reports survey, an estimated 64 million Americans have used CBD in the past 2 years.1 Major drugstore chains including CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have begun or stated their intent to sell CBD products in certain locations.2

Chances are, some of your patients who have acne have inquired about CBD oils. Here are 4 questions you can expect to field:

1. What Is CBD and How Does It Differ From Marijuana?

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CBD is one of more than 100 phytocannabinoids (a term used to describe cannabinoids derived from the cannabis family of plants). CBD can be extracted from multiple cultivars of cannabis, including hemp. Hemp contains very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Whereas THC causes the symptoms people associate with getting “high,” CBD does not.3

Generally, marijuana is used for recreational and medicinal purposes, whereas hemp is used for industrial purposes. CBD oil, which is made by dissolving CBD in hemp seed or coconut oil, is used for creams, patches, sprays, lotions, and many other commercial products intended to boost health and appearance.4

2. Is CBD Legal in the United States?

CBD that is extracted from hemp has been legal nationwide since January 1, 2019, after Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act. In doing so, the federal government recognized hemp as a legal agricultural product. CBD that is extracted from other cannabis varieties remains illegal on the federal level but may be legal in some states.3

3. What Are the Risks of Using CBD Oil?

While there is evidence that CBD products may decrease the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy, many of its other purported health benefits remain unproven.5 In addition, lack of oversight may present a safety concern, as discrepancies between federal and state laws have resulted in inadequate regulation of CBD products.6 Even so, the World Health Organization declared that “[CBD] does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm.”7

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4. Should CBD Oil Be Used to Treat Acne?

There is a notable lack of research on the subject. Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human trials, we can’t answer definitively whether CBD oil is a safe and effective acne treatment. Be sure to remind your patients that, because CBD products are generally available as unregulated supplements, it is difficult to know what’s in them.


  1. Gill LL. CBD goes mainstream. Consumer Reports. April 11, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  2. LaVito A. Rite Aid will start selling CBD products in 2 states, stop selling e-cigarettes in all stores. CNBC. April 11, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  3. Law T. CBD oil is everywhere, but is it really safe and healthy? Time. March 12, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  4. Pitofsky M. CBD products are popping up in stores near you. Here’s what you need to know about them. USA Today. Updated April 5, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  5. Johnson CK, Choi C. CBD is getting buzz, but does it work? Atlanta Journal Constitution. Updated April 3, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2019.
  6. Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, t al. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709.
  7. Cannabidiol (compound of cannabis). World Health Organization. December 2017. Accessed April 11, 2019.