Why is cannabis skincare's newest hero? One word: antioxidants.
It's common knowledge now that cannabis topicals are awesome pain relievers—a good cannabis balm can alleviate muscle and joint pain caused by injuries and soothe the aches of daily living. But did you know that topical application of cannabis can also help keep your skin looking young and healthy?
The importance of quality skin care ingredients.
When I'm looking for a great product for my skin, I read the ingredient list hoping to find the things that I know are proven to work. This may mean reading a lot of labels (and a lot of scientific articles), but it's important to know what you are putting on your skin—it's the body's biggest organ, after all. The two most important types of ingredients I look for are antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and cannabis is abundant in both. It's also a very cool, little-known fact that our skin has naturally built-in receptors for cannabis. For these reasons, cannabis just might be the most important ingredient we've all been missing from our skincare regimen. A good skin cream or serum will do three things: protect against, prevent, and (if we are lucky) reverse the signs of aging. If we look at what is causing the damage on a cellular level, which shows up as premature aging of the skin, we can apply that knowledge to our choice of ingredients.
While free radicals are formed during the natural process of daily living, too many free radicals can cause oxidative stress and show up on our skin as wrinkles, loss of collagen, spots, reduced elasticity, and other signs of aging. Pollution, fried foods, sun, pesticides, alcohol, smoking—yes, even smoking cannabis—all contribute to the formation of free radicals in our bodies. Antioxidants are our bodies' natural defense system against free radicals, serving to neutralize them before they cause damage to our cells. Premature aging and skin damage caused by oxidative stress occurs when there are more free radicals than there are antioxidants to neutralize them.
What are free radicals?
You've probably heard of them, right? The cells in our body are made up of molecules, which are made of atoms, which contain electrons. When a molecule is in its relaxed state, it has an outer shell filled with electrons. When it loses an electron due to the stresses mentioned above, it becomes agitated or excited and tries to fill it by stealing one from another atom.
These uncharged, unpaired molecules are called free radicals; they are highly reactive and can cause damage to proteins and DNA in our tissues and organs. If we don't protect against free radicals, they can cause a domino effect of further damage. This loss of electrons is also called oxidation. Don't get me wrong—some free radicals are used by our immune system to destroy invading microbes, so they aren't all bad. But many that originate from toxins outside the body, such as chemical pollutants, UV rays and parabens, are dangerous to our health and take a lot of energy to neutralize.
When an electron gets stolen from one molecule it can start a chain reaction by leaving another molecule with an empty spot to fill, sort of like musical chairs. Only in this case, there is always one empty chair left, and that's the problem. What cell damage means to your skin is loss of collagen and firmness, wrinkles and fine lines, and sometimes cancer. Chronic inflammation is one of the causes of free radical formation and oxidative stress, which can lead to these age-related diseases.
Antioxidants to the rescue.
The role of antioxidants in our bodies (and our skin) is to hunt for the free radicals and neutralize them before they do any damage. This is where cannabis comes in. Cannabinoids like THC, THCA and CBD all have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties—in fact, they have been shown to be even stronger antioxidants than vitamins C and E. And because our bodies' natural endocannabinoid system includes a multitude of cannabis receptors in our skin, it makes a lot of sense to have cannabinoids in products for your face and neck.
Our bodies do produce endogenous antioxidants internally, and they do a good job protecting us from the barrage of invaders and toxins around us. But if we expose ourselves to body stressors such as excessive sun, smoggy air, unhealthy foods, or skin products containing harmful ingredients, we may need a boost. (Note: I find the Environmental Working Group's website super helpful when I want to look up an ingredient to get a quick idea of whether it's good or bad. The caveat here is that this site has been known to be a bit "Chicken Little" at times, so take it with a grain of salt. There's always more to learn.)
5 ways to prevent and repair aging skin now.
I don't mean to scare any 20- and 30-somethings out there, but trust me, when you get a little older you may kick yourself for not doing more preventive maintenance sooner. (I thought sunscreen was just to prevent burning, but actually the damage that causes wrinkles comes from different wavelengths than the ones that cause a burn!) Here are five simple but highly effective steps you can take now to prevent and repair your skin:
- Wear a good sunscreen.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat the rainbow! Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and ingesting them is a great way to keep the free radicals in check internally.
- Reduce chronic inflammation by getting sufficient sleep and exercise.
- Apply topical forms of antioxidants, such as serums and moisturizers, directly to your skin every day. There is real scientific evidence out there that this works.
This article was written by Bridget May of Green Bee Botanicals, a skincare line launching on Sava in June. Sign up to get an email update when it hits the shelves, and shop more products now at getsava.com.