Does cannabis keep you young?

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Old people look old because their skin stops producing collagen — or, possibly, because they are full of spiteful regret for a life poorly lived, an existence misspent in the pursuit of frivolous things. Younger people look old because their skin was ravaged by something. It’s the sun, mostly, but also stress, overeating, boozing, or — cue the New Age health solutions music!— an onslaught of rampaging free radicals.

If you want good skin that looks young(ish), the best technique is to stay out of the sun. That isn’t good enough, and so we have a beauty and cosmetic industry that promises to either delay one of the above inevitable outcomes, or to fool other peoples’ eyes into thinking it hasn’t already happened.

There is some science at work here. Most skincare products marketed as “anti-aging” are generally just delivery mechanisms for antioxidants. Antioxidants are anything that inhibits oxidation. Common antioxidants in living organisms include vitamin C or A, which your body should have enough of already if you maintain a healthy diet.

But an Australian company working on a “CBD-rich anti-aging cream” believe it’s found evidence that super-cannabinoid CBD is an antioxidant — and that thus, CBD is the secret ingredient in cosmetic and healthcare products that will keep you (looking) young in defiance of your years and bad lifestyle choices. But is it legit?

This is CBD we’re talking about, so the honest answers are “I don’t know” and “maybe,” with an additional “other stuff that is already well known and widely available may work just as well, if not better.” But since neither skepticism nor caution can compete for pageviews with a potential fountain of youth, here are the details.

Business Insider’s Australia edition was first to the news that a three-year research project by the University of Technology Sydney and Bod Australia has turned up a new “family of proteins in human cells that acting as anti-ageing [sic] agents.”

Having made this discovery, “BOD and UTS are [now] exploring the combination of those proteins with CBD in topical anti-ageing creams,” the BI item posted last week reported. Adele Hosseini, Bod’s chief scientific officer, also went one step further. In an interview with BI, she made the additional claim that “CBD by itself does have some antioxidant properties as well.”

Unfortunately for Bod, they’re a bit late to the punch. There are already numerous anti-aging skin creams with CBD in them available on the market, in drugstores as well as through Amazon or other online retailers.

And though most CBD users appear to be attempting to solve pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia before having the time and space to worry about their youthful appearance, cannabis’s value as a general anti-oxidant is already relatively well-known.

“Cannabis is filled with antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E, all of which will be helpful in preventing damage and premature crepe-iness under your eyes,” Boston-area dermatologist Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip told Marie Claire in a 2017 interview. (The author of that piece went on a “CBD-only” beauty-care product “diet” for a month — and absolutely loved it, for what that’s worth.)

This means that all cannabis, not just a concoction that includes a hemp-derived CBD extract, might help preserve the skin. This also means that you could get antioxidants from cannabis, or a product that contains cannabis or a cannabis extract, like CBD, or you could get antioxidants from somewhere else entirely.

This also means that the value of CBD-rich anti-aging products might be debatable — not because they don’t work (they might!) but because other products that are cheaper or more widely available may work just as well as the $89.99 “Defynt CBD Skin Serum” sold by Kush Queen, or the CBD anti-aging cream “with apple stem cells” sold by Kushly.

Maybe the best fact to keep in mind here is the finding that 80% of all “extrinsic skin damage” is caused by exposure to the sun, with alcohol intake, bad diet, stress, and damage from free-radicals making up the rest. If shopping for CBD skin creams keeps you mellow — and keeps you inside, and away from the sun — you just may find that it benefits, if not in the way you (or the product you’re buying) anticipate.

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