Vitiligo can affect any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth and the hair. A lack of melanin production is one of the main reasons for vitiligo.
Much is made of cannabidiol’s capacity to help with an array of medical conditions. Can CBD oil help with vitiligo? Let’s find out.
What Is Vitiligo?
When someone has vitiligo, it means the cells responsible for skin color, called melanocytes, are destroyed. The melanocytes become unable to produce the skin pigment, melanin. When these cells fail to produce melanin, parts of the skin either turn white or lose color. Vitiligo is a condition that affects people of all skin types. However, it is often more noticeable in individuals with darker skin.
Vitiligo is a condition that affects people of all skin types. However, it is often more noticeable in individuals with darker skin.
Although the condition can impact various parts of the body, it isn’t contagious. While it isn’t life-threatening, it is stressful and could cause an individual to view themselves negatively.
The most apparent symptoms of vitiligo are as follows:
- A patchy loss of skin color. It tends to appear on the face and hands first, followed by the genital area and around body openings. Vitiligo can also occur on the wrists and fingers.
- Premature graying or whitening of hair on the eyebrows, bread, eyelashes, or scalp.
- A loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of the nose and mouth.
Vitiligo may appear as a pale patch of skin initially. Gradually, it turns entirely white. The center of an affected area could be white with pale skin around it. The patch potentially looks pink if there are blood vessels beneath the skin. Vitiligo doesn’t generally cause skin discomfort, though it is occasionally itchy.
Although there is no defined age range, it is more common for individuals aged 30+ to get vitiligo.
There are several forms of vitiligo. However, two types make up the majority of cases.
Also called localized or unilateral vitiligo, segmental vitiligo involves the white patches only affecting one part of the body. Though it is the second most common form of the disease in adults, it is the most prevalent in children. It could affect up to 30 percent of children that have vitiligo.
Also called generalized or bilateral vitiligo, this form of the disease involves symmetrical white patches on both sides of the body. These patches can appear on the:
- Backs of the hand
- The skin around body openings
Non-segmental vitiligo affects up to 90 percent of people with the condition.
What Causes Vitiligo?
Research has yet to determine what causes melanocytes to disappear from the affected parts of the skin. The majority of people with vitiligo don’t have a family history of the condition.
Non-segmental vitiligo is likely an autoimmune condition. This involves the immune system failing to work properly. Rather than attacking viruses and other foreign cells, the immune system goes after healthy cells and tissue in the body. In people with non-segmental vitiligo, the immune system destroys the cells that create melanin.
In 2007, the National Institutes of Health issued a press release. It cited research from the New England Journal of Medicine. The study stated that approximately 20 percent of people with vitiligo also have at least one other autoimmune disorder. The most common examples include:
- Alopecia areata
- Type 1 diabetes
The following events may trigger vitiligo:
- Skin damage, such as severe sunburn or cuts
- Stressful events like childbirth
- Exposure to certain harmful chemicals
What Are the Current Treatments for Vitiligo?
The range of vitiligo treatments varies depending on factors such as:
- The individual’s age
- The amount of skin affected
- The speed at which the condition is spreading
- The level of impact it has on a person’s life
Here are a few examples of possible vitiligo treatment options:
- Medication that controls inflammation: A common option involves applying a corticosteroid cream to the skin. It can take months to see any effect, and adverse reactions can include streaks on the skin or skin thinning.
- Drugs such as Protopic or Elidel that affect the immune system.
- Light therapy: This involves the use of narrow-band ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Side effects can include burning, itching, and redness.
- A combination of light therapy and psoralen: The latter is a plant-derived substance.
- Removal of the remaining color, a process called depigmentation. This is mainly used when the patient’s vitiligo has spread to many parts of the body.
- There are surgical options such as skin or blister grafting or cellular suspension transplant.
Is CBD Oil Good for Vitiligo?
At present, there is minimal research that specifically looks at CBD oil’s effect on vitiligo. One study, published in Molecules in March 2019, looked at CBD’s therapeutic potential on skin disorders.
One section of the research focused on melanocytes and pigmentation disorders. The researchers suggested that endocannabinoid signaling could exert a complex regulatory role in melanocytes. However, the team also pointed out that the results are highly model-dependent.
What’s fascinating is that the study outlined the possibility of endocannabinoid system dysregulation contributing to vitiligo development. The researchers described it as a bold hypothesis that requires further study.
Another interesting development is the patent applied for by APIRx Pharmaceuticals. It aims to test a form of treating vitiligo that involves a topical application consisting of several cannabinoids. However, the main ones are CBD and CBG.
Otherwise, patients may use CBD oil to help with any anxiety or depression after developing vitiligo.
A study published in BJGP Open in May 2020 looked at CBD prescription in clinical practice. The researchers focused on the first 400 patients to receive cannabidiol via prescription in New Zealand. The study aimed to measure any improvements in patient quality of life.
It found that those who used CBD reported a 13.6-point increase in quality of health. Crucially, patients with depression saw major improvements in symptoms. Perhaps one could use CBD oil to help with vitiligo-related anxiety or depression?
How to Use CBD for Vitiligo
There are several options when using CBD for vitiligo. Patients can try CBD oils, edibles, or vape pens. However, perhaps the best option is to use a CBD topical as it is a skin issue.
There are various options, including ointments, salves, lotions, and creams. The main difference is in the thickness of the product. This tends to boil down to the amount of water used in making the topical.
There are various options, including ointments, salves, lotions, and creams.
Using a CBD cream for vitiligo is easy. Rub the cream liberally on the affected area. Most CBD brands recommend waiting at least an hour before assessing the effects. People living with vitiligo may benefit from applying CBD cream every 3-4 hours. Begin with a relatively small amount, and increase as necessary.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Vitiligo
At the time of writing, there is no clinical research that outlines CBD oil’s possible efficacy for vitiligo. However, this situation may change in the next few years. As CBD seldom causes adverse effects, most vitiligo patients may feel it is worth trying. This is especially the case if other options have had no positive impact.
Regardless, one should not consider using CBD for vitiligo without consulting a physician first.