Evaluations of Skin Permeability of Cannabidiol and Its Topical Formulations by Skin Membrane-Based Parallel Artificial Membrane Permeability Assay and Franz Cell Diffusion Assay

Med Cannabis Cannabinoids. 2022 Oct 10;5(1):129-137. doi: 10.1159/000526769. eCollection 2022 Jan-Dec.


Introduction: Cannabinoids including cannabidiol (CBD) have attracted enormous interest as bioactive ingredients for various dermatological and/or cosmeceutical uses. However, topical applications of cannabinoids might be limited without a fundamental understanding of their skin permeability. Herein, we aimed to evaluate the skin permeability of CBD and its topical formulations using artificial skin membrane assays. The solubility and stability of CBD in various surfactants that are commonly used in topical applications were also evaluated.

Methods: CBD and two CBD-incorporated topical formulations (cream and gel) were prepared for this study. Computational predictions (SwissADME and DERMWIN™) and the parallel artificial membrane permeability assay (PAMPA) were used to evaluate the skin permeability of CBD isolate. The Franz cell diffusion (in vitro release testing) assay was used to evaluate the skin permeability of CBD formulations. The solubility and stability of CBD in surfactants were assessed by high-performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis.

Results: CBD isolate showed favorable skin permeability in the SwissADME and DERMWIN™ predictions (-Log Kp of 3.6 and 5.7 cm/s, respectively) and PAMPA (-LogPe value of 5.0 at pH of 6.5 and 7.4). In addition, CBD had higher solubility (378.4 μg/mL) in surfactant Tween 20 as compared to its solubility in polyisobutene. In an acidic environment (pH 5 and 6), Tween 20 maintained the CBD content at 81% and 70% over 30 days, respectively. CBD in the formulations of cream and gel also had moderate skin permeability in the Franz cell diffusion assay.

Conclusion: Data from artificial membrane-based assays support that CBD is a skin permeable cannabinoid and the permeability and stability of its formulations may be influenced by several factors such as surfactant and pH environment. Findings from our study suggest that CBD may have suitable skin permeability for the development of dermatological and/or cosmeceutical applications but further studies using in vivo models are warranted to confirm this.

Keywords: Cannabidiol; Franz cell diffusion; Parallel artificial membrane permeability assay; Skin permeability; Stability.

Grant support

Hang Ma received funding from a research contract between URI Research Foundation and Alluvion Brands LLC. No other external funding received for this study.