With the explosion of CBD products on the market, it shouldn’t surprise you that you’ll find CBD in almost anything these days, from toothpaste to shampoo to dog treats. When it comes to skin care and beauty products, does CBD really do anything?
To understand the potential benefits of CBD in skin care products, you need to first understand what CBD is and how it can be used. CBD is cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in both the high-resin cannabis sativa plant that also contains THC and the low-resin hemp plant, a variation of cannabis sativa that contains trace amounts of THC.
For a CBD product to be on the market and sold online instead of at a licensed cannabis retail store, the CBD must be derived from hemp and contain less than 0.3% THC.
CBD has been found to reduce systemic inflammation when ingested and can reduce inflammation on the skin’s surface when applied. CBD skin care products include lotions, salves, balms, creams and oils.
If you’re looking at skin care products online and they use the term “cannabis sativa” on the list of ingredients, it usually means that they are using an ingredient derived from hemp seed. Hemp seeds do not contain CBD although they are rich in omegas and can be eaten or used to extract hemp seed oil. Check the label on the skin care or beauty product you’re considering buying. If you don’t see “CBD” listed, chances are you’re not getting CBD.
How effective is the CBD found in skin care products? Each person’s body and brain will react uniquely to cannabinoids found in the cannabis or hemp plant so it is always hard to predict what CBD products — and how much CBD — will help one person versus another.
CBD in smaller amounts could be soothing or nourishing to the skin and help with acne and other minor skin inflammations. A smaller amount of CBD would be considered around 100 mg or less of CBD in a product yielding well under 10 mg of CBD per serving size.
Real therapeutic benefits from CBD skin care are more likely realized at 100s of milligrams of CBD or up to 1,000 mg or more. With a higher concentration of CBD comes greater potency per serving, more like 15 mg to 20 mg or more.
At that point, benefits can include aiding with burn or wound healing although do not use CBD skin care products on severe wounds without consulting your doctor.
Cannabis physicians will tell you that “full spectrum” CBD containing the trace amount of THC will be the most effective over a CBD “isolate,” because THC — and other cannabinoids found in a full spectrum product — work in concert to enhance the effectiveness of the CBD. CBD alone may have limited effectiveness.
Another thing to look for with a CBD product is the ingredient list. CBD isn’t a magic ingredient that can suddenly improve the quality of poorly made skin care products that already contain comedogenic or potentially irritating additives.
Look for more natural, organic ingredients. If you’d like skin care products that don’t simply sit on the surface of your skin but penetrate down a few layers, look for ingredients that can increase absorption such as emu oil, oleic acid and even terpenes such as limonene.
Because CBD is not regulated by the government like cannabis is, manufacturers of CBD products are not mandated to test the quality of their CBD. The reputable and savvy CBD companies invest the money to get certificates of analysis or COAs and to verify the amount of CBD found in their products.
You want to know that the amount of CBD that is printed on a product label is essentially accurate. Many of the products you purchase online that have not been tested or verified often contain merely trace amounts of CBD so you’re wasting your money.
For the record, you cannot buy CBD on Amazon.com. The descriptions of the hemp extract products you find on Amazon can be misleading, but while they may be rich in omegas, they do not contain any CBD, so don’t be fooled.
While omegas can be helpful to your skin, they do not have the same therapeutic qualities of CBD. Also, CBD in makeup such as mascara or lip gloss is found at such a trace amounts that there is negligible benefit to be obtained from them other than the manufacturer can command a higher price because of the perceived benefits.
Be a smart shopper when looking for CBD-infused skin care products, check the other ingredients, look for test results, and if you don’t see CBD on the label, move on. CBD can be beneficial but only when in a sufficient amount in a quality product with complementary ingredients.
Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine (Ten Speed Press, 2019).