What to Know About CBD Skin-Care Products
Research on this trendy skin-care ingredient is limited. Read this comprehensive guide before you buy.
Before slathering a CBD skin-care product all over your face, test it on a small area of skin, such as your forearm. iStock (2)
Few ingredients have taken skin care by storm quite like CBD. And if you look carefully, it’s everywhere: in sunscreens, masks, lip balms, moisturizers, and more. The question is: Should you really be slathering this stuff on your skin?
First, let’s talk about what CBD is. Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient in the cannabis plant, according to Harvard Health Publishing. CBD can be derived from either medical marijuana or hemp. Although marijuana contains CBD, CBD doesn’t have psychoactive effects. (THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that causes the high.) All that said, CBD won’t lead to any mind-altering effects.
The Proposed Benefits of Skin-Care Products With CBD
Experts attribute the popularity of CBD to its “do anything” reputation. In fact, many people turn to CBD in the hope of treating various ailments, including anxiety, insomnia, pain conditions, and now — increasingly, it seems — skin problems.
In general, manufacturers add CBD to their products to give them a boost. “CBD is a very cost-effective way to enhance products,” says Austin Katz, cofounder of Sheabrand in Brooklyn, New York. CBD is in a range of products — those that claim to treat acne, dry skin, and eczema — because of its versatility. “I think we’re living in an era where people want to feel empowered to address their needs on their own,” he says.
Scientific research on the use of CBD in skin-care products is limited. If you’re interested in trying this trend, here’s what a board-certified dermatologist wants you to know.
Potentially Helps Inflammation, Eczema, and Psoriasis
One of the touted functions of CBD is controlling inflammation. “The body has two CBD receptors that we know of: CB1 and CB2,” says Robert Dellavalle, MD, PhD, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora. When applied to skin, CBD interacts with these receptors to turn down the inflammatory response. This happens by “decreasing the interleukins, which are chemicals that are like the immune system’s fire alarm that calls the fire department in an emergency. CBD may decrease the loudness of that fire alarm,” he explains.
In short, you may see less redness overall, and in skin diseases, including eczema and psoriasis, it may also be effective in tamping down itch, possibly because CBD creams may help reduce dryness, per a review published in July 2017 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (Dr. Dellavalle was a coauthor of that report.) Keep in mind, though, that the review included only three studies: two in humans but with small sample sizes and one in mice, which doesn’t necessarily translate to human health. Therefore, more studies on the potential benefits of CBD for reducing skin redness are needed.
Additionally, a small study published in the March-April 2019 issue of the Italian journal Clinical Therapeutics looked at 20 participants with either psoriasis, eczema, or scarring and found that a specific CBD ointment improved measures of skin hydration (by moisturizing and preventing water loss), boosted elasticity in the skin, and in general bettered their quality of life. This could have been due to the fatty acids in the ointment but was also likely in part because of the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD, the researchers say. Yet more research in a larger human population is needed to know for sure.
For many skin diseases, dermatologists often prescribe topical steroid creams, which act as anti-inflammatory medicines. “These are very safe for most people, and they’re effective, but some people don’t want to use steroids in any way. CBD could be a nonsteroidal therapy to fill that gap,” says Dellavalle. Side effects of topical steroids include thinning of the skin if overused or used long term, but you can help avoid these risks when using them correctly, notes the National Eczema Association. Working with your dermatologist to ensure that you have the right medication at the right dosage can help with this.
Indeed, Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in Hamden, Connecticut, and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, prefers to use CBD “in inflammatory skin conditions as they’re fizzling out.” She adds, “I recommend generally using a medication to put out the fire and then using CBD to clean up the carnage.”
Beyond that, though, is the potential to use CBD as a tool to delay early signs of aging. “Inflammation is the basis of all skin disease, including aging,” she says. But while there’s a lot of hype surrounding CBD in skin care — and health in general — there is no cure-all. “Everything has its advantages and disadvantages or limitations,” says Dr. Gohara.
Possibly Plays a Role in Treating Acne
Along with being a potential therapy for inflammatory skin diseases, CBD is also featured in some anti-acne products. For instance, Mantra Mask’s CBD Blemish Mask combines CBD and pimple-fighting tea tree oil. “There are CB2 receptors on sebaceous glands, which produce oil. According to research, CBD influences the sebum production of cells and has an anti-inflammatory component,” says Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Solana Beach, California, who specializes in CBD skin care. This echoes findings outlined in articles previously published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation and Experimental Dermatology.
Dr. Jacknin also points to preliminary research presented in June 2019 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology that found topical CBD may help kill a range of gram-positive bacteria. “This bacteria is one cause of acne,” she says. (For the study, researchers collaborated with Botanix Pharmaceuticals, a company that develops products to treat skin diseases like acne and psoriasis.)
May Decrease Inflammation From Sunburns
Finally, one of the newest uses for CBD skin care is in sunscreen. Dellavalle notes that it does make sense to add CBD to sunscreen, as its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the effects of a sunburn, such as redness. Of course, the idea is to apply sunscreen correctly (following guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology), but in real life, many people miss areas, and applying a CBD-infused SPF may supply more general absorption and temper the reaction of sunburned spots, he says.
What Scientific Evidence Doesn’t Yet Tell Us About CBD for Skin Care
If CBD sounds like the answer to your skin woes, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. “What we don’t have in CBD is a lot of research. [CBD has] been illegal federally for so long, and it’s been difficult to do research on something that’s previously been considered on par with cocaine or heroin,” says Dellavalle. That’s starting to change, though. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of marijuana, which meant that CBD products were no longer considered like marijuana. This has paved the way for researchers to conduct more studies on CBD, and for product manufacturers to create and sell CBD products legally, though per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is still illegal to market CBD as a supplement.
A review published in June 2018 in the Dermatology Online Journal, which Dellavalle coauthored, pointed out that while CBD may “have shown some initial promise as therapy for a variety of skin diseases,” there is a need for large, high-quality, randomized, controlled trials, a sentiment echoed in an article published in December 2020 in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Another paper, published in the May-June 2019 issue of Clinics in Dermatology, urges people and their doctors to approach these products with the same caution. Finally, though topical CBD tends to be well tolerated and may have a role in addressing various skin issues (including acne, dryness, and irritation), there’s still ongoing research on the safety of CBD treatment, notes an article published in 2020 in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology.
Unknowns About CBD Dosage
Scientists still don’t know the ideal dose of CBD for treating skin conditions or promoting general health. Some companies, like Sheabrand, formulate with different doses depending on the area of skin the product is designed for — the body or the face, for instance — for maximum penetration. Scientists also don’t know where CBD stands in relation to proven topical therapies, like retinoids, vitamin C, or alpha hydroxy acids.
Questions About Cannabinoid Combinations
There are hundreds of other chemicals in the cannabis plant, and researchers don’t know what combinations are best. For instance, terpenes, the essential oils in plants (including cannabis), may exert synergistic benefits, suggests the Clinical Therapeutics study. “So much research needs to be done. We’ll be sorting this out for the next 25 years,” says Dellavalle. On the horizon with more research from universities and companies, says Jackin, may be more targeted and efficacious therapies for conditions like eczema and acne.
8 Steps to Take Before Trying a CBD Skin-Care Product
For now, know that CBD products are safe in general, and early research suggests that they may make a difference in how your skin looks and feels. Just don’t count on it as a cure-all for any skin condition. In other words, talk to your dermatologist before replacing products they have recommended with ones containing CBD, and don’t treat any new skin conditions with CBD products until you speak to your dermatologist. If you’re interested in venturing into CBD skin care, here’s what you need to know before you buy and try:
Everything You Need To Know About CBD Skincare
Whether its chocolates, cocktails, candles or clothing, CBD is everywhere and in everything you can possibly think of. And now the buzzy ingredient is taking over the world of beauty and skincare. From serums and sunscreen to chapsticks, creams and cleansers, there is an array of hemp-infused products popping up in beauty supply stores everywhere.
According to a recent Market Watch report, the global CBD cosmetics market is estimated to be valued at over $580 million, with North America leading the way. And it’s expected to hit $1.7 billion by 2025, predicts Grand View Research. Safe to say, the CBD trend isn’t going to die down anytime soon.
If you’re considering hopping on the CBD bandwagon too, but are unsure about where to start, here’s a primer on all things CBD skincare:
First of all, what is CBD?
Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in cannabis plants (eg: marijuana and hemp). It’s one of the two primary active ingredients of cannabis, the other one being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Unlike THC, pure CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn’t make you feel high.
Research shows that CBD may be effective in alleviating anxiety, chronic inflammation and pain, insomnia and some rare forms of childhood epilepsy. Moreover, a long-term study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that CBD may help prevent cognitive decline. In addition, according to a review published in the Neurotherapeutics journal, CBD may also be effective in treating substance use disorder.
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Why is it good for your skin?
Known for its healing properties, “cannabidiol offers some serious antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits which can be beneficial in treating skin concerns like inflammation, dryness and free radical damage,” says Ildi Pekar, NYC-based aesthetician and founder of her own eponymous skincare line.
CBD might also be effective in fighting acne as it helps reduce the production of sebum in the skin. Additionally, studies indicate that cannabidiol may be effective in treating eczema and psoriasis as well.
While the research on CBD’s benefits is fairly limited, it’s generally considered safe to use topically. “There is likely no harm in continuing to use a CBD-infused product you like,” tells Dr. Adarsh Mudgil, a double board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology. “If you happen to have a reaction from a CBD topical product, it’s likely not from the CBD itself, but some other ingredient like a botanical,” explains the skincare specialist.
How to choose the right CBD skincare product?
All cannabidiol-infused products are formulated using full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum CBD oil or CBD isolate.
“Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the compounds found in hemp, including trace amounts of THC. Broad-spectrum CBD oil, on the other hand, contains a range of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids derived from hemp, but no THC,” explains Ed Donnelly, CBD expert and founder of AmourCBD.
Meanwhile, “CBD isolate is the purest version of CBD. It doesn’t contain any other compounds that you find in a hemp plant,” tells Pekar. “This form of CBD oil is best for facial skin as it’s pure, doesn’t clog pores and is packed with skin-rejuvenating antioxidants,” adds the aesthetician.
Look for products that mention “cannabidiol”, “hemp extract”, “broad-spectrum CBD”, “full-spectrum CBD” or “hemp CBD” on the label. Also, note that hemp seed oil or cannabis Sativa seed oil isn’t the same thing as CBD oil. “CBD oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. It’s a finer and lighter oil as compared to hemp seed oil that tends to be greasier,” explains Pekar.
Another essential step is to determine the amount of CBD in a product. “For instance, if you are looking for lotions and oils for pain relief or anxiety, the CBD percentage needs to be higher in order to be effective,” says Pekar.
The most important factor to consider, however, is the quality of the product you’re purchasing. According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, over 60% of online CBD products are mislabeled. So, “make sure you trust the brand and have confidence that the product is safe and that it contains exactly what the label claims it contains,” says Donnelly. “It’s best to always opt for products that have been tested in a third-party lab,” suggests Pekar. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when buying a CBD product.
Also, is it legal?
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp, containing less than 0.3% THC, are legal.
“CBD is legal in all 50 states as a supplement, but infusing it into food and other products is an open question,” says Donnelly.
“The government’s position on CBD is confusing,” notes Dr. Peter Grinspoon in a Harvard Health report.
“While the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it. Currently, many people obtain CBD online without a medical cannabis license,” Dr. Grinspoon points out.
The Best CBD-Infused Skincare Products To Try
And now, if you’re ready to venture into the world of CBD skincare, here are some of the best CBD skincare picks money can buy:
Skin Dope Argan Oil + 100 Mg CBD Oil
Enriched with organic argan oil and sustainably sourced CBD, Josie Maran’s luxurious, lightweight oil packs a serious antioxidant punch. The fast-absorbing oil soothes redness, protects the skin from sun damage and improves its elasticity while locking in essential moisture. Plus, its fragrance-free formula makes it safe for even sensitive skin types.
Cannuka CBD Calming Eye Balm
This Manuka honey and CBD-infused eye balm does everything from plumping and brightening the delicate under-eye skin to shielding it from environmental stressors. It also contains Vitamin C-rich grapefruit extract to help even out skin tone and revitalize tired skin.
Leef Organics Nooks + Crannies CBD Soap
Packed with star skincare ingredients like olive oil, sunflower seed oil, kaolin and chamomile, Leef Organics’ Nooks + Crannies soap gently exfoliates and nourishes the skin. While the skin-soothing hemp extract offers antioxidant benefits. Moreover, the soap comes in a nifty plantable packaging that’s embedded with non-GMO tomato seeds so you can grow your own organic tomatoes in the backyard. Pretty cool, right?
Ildi Pekar Tissue Repair Serum
Powered by skin-loving ingredients such as aloe vera juice, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and cucumber extract, this anti-aging serum works to brighten the complexion, refine skin texture, lighten dark spots and smooth out wrinkles and fine lines. In addition, the CBD oil helps soothe tired skin and accelerate its natural healing process.
Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Lotion
This raved-about body lotion from Lord Jones is enriched with shea butter and glycerin to replenish and bind moisture to the skin. While the broad-spectrum CBD soothes stressed-out skin and helps repair free radical damage. Plus, it features a delightfully refreshing scent that has hints of sage, mint and green citrus. There’s also a fragrance-free option available for those who have sensitive skin.
The CBD Skincare Co. CBD Infused Exfoliating Cleanser
Featuring a potent blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid and acne-zapping salicylic acid, this CBD-laced cleansing lotion washes away all traces of makeup, grime and other impurities, without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. And it features tiny jojoba beads that gently slough off dead skin cells, revealing fresher, smoother and brighter skin.
Kana Lavender CBD Sleeping Mask
Formulated with broad-spectrum hemp, lavender oil and over 20 other skin-soothing botanicals, Kana’s multitasking face mask delivers deep hydration, calms inflammation and brightens the complexion. It also contains hyaluronic acid and beta-glucan to plump up the skin and improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Vertly CBD Infused Lip Balm
Handcrafted with skin-nourishing ingredients like shea butter, cacao butter, jojoba oil and coconut oil, this intensely moisturizing lip balm will make chapped lips a thing of the past. Infused with 25 mg of full-spectrum CBD, the luscious lip balm is available in three delectable scents: cocoa, rose and peppermint.