Confused About CBD in Skincare? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Faith Xue has worked in digital beauty for 10 years and is currently Bustle Digital Group’s executive beauty director. She was Byrdie’s editorial director for seven years.
Rachel is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology. She has contributed to Byrdie, as well as Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Allure, Vogue, and the New York Times, and more
Caitlin Riley / Stocksy
In This Article
CBD is the Cady Heron of the skincare world right now—buzzy, intriguing, and full of secrets (though not as much as Gretchen Weiners’ hair). The ingredient has officially crossed over from being a wellness supplement to a beauty buzzword, but it’s not as simple as looking for “CBD” on your ingredients label and calling it a day. There’s a lot of murky marketing out there and more than a few false claims. For example, we’ve seen some major brands hop on the CBD bandwagon and blast it across their marketing channels, when in reality, their products don’t contain any actual CBD at all. We’ve enlisted Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist; Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Five in LA and co-host of The GIST; Charlotte Palermino, co-founder of cannabis education website Nice Paper, and Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, co-founders of new online CBD retailer Fleur Marché. Your skin deserves CBD—just make sure you’re buying a product that actually contains it.
Keep scrolling for your no-BS guide to understanding CBD skincare.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant.
Main benefits: Reduces inflammation, Regulates oil production, Neutralizes free radical damage.
Who should use it: It is recommended for those with inflamed, compromised skin as well as sensitive and dry skin types. It can also benefit those with aging skin.
How often can you use it: CBD skincare can be used daily.
Works well with: Actives that calm and nourish the skin barrier, such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and niacinamides.
Don’t use with: Be cautious with CBD skincare. Since it is an unregulated industry, it is undetermined what actives it deactivates. It is not recommended to use CBD skin products that contain alcohol, as this might combat its beneficial effects and heighten inflammatory skin conditions.
What is CBD?
So, what exactly is CBD? Shamban explains that it is a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in cannabis plants marijuana and hemp. “It’s one of the two primary active ingredients of cannabis, the other one being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the active psychotropic,” she says.
According to Lewis and Schroeder, (who fell in love with the ingredient during their previous jobs curating products for Goop), it’s “a potent antioxidant, highly anti-inflammatory, and has been shown in multiple studies to reduce lipid production from the sebaceous glands (overproduction of this sebum is possibly one component of what contributes to acne formation).” One such study found that CBD could prevent acne in multiple ways.
How does CBD work? Engelman says CBD interacts with our cannabinoid receptors. “We have receptors in every layer of our skin which trigger to our body when there is pain, an itch, etc.,” she explains. “Topical CBD is designed to help those with pruritic skin conditions like eczema or painful conditions like post-herpetic neuralgia when our body’s signals are going haywire. For example, it is not necessarily targeting eczema, but the hormones that are causing the eczema flare-up.”
Typically, CBD oil is used in skincare products. You can find CBD serums, creams, masks, and body and face oils. That said, hemp seed oil—which has been a common ingredient in skincare products for a long time—is not the same thing as CBD. There’s nothing wrong with hemp seed oil, but it’s not an active ingredient (though it may help with inflammation, hydration, and controlling oil production ).
When buying a CBD skincare product, look for these words in the ingredients list, which indicate there’s actual CBD in the formula: CBD, hemp CBD, full-spectrum hemp extract, phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil, and hemp extract oil.
Benefits of CBD for Skin
- Treat Inflammatory Acne: CBD might help reduce redness, pain, and swelling associated with inflammatory acne.
- Regulate Oil Production: As previously mentioned, CBD helps regulate hormones involved in oil production, reducing excess sebum.
- Reduce Breakouts: CBD may help reduce inflammation of breakouts and, thanks to its oil production regulation, reduce breakouts in general.
- Calm Rosacea: With its ability to reduce inflammation, CBD may help calm rosacea flare-ups.
- Neutralize Free Radical Damage: CBD may work to prevent the weakening of the skin by neutralizing free radical damage.
- Soothe Eczema: CBD helps combat irritation and inflammation caused by eczema, along with chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis, according to Shamban.
- Decrease Hormonal Conditions: Since CBD is thought to be an adaptogen, it may work to decrease the effects of hormones and other compounds that are released into the body in times of stress (ie. kinase, nitric oxide, and cortisol).
- Hydration: CBD has moisturizing properties that can help combat dehydration and dryness.
The level of benefits for CBD effects on some skin conditions is still up for debate and is a newer science being studied, according to Shamban, and more research is needed to see if CBD or the other agents found in the cannabis plant directly improve skin quality.
Side Effects of CBD
Engelman explains that more studies need to be done to verify the efficiency of CBD oil benefits for skin. As such, topical CBD has no known side effects.
How to Use It
How you use CBD skincare is all about the product you’re using. “Most CBD products are serums or creams,” says Engelman. “Use as you normally would, layering your skincare products from thinnest to thickest. Serums should be applied before creams.” That said, you should never self-diagnose your skin conditions. “Always read packaging and ingredients and check with a board-certified dermatologist, primary care, or other medical practitioner before starting any new supplement or topical care,” adds Shamban.
The Best Products With CBD
This CBD oil can be used on your skin and hair. It promises to help soothe and calm your scalp and skin, providing deep moisture and reducing the appearance of redness and irritation. It contains 100mg of CBD.
Palermino mentions supermodel facialist Ildi Pekar’s CBD line as containing high amounts of CBD. This luxe face oil in particular contains 250mg of CBD oil, along with soothing aloe juice, brightening vitamin c, hyaluronic acid, and more.
Engelman is a fan of these bath salts from Lord Jones. “I love [them] because they combine magnesium and Himalayan salts, essential oils, arnica, and CBD, which will reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, and increase a sense of well-being.”
Palermino also swears by this soothing sleeping mask from Kana. “Even though it’s lower on the CBD dosing scale, it’s one of the nicer lightweight sleeping masks I’ve tried,” she says.
Lewis and Schroeder are also fans of Kana, citing this this all-purpose face oil (which contains 100mg of CBD) as a favorite. “It’s formulated with a ton of other powerful botanicals that help to hydrate skin and manage redness,” they explain. “It’s a great addition to both your morning and nighttime routine.”
You get a whopping 100mg of CBD in this honey-infused stick, which is why Lewis and Schroeder cite is as a favorite. “We love the format of this product,” they say. “It’s easy to apply any time of day, and you can use it for anything. From chapped lips, to under eyes that need a little brightening, this stick is soothing, calming, and easy to pop in your bag and use anywhere.” (It was also one of our editors’ picks for the month of October).
Let’s not forget that the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD can extend to your body, too: “This serum is formulated with an array of medicinal herbs and over 80 phytocannabinoids,” Lewis and Shroeder say. “It does triple duty by soothing, relaxing and hydrating your skin and muscles. It’s a must for anyone who’s had a long day and needs some relief.”
Fans of Lord Jones’ best-selling Body Lotion ($24) will want to try this oil alternative, which contains 100mg of CBD and comes in rollerball form for easy application (not to mention built-in massage abilities). Plus, the light, floral scent is incredibly soothing.
Saint Jane, the brainchild of a former Sephora exec, is a CBD skincare line that’s not here to mess around. Its hero product, the Luxury Beauty Serum, contains a whopping 500mg of CBD, along with 18 other 100 percent natural skin-loving oils, from frankincense to sandalwood. Massage this in morning and night for a lit-from-within glow, even in the dead of winter. Trust us, your skin will thank you.
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942. doi:10.2147/CCID.S286411
Atalay S, Jarocka-Karpowicz I, Skrzydlewska E. Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):21. doi:10.3390/antiox9010021
The Best New CBD Skincare Products Of 2021 (So Far)
Nature of Things launched the Elemental Skincare collection in April, which features a complete . [+] four-step facial routine.
As the summer season winds down, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to streamline your skincare routine to keep that sun-kissed glow and stay protected from the elements all year long.
I might be biased (and, yes, I test cannabis products as part of my job) but over the past few years, I’ve transitioned to an all-CBD-based face and body regimen (with the exception of Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 and EltaMD sunscreen). The result? My clearest and healthiest complexion to date.
With BDSA’s recent trend report forecasting the CBD beauty segment of the market to reach $720 million this year alone — a 60% increase over 2020 and representing just 10% of the total CBD market — the number of new brands and product launches to consider buying — often at a high price tag — is overwhelming.
Whether you are looking to make a complete switch to CBD or want to try just one step at a time, here are the nine best cannabis beauty launches of 2021 (so far) to help narrow your search — each tried-and-tested in the challenging and drying environment of the high alpine.
*Note: This list is in alphabetical order, not ranked and will continue to get updated with new product launches through December 2021.
Vitamin C + Squalane + CBD Skin Elixir
The Making Of New York’s $150 Million ‘Cannabis Campus’
Blackstone To Sell The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas For $5.65 Billion
The Feds Are Coming For Delta-8 THC
Vitamin C + Squalane + CBD Skin Elixir
This antioxidant-rich formula combines three superstar ingredients — vitamin C, squalane and CBD — to create a natural skin brightener, which targets dark spots and reduces signs of aging. Best used after moisturizer and under makeup in your morning routine, Botanika Life’s newest serum is infused with 1,000 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD extract, which helps with hydration and restore natural radiance. And don’t forget to layer with sunscreen after you apply to improve sun protection. $95, botanikalife.com
Look Alive Face Moisturizer
Look Alive Face Moisturizer
For celebrity co-founder Kristen Bell, the havoc wreaked on her skin from the normal stresses of the day was the inspiration in creating Happy Dance’s debut face moisturizer. Formulated as a “first line of defense” barrier, this whipped, hydrating creme is light on skin, but heavy on hydration. Infused with 150 milligrams of CBD extract, it’s also powered by avocado oil, bisabolol with a ginger blend and four types of hyaluronic acid. Plus, it’s been ophthalmologist-tested (for safe use around the eyes) and available at a more accessible price point than most CBD-based moisturizers on the market. $29, doahappydance.com
Khus + Khus
Bleu Body Wax
Khus + Khus founder Kristi Blustein is an Ayurvedic specialist, aromatherapist and herbalist — experience that makes her “modern herbal fusion” mission stand apart among the crowded CBD beauty product space. Released earlier this year, the Bleu Body Wax is a concentrated pomade that’s solid at room temperature and when warmed up in your hands, liquifies for smooth application. Each jar is packed with 225 milligrams of broad-spectrum CBD complemented by coconut, baobab seed, Marla and beeswax with essential oils like tiara flower and blue yarrow to perfume the body naturally. $77, khus-khus.com
The Rose Absolute Oil
Lab to Beauty
The Rose Absolute Oil
So it’s not technically a CBD product pick, but Lab to Beauty turned to another cannabis compound for a second skincare collection. CBG (cannabigerol) is just one of more than 120 identified cannabinoid compounds found in the plant genus. It is known to calm inflammation, reduce blemishes, purify pores, balance sebum production and assist with cellular turnover. Concocted with Bulgarian rose extract, golden jojoba oil, moringa, immortelle and rosehip oil, this luxurious and healing formula works to fight aging, improve elasticity and deliver a youthful plump. Use The Rose Absolute Oil nightly after cleansing and toning or under your favorite foundation to boost brightness. $145, labtobeauty.com
Bump & Smooth CBD Body Serum
Bump & Smooth CBD Body Serum
Lord Jones’ recent release is the answer to one of the most common skin issues: those mysterious mini-bumps and rough patches — often inflicted by too much time in the sun. This potent resurfacing serum delivers a non-abrasive chemical exfoliation experience that reduces bumpiness and reveals smoother, brighter-looking skin thanks to 200 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD extract blended with bisabolol, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalane. Whether you suffer from Keratosis Pilaris (KP) or are just looking for a refresh to dull skin, Lord Jones Bump & Smooth CBD Body Serum gently removes dead cells to reveal what’s underneath. $60, lordjones.com
Nature of Things
Balancing Facial Essence
Beloved for its body care and bath immersion portfolio of products, Nature of Things introduced a skincare line earlier this year featuring a cleanser, toner, moisturizer and mask (face stone optional). While the entire four-step routine is remarkable, the Balancing Facial Essence has remained in my medicine cabinet because of its soothing, hydrating and dewy result from pure ingredient extracts like broad-spectrum CBD, Swiss apple stem cells, Korean kombu algae and French thermal water. Bonus benefits include new skin cell growth, refined pores and free radical protection. $95, natureofthings.com
Beyond Body Oil
Beyond Body Oil
Supercharged with 600 milligrams of hemp CBD oil per generous-sized bottle, Prima’s latest addition to its lineup goes way beyond your average body oil. Plant actives including omegas, phenols, antioxidants and fatty acids are meticulously combined with magnesium and helichrysum in this soothing, therapeutic formula, which actually repairs and restores the skin while also improving tone and texture. Pro-tip: Keep it in your shower for application to breathe in the aromatic blend of clove, geranium and citrus and lock in most moisture just before getting out. $56, prima.co
Hydrating Petal Cream
Hydrating Petal Cream
Best-selling CBD beauty brand Saint Jane has done it again with its first-ever face cream (previous award-winning releases in the category include The C-Drops, Bright Repair Eye Cream and Luxury Beauty Serum). Founder Casey Georgeson spent more than a year searching for the flower that’s best for skin hydration and hibiscus, known as “nature’s Botox,” was ultimately selected for its efficacy in firming and restoring elasticity to the skin. Blended with 1% pure hyaluronic acid, the lightweight Hydrating Petal Cream is a joy to apply, absorbing quickly into the skin and leaving the face with a dewy finish that lasts all day. $68, saintjanebeauty.com
They say beauty comes from within, so incorporating a CBD-based tincture into your regimen is a secret weapon in supercharging your skin. As the first-to-market beauty-focused elixir, Undefined Beauty’s Glow Drops can also be mixed into any moisturizer to achieve an extra shine. Paired with adaptogens ranging from mucuna (mood-boosting) and cordyceps (anti-inflammatory) to guava leaf (immunity-boosting) and astaxanthin (antioxidant), the tasty tangerine formula is an easy way to simplify your daily dose whether taken under the tongue or added to a beverage. Each full-size bottle includes over 600 milligrams of CBD, CBD and CBC (cannabichromene) sourced from a certified-organic, female-founded regenerative hemp farm. $48, undefinedco.com