Cannabis Oil is the New Trendy Ingredient in Skin Care—Here’s Why
There are buzzy skin-care ingredients (turmeric! probiotics!). And then there are skin-care ingredients with buzz. In the beautysphere right now, there’s nothing buzzier than hemp-derived ingredients, such as cannabis sativa seed oil. This type of oil is loaded with plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory, next-level skin moisturizers.
It’s no surprise, then, that skin-care brands are betting big on ingredients from the hemp plant. Case in point: The new Green Releaf collection from Peter Thomas Roth, which includes the Therapeutic Sleep Cream and Calming Face Oil, both of which are infused with hemp-derived cannabis sativa seed oil.
With the recent passing of the Farm Bill, which legalized the production of industrial hemp, more products will flood the market, making it more difficult to weed out the highs from the lows. And, you might be teeming with Qs: Will slathering it on give me the munchies? Is it even legal in all 50 states? What’s the best way to add hemp-oil into your skin regimen? Quick answers: No, yes, and glad you asked.
So. what is Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil?
We know, the science surrounding Cannabis in all of its many forms can get confusing. Here are the basics: There are more than 80 different cannabinoid compounds that can be extracted from the cannabis sativa plant (otherwise known as weed). Of these, the two compounds that are the most well-known are CBD and THC—the latter being the one that produces a high when you eat or smoke it (a.k.a. it makes you stoned). Although Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil is derived from the hemp plant—hemp oil comes from the seeds, while CBD is derived from the leaves—it doesn’t contain any CBD or THC compounds, but it is naturally rich in many skin-smoothing, calming, and moisturizing properties.
“Hemp seed oil is oil extracted from the hemp plant,” explains Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Hemp seed oil is an outstanding natural oil for the skin,” Zeichner adds, which is precisely what makes it such a powerful skin care ingredient.
How does it work?
While the exact mechanisms by which hemp-derived oils work on the skin (and in the body) are still being sorted out by scientists, here’s the gist: “Hemp seed oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in treating a variety of skin conditions,” Zeichner explains. “The compounds on hemp seed oil have a soothing effect.” Why is this important? “Inflammation is the root of all evil, whether that’s acne or the signs of aging,” explains New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman. So, if you’re prone to redness, chronically dry skin, or you’ve started to notice the formation of fine lines, inflammation is likely a contributing factor, and hemp oil can help.
11 Legit CBD Oils to Use From Head-to-Toe
Melanie Rud is a Chicago-based writer with 10 years of experience covering beauty. She covers all things skincare for Byrdie, from ingredients to acne advice.
Swiner is a family medicine/general medicine expert, covering a broad spectrum of both medical and mental health issues. She loves taking care of the family as a whole—from the cradle to the grave. Her interests include Minority Health, Women’s Health and Pediatrics. As a wife and mother of two, she uses real-life experiences to clearly communicate keys to better health and wellness for mind, body and spirit. She is the author of How to Avoid the Superwoman Complex.
We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
These days, CBD is just about as well-known as the ABCs. CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a plant-based compound (a cannabinoid) found in the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant. The jury is still somewhat out when it comes to hard-hitting scientific evidence about the benefits of CBD; most experts agree that more research is needed. But the anecdotal evidence is there and CBD proponents—as well as many users—claim that it can calm anxiety to improve sleep, knock out period cramps, reduce redness and inflammation in the skin, and way more.
There are also a fair amount of topical CBD oils out there, though keep in mind that these fall into a bit of a different category than other topical CBD products out there when it comes to their effects. “Oils are great at softening and moisturizing, but they tend to sit on top, rather than sink into the skin,” explains Charlotte Palermino, co-founder of the cannabis education website Nice Paper. And this means they’re not necessarily going to be the best delivery system for active ingredients, CBD included, she points out. The upshot of this? If you’re just dipping your toe into the CBD pool, using a topical oil can be one way to ensure you’re getting not quite as much of the ingredient. And, on the flip side, if you do really want to reap the benefits, you can simply choose products with a higher concentration of CBD.
“Your endocannabinoid system—the receptors that are impacted by CBD—is deeper in your skin, so until we see a clinical trial on how oils penetrate and at which dose, look for higher milligrams of CBD in your oils if you want to see an effect,” advises Palermino. (While there are no exact dosing guidelines, you can consider 100 milligrams in a one-ounce dropper bottle a low dose, she adds.) At the end of the day, with any kind of CBD product, it’s important to be a savvy and somewhat skeptical shopper, given that the industry is self-regulated and lacks any clear cut rules or guidelines.
But if you’re not sure where to start, try any of these best CBD oils that are worth the hype.
Best Overall: Herbivore Emerald CBD+ Adaptogens Deep Moisture Glow Oil
Courtesy of Nordstrom
This radiance-enhancing oil contains not only CBD but also a range of other cannabinoids—CBD is only one of many—that all work together to improve the formula’s efficacy. It also touts another buzzed-about ingredient, ashwagandha, an adaptogen known for helping the skin deal with stressors such as pollution, stress, and UV rays (aka the things you’re bombarded with daily). FYI, this does contain 0.3% THC, so if that’s something you’re wary of, you may want to skip this one.
Best for Body: Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Oil
Courtesy of Lord Jones
Beauty editors go ga-ga for this brand, one of the better known CBD brands out there. Not only is the CBD they use the good stuff (lab-tested and cultivated in the USA), the variety of products is just great in general. Case in point: Even without the included 100 milligrams CBD, this would be a standout body oil. Five different oils pack a powerful hit of hydration yet still absorb with lightning speed, and the evergreen-citrusy scent is next-level sophisticated. But our favorite part? The brilliant rollerball tip that makes application a breeze.
Best for Face: Lab to Beauty The Recovery Oil
Courtesy of Lab to Beauty
No matter whether your complexion is dry, prone to breakouts, or easily irritated, this is a universal fix. How can that be, you ask? To knock out dryness, you have a blend of moisturizing oils. In the breakout department, you have jojoba oil and CBD, both of which can help balance oil production. And for sensitive types, there’s soothing rosehip oil, calendula extract, and CBD, of course. It’s a rare example of one-size-fits-all skincare.
Best for Dry Skin: Josie Maran Skin Dope Argan Oil + 100 MG CBD Oil
Courtesy of Sephora
There are only two ingredients in this formula, a clean skincare fan’s dream. You’ve got 100% pure argan oil, one of the best sources of omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids out there, ideal for quenching even the most parched of complexions. That’s paired with CBD-rich cannabis sativa hemp extract to help knock out inflammation and redness, which can often go hand-in-hand with super dry skin.
Best for Relaxation: Sagely Naturals Drift & Dream Body Oil
Courtesy of Ulta
A warm shower or bath is one easy way to chill out, fast, but you can ramp up the effects even further by slathering this oil on afterward. It boasts a blend of different oils formulated to help you chill out. There’s lavender oil, known to have aromatherapeutic benefits and for promoting relaxation, geranium oil to ease stress, and grounding clary sage oil, plus 100 mg of CBD oil. Also nice: You can easily find the brand’s Certificate of Analysis (COA) on their website, something important to seek out if you want to make sure the CBD you’re getting is legit, advises Palermino.
Best Low Potency: Kana Lit Hemp Face Oil
Courtesy of Urban Outfitters
With just 50 milligrams of CBD, this is a great option for CBD newbs. Along with the CBD, it also has hemp seed oil, a great hydrator, and a litany of other beneficial botanical oils to help moisturize and reduce redness. Insider tip: Try patting on a drop or two over makeup mid-day, as a way to combat that afternoon skin slump and get your complexion nice and glowy again.
Best Medium Potency: BLNCD Vital Nutrient Complex Cannabis Infused Face Oil
Courtesy of BLNCD
Think of this as a green smoothie for your skin—a one-stop-shop where you can easily get all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants your skin needs. We’re talking over 15 different plant oils that can do everything from smooth out wrinkles to minimize scars to soothe irritation. That includes 250 milligrams of full-spectrum hemp extract where you get the CBD benefits. (Just keep in mind that is another formula that does contain trace amounts of THC.)
Best High Potency: Saint Jane Luxury CBD Beauty Serum
Courtesy of Saint Jane Beauty
Those who are fully on board the CBD bandwagon will appreciate that this face oil packs a whopping 500 milligrams of the good stuff (which also happens to be evaluated for quality four times, higher than the industry standard). A long list of 20 other botanicals works synergistically in the formula to do everything from hydrate to smooth out skin’s texture to boost your glow.
Best for Nighttime: Populum Lavender + CBD Face Oil
Courtesy of Populum
Make the most of those precious hours of beauty sleep and apply a few drops of this before you hit the sack. Lavender oil helps you relax, but did you know that it’s also a potent antioxidant that can help ward off signs of aging? You also get 250 milligrams of CBD oil, as well as hempseed and grapeseed oils for a dose of good-for-your-skin fatty acids. Not to mention that the formula has been lab-tested, and you can easily see those results before you buy the product, a major plus when you’re talking about any kind of CBD product.
Best for Balancing: Muri Lelu Mauvaise Herbe Indica Oil
This CBD oil definitely smells like CBD, so keep that in mind. Once you get over the herbal smell (or breathe it in deeply, if you like it), you’ll notice that the oil feels lighter than most other face oils and sinks in instantly. It’s made with full-spectrum, whole flower cannabis extract and terpenes to boost its soothing, restoring and calming abilities, plus slew of other skin-loving ingredients like squalane for hydration, licorice for brightening, and more. “I love that it sinks in instantly and makes my oily-combo skin look noticeably calmer and more balanced in the morning after I use it,” says Byrdie’s editorial director, Faith Xue. “It gave me skin more of a glow after just a week of using, and helped soothe some irritation I had experienced from overdoing it with a chemical peel.”
Best Massage Oil: Reign Together CBD Massage Oil
Courtesy of Reign Together
If you haven’t yet gotten a massage using a CBD oil or cream, do yourself a favor and get one, stat (and thank us later). We suggest you BYO and take this oil to your next rub down. 100 percent natural and THC-free, it has 160 milligrams of CBD oil, along with arnica, to help further soothe sore muscles. Top tip: Many of your endocannabinoid receptors are located down the sides of your spine, so make sure it gets rubbed in really well on your back.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She’s very on board the CBD train, and takes it both internally and uses it topically. One of her favorite ways to use CBD oils? As part of a massage to relieve achy muscles; the one featured in this list is her latest go-to.
Charlotte Palermino is the co-founder of Nice Paper, a cannabis education website that publishes a weekly newsletter and consults with cannabis companies in Canada and the U.S. Charlotte is also the CEO of Dieux, a clinically-tested cannabinoid skincare line set to launch this year.