CBD is the wellness world’s Megan and Harry—popping up everywhere you look, chic and intriguing, but you know there’s more to the story. And it’s true: CBD is one of the most widely researched and best known cannabinoids, and it has swiftly made a transition from supplements to skincare. Which begs the question…should you hop on the bandwagon?Even though you can find CBD heralded in all kinds of mass-market skincare, finding the formulas with CBD as a true hero ingredient gets a bit murky. It’s vastly under-regulated, with more than a little wiggle room for brands to claim their products contain CBD when they don’t.
To help you sort through the confusion around CBD skincare, we chatted with Jess Assaf, co-founder and chief education officer of Prima, a science-driven plant therapeutics company, and Noelle Simmons, True Botanicals’ facial therapist, to get the lowdown.
“We have an entire body system dedicated to cannabinoids called the Endocannabinoid System that is a cellular receptor network so cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors to promote homeostasis, both on the skin and internally.” –Jess Assaf, Prima
What is CBD?
CBD is a naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plants hemp and marijuana. Along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it’s one of the two primary active ingredients in cannabis.
According to Assaf, CBD works synergistically with the body to regulate stress and promote balance. “We have an entire body system dedicated to cannabinoids called the Endocannabinoid System that is a cellular receptor network,” she says, “so cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors to promote homeostasis, both on the skin and internally.”
The skin has its own Endocannabinoid System, Assaf continues, which protects the skin against stressors and maintains skin balance and integrity.
Simmons concurs, saying that CBD has long been known to support stressed skin and calm symptoms like redness and irritation. The Endocannabinoid System is how CBD talks to the skin to activate those balancing effects.
And to clear up one common misconception, Assaf says not to confuse hemp seed oil, an often used ingredient in skincare, with CBD. “Hemp seed oil is the oil extracted from hemp seeds rather than hemp flowers,” she says. “Hemp seed oil doesn’t contain cannabinoids like CBD.”
That doesn’t mean you should throw hemp seed oil out with the bathwater. Says Simmons, “Hemp seed oil is full of fatty acids like Omega 3, Omega 6 and Gamma Linoleic Acid, delivering mega moisture to the skin. Additionally, hemp seed oil is known for its antibacterial properties to strengthen the skin, helping it be less susceptible to infection and bacteria.”
Pro tip: If you see hemp seed oil on an ingredient list and you’re looking to reap CBD’s skin benefits, look elsewhere.
“Everyone can benefit from CBD in their skincare, especially when skin is stressed during PMS, menopause, or amidst tough weather conditions.” –Noelle Simmons, True Botanicals
Skin Benefits of CBD
- Hydrating: CBD supports skin benefits such as moisturization and hydration (Assaf).
- Anti-Aging: It can contribute to fine line reduction and protection against stressors like blue light pollution (Assaf).
- Safe: Because CBD is non-sensitizing, it can be used alongside any of your other skincare steps (Simmons).
- Calming: The natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD both support skin health and support localized relaxation and stress relief (Assaf).
- Pain-Reducing: CBD is known to parallel and interact with other internal pain control systems, helping to reduce and stave off pain (think painful blemishes, irritation, and more).
- Inflammation-Reducing: Because of CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, it may help reduce inflammation of conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
CBD Side Effects
According to Assaf, “There are no known negative side effects to using CBD topically.”
Adds Simmon, “If you have sensitive or reactive skin, I recommend patch testing a CBD product before committing to adding this to your routine just to be extra cautious.”
How to Use CBD Skincare
One of the best things about CBD as a skincare ingredient is that it works synergistically with your body’s Endocannabinoid System. That makes it safe for daily use—and as a juggernaut against stressed skin.
Says Simmons, “Everyone can benefit from CBD in their skincare, especially when skin is stressed during PMS, menopause, or amidst tough weather conditions.” (Note to self: Stock up on CBD for winter!)
Keep an eye out for brands that share their third-party testing results to ensure their products contain the CBD listed, and are free of toxins, harmful solvents, and unwanted synthetic ingredients.
How to Shop for CBD Skincare
Reading this overview and actually shopping for CBD skincare are two totally different things. So how can you decipher the effective products from the imposters?
Assaf says when shopping for CBD skincare, there are three important factors: source, science and standards.
Firstly, where is the CBD sourced from? Assaf says, “Good hemp starts with good soil, so it’s important that a company uses a single-origin source of hemp and a clean extraction method.”
Secondly, how are the products designed to be effectively absorbed by the human body? “Because cannabinoids like CBD are oil-based compounds and our bodies are made up of mostly water, it’s important that CBD products are optimized for bioavailability,” says Assaf. “Our products use a proprietary microencapsulation system so the cannabinoids can be effectively absorbed.”
Third, says Assaf, it’s important to buy products that have been tested and validated by a third party, with Certificates of Analysis (COAs) available to the public. She says, “Because CBD isn’t regulated at the federal level, it’s up to a brand to ensure purity, potency, and safety.”
That means you should keep an eye out for brands that share their third-party testing results to ensure their products contain the CBD listed, and are free of toxins, harmful solvents, and unwanted synthetic ingredients.
Other third-party groups and agencies like EWG VERIFIED™, MADE SAFE®, The Detox Project, and Leaping Bunny can also help ensure transparency, purity testing and safety.
Simmons adds that consumers should be looking for a full spectrum CBD. “This includes types of the plant like cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and even a small amount of THC,” she says, “which makes your product work synergistically and delivers more benefits working together vs. on their own.”
Says Assaf, “Generally, CBD isolate is thought to be less effective therapeutically than whole plant CBD-rich extract…We choose a whole plant extract over CBD isolate because we believe in the ‘entourage effect,’ the idea that the combination of cannabinoids and their co-occurring terpenes and flavonoids have a greater positive effect than just CBD alone.
- Clinically-backed adaptogens and other botanical ingredients that work synergistically with cannabinoids: like ashwagandha, lion’s mane, L-theanine.
- Organically grown CBD.
- Oil-based CBD products (like oil-based [oral] tinctures) that aren’t designed for bioavailability.
- Unsophisticated butters and balms that can’t effectively absorb on the skin, or contain inactive ingredients that are irritating or potentially harmful.
- Products without third party test results: for the CBD itself and the finished product.
CBD Skincare Products Worth the Hype
Prima The Afterglow
Prima sources all of its hemp from a single-origin network of organic family farms in Oregon. Their supercritical C02 extraction process avoids solvents and heat, preserving the active compounds as much as possible.
True Botanicals’ CBD500 Luxury Face Oil
MADE SAFE® certified without 6,500 toxins, vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced, this face oil is an irritated skin’s dream. To encourage biocompatibility with the skin and help the full-spectrum CBD do its job, TB incorporated rosemary, bergamot and hemp seed oil in the CBD500 Luxury Face Oil.
TB also sources from a regenerative farm in upstate New York, known for healthy soil, which grows the most nutrient-dense plant actives for skincare.
KHUS KHUS’s The Fix Face Potion
If a balm is what you’re after, search no further than this CBD-infused powerhouse from KHUS KHUS. Combined with antioxidants and other botanical super-ingredients, The Fix utilizes broad-spectrum hemp-extracted CBD oil for a soothing balm. Its formula is 99% organic, non-GMO and 100% plant-based.
Deborah Lippman The Cure CBD Lip Balm
Free of petroleum and other ingredients you don’t want near your kisser, Deborah Lippman’s CBD Lip Balm capitalizes on the hydrating impact of plant butters and oils, combined with a CBD isolate for a vegan balm you won’t want to go without. Organic shea and cocoa seed butters condition and soften, while CBD brings extra reparative properties.
This article mentions: Beauty