Pushing aside the likes of blue algae, moringa seed, and snail venom, cannabidiol (CBD) has become the hottest “it” ingredient in beauty and grooming products. Today, you can find CBD-infused bath bombs, body lotion, lip balm, and eye cream. The non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant CBD also is the star ingredient of a $125 facial serum and $18 bars of bath soap.
What some Wall Street analysts in the financial press dubbed the "beauty and the bong" industry, cannabis-infused beauty and grooming products are going to be a key part of the CBD market that Minneapolis-based investment bank Piper Jaffray estimated could be worth $50 billion to $100 billion in the next few years.
What Dermatologists Say About CBD Beauty Products
Dermatologists see value in CBD beauty and skincare products, too. Studies done on animals or on human skin cells have documented CBD's effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent, and a 2017 overview of research that ran in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that cannabinoids including CBD might be effective in battling itches, rashes, rosacea, eczema, and even skin cancer. With CBD's antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties, and its abundance of amino acids, some experts believe that it just might live up to its hype as a powerful tool against acne, wrinkles, and other signs of skin damage or aging.
Dr. Adam Friedman is a professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., as well as the director of the school's translational research. That means he's charged with applying the findings of studies like the ones cited here to practical therapies and treatment.
“I think there's tremendous potential for CBD,” Friedman said. “The molecule binds to so many different receptors and is so biologically active, we know it can be helpful for inflammation, itch, and pain. From a dermatological point of view, the question is how much is needed and what's the best way to deliver it? The explosion in CBD has happened much faster than any regulatory body can handle and because of federal limitations to studying cannabis, the science is way behind where it needs to be.”
“My patients are already all-in on CBD beauty products, and CBD does appear to have serious benefits, she said. “That said, studies have been few and far between. It's very exciting and I'm hopeful that the pace of research will pick up and in the next couple of years, we'll have science-driven evidence of what's effective.”
One reason for dermatologists' embrace of CBD is that it aligns with their primary concern as physicians: Namely, do no harm. “There is no lethal dose of topical CBD,” Rapaport said. “You can't overdose on it.”
Friedman added that since CBD molecules are highly lipophilic, or “fat-loving,” most will get trapped in the outer layer of the skin, where they can protect against water loss, helping to help keep skin hydrated and plump. “We know that if you put a good moisturizer on your skin,” he says, “that alone will improve the feel and texture of the skin and, as a barrier to the outside have some anti-inflammatory benefit.”
How to Shop for CBD Beauty Products
If CBD beauty products don't pose a risk to your health, they might do a number on your wallet. The FDA has warned that many products don't contain the amount of CBD that they claim. In Wisconsin, the news team of Milwaukee CBS affiliate WDJT-TV did their own investigation, sending 20 CBD products purchased locally to labs for analysis. The results: Only six products had at least 75% of the CBD they claimed; eight products had less than 25%.
Will Kleidon, founder and CEO of the CBD brand Ojai Energetics and chairman of the California Hemp Council, said that in the largely unregulated world of CBD products, consumers need to educate themselves on how to get “the most bang for their buck.”
That begins with choosing brands that have their products tested by an independent third-party lab. Those results will ensure that every batch contains the CBD that's claimed, and doesn't contain the things you don't want, such as pesticides and contaminants.
You'll also want to scan the ingredients label for terms like “full-spectrum CBD” or “full-spectrum hemp,” “CBD oil” or “CBD extract.” If you see the terms “cannabis sativa oil,” “hemp seed oil,” or “hemp seed extract,” that means the product has been made from the seeds of the hemp plant, rather than the whole plant, including leaves, flowers, and stalks. Hemp seeds contain little to no CBD.
“The cannabis plant produces over 418 compounds,” Kleidon said. “While CBD might be the trumpet section, what the body needs is the trumpet section playing with the whole orchestra.” He added that when it comes to skin benefits, a little CBD goes a long way and a product that boasts a high dosage might not be more effective than one with about 100 milligrams of CBD.
Keep in mind that cannabis or hemp seed oil can be a fine plant-based emollient, one that won't clog pores in a skin cream, and might help your mascara glide on without clumps. “So many patients want natural, botanical products, and if you like the way a formulation with hemp seed oil feels and smells, there are benefits to that,” Rapaport said. But, she added, you probably don't want to pay a premium for those seed oils.
If you are going to invest in a luxury CBD beauty product, Rapaport suggested making it one that you sleep in, such as an overnight serum. Friedman added the caveat that a higher price point doesn't necessarily mean higher quality.
“A product might be expensive because of a big marketing budget or a fancy bottle,” he said. “Instead of looking at packaging, look for a product where the CBD is the component that's doing the heavy lifting; that means a relatively short list of ingredients,” he said. “I get concerned when too many things are thrown into a skin-care product. Some of those active ingredients may break down the CBD or inactivate it.”
Feature image: Cannabidiol (CBD) promises therapeutic effects outside of the body as well as inside. Skin-care and grooming products makers are broadening their lines in what's called the “beauty and the bong” market in the financial press. (Kalcutta/ Shutterstock)