Advertisement info: This blog post uses affiliate links. I received no money to write it. Please read disclaimer.
Back in January when I talked about upcoming skin care launches and mentioned the Kiehls Cannabis Sativa Seed oil, or, more specific, the rise of CBD skin care in general, I immediately got a ton of questions. Is it legal? Will it make me high? What are the skin benefits of CBD anyway?
There is no denying that we have seen an increase in products featuring either CBD oil, Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil or Hemp Oil on the ingredient list, and that is not only limited to skin care. No, Milk Makeup launched a mascara using Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil as vegan alternative to beeswax, and a little browsing led to the website of Kush Queen, offering a (water-based) lube called Ignite CBD, that admittedly is more expensive than the average store bought one. It comes in a THC enriched version too, so that might be an interesting experience…
I admit, I did need to google the meaning of the word “Kush” (it is slang and describes high quality weed, if you are naive like I am). It seems I am not down with the cool kids anymore (Do you still say that? I am too old for this!).
But before I get completely side tracked, lets return to CBD skin care and what you need to know about it (and if you don’t want to read, just watch the video).
What is CBD skin care?
The name comes from the added CBD oil. CBD is short for Cannabidiol, which is extracted from the Cannabis Sativa Plant species. This plant contains more than 120 different so called cannabinoids, the ones most widely known are CBD and THC.
So is CBD skin care legal?
There are different kinds of Cannabis plants, and they have a different concentration in Cannabinoids: The Marijuana plants (high in THC, low in CBD) and the Industrial Hemp plants (high in CBD, less than 0,3 % THC) and of course crossbreeds in between. It is also important to note that the concentration varies depending on what part of the plant you use: THC concentration is highest in the buds and leaves and lowest in the seeds of the plant.
Growing Marijuana is illegal in most western countries. Growing Industrial Hemp though is possible now in several states of the US (some states even legalized “recreational” use, wich includes plants high in THC), as well as for industrial use in European countries. You still to this date are not allowed to grow any kind of Cannabis Sativa plant in Germany for private purpose.
Extraction and production of Cannabidiol is now possible, as well as using and selling it in products, but the rest is in kind of a grey area, legally speaking.
But, and that is the key message here: CBD is not THC and buying and using beauty products with CBD is not illegal (although some US states are prohibiting them from being sold in real stores). CBD never was illegal, it just was much harder to come by. But please do check with your local authorities before you start a CBD business!
Is CBD Oil the same as Hemp Oil?
No. Cannabidiol is part of Hemp Oil, which you get from pressing the Hemp plant, but Hemp Oil does contains a plethora of different, beneficial ingredients for our skin. It is rich in Vitamin A, D and E as well as essential fatty acids, which makes it good for mature and irritated skin. It also has Cannabidiol, but in a much lower concentration than you get when you use the pure CBD Oil, which has been extracted through a specific process.
If you want specifically the effects of CBD Oil, you won´t get them from Hemp Oil simply because the concentration of CBD is too low. But on the other hand you won´t get the same amount of essential fatty acids and antioxidants from CBD Oil that you get from Hemp Oil. And yes, Hemp Oil contains all the cannabinoids, so it might contain THC. That isn´t a problem though as the THC concentration in hemp is low to begin with and gets even lower through pressing.
What is the difference between CBD and THC and how do they work in the body? Does CBD Oil get you high?
Both are cannabinoids and both come from the Cannabis Sativa species, but as said before, come in different concentrations depending on the plant you are using.
Cannabinoids are similar to messengers we use in our own bodies (called endocannabinoids) which fit into specific receptors, the so called Cannabinoid receptors. There are two different kinds of receptors, the CB 1 receptor, mainly in our brain and nervous system which plays a huge role in anxiolytic and pain control effects as well in mental alteration. The CB 2 receptor is found in our skin and immune cells (and probably in our sebaceous glands as well), where it modulates inflammation, pain control and possibly oil production. THC mostly binds to CB 1, CBD mostly binds to CB 2, and both bind to the receptor at different places, so they have a different effect. THC has a psychotropic effect and CBD hasn´t, no matter how much you apply.
CBD will never make you high.
What benefits can CBD have in skin care? Why is CBD good for the skin?
You have to distinguish between ingestion and topical application.
When ingested, CBD Oil is said to help with anxiety, sleeping disorders and pain control through binding to CB 1 receptors and also with general inflammation and itchiness due to CB 2 receptors in the skin. It has become popular in perimenopausal women for navigating times that often come with anxiety, disturbed sleep and just general mood swings.
When applied topically, you won´t get any effect on anxiety, sleeping or general pain, because the Cannabidiol Oil does not penetrate deeply enough into the skin to reach the bloodstream in high enough quantities to have an effect. It will only react with the receptors in the area of application and help with itching, inflammation and oil control. It also shows the less specific effects of being an antioxidant and reducing Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL).
For all these claims there arn´t many studies to back that up. Research is only now slowly picking up, and I expect to see a lot more in the upcoming months.
For makeup, CBD oil can be used as vegan alternative to beeswax while at the same time providing some antioxidant and hydrating benefits.
Which skin conditions benefit the most from using CBD skin care? Does CBD help with acne?
Skin conditions that come with an increased inflammation, like eczema, will benefit the most from the anti-inflammatory effects and the reduced itching, while acneic skin loves the anti-inflammatory and oil control effects. Similar to other oils used in skincare it has emollient and antioxidant effects, which makes it great for more mature skin types. So yes, CBD skin care might be beneficial to use for acne.
How do I pick the right CBD skin care product?
You need to get savvy reading the ingredient list. What does it say:
- Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil? That doesn´t give you a clue about the concentration of CBD, but most likely is similar to Hemp Seed Oil.
- Hemp Seed Oil? Again, low concentrations of CBD, but other beneficial ingredients.
- CBD Oil or Cannabidiol Oil? That is what you are looking for! It means you get the pure form, which is necessary if you want the full CBD benefits.
Of course any oil you purchase should come from reliable sources and have third party testing if they claim to provide you with a set amount of mg CBD. Side note: You only need 0,5 – 1% of CBD Oil to get the benefits in a formula, so don´t shy away if it is at the bottom of the ingredient list.
Also: Check what it comes in! You don´t really get pure CBD Oil, but CBD Oil with a carrier oil, and coconut oil is quite common for that. Not the best choice if you have acne, congestion prone skin as Coconut Oil triggers breakouts in many people! My favorite combination so far is the KIKI Health 5% CBD Oil, which uses Hemp Oil as carrier for the CBD Oil, so you get the best of both worlds.