Guide to CBD Beauty Products

If there’s one industry that’s constantly innovating, it’s the beauty industry. Beauty and cosmetics brands are constantly coming out with new ways to help us look better. 

In recent years, one of the more dominant beauty trends is making sure that those products that make us look better are actually better for us, too. Vegan, cruelty-free, and all-natural beauty brands touting clean and organic ingredients have become the new norm.

One such organic ingredient is cannabidiol, or CBD oil. Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD at a federal level, it’s been showing up in an increasing number of makeup, hair, and skincare products. Research suggests CBD provides powerful antioxidant and antiinflammatory benefits, making it a welcome boost to any beauty product.

But how does CBD actually work? Can these beauty products get you high? Are they safe? Get ready to explore the world of CBD beauty creams, mascaras, and facial serums, as we answer these questions and more. 

What are CBD beauty products?

Before we can define what CBD beauty products are, we need to first define CBD.

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s one of over a hundred naturally occurring chemical compounds (known as “cannabinoids”) found in the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids exist in varying amounts in different parts and strains of the cannabis plant. You’ll find CBD in the flowers and buds of the hemp plant. While you can find CBD in marijuana as well, marijuana tends to have more THC (another cannabinoid) and less CBD, so it’s less often used as a source for extracting CBD oil.

The research on the benefits of CBD is promising. Thus far, studies indicate that the natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-anxiety properties of CBD may be helpful in relieving a wide spectrum of health conditions, ranging from chronic pain and arthritis to epilepsy and PTSD. Most relevant to beauty brands, CBD has been shown to relieve various skin issues, such as acne and psoriasis.

CBD’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits offer the most potential to beauty products. CBD may enable these products to better improve the skin’s appearance by reducing redness, smoothing and tightening skin, and promoting collagen production. As such, you may see CBD appear as a listed ingredient in beauty and skincare products like:

  • Body lotions, creams, and moisturizers: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may help  repair and soothe dry, irritated, and inflamed skin. Eye creams may include CBD to reduce redness and puffiness under the eyes.
  • Masks and facial serums: Because CBD has been shown to improve sleep, you might find it included in a sleep mask or night cream. Its antioxidant effects make it a natural ingredient for anti-aging serums designed to rejuvenate skin.
  • Lip balms and gloss: Just like body lotions and face serums, CBD may also promote healthier, smoother lips.
  • Bath bombs: CBD’s anti-anxiety benefits are often the reason why it gets included in bath bombs, enhancing the already relaxing experience of taking a bath. 
  • Mascara and eyebrow gels: CBD oil may replace beeswax or another ingredient to condition lash and brow hairs. 
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and hair products: Just as it promotes skin health, CBD oil may improve hair quality and stimulate growth.

In order to enhance the overall effectiveness of the product, CBD beauty products often also include other plant-based, naturally therapeutic ingredients. For example, a sleep mask may include lavender essential oils along with CBD—not just because lavender smells good, but because it’s also been shown to aid sleep and calm the nervous system. 

How do CBD beauty products work?

CBD products work much the same as their non-CBD counterparts do—with the hopeful benefit that they may be more effective. You’ll apply these the same way you would the non-CBD version of the same product, and they won’t necessarily feel any different. However, because they contain CBD, it’s possible the product may be more effective at producing its intended effect—whether that’s relieving blemishes or sunburn, moisturizing lips and skin, or helping you relax or sleep. 

So, how does CBD produce these effects, exactly? CBD works because its mirrors substances our own bodies produce, known as endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are a key part of our body’s endocannabinoid system. The main job of your endocannabinoid system is to keep you in a state of balance. As such, it’s involved in a lot of regulatory processes related to your health, from digestion and sleep to your appetite and mood. 

Your endocannabinoid system performs this regulation by communicating with endocannabinoid receptors, which are located throughout your central and peripheral nervous systems, your immune system, and your digestive system. When your endocannabinoid system senses something is out of balance, it dispatches endocannabinoids to bind to receptors in the appropriate areas, creating a chemical reaction that brings things back into balance.

Because they have a similar structure to endocannabinoids, external cannabinoids like CBD can also bind to your endocannabinoid receptors. When you use a product that contains CBD oil, you give your body an extra boost of cannabinoids. If your endocannabinoid is having a tough time rebalancing things on its own, the addition of CBD may help make it more effective. 

What makes CBD beauty products different from other types of CBD oil?

Because you’re applying CBD beauty products topically, the CBD in these products will interact with local cannabinoid receptors in your skin. This sets them apart from other types of CBD products, which you ingest orally or through inhalation, such as CBD oils, capsules, edibles, or vape oils

With those CBD products, the CBD enters your bloodstream directly, allowing it to travel through your body to engage endocannabinoid receptors in other parts of your body, such as your brain. This allows the CBD to provide potentially therapeutic effects for chronic pain, epilepsy, anxiety, and more.

When applied topically, CBD cannot enter your bloodstream. It can only engage the local cannabinoid receptors. However, that’s precisely what allows it to provide targeted relief. By applying CBD beauty products to your face or skin, you may be able to improve its appearance in the applied area, just as a CBD topical rub may relieve pain when massaged onto a sore muscle.

Do CBD beauty products actually work?

Of course, the big caveat with CBD products—and how effective they are—often comes down to the potency. As a newer industry—and a largely unregulated one—there’s frankly a lack of knowledge as to how much CBD you need for it to be effective. A wealth of research abounds showing the therapeutic benefits of CBD, but these studies often focus on specific types of participants (such as children with severe epilepsy, or senior adults with arthritis) which make broad guidelines about dosing hard to pin down for the general public. 

Further, a majority of the research to date has focused on more serious health conditions, such as cancer pain, severe childhood epilepsy, and social anxiety disorder. There is not a lot of research on the effects of CBD as a general skin care or beauty product. 

However, studies of CBD’s treatment potential for acne and psoriasis have found that CBD may slow production of human sebocytes—the cells that, when inflamed, may contribute to acne. CBD’s effect on the sebaceous glands may also enable it to moisturize dry skin. 

It’s important to note that these studies have looked at instances of serious skin health problems, as opposed to general wellness, which may describe what some CBD beauty product users are looking for. But, given the growing evidence of CBD’s health benefits, the inclusion of it in beauty products may make these products kinder for your skin than others. Plus, the hemp extract itself (this is the oil taken from the hemp plant which contains the CBD) often retains other elements of the plant which are coincidentally beneficial to beauty—like essential oils, amino acids, and vitamins.

Will CBD oil beauty products get you high?

No. While both CBD and THC come from cannabis, they’re two distinct cannabinoids with distinct properties. Most importantly, CBD is not psychoactive like THC, so it will not get you high. CBD-based products also tend to come from different strains of cannabis than THC-rich ones. THC is more commonly found in marijuana, while CBD exists in higher concentrations in hemp.

As a result, CBD products are commonly sourced from industrial hemp. Industrial hemp naturally contains very low amounts of THC—0.3% or less—so CBD oil sourced from it not only won’t get you high, but is also considered 100% legal across the United States.

There’s more good news: CBD is very safe for most people. That’s a large reason why it’s booming in popularity right now. However, there are a few risk groups of people that may be better off avoiding CBD products altogether—or at least consulting their physician before using them. These include:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Children
  • People taking other medications

Unless you fall into one of the categories outlined above, it’s unlikely you’ll experience any side effects when using a CBD-based beauty product. If you do, however, they may include: drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, changes in appetite or weight, and low blood pressure. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop using the CBD beauty product immediately and consult your doctor.

Are CBD beauty products legal?

Yes, as long as a CBD beauty product uses CBD extracted from industrial hemp, it is legal federally in the United States. Most CBD beauty products will use CBD sourced from industrial hemp—not only because it’s legal nationwide but also because hemp, as we mentioned above, contains higher amounts of CBD. 

If your CBD beauty product is sourced from marijuana, there’s a high probability it contains more THC than CBD (so it may be less effective at producing the desired skin health effects, and it may not be legal where you live). Discovering this is usually as simple as reading the label on the product, reviewing the FAQ on a brand’s website, or asking the store clerk in a retail location or dispensary.

How to use CBD beauty products

Because CBD is so safe, you shouldn’t have to take any extra precautions when using a CBD beauty product. As with any other consumer product, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions to achieve the best results.

Potency is probably the biggest gotcha with CBD beauty products, as it determines how effective the CBD will be (if at all). Many beauty brands are jumping on the CBD trend and adding it to their products, but if it’s included in very low potencies, the product won’t be doing very much for you other than emptying your wallet.

Because CBD is so new as a consumer product, it’s not regulated by the FDA and there are no official dosing guidelines to follow. Anecdotally, people have found an effective dose of CBD to be anywhere between 1 to 6mg for every 10 pounds of their body weight. The best dose for you within that range mostly depends on the severity of your condition. If you are using CBD for general skincare, as opposed to treating a diagnosed skin condition, a dose on the very low end of that range may be best. 

If you have a diagnosed skin condition, it’s best to consult your doctor first before introducing CBD into your beauty regimen, as they’ll be best positioned to advise you on an effective dose. 

How to shop for the best CBD beauty products

Currently, the CBD beauty industry is unregulated and trendy. That means brands can get away with pricing their CBD beauty products at a premium—without actually making sure their product is safe or effective. If you’re ready to try out some CBD beauty products for yourself, follow the tips below. We offer our best advice for evaluating CBD beauty brands and ensuring you’re actually buying the real thing.

1. Know the difference between hemp extract and hemp seed extract. 

Rich in healthy fatty acids, hemp seed oil may also promote skin and hair health—but it is not the same thing as hemp extract, which contains CBD. Hemp seed oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. While these are good for you (you’ll often find them in beauty and wellness supplements), they contain very little CBD. CBD is found in the flowers and buds of the hemp plant. 

If you want CBD in your beauty products, make sure it lists “hemp extract” as an ingredient, not “hemp seed extract.”

2. Pay attention to potency.

Your CBD makeup won’t do you much good if it’s in amounts too small to be effective. Look for the amount of CBD included in any beauty product you’re considering purchasing. While you shouldn’t expect the same milligram amounts you might see in a standalone CBD tincture, it should still have a decent amount. It’s common to see amounts ranging from 100mg to 500mg of CBD in a beauty serum or cream, and 5mg to 20mg in a lip balm.

Also consider the size of the container vs. the amount of CBD included. If it’s a small amount of CBD in a huge container (and it also seems too cheap to be true), it’s probably not all that potent. 

For a quick way to assess the potency of a CBD beauty product, look at where CBD is listed among the ingredients. If it’s near the top, and has a clear amount denoted in mg, that’s a good sign. If it’s tacked on at the bottom and has no mg listed, it may only be in trace amounts.

3. Ask to see the test results.

The best way to know that a CBD beauty product contains the CBD a brand claims it does is by viewing the lab analysis. A brand concerned about the safety and potency of CBD in their products will partner with a third-party lab to analyze them—and they’ll share those lab results with customers. Many brands make this information easily accessible on their website for download, or they’ll happily email it to you upon request.

4. Review the other ingredients. 

Many people explore CBD beauty products because they’re interested in incorporating more natural ingredients into their beauty routine. Just because a product includes CBD, that doesn’t necessarily mean the rest of the product is non-toxic. Carefully review the other ingredients and confirm whether the rest of them are chemical-free, cruelty-free, natural, or organic. 

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