The latest ‘must-have’ is CBD (cannabidiol) – one of over 110 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids which are found in the cannabis plant.
CBD applied topically can’t hit your bloodstream, which is why a CBD salve won’t make a dent on your anxiety. Instead, it’s absorbed through the epidermis, making its way to cannabinoid receptors in nearby skin cells.
Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, as part of its endocannabinoid system, which helps balance a whole host of bodily functions like pain sensation, mood, memory and appetite.
Our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids, which are the equivalent of those found in the cannabis plant – but often, we need a little boost.
As with ingesting CBD, there are currently no known side effects from applying it topically – the main risk seems to be the potential of wasting your hard-earned cash.
What does CBD skincare claim to do for skin?
It’s even claimed that topical CBD application can alleviate muscle soreness, as well as relieve sunburn and bug bites.
Research also shows that CBD has the potential to decrease excess sebum (oil) production, which could assist in the reduction of spots, and it’s also thought to have antioxidant properties, which may help with fine lines and aging.
However, way more research needs to be done before it’s confirmed what CBD can and can’t do when it comes to our skin.
‘CBD is like a typical vitamin E or vitamin C where you won’t necessarily notice the results straight away,’ says Jasmin Thomas, who founded Ohana skincare after making her own topical CBD creams when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 2015.
‘You won’t instantly look 10 years younger but it has a long-term impact on your skin.
‘Consistency is key and people with skin ailments notice it quicker. It’s definitely more apparent in people who have ailments like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea, etc.’
Which strength of CBD oil skincare should I buy?
‘Companies don’t actually have to specify exactly how much CBD is in their products,’ explains Charlotte Bowyer, senior consultant at cannabis consultancy Hanway Associates.
‘I’d certainly recommend that consumers look for companies which do, as some may try and get away with using tiny amounts.’
CBD strength is specified in either a percentage or in milligrams.
High end skincare brand MGC Derma (which stands for ‘medical grade cannabis’) chooses not to state how much CBD is in its products as: ‘The perception is that a volume number such as 1000mg can then be compared to other products on the market.
‘The reality is much more complex.’
MGC Derma uses a patented process called “Aquiol”, which it claims provides CBD that performs at the highest levels, providing certificates to ‘relevant authorities detailing our claims’.
CBD comes in varying forms and qualities, so it’s true that comparing numbers is simplifying a process, but it does give bewildered consumers somewhere to start.
To confuse matters even more, there isn’t currently any solid evidence on how much CBD should be in a skincare product to make it effective.
‘If you look at other actives like retinols, the therapeutic recommendation is normally between 0.25% – 1%, maybe 1.5% at best,’ says Ohana’s Jasmin.
‘Why are people using more? There’s a company that sells a body oil for £285 and they put 7% CBD in it.
‘Your skin cannot absorb that much so it’s a total waste of CBD and a total waste of customer money.
‘I could go on about this forever but it’s the whole problem with the industry – lots of people in the market at the moment don’t know much about it and aren’t working with experienced formulation scientists.’
Unfortunately, there is little to no research on how much product to use, or how much CBD needs to be in said product. Useful.
What regulations are in place for CBD skincare?
A Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR) is required for all cosmetic products in the UK but there are no specific regulations regarding CBD skincare – except for it not containing any THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid) and not claiming it can cure you of disease.
‘CBD cosmetics products are prohibited from making any kind of medical claim,’ explains Charlotte.
‘Brands should avoid claims like “treat bruises”, “fight eczema” or “healing skin”.’
You’ll notice that many products contain disclaimers, such as: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”.
As mentioned above, companies aren’t obligated to tell you how much CBD is in your product, so they’re not actually breaking any laws if it turns out there’s a minimal amount of the ingredient present.
We’re dealing with a relatively new ingredient when it comes to skincare and it may be a while before consumer protection laws catch up, so tread carefully.
CBD oil is not the same as hemp seed oil
This is important. On my quest to find CBD skincare products to try, I was left incredibly confused.
Some online stores include hemp seed oil products that don’t contain cannabidiol under their ‘CBD’ category.
It doesn’t help that some beauty journalists don’t seem to know the difference either, repeatedly including products that don’t contain cannabidiol in CBD roundups.
CBD oil comes from the hemp plant (a cousin of the marijuana plant), and is taken from the leaves, flowers, stalk and stems.
Hemp seed oil comes from – you guessed it – the seeds of the hemp plant, which are the only bit of the plant that don’t contain CBD. In fact, they don’t contain any cannabinoids at all.
Hemp seed oil is a beauty wonder in itself and and is not to be sniffed at – it’s known for its non-comedogenic (non-pore blocking), anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties.
While CBD has similar benefits, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the skin – which hemp seed oil cannot do – and it’s much more expensive.
So, don’t be fooled by sketchy marketing.
If you’re unsure about whether a product contains CBD, then check the ingredients list AKA the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).
Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, meaning the product contains more of the ingredient at the top of the INCI than the one at the bottom.
The INCI should contain ‘cannabidiol’, ‘CBD’, ‘phytocannabinoid-rich/PCR-rich hemp oil’ or ‘broad spectrum hemp oil’ somewhere on it – these are all recognised names of CBD.
If it doesn’t say either of those and just says ‘cannabis sativa seed oil’, be aware that this is hemp oil and does not contain CBD.
Tried and tested CBD skincare products
We wanted to see what all the hype was about so Metro.co.uk got in some CBD skincare to test.
5% CBD oil, LDN CBD, £35 for 10ml
I normally use a steroid solution for flare-ups of scalp psoriasis, so I switched to applying a few drops of CBD oil.
I used LDN CBD oil once or twice a day, depending on the severity of the itch. It wasn’t a miracle cure, though it did seem to calm the scalp and keep it soothed for longer.
It’s a way more expensive option than my usual NHS prescription of Betacap but I’d rather use it than steroids, so I’ll keep testing other CBD options on it.
I also tried using the LDN CBD drops directly on my face as a serum, as well as adding them to existing moisturiser, which felt hydrating and didn’t cause breakouts, which I was concerned about.
However, I’ll stick to ingesting the drops for my anxiety, as I didn’t notice enough of a difference on my fae to justify the cost.
Super boost night drops, Votary, £95 for 30ml
I’ve been using these drops – which contain 2% pure CBD – for a few months now. I wish I hated it as it’s expensive but alas, it’s dreamy.
Despite being fragrance free (I prefer my skincare routine to be a somewhat aromatherapeutic experience) it feels really luxurious, soothing and hydrating, without leaving my skin feeling sticky or clogged.
Plus, the bottle looks great on your bathroom shelf, which is always a bonus.
CBD super serum, Revolution Skincare, £12 for 30ml
Metro.co.uk’s tester loved this serum, containing hyaluronic acid, hemp seed oil and CBD oil (though it doesn’t say how much CBD oil).
She noticed her breakouts calming down after a few weeks of using the serum once a day and says her skin feels super hydrated after using it.
Eye serum for dark circles and puffiness, MGC Derma, £80 for 15ml
Really into this eye serum – it’s light and refreshing and can be used under an eye cream, or alone. I use it alone on my eyes in the morning and it feels great. No idea if it’s the CBD, the caffeine or the vitamin C – most likely the combo.
The pump tube is great as it keeps the product fresh – eye creams that come in little jars are just asking for bacteria to grow.
As mentioned above, MGC Derma does not state how much CBD is in its products, which is frustrating when deciding if you want to spend £80 on an eye serum. (I do not, despite enjoying this product.)
MGC Derma SPF 30 day cream with natural mineral sunscreen (£85 for 50ml) is also great but – like every mineral sunscreen I’ve ever used – it leaves a white cast on my face.
The chalkiness is less apparent than other mineral offerings, but still enough to stop me from buying another bottle, which is a shame as it’s great otherwise and doesn’t feel greasy – even when used in a hot, humid climate.
Age control eye cream, Provacan, £24.99 for 15ml
Containing 100mg CBD, this eye cream claims to support and stimulate the naturla production of collagen, to maintain young, firm and healthy skin.
‘This was nice to use in the morning on puffy eyes as it was really cooling,’ says our tester.
‘However, I’m not convinced of its effects on aging around the eyes.’
CBD clay face mask, Hugg, £19.99 for 50ml
Metro.co.uk’s tester was a huge fan of this face mask, which contains 50mg CBD as well as combination of shea butter clay, coconut oil and essential oils.
‘The face mask was really good, it didn’t feel dramatically different to anything that doesn’t have CBD in but it did feel really good quality,’ she says.
‘It felt purifying and moisturising which is rare. One of the best face masks I’ve used.’
CBD body balm, Raised Spirit, £49.99 for 120ml
This luxurious balm contains 400mg CBD per (beautiful) jar and is handmade in Oxfordshire.
It’s incredibly rich thanks to the shea butter, and it moisturises dry legs and feet like a dream.
As it’s hella expensive I save mine for nights where I’m doing yin yoga right before bed, so I can let the potent hempy lavender scent lull me into a relaxing sleep.
Renew hand cream, Cubid CBD, £30 for 50ml
Never thought I needed a CBD hand cream, but here I am, with a bottle of £30 (!) hand cream sitting pretty on my desk.
The scent is a little bit ‘old lady’ but the cream is pretty great – it feels rich yet sinks in instantly, soothing my witchlike hands.
As well as 250mg CBD, the hand cream contains jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and cocoa butter.
It’s wonderful but I’m not convinced it does a better job than my usual (much cheaper) hand cream.
CBD+ cool stick, Wildflower, £24.99 for 28g
Not skinare per se, but this little stick deserves a mention. Containing 100mg CBD, hemp oil, peppermint and menthol, it claims it can soothe sunburn, aching muscles and headaches.
I was sceptical that it would be better than the Siddhalepa ayurvedic balm I normally use, but it seems to take away the itch from mosquito bites faster, and has been great for rubbing on temples/forehead when I have an anxiety headache, so I’m sold.
Skin balm, 1CBD, £29.99 for 50g
Also worthy of a mention is 1CBD skin balm which Metro.co.uk’s tester used on his sore back. He said the balm – which is infused with 300mg full spectrum CBD per jar as well as lavender and eucalyptus oils – was great for soothing muscle pain.
Are CBD skincare products worth the hype?
In some cases, absolutely – judging from anecdotal evidence. However, there’s not enough scientific evidence to back most claims up because not enough relevant clinical trials have been done.
‘It’s a new industry and people are struggling to raise capital, so they can’t do everything that they need to do, like study groups and trials,’ explains Jasmin.
As with everything concerning CBD, a lot more exploration needs to be done before we truly know its powers.
There’s also no telling if something would be good anyway, without the addition of CBD. A product may be shady in its minimal use of cannabidiol, but that doesn’t neccessarily mean it’s not worth using. (Although, do you really want to give your money to a company with loose morals?)
Unless you’re made of money, it’s probably not worth experimenting with expensive CBD skincare unless you have a skin condition that bothers you.
It’s also worth noting that a high price tag doesn’t necessarily equate to a product’s quality – CBD is an expensive ingredient but do be aware that skincare usually has huge gross margins.
It’s a murky world out there – as with anything, do your research before you splurge, and don’t expect miracles. There’s no one-size-fits-all cure when it comes to skin, and change doesn’t happen overnight. You usually have to use a new product for a few weeks before you start to notice a difference.
Trust your own opinions and don’t take what the cosmetics industry or beauty journalists (who can be biased) tell you as gospel.
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