CBD And Cosmetics
The skin is our largest organ, so it’s no wonder that the cosmetic industry has focused its attention on CBD and cosmetics.
As people are increasingly looking into natural beauty and chemicals-free cosmetics, the CBD skincare and cosmetics market has created a niche market. However, this is not to be underestimated: the European CBD beauty market is expected to capture 10% of the overall skincare market by the year 2024. Already, shelves are filled with CBD balms, lotions, creams, face creams, serums, body oils, and butter, while several producers are exploring the potential benefits of CBD for skincare.
CBD skincare marketing focuses on CBD’s wholesomeness and natural provenance, as well as its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Cosmetics manufacturers prominently display on their products’ labels CBD’s potential in helping maintain clean and fresh skin. And CBD cosmetics are heavily promoting the indications—so far—that CBD could be helpful with irritating skin conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, and dry skin.
As there is relatively little oversight or regulation of the CBD market, let alone the CBD cosmetics industry, customers should be careful when choosing their CBD skincare product. First of all, they should be aware of their personal expectations and how CBD can truly benefit their skin.
So, what is the truth behind the many CBD and cosmetics claims?
What is the skin’s purpose?
Our skin protects our organs
The skin’s purpose is to protect internal organs from intruders, infectious agents, pollutants, allergens, and irritants. It forms a formidable barrier, consisting of seven layers that consecutively block harmful compounds from entering our bodies.
Our skin regulates our body temperature—and more
Aside from protection, our skin is responsible for regulating body temperature: when we sweat, it’s because of our internal ventilation system that keeps our body temperature in check. The skin is a crucial part of this. Through sweat, our skin also rids the body of waste.
Furthermore, our skin stores fat and water and produces helpful hormones for the whole body. Finally, the skin metabolizes vitamin D from the sun while also protecting us from UV rays.
Our skin alerts us
As if all that wasn’t enough, our skin is our most sensitive organ and can alert us when we are about to touch something dangerous like a hot oven or something sharp. Our first instinct is to pull our hand out to protect ourselves and it’s the skin that sends the relevant information to our brain.
Our skin helps us feel beautiful
The skin is a crucial, hard-working part of our bodies, as this useful resource from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information illustrates.
Strangely enough, given how important it is to our health, most people focus on the skin’s aesthetic aspects: youthful, wrinkle-free, pimple-free skin is what we are all looking for, while wrinkles, fine lines, scars, spots, and moles often threaten people’s self-confidence.
That’s why skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis can be highly disturbing, even though they’re hardly life-threatening.
As a result, people are constantly looking for ways to make their skin look healthy and glowing.
CBD and our endocannabinoid system
How can CBD help our body?
The human body is equipped with an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is tasked with keeping it in balance. Our ECS is responsible for various functions including body temperature, mood, reproduction, appetite, inflammation, and even motor perception.
The ECS is constantly monitoring our body: whenever there seems to be an imbalance, our ECS sends its cannabinoids to alert the relevant receptors and begin the healing or fixing phase.
The human body is equipped with two cannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG. These cannabinoids bind to their respective receptors and trigger our body’s response to fix an imbalance and restore homeostasis—our body’s natural balance.
Research has shown that CBD is chemically quite similar to 2-AG. Since discovering the ECS and the human cannabinoids, the research and medical communities have started to investigate whether CBD can help our body regain its balance when things get out of equilibrium. What if CBD could help when our own ECS cannot manage the task?
Several conditions, such as anxiety and depression, as well as numerous neurological conditions, are caused by the body losing its balance. For instance, it has been found that anxiety could be linked to low levels of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter.
Similarly, Parkinson’s disease has been connected with the loss of specific brain nerve cells that produce another neurotransmitter, dopamine. There appears to be a link between low levels of dopamine and Parkinson’s disease.
These serious conditions show us that regaining internal balance is crucial for the body to remain healthy and properly functioning.
How can CBD affect the skin?
Recent research suggests that our skin is connected and affected by the ECS.
This research showed that “the cutaneous ECS is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells.” It concluded that “the disruption of this delicate balance might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin (e.g. acne, seborrhoea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis and cancer).”
This study shows how the ECS is responsible for regulating and balancing our skin’s health. Researchers are now going a step further, trying to establish whether CBD can complement the role of the ECS and restore skin health balance whenever homeostasis is disturbed.
What qualities make CBD a good skincare solution?
Studies have shown that CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. There have been several studies that have highlighted these CBD properties.
A recent 2020 study mentioned the “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol” that were demonstrated in several trials and studies.
Likewise, bacteria can proliferate on the skin, as in the case of acne. Fighting these could help the skin recover its strength and natural glow. Research suggests that CBD could have anti-microbial qualities, particularly against MRSA infections. The skin is often prone to staph infections which can be difficult to fight, so CBD may be able to help with those.
In a recent study done in 2021, “[t]he analysis also showed that hydrogels based on cannabis extracts have a positive effect on skin hydration.” This could be promising in the case of skin conditions that lead to skin dryness as well as for naturally dry skin.
Many skin diseases and conditions are caused by inflammation. Inflammation plays a role in acne, alongside bacteria and clogged pores from sebum. Similarly, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea are caused by skin inflammation.
The role of free radicals
Likewise, we often hear of free radicals and oxidative stress. Electrons in molecules need to be in even numbers. When a molecule has an uneven number of electrons, it’s called a free radical. Free radicals interact with other molecules and cause oxidative stress. A 2008 study clearly describes how “[w]hen an overload of free radicals cannot gradually be destroyed, their accumulation in the body generates a phenomenon called oxidative stress.”
Oxidative stress is a condition where free radicals build up inside a cell and accelerate the shortening of telomeres—the end parts of DNA strands. Therefore, free radicals damage not only the DNA that makes up telomeres but also the DNA building blocks used to extend them.
In short, free radicals lead to oxidative stress, damage our bodies, and make us age prematurely. Free radicals are also the reason why our skin loses its collagen and gains wrinkles and fine lines.
Thankfully, there is much we can do to prevent this. A healthy diet rich in antioxidants is crucial in this. Antioxidants are helpful because they contain electrons they can give to a free radical. By giving an electron to a free radical, the free radical regains its even number of electrons and achieves equilibrium.
Luckily, antioxidants do not suffer from offering electrons to free radicals. Hence, our body is constantly looking for antioxidants to fight the imbalance caused by free radicals.
Skin conditions that could benefit from CBD
Skin aging is not due to inflammation but to free radicals. Skin aging is also caused by the sun damaging the elastin found in the skin. Elastin is a fibre that helps skin remain flexible and stretchy. Sun exposure is the foremost cause of elastin damage and loss.
As mentioned above, acne is caused by excessive sebum production from the skin pores. When this oily substance is combined with dead skin cells, the end result is a sticky substance that clogs skin pores and traps bacteria. These bacteria proliferate and cause skin inflammation in the form of red pimples visible to the eye.
Research suggests that CBD may help control the secretion of sebum and prevent the development of acne.
Psoriasis is caused by an overly sensitive immune system that attacks itself, killing healthy skin cells. The immune system wrongly perceives the skin cells to be harmful and kills them prematurely. The dead skin cells build up on the skin, causing unsightly scales and red patches. The skin in the affected areas becomes dry, itchy, and inflamed.
In 2007, a study showed that cannabinoids could have therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Interestingly, the study found that the effect of cannabinoids did not involve the ECS receptors CB1 and CB2, suggesting there are other mechanisms that we have yet to discover.
A further 2020 study confirmed that CBD could be helpful with skin inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis.
Eczema usually occurs in infants but adults can suffer as well. It is caused by the immune system sending the wrong inflammatory signals to the skin. Eczema expresses itself with itchiness, redness, and dry and scaly skin. Dry skin is, by nature, more vulnerable to infections that can worsen eczema, leading to a vicious cycle.
A 2019 study supported the view that “the topical administration of CBD ointment, without any THC, is a safe and effective non-invasive alternative [treatment, helping to] improve the quality of life in patients with some skin disorders, especially on inflammatory background… [such as] eczema and atopic dermatitis.”
Sensitive skin does not suffer from a specific condition but is likely to react to chemicals and other irritants. Sensitive skin can develop itchiness, turn red, or feel dry after coming in contact with everyday substances such as fragrances or alcohol. A 2005 clinical trial displayed that CBD-rich cream could relieve pruritic skin from itchiness.
CBD and cosmetics: the potential
Although there is no medical or scientific proof that CBD can help with skin conditions, initial findings suggest that CBD may help regulate oil production, thus reducing the frequency and severity of acne.
Also, because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, CBD may alleviate the skin itchiness and redness associated with eczema and psoriasis and relieve patients of their discomfort.
Thanks to its soothing nature, CBD may also be helpful for sensitive skin that tends to over-react when it comes in contact with chemicals, pollutants, irritants, and other allergens.
Finally, CBD skincare products may help keep at bay free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
How to choose your CBD skincare product?
The CBD cosmetic market is still relatively unregulated and unsupervised. When customers are asked to choose a CBD cosmetic product, they find themselves flooded with choices and claims. Therefore, choosing the right CBD product for you requires attention.
What is the difference between CBD isolate, full-spectrum and broad-spectrum?
CBD products are often labelled according to their CBD content and CBD purity.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all the natural compounds found in hemp. Hemp contains hundreds of cannabinoids, of which CBD is only one. Other cannabinoids include CBC, CBG, CBN, THC, and more. For a CBD product to be legal in the UK, it must contain less than 0.2% of THC.
Full-spectrum CBD also contains more than 200 terpenes in varying quantities. Terpenes are natural essential oils that give plants their aroma. In the case of CBD, they give it its musky and earthy flavour, but terpenes have also been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities.
Additionally, full-spectrum CBD contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants, and beneficial fatty acids.
The reason some people prefer full-spectrum CBD is because of the CBD entourage effect. Preliminary evidence suggests that CBD is more efficient when combined with all the other hemp compounds. Specifically, when all compounds are put together, they enhance each other’s efficiency, leading to an overall effect that is larger than the added sum of each compound.
Therefore, choosing full-spectrum CBD products could mean a more effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant result because of the entourage effect.
Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum CBD but all traces of THC have been removed. Consumers who are worried about a possible drug test at work often opt for broad-spectrum CBD to be certain that no traces of THC will be found in their blood. In this case, they benefit from at least part of the entourage effect without risking a false positive because of THC.
CBD isolate is 100% pure CBD, without any of the other compounds naturally present in hemp. People who are looking for a very specific dose of CBD—and CBD alone—opt for CBD isolate products. However, in this case, consumers miss out on the potential entourage effect and may only partly benefit from CBD.
Other ingredients in your CBD skincare product
Most people choose CBD skincare products because of its natural reputation and perceived wholesomeness.
A CBD skincare product contains more than just CBD and other hemp compounds. If you are looking for natural products, you should also check the rest of the ingredients. Are these botanical or chemical? You need to read the label and make sure you are aware of what you are using.
Sometimes, people are allergic to the CBD skincare product they use. This is most likely because of the rest of the ingredients, rather than the CBD itself.
Organic CBD vs. conventional CBD?
Hemp is a bio-remediation plant, which means it cleans soils from heavy metals, herbicides, and pollutants. Some farmers choose to plant hemp to clean their soil before planting their actual crop.
However, given hemp’s bio-remediation properties, it stores all these harmful substances in its roots, stalks, leaves, and flowers. That’s why some consumers prefer to opt for organic hemp to avoid applying on their skin potential allergens, pesticides, and heavy metals.
However, this doesn’t mean that any products that are not certified as organic carry pollutants. Rather, the important thing is to buy from a trusted source; i.e. one that clearly states its CBD content carries a Certificate of Analysis and is thoroughly tested, ideally at a third-party lab.
Choose a product that states its CBD content
How much CBD is in any given topical product? Strangely enough, there is no general consensus on how to calculate CBD in topical creams and skincare. In part, this is because it is hard to measure the quantity you will be applying.
The easiest way to calculate how much CBD you will be getting is to divide the total content of CBD by the jar’s or tube’s total content. For example, if a CBD body lotion states that it contains 500 mg CBD and the tube contains 100 ml of lotion, then you will be getting 5 mg of CBD per 1 ml of body lotion.
Many CBD manufacturers state on the label how much CBD you will be getting per use, sparing you the math. However, remember that the actual CBD you will be getting per use depends on how much of the lotion you apply.
It may be best to aim for CBD products that have been tested at third-party labs. This means that a third-party lab has analysed the content of the product and has issued a Certificate of Analysis (CoA)—a record of what the product contains, including other ingredients, chemicals, presence of THC, and levels of other cannabinoids.
Many reputable CBD producers post these certificates online so you can see for yourself what your individual product contains.
CBD or hemp seed oil?
Due to the unregulated market, labels are often misleading. For example, there is great misinformation when it comes to the difference between CBD and hemp seed oil.
Hemp seed oil comes from the seed of the hemp flower. Hemp seed oil is highly moisturizing, can be used as dressing oil in salads and foods, and contains beneficial omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, hemp seed oil contains no CBD or any other cannabinoid.
CBD, on the other hand, is extracted from the leaves and flowers of hemp where all the cannabinoids, including CBD, reside.
CBD is far more expensive and hard to extract compared to hemp seed oil. Therefore, CBD products are more expensive than hemp seed oil products.
If you are looking for a CBD skincare product, the label should clearly mention cannabidiol or CBD. A product that only mentions hemp seed oil suggests there is no CBD in it and you should be paying far less than for a CBD product.
Should I try a CBD-rich skincare product?
Preliminary findings are highly promising when it comes to treating psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, acne, and even aging signs. However, there is still no definitive answer with regards to the effectiveness of CBD on skin conditions.
CBD is a natural compound found in hemp. When applied to the skin, it is absorbed by the three main layers of the skin, namely the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous fat.
Because the skin is a powerful barrier, very little CBD from a body lotion can enter the bloodstream. Therefore, people worried about CBD’s interactions with medicines should feel secure in the knowledge that their CBD-rich body lotion is highly unlikely to have any impact on their liver or that it will interact with any medication.
When it comes to CBD and cosmetics, choosing a CBD-rich skin product could benefit your skin in terms of hydration and moisturizing. As for confidence-destroying skin conditions, the outlook appears promising.
Keep reading to find out more about how CBD topical creams work!