CBD-laced personal care products are about to go mainstream. From drugstores (Walgreens, CVS) to grocers (Kroger) and mall stores (Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters), expect to see the letters CBD on plenty of packaging.
The basics: Cannabidiolâor CBD for shortâis a non-intoxicating extract of the hemp plant. Hemp, which was legalized as an agricultural crop in 2018, is a cousin of the marijuana plant and both are part of the cannabis family. But hemp plants contain no more than .3% THCâthe psychoactive ingredient that gets people high. If a cannabis plant’s THC level is higher than .3%, it’s a marijuana plant.
Enthusiasm for CBD, an inflammation-reducing ingredient is in full flower, but hard facts? In short supply. Here’s what you need to know before you stock up on CBD lotions and other cannabidiol beauty balms.
âCannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown in very small studies to reduce inflammation on a cellular level, reduce sebum production clinically, reduce redness, and suppress itch,â said Manhattan dermatologist Daniel Belkin, of the Laser & Skin Center of New York. He believes CBD skincare products are âworth tryingâ with the caveat that a lot is unknown. âMany claims for CBD [products] still lack any evidence at all, such as that they can reduce wrinkles.â Because there have been no longterm clinical trials for CBD skincare, it’s also unclear how much CBD a product should contain to deliver real benefits.Â
Odds are thereâs either a lot more or a lot less CBD than the product label says. A 2017 Penn Medicine study found that 70% of the CBD products tested didnât match the claim on the label.
And studies show thereâs a decent likelihood youâll also get a tiny bit of THC in your beauty balm. CBD products are legally allowed to contain only trace amounts of THC, no more than 0.3%. âConsumers are essentially being misled to believe their CBD products are free of THC,â said Sean Callan, MD, senior vice president of innovation and operations at Ellipse Analytics, a Denver-based lab which found that 45% of the 250 top-selling CBD products contained THC. Although skin absorption of THC is generally slow and low, itâs something to keep in mind.
âLet’s face it: adding CBD to beauty products is a gimmick in most cases,â said Aliza Sherman, CEO of Ellementa, a website focusing on cannabis education. âThere are very few beauty products that need CBD in them based on what CBD is currently known to do, namely reduce inflammation on the skin’s surface. Skin care products could be enhanced with CBD. Thatâs a logical fit. CBD in mascara? Not necessary.âÂ Why? Hair, brows, beards, and eyelashes have no cannabinoid receptors, so they canât do anything with that compound. Itâs not likely the CBD is doing any harm, but whatâs making your brows look great is something elseâpossibly another cannabinoid, like hemp seed oil. In the rush for dollars (CBD sales rose to $2 billion in 2018 and are expected to continue on an upward trajectory), thereâs a lot of hastily made stuff out there, Callan noted. âWe saw instances of brands improperly emulsifying the CBD, resulting in a âwater soluableâ CBD that would stick to the sides of the container,â he said âNo CBD remained in the actual product!â
There is a collective marketing high going on. CBD is being infused into leggings, ground into pet food, swirled into shampoos, serums, jelly beans, seltzers, lubeâyou name it.Â
âCBD is being marketed for everything under the sun,â said Alex Lickerman, a Chicago-based primary care physician and author ofÂ The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness. âThere is no one compound that can do all of those things.â
Reputable players would like to see the bubble burst, or at least deflated. âThe CBD industry would like to see the FDA flex its enforcement muscle and start to rid the industry of bad actors,â wrote Cowen research analyst Vivien Azer in a June research note. âWith the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there has been a proliferation of products on the market with unsubstantiated claims. Industry representatives were in clear alignment that this is an area where the FDA needs to step in immediately.â
Still, CBD and skincare may be a good match. The human body naturally produces cannabinoids to regulate pain, inflammation, sleep, appetite, and other functions. The brain has the highest concentration of these cannabinoid receptors, but theyâre also present in the skin.
âThere are some really interesting findings on CBD oil,â observedÂ Lickerman.âBut the unsexyÂ truth is that hope leaps ahead while scientific knowledge about what is truly beneficial advances very slowly. Right now, CBD is the poster child for this.â
Thereâs no perfect answer, but if youâre curious to try CBD to clear up blemishes or to reduce inflammation, hereâs what to consider:
Choose products that are meant to be left on and interact with the skin. So buy a serum instead of a face wash.Â
Look for companies that have third party lab testingâand are willing to send you the results.Â âThere are a lot of companies trying to sprinkle CBD in for a label claim,â saidÂ SamanthaÂ Czubiak, founder of Hora Skin Care (pronounced Or-ah). âWe test every batch, and share the results.â Horaâs Super Serum lists 250 milligrams of CBD while an overnight mask has 422 milligrams.Â
Ron Robinson, an independentÂ cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Cosmetics, a skincare line which does not use CBD, said the documentation piece is complicated because hemp crops can vary widely, with plants that contain different levels of THC and CBD.
âUntil we know more, it makes sense that if youâre going to spend a lot on a product to try CBD, give it some really good back-up singers,â Robinson said, citing proven ingredients such as vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid.
And keep up on your reading.
âCBD research is exploding, so stay tuned as this will likely change quickly,â noted Callan. âQuickly by science standards, anyway!â
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