Morrocan Argan oil, coconut oil, activated charcoal: The beauty industry isn’t a stranger to buzzy products that promise natural solutions to everyday skin and wellness issues. It should be no surprise that CBD is the next not-so-secret ingredient to garner interest.
Indeed, CBD has begun to stake a claim in the world of beauty and skin care. The hemp extract’s reputation is growing as a natural and gentle possibility with potential application for a wide range of skin conditions. People with acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea are giving it a try, as are those with dryness and others looking to prevent signs of aging.
As interest grows, retail behemoths such as Sephora and Neiman Marcus are granting shelf real estate for CBD and hemp seed oil-infused products. Entrepreneurial supermodels are even rushing to develop their own products.
Wall Street analysts predict enough growth that CBD beauty products now represent a standalone category rather than a subcategory of the natural beauty market. But word-of-mouth and early stage research is just that, and those who have been studying the natural benefits of CBD advise users to take caution as they would with any new beauty product.
A 2017 article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that pharmaceuticals containing cannabinoids might be powerful weapons in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. In one cited study, eight of 21 patients who applied a cream containing endogenous cannabinoids twice a day for three weeks found that it “completely eliminated” severe itching on their bodies.
“CBD is thought to be beneficial for beauty and skin care because of its anti-inflammatory qualities,” says Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin. “Cannabinoid receptors have been discovered in keratinocytes, or skin cells, and other parts of the skin, such as the sebaceous glands, hair follicles, small nerves and immune cells. CBD works on them as part of the skin’s endocannabinoid system.”
In other words, CBD may ultimately be proven to support health and beauty on multiple levels throughout the body. And by simultaneously delivering aid to your skin and enhancing your mood, according to some users, CBD has the potential to redefine what it means to look good and feel good. If confidence is sexy, then a beauty product that may also aid anxiety could be effective on multiple levels.
Of course, it’s always smart to be cautious and realistic when considering a new skin care product or adding it to your daily routine. Dr. Robert Dellavalle, a professor of dermatology and public health at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and co-author of the 2017 study, says CBD products for skin care are quickly entering the mainstream, but he fears that some people are viewing heavily hyped CBD products as almost a panacea for all skin diseases.
“We’re getting to the point now where there’s so much enthusiasm that it might be a little bit of an overshoot in terms of what people are expecting,” says Dellavalle, who also works as a consultant for Altus Labs, which focuses on researching the relationship between the endocanna- binoid system and skin conditions. But, he adds, “I think there’s a lot of promise.”
Although rigorous research regarding CBD’s role in the treatment of skin diseases is still largely forthcoming, CBD has also sparked excitement in cosmetic applications. Wall Street analysts estimate that cannabidiol-infused beauty products will represent 15 percent—or $25 billion in revenue—of the $167 billion skin care market.
Similar to the reported results with various skin irritations and diseases, CBD has proposed benefits for those with acne scars, signs of aging and otherwise uneven or blemished complexions. Because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in hemp, from which CBD can be derived, Jacknin says, “users often find that their skin is beautifully moisturized and radiant” when using cannabidiol-infused skin care products.
Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist, adds that the properties of CBD can help prevent or reverse the signs of skin damage—such as premature aging or uneven skin tone—caused when stress, air pollution and UV rays break down cells and collagen.
For those with sensitive skin, CBD could be an alternative to traditional topical ingredients, Shainhouse says, such as alpha hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid) and beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid), which exfoliate dull skin layers, and topical retinoids, which can both exfoliate the skin and encourage creation of new skin cells.
“Those acids and retinoids can irritate our skin and can take time to tolerate,” Shainhouse says. “CBD causes no irritation and lacks a ramp-up time for tolerance.”
Among the beauty brands expanding into alternative ingredients is Evio Beauty Group, which is working with one of its investors, Aurora Cannabis, to roll out several CBD- and hemp-based products. Founder and CEO Brandi Leifso is optimistic.
“We’re noticing a rise in feel-good wellness that reduces anxiety and stress, and that makes you feel good,” Leifso says. “CBD has the ability to gently and effectively calm anxiety. It’s safe and well-tolerated by most people who are looking for an alternative.”
Proceed With Caution
When Rosemary Donahue, a digital wellness editor for Allure, replaced her regular skin care products with CBD-infused products for a month, she noticed less frequent breakouts and an overall more even skin tone. But anecdotal reports rarely tell the whole story.
“It’s just going to be up to the consumer to make smart decisions about the companies they want to support and the products they feel are intelligent buys,” Donahue says. “Personally, I look for products that are sourced as ethically as possible, and I want a product that has CBD in it for a reason, rather than just as an added gimmick.”
She and other experts foresee a healthy horizon for CBD beauty and skin care products as more people try them. With research in its beginning stages, for many, the effectiveness of CBD for their needs rests largely on trial-and-error.
Although the FDA has stepped up its scrutiny of CBD products, experts urge consumers to exercise caution with their purchases. Some retailers have been found inflating claims about their CBD products or even promoting CBD products that actually contain no cannabidiol at all.
“Be mindful of where you procure your products,” says Katie Sandler, a holistic wellness retreat organizer based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “With CBD flooding the market these days, you want to look for a trustworthy product. As always, do your research and ask for certificates of analysis to confirm a product’s bona fides.”
The industry is just getting started and there are kinks to be worked out by the FDA. Still, Jacknin remains hopeful for the staying power of CBD for the beauty world.
“The future is wide open for the use of CBD beauty and skin care products here in the U.S. and internationally,” she says. “As more countries legalize CBD, I think we will see other exciting cannabinoids being used in beauty and skin care in new and different ways in the near future.”