When a new skincare trend begins making its rounds, how can you tell if it’s worth the hype? The last couple of years have been dominated by CBD—but with more reputable skincare ingredients like vitamin C out there, is CBD worth exploring? We enlisted Carlie Bell-Biggins, ND, to separate fact from fiction—and help you decide.
First things first: What exactly is CBD? CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is one of the many powerful compounds (called phytocannabinoids) produced by the Cannabis sativa plant. THC is the phytocannabinoid that causes the intoxicated state when smoking marijuana.
The difference between CBD and hempseed oil
Due to the exponential popularity of CBD, “weedwashing” has become prevalent; that is, plenty of unscrupulous parties have released ineffective or substandard versions of CBD products to make opportunistic profits. To avoid getting duped and ensure you purchase only authentic formulas, here’s what you should know.
There are many terms that fall under the umbrella of hemp-based beauty—most commonly CBD oil and hempseed oil. There is, however, an important difference between the two, according to Bell-Biggins.
“Hempseed oil comes from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant, while CBD oil comes from the flowers of the female plant. Hempseed oil is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is touted for providing moisture to the skin without clogging your pores. CBD is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties,” she says.
The lack of knowledge around this distinction is what enables companies to weedwash. Because CBD is more expensive, many brands will advertise their products containing only hempseed oil as CBD products. (Note hempseed oil does not contain CBD or THC.)
Bell-Biggins offers a simple solution to ensure you’re getting what you pay for: Read the full ingredients list. “Hempseed oil will be labeled as such, or it can also be listed as Cannabis sativa seed oil. CBD will be labeled as cannabidiol, hemp extract, full-spectrum hemp, hemp isolate, broad-spectrum hemp, or hemp oil.”
Another set of terminology to be aware of is “full-spectrum hemp extract,” “broad-spectrum hemp extract” and “CBD isolate.” Full-spectrum hemp will have all the cannabinoids present, including a low concentration of THC (under 0.3 percent). Broad-spectrum will have them all except THC, and an isolate will have only CBD, says Bell-Biggins.
The best choice? The naturopath says to choose full-spectrum or broad-spectrum to achieve maximum benefits for the skin. The reasoning behind this lies in the entourage effect, which describes the synergistic benefit one is said to derive from using CBD in combination with other cannabinoids. The greater the variety, the better.
The purported beauty benefits of CBD
Considering that hemp-based beauty is relatively new, research about its effectiveness is in its infancy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t encouraging studies (in addition to an abundance of users who swear by it).
“Because of their anti-inflammatory actions, phytocannabinoids, including CBD, may be safe and effective plant-based tools to help manage inflammation in the skin for conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis,” says Bell-Biggins, who adds that other studies have shown how CBD can positively affect wound healing.
How CBD actually works with skin
So how does CBD actually work its wonders once applied to your skin? The key is in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system that regulates cannabinoids from CBD within your body to help with sleep, immune, and notably, skin function.
“If any of these processes are disrupted or the ECS is not functioning properly in the skin, various skin conditions can arise, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, cancer, hair growth disorders, itching, and pain,” says Bell-Biggins. Using CBD on your skin may help stimulate the endocannabinoid system, providing optimal conditions to keep it in balance.
Many people are also curious about how much CBD is actually absorbed into the skin. As with other skincare ingredients, CBD is definitely absorbed—but the extent to which it’s absorbed is debatable. It depends on the person, says Bell-Biggins.
“When the CBD is absorbed, it will go to the fat cells first, before making its way to the blood. The more fat someone has, the less CBD will make it to the bloodstream.” On top of that, she continues, skin that is inflamed tends to absorb CBD better.
Whether you’re interested in incorporating CBD to smooth or soothe your skin, don’t skip your homework. Read labels—and remember: Your skin cannot be fooled!
CBD for relaxation
Need to chill out? Dr. Carlie Bell-Biggins, ND, recommends CBD bath soaks, topical salves, and oral oil tinctures. Regardless of how you take it all in, CBD can help by preventing your body from breaking down anandamide, a feel-good cannabinoid your body naturally produces on its own!