In the last year, cannabidiol (aka CBD) has been touted as a panacea, able to cure (or at least alleviate) everything from chronic pain to cancer-related symptoms. It’s a belief that cosmetic industrialists are cashing in on: CBD-infused lotions and serums, which promise to relieve acne and reduce wrinkles, line the shelves in major drug stores across the nation. But the big question is, do these products actually deliver on those promises, or is topical CBD just another skincare scam?
First off, since CBD has caused a whole lot of confusion, let’s quickly clear up some misconceptions. CBD is a chemical found in abundance in the cannabis plant, but unlike its dopey cannabinoid relative, tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), it does not make you in any way stoned. In other words, no, Jerry, drinking your CBD-infused facial scrub will not help you become one with the wind chime hanging on your back porch.
That said, more and more research continues to suggest that CBD does indeed have the capacity to provide numerous health benefits, including the ability to address anxiety and insomnia, hence the current craze for the stuff. In terms of skincare, some evidence shows that CBD has the potential to decrease excessive sebum production, which should theoretically help offset acne. CBD also has antioxidant properties that could help prevent wrinkles and other free-radical damage that results in early aging (although, so do other common skincare ingredients, like retinol and vitamin C).
So, yeah, we do have some science to back up these beauty industry claims. Still, the current information is far from decisive: As one recent dermatological review concludes, “Cannabinoids have shown some initial promise as therapy for a variety of skin diseases. However, there is a requirement for thorough pre-clinical research and large-scale, randomized, controlled trials before cannabinoids can be considered safe and effective treatments for these conditions.”
In early June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a similar, albeit more pointed, statement regarding the use of CBD-infused products as some sort of magical elixir. “There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, and quality of products containing CBD,” the agency wrote.
So, yes, they might potentially help you, but no one knows for certain whether they actually will. All this, of course, is assuming these cosmetics even contain pure CBD in the first place, which is often not the case. “The CBD movement in beauty is definitely a marketing gimmick,” says Carina Chazanas, industry insider and founder of DedCool fragrances, adding that concentrated CBD and hemp seed oil are often marketed interchangeably, even though hemp seed oil contains only trace amounts of CBD, if any. “CBD is expensive and highly regulated.”
Chazanas also explains that, even if the product does contain CBD, the amount is probably negligible and certainly nothing that can solve your skin problems after a few uses, especially since, as she points out, our skin absorbs CBD much slower than, say, if we were to take a tincture. All of which explains why the FDA has been forced to send numerous warning letters to companies selling CBD-infused products with unsupported health claims.
Take heart, though, CBD fans, as this might not always be the case. The laws surrounding cannabis are currently in flux, and as regulations continue to evolve, so will our understanding of how CBD works and what we can do to make the most of it in the near future. But for now, maybe keep at it with your regular old soaps and creams — you can get your greens in some other way.