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Over the past few years, many people have been discovering the benefits of CBD oil. You or someone you know might be taking a drop of CBD oil or a CBD gummy every day to help calm everyday stress or get a good night’s sleep. But if you go out into a mall or drugstore, much of the CBD you’re likely to see will be in topical form – including a burgeoning number of CBD skincare products. So you might be wondering: is this for real?
If we’re honest, part of the reason that topical CBD has become so common is due to the oddities of the laws around the cannabis-derived substance. The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized all products of industrial hemp, including cannabidiol, the fancy scientific name for CBD. But between conflicting state laws and the Food and Drug Administration’s strictures, there’s still enough of a regulatory fog that many retailers feel safer avoiding ingestible CBD entirely, while riding the CBD craze with topical products.
However, not everybody in the field is just an opportunist. cbdMD, a four-year-old company that’s emerged as a top-five player with a wide range of internal and topical CBD products, recently launched cbdMD Botanicals to focus exclusively on the CBD skin care market.
We’ll discuss cbdMD Botanicals in more detail later on, but first let’s dig into the question of whether and how putting CBD on your skin can do you good. There hasn’t been as much research on the subject as there’s been on other forms of CBD, but what we do know is giving some very interesting signs of how it could work.
CBD Skin Care: Cannabis and Your Skin
All the active ingredients in cannabis – including CBD, THC, and various lesser-known compounds – are what scientists call cannabinoids. They work through a set of receptors in your nervous system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which literally means “inner cannabinoid system” – scientists only discovered it through studying the effects of cannabis.
That might sound like your body was magically made for cannabis, but actually, those receptors normally receive neurotransmitters that your body naturally produces. One of those, anandamide, is named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss” because it’s associated with the runner’s high and other positive feelings.
But the ECS does more than just make you feel good. It actually helps manage a whole host of functions, which scientists are learning more about all the time. As an indication of this, the ECS receptors are found all over your body, including under your skin. And for the purposes of skin care, the most relevant ECS functions are the ways it helps manage the inflammatory response and oxidative stress.
Those Pesky Skin Problems
There are a lot of different kinds of skin blemishes out there, but inflammation and oxidative stress play at least a part in nearly all of them. For instance, acne starts with oily skin and clogged pores, but it’s your body’s inflammatory response that makes those clogged pores red, swollen, and filled with pus. Almost everything that turns your skin red is some form of inflammation.
Oxidative stress plays more of a role in the aging process. The science here is a bit complicated, but various stressors in the environment, from toxins and pollutants to something as benign as sunlight, can break down cells’ ability to repair themselves. This is true both inside your body and out, which is why we’re always told that antioxidant-rich foods will help us live longer.
Well, it turns out that antioxidants are good for your skin, too! That’s why a lot of skin care products include the same nutrients that are good for you to eat: vitamins, vegetable oils, green tea extract, and other good plant-based stuff. And it turns out that one of those antioxidant-filled plants is cannabis.
Lab research on more specific ailments has been suggestive, though it’s mostly been in the test-tube stage rather than experiments on actual people. For instance, a few years ago a group of Hungarian researchers found that CBD seemed to help regulate oil production and inflammation in sebocytes – the skin cells responsible for oil production – making for a promising acne treatment. Other research indicates that CBD might help eczema, psoriasis, and other types of itchy rashes.
So How Does Your Skin Absorb CBD?
Let’s be clear: all evidence indicates that CBD applied to your skin never makes it to your bloodstream. The only exception is a CBD-infused transdermal patch, like you’d use for nicotine, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. So don’t expect CBD cream or lotion to help you with things like stress or sleep, to name a couple of popular reasons people take ingestible CBD oil.
Nonetheless, some animal experiments have indicated that CBD does travel through skin in a localized way, helping to target things like muscle and joint pain from the discomfort of everyday activities. And as the research on sebocytes indicates, CBD does appear to interact with the skin cells themselves, which enables the calming of inflammation and oxidative stress that many users of topical CBD say makes their skin look and feel better.
Different Types of CBD
So far, we’ve been talking about CBD in isolation. But pure CBD – CBD isolate, as they call it in the industry – is only one kind that might appear in a CBD cream or lotion that you might buy.
The other two kinds of CBD you’ll see on product labels are broad spectrum and full spectrum. Full-spectrum CBD formula includes other cannabinoids from the hemp plant, as well as terpenes, which are the substances that give plants their aroma. There’s evidence that both the terpenes and other cannabinoids enhance the effects of CBD, since they have antioxidant and immune-regulating properties of their own. At least when taken internally – as with CBD itself, there’s less direct research on topical applications.
The difference between full and broad spectrum CBD is that full spectrum includes THC, whereas broad spectrum does not. With topical CBD that doesn’t hugely matter, since like we said, it doesn’t get into your bloodstream and won’t get you high anyway. But from a legal standpoint, a company that specializes in broad spectrum CBD products can sell in a wider range of outlets. Which brings us to cbdMD.
An Intro to cbdMD Botanicals
cbdMD, founded in 2017 in Charlotte, N.C., has built a line of CBD products based on what it calls Superior Broad Spectrum CBD formula, which combines CBD with the cannabinoids cannabinol and cannabigerol, along with select terpenes. The core line includes tinctures, capsules, gummies, and sleep aids; there’s a range of topical products mostly focused on pain relief, although lately it’s gained new body and lip balms.
The brand has traditionally had a rather jockish image given its sponsorship of many extreme athletes, such as MMA fighter Daniel Cormier and motocross champ Chad Reed, whose sporting of the cbdMD logo at the 2019 AMA Supercross caused some headaches with a sports establishment that was still leery of anything cannabis-related.
What We Like About cbdMD Botanicals
There are other CBD skincare products out there, so what’s special about this one? Here are some things we especially like:
● There’s a lot of CBD in there. Given the evidence that CBD does not permeate the skin that easily, you want to go with a high concentration in a skincare product. cbdMD Botanicals items can have anywhere from 125 to 500 mg an ounce, depending on the product.
● There are no artificial perfumes or irritants. If you’ve got allergic sensitivities or just find the perfuminess of most grooming products annoying, cbdMD Botanicals are a nice change. While a few have fruity or minty scents due to their essential oils, they rely on plant-based ingredients and have no unnecessary chemicals, parabens, or dyes.
● It’s cruelty-free and (mostly) vegan. Except for a couple of products that use beeswax, cbdMD Botanicals uses plant-based materials in a certified cruelty-free facility.
● It’s a genuinely independent small business. Seriously, there’s no giant corporation behind the scenes here – everything is domestically sourced and manufactured in the Carolinas.
cbdMD Botanicals Products
So with all that said, what kind of products are we talking about here? The initial launch included 13 total, with plans to roll out more as they’re developed. Most of them focus on facial care, with different products for different needs and skin types.
The Clearskin line is liable to interest those of you with oily and acne-prone skin who are looking for some alternative or complementary care to the usual face creams with things like benzoyl peroxide, which can be rather harsh. Every Clearskin product includes not only CBD but the company’s “botanical blend infusion” of willow bark, basil, echinacea, green tea, turmeric root oil, passion flower, and aloe vera. All of those extracts have been used to reduce inflammation and redness, and some include antioxidants as well.
Currently the Clearskin line includes a light moisturizer, a spray-on toner, and a spot treatment called Be Gone. A cleanser is also in the works.
At the other end of the skin-type spectrum, if you’ve got especially dry skin, Renewal Night Cream is a nice thick CBD face cream meant for putting on before bed (though it won’t plaster your face white like in an old movie, in case you were wondering). This is one of the products that contains beeswax, which helps give it a creamy consistency and creates a protective layer to lock in moisture.
Other facial moisturizers are for all skin types, and which one you choose is a matter of taste.
● Heavenly Hydration is a basic light moisturizer made with coconut, argan, apricot, and avocado oils, along with hyaluronic acid, a substance that your body naturally produces with unusual powers of moisture retention.
● Fab Facial Oil is for you essential-oil maximalists out there, because it contains lots of them: lavender, bergamot, frankincense, evening primrose, nettle leaf, and so on. This is a true oil rather than a cream: you squeeze a few drops out of a dropper into your hands and press onto your face. So this might function as an underlayer to another moisturizer or to makeup.
● Fountain of Youth Dynamic Serum is a bit like both of the above, being a light, creamy formula that includes hyaluronic acid as well as citrus and frankincense essential oils and an herbal tea infusion.
● Adore Me Eye & Lip Cream supplements the others for special use around the eyes and lips. It’s extra loaded with antioxidants to combat wrinkles in those regions.
All those moisturizers are for daily use, especially after cleansing. Rounding out the facial suite are two products for more occasional use. Perfect Polish Micro-Exfoliant sloughs off dead skin cells with rice flour and tapioca starch, while the Gorgeous Glo CBD Rose Mask provides a deep pore-cleansing with rose oil and bentonite clay. Both should be used once or twice a week.
The rest of cbdMD Botanicals’ product suite is for the body. These include:
● Everyday CBD Body Lotion is just what it says: a lightweight daily moisturizer with CBD. Based in coconut and apricot oils, it includes a range of essential oils that give it a pleasant citrus scent.
● Mega Moisture is a heavier lotion for hands and feet, made with beeswax in a similar formula to the night cream.
● Luv Me Tender CBD Soothing Lotion is a CBD skin cream you can use on the body or the face; it’s a thick concoction of aloe vera with essential oils of tea tree, lavender, and peppermint for concentrated treatment of itchy and irritated spots.
cbdMD Botanicals also includes a sort of bonus item that’s neither a CBD product nor a skincare product, called Tried & True Four Thieves. If you’re wondering what “Four Thieves” is about, it’s based on a vinegar recipe with herbs that supposedly were used by a band of thieves in plague-ridden medieval France to keep themselves healthy while they robbed houses.
Various versions of it have been used as an alternative cleanser in the alternative-wellness world; cbdMD’s is made with oils of rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove. This combination gives it a strong aroma that people either like or they don’t, but it can be a good alternative to harsher cleansers if you’re sensitive to them, or if you live with small children or pets.
The Ever-Growing World of CBD Skin Care
cbdMD Botanicals has launched into a fast-growing market, but a crowded one, so a lot will depend on its ability to keep providing more of what customers want and need. The company says it’s planning more cleansers and masks, as well as a body scrub, in the near future. If you’re interested you can subscribe for email updates on the home page. cbdMD’s blog is also worth following, not only for CBD skin care but for a variety of helpful pieces on how to use CBD in your life.