Confused About CBD in Skincare? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Faith Xue has worked in digital beauty for 10 years and is currently Bustle Digital Group’s executive beauty director. She was Byrdie’s editorial director for seven years.
Rachel is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology. She has contributed to Byrdie, as well as Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Allure, Vogue, and the New York Times, and more
Caitlin Riley / Stocksy
In This Article
CBD is the Cady Heron of the skincare world right now—buzzy, intriguing, and full of secrets (though not as much as Gretchen Weiners’ hair). The ingredient has officially crossed over from being a wellness supplement to a beauty buzzword, but it’s not as simple as looking for “CBD” on your ingredients label and calling it a day. There’s a lot of murky marketing out there and more than a few false claims. For example, we’ve seen some major brands hop on the CBD bandwagon and blast it across their marketing channels, when in reality, their products don’t contain any actual CBD at all. We’ve enlisted Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist; Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Five in LA and co-host of The GIST; Charlotte Palermino, co-founder of cannabis education website Nice Paper, and Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, co-founders of new online CBD retailer Fleur Marché. Your skin deserves CBD—just make sure you’re buying a product that actually contains it.
Keep scrolling for your no-BS guide to understanding CBD skincare.
Type of ingredient: Antioxidant.
Main benefits: Reduces inflammation, Regulates oil production, Neutralizes free radical damage.
Who should use it: It is recommended for those with inflamed, compromised skin as well as sensitive and dry skin types. It can also benefit those with aging skin.
How often can you use it: CBD skincare can be used daily.
Works well with: Actives that calm and nourish the skin barrier, such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and niacinamides.
Don’t use with: Be cautious with CBD skincare. Since it is an unregulated industry, it is undetermined what actives it deactivates. It is not recommended to use CBD skin products that contain alcohol, as this might combat its beneficial effects and heighten inflammatory skin conditions.
What is CBD?
So, what exactly is CBD? Shamban explains that it is a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in cannabis plants marijuana and hemp. “It’s one of the two primary active ingredients of cannabis, the other one being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the active psychotropic,” she says.
According to Lewis and Schroeder, (who fell in love with the ingredient during their previous jobs curating products for Goop), it’s “a potent antioxidant, highly anti-inflammatory, and has been shown in multiple studies to reduce lipid production from the sebaceous glands (overproduction of this sebum is possibly one component of what contributes to acne formation).” One such study found that CBD could prevent acne in multiple ways.
How does CBD work? Engelman says CBD interacts with our cannabinoid receptors. “We have receptors in every layer of our skin which trigger to our body when there is pain, an itch, etc.,” she explains. “Topical CBD is designed to help those with pruritic skin conditions like eczema or painful conditions like post-herpetic neuralgia when our body’s signals are going haywire. For example, it is not necessarily targeting eczema, but the hormones that are causing the eczema flare-up.”
Typically, CBD oil is used in skincare products. You can find CBD serums, creams, masks, and body and face oils. That said, hemp seed oil—which has been a common ingredient in skincare products for a long time—is not the same thing as CBD. There’s nothing wrong with hemp seed oil, but it’s not an active ingredient (though it may help with inflammation, hydration, and controlling oil production ).
When buying a CBD skincare product, look for these words in the ingredients list, which indicate there’s actual CBD in the formula: CBD, hemp CBD, full-spectrum hemp extract, phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil, and hemp extract oil.
Benefits of CBD for Skin
- Treat Inflammatory Acne: CBD might help reduce redness, pain, and swelling associated with inflammatory acne.
- Regulate Oil Production: As previously mentioned, CBD helps regulate hormones involved in oil production, reducing excess sebum.
- Reduce Breakouts: CBD may help reduce inflammation of breakouts and, thanks to its oil production regulation, reduce breakouts in general.
- Calm Rosacea: With its ability to reduce inflammation, CBD may help calm rosacea flare-ups.
- Neutralize Free Radical Damage: CBD may work to prevent the weakening of the skin by neutralizing free radical damage.
- Soothe Eczema: CBD helps combat irritation and inflammation caused by eczema, along with chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis, according to Shamban.
- Decrease Hormonal Conditions: Since CBD is a powerful adaptogen, it may work to decrease the effects of hormones and other compounds that are released into the body in times of stress (ie. kinase, nitric oxide, and cortisol).
- Hydration: CBD has moisturizing properties that can help combat dehydration and dryness.
The level of benefits for CBD effects on some skin conditions is still up for debate and is a newer science being studied, according to Shamban, and more research is needed to see if CBD or the other agents found in the cannabis plant directly improve skin quality.
Side Effects of CBD
Engelman explains that more studies need to be done to verify the efficiency of CBD oil benefits for skin. As such, topical CBD has no known side effects.
How to Use It
How you use CBD skincare is all about the product you’re using. “Most CBD products are serums or creams,” says Engelman. “Use as you normally would, layering your skincare products from thinnest to thickest. Serums should be applied before creams.” That said, you should never self-diagnose your skin conditions. “Always read packaging and ingredients and check with a board-certified dermatologist, primary care, or other medical practitioner before starting any new supplement or topical care,” adds Shamban.
The Best Products With CBD
This CBD oil can be used on your skin and hair. It promises to help soothe and calm your scalp and skin, providing deep moisture and reducing the appearance of redness and irritation. It contains 100mg of CBD.
Palermino mentions supermodel facialist Ildi Pekar’s CBD line as containing high amounts of CBD. This luxe face oil in particular contains 250mg of CBD oil, along with soothing aloe juice, brightening vitamin c, hyaluronic acid, and more.
Engelman is a fan of these bath salts from Lord Jones. “I love [them] because they combine magnesium and Himalayan salts, essential oils, arnica, and CBD, which will reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, and increase a sense of well-being.”
Palermino also swears by this soothing sleeping mask from Kana. “Even though it’s lower on the CBD dosing scale, it’s one of the nicer lightweight sleeping masks I’ve tried,” she says.
Lewis and Schroeder are also fans of Kana, citing this this all-purpose face oil (which contains 100mg of CBD) as a favorite. “It’s formulated with a ton of other powerful botanicals that help to hydrate skin and manage redness,” they explain. “It’s a great addition to both your morning and nighttime routine.”
You get a whopping 100mg of CBD in this honey-infused stick, which is why Lewis and Schroeder cite is as a favorite. “We love the format of this product,” they say. “It’s easy to apply any time of day, and you can use it for anything. From chapped lips, to under eyes that need a little brightening, this stick is soothing, calming, and easy to pop in your bag and use anywhere.” (It was also one of our editors’ picks for the month of October).
Let’s not forget that the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD can extend to your body, too: “This serum is formulated with an array of medicinal herbs and over 80 phytocannabinoids,” Lewis and Shroeder say. “It does triple duty by soothing, relaxing and hydrating your skin and muscles. It’s a must for anyone who’s had a long day and needs some relief.”
Fans of Lord Jones’ best-selling Body Lotion ($24) will want to try this oil alternative, which contains 100mg of CBD and comes in rollerball form for easy application (not to mention built-in massage abilities). Plus, the light, floral scent is incredibly soothing.
Saint Jane, the brainchild of a former Sephora exec, is a CBD skincare line that’s not here to mess around. Its hero product, the Luxury Beauty Serum, contains a whopping 500mg of CBD, along with 18 other 100 percent natural skin-loving oils, from frankincense to sandalwood. Massage this in morning and night for a lit-from-within glow, even in the dead of winter. Trust us, your skin will thank you.
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942. doi:10.2147/CCID.S286411
Atalay S, Jarocka-Karpowicz I, Skrzydlewska E. Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):21. doi:10.3390/antiox9010021
CBD Oil for Wrinkles: Does It Actually Work?
You probably already know someone who takes CBD oil to relieve stress or anxiety or rubs CBD balm on their joints after sports or before bed. Chances are good that you know the basics about CBD, but what’s the connection to aging and wrinkles?
Cannabidiol or CBD is a component that occurs naturally in cannabis. Unlike the tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in cannabis, CBD won’t get you high, but it does boast a range of medicinal uses. In fact, more and more consumers are now using CBD to treat all kinds of maladies, from insomnia and nausea to muscle pain and depression.
So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that now CBD is turning up in all kinds of high-end skincare serums, gels, masks, and creams, all of which make different claims. Some aim to alleviate dry skin, others can prevent pimples, and some smooth wrinkles.
How does it work? Like other powerful antioxidants, CBD can help reduce visible signs of aging. CBD topicals can soothe inflammation and counteract damage from free-radicals, improving signs of aging such as wrinkles, ruddy skin tone, and skin dullness and making them less noticeable.
In this post, we’ll cover how CBD can help reduce wrinkles and aging in the following sections:
Causes of Skin Aging
The vast majority of visible aging of the skin is caused by exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Stress, pollution, an unhealthful diet, and other factors related to lifestyle are also relevant. In fact, only a small portion of the aging we see on our skin is caused by changes that naturally occur in our bodies as we get older.
After age 20 or so, the skin becomes less elastic and firm as the body produces about 1 percent less collagen each year and also reduces elastin production. The skin becomes thinner and more delicate, and its capacity to heal itself lessens. These problems get worse as less oil is produced by the oil glands beneath the skin’s outer layer, and the end result of the combined changes can be larger pores, fine lines, sagging skin, and wrinkles—all traits that can make the skin appear even older than it really is.
It’s not yet possible to prevent aging, but there are things we can do to target, prevent, and in some cases reverse premature aging. This is particularly true given that so much of what causes signs of aging skin (such as sunlight exposure or poor diet) originates outside the body and within our control.
The question is, how could CBD help reduce or mitigate the impacts these factors play when it comes to signs of aging?
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol or CBD is a non-intoxicating plant compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Therefore, it occurs naturally in both hemp plants and marijuana plants. Typically manufacturers extract CBD as a powder and suspend it in an oil such as hemp oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. Because CBD is fat-soluble and each of these oils has its own benefits, each suspension may enhance the CBD’s effectiveness.
Unlike the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana, CBD oil in skincare products cannot get you high. CBD simply does not share the same mind-altering qualities.
CBD oil and hemp seed oil are not the same thing, but both are excellent for the skin. Although businesses often market the two products interchangeably, the difference is in the CBD concentration itself. Hemp seed oil contains only trace amounts of CBD, if any, though it is derived from hemp plant seeds. Hemp seed oil is among the best non-animal sources of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, and many of these acids are known for their skin-moisturizing benefits such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
CBD oil is much more concentrated in CBD. All FDA-regulated CBD products follow the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), meaning they should have their name and an ingredient label that actually lists cannabidiol. Any alternative titles or terms on ingredient labels may or may not signal a product that actually contains cannabidiol. For example, “CBD-enriched hemp seed oil” is not the same ingredient as cannabidiol. In any case, you can always request the assay or product specification from the company to be 100 percent certain of what you are getting.
What Does CBD in Skincare Do?
In broad terms, we are just beginning to learn how CBD and skin care work together. It works in the body and in topical CBD products.
CBD is one of more than 100 phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids). The human body produces its own cannabinoids naturally throughout the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, and those cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. In the body, endocannabinoids bind as neurotransmitters with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. They help achieve stasis and regulate many internal functions such as appetite, hormones, immune system, mood, sleep, and more.
The ECS cannot always completely regulate all bodily functions or produce the exact right level of cannabinoids itself. This is why introducing phytocannabinoids from cannabis can improve the body’s health in a number of ways.
CBD Oil vs CBD Topicals for Wrinkles on the Skin
Listen, no matter what, do not smoke to help your skin. That is a fail. Whether it’s cannabis, regular cigarettes, or CBD flower, smoking is just not ideal for anti-aging. Smoking can produce free radicals, and other organic materials in the cannabis plant and certainly in some vape pen oils contain substances that are not great for your lungs or skin once they’re burned and inhaled by you.
This essentially leaves you treating skin conditions with CBD topicals such as face cream or balm and CBD oils. One acceptable method for consuming CBD in the anti-aging context is to use a strong, high-quality CBD extract or CBD oil orally. Particularly if you hold the product under your tongue to absorb, you may experience the effects more quickly.
However, for skin treatments including anti-aging and wrinkles, topical CBD lotions and creams can also be beneficial, particularly when applied directly to target areas in high doses. The best of these products also provide other organic compounds such as essential oils, vitamin E, and other skin health ingredients that encourage additional collagen production, tighten the skin, and offer other critical nutrients that boost the skin’s health to the next level.
How Does CBD Treat Aging?
Wrinkles: there are so many reasons we get them, and so much of the damage is done long before we’re adults who care. Anything from a genetic predisposition to crow’s feet, smoking, sun exposure from UV rays, or even just extensive stress can apparently be written all over our faces.
But antioxidants are one of the keys to fighting the ravages of aging, and that’s the first reason that CBD topicals can help visibly diminish issues like skin dullness, wrinkles, and ruddy skin tone.
CBD oil helps combat wrinkles and reduce signs of the aging process in the following ways:
Has an Antioxidant Effect
CBD from the hemp plant has even more powerful antioxidant properties than vitamins C and E. These antioxidants help reduce free-radicals which wreak havoc throughout the body—including attacking the collagen fibers. CBD also fights harmful free radical byproducts of natural bodily processes such as toxins, not just externally sourced free radicals.
CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can treat skin inflammation, relax the skin, and reduce redness, leaving existing damage such as wrinkles less visible. These anti-inflammatory effects also make CBD topicals effective treatments for eczema and psoriasis. GLA and the essential fatty acid omega 3 also reduce inflammation and gently moisturize the skin.
Encourages Sebum Production
One of the keys to dealing with both signs of aging and acne is regulating sebum or oil production in the face. CBD and hemp oil both regulate the oil glands to maintain the correct level of sebum production. Optimal sebum production means smoother, less sensitive, more supple skin.
Soothes Sensitive Skin
CBD oil also boasts notable skin-normalizing, soothing, and calming benefits and can help minimize skin sensitivity issues, including reactivity and redness. These benefits can help anyone’s skin cope with the rigors of exposure to environmental stressors.
When you think about anti-aging properties and CBD, you might have mostly prevention of skin damage in mind. There is some evidence, though, that CBD may help reverse existing signs of aging as antioxidants. And there are still other ways that using CBD topicals could help develop a more youthful appearance: