Reading time – 16 minutes
Vaporisers. Mints. Bath Bombs. CBD can come in just about any form available. So it should be no surprise that the remedial compound can be infused into a variety of creams and lotions too. In fact, due to the cannabinoid's purportedly nourishing and anti-inflammatory qualities, it's actually made quite a splash in the skincare scene over the past few years. Thanks to celebrity endorsements and mounting scientific research into the potential benefits of CBD, more and more people are starting to catch onto the topical application of CBD lotion.
However, for those of you out there who are newbies to the world of CBD topicals, or for those of you who are keen to learn more, help is at hand. In this guide, we cover everything there is to know about CBD cream. From what the up-to-date research suggests about its benefits, to the key things to look out for when buying CBD topicals - and everything in between. But to start off, we need to cover the basics. So, below, we're going to identify what CBD is before exploring the different forms it comes in.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound produced by the cannabis Sativa plant. The cannabinoid is typically extracted from the hemp variety of this plant, before being infused with a carrier oil (such as hemp oil or coconut MCT oil) to make the substance easier to administer. CBD is found alongside more than 100 fellow cannabidiols that are also native to the hemp plant. Unlike its counterpart tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not elicit any intoxicating effects, and, due to its supposedly therapeutic qualities, the compound is commonly used to supplement symptoms of a range of conditions, such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety.
What are the different types of CBD?
Cannabidiol can be extracted from the hemp strain of the cannabis Sativa plant in a variety of different ways, and each form elicits slightly different effects. So, to know what to look out for on the market, here's a rundown of the three most popular forms of CBD.
CBD isolate contains 99% pure cannabidiol, and it usually comes in the form of a white crystal or powder. In the process of extracting CBD isolate, all of the other active compounds native to the hemp plant are removed. This means that CBD isolates can be guaranteed to be 100% THC free, but also that the benefits from other natural compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids will be missing from the product.
On the flipside, full-spectrum CBD products contain extracts from the full breadth of the hemp plant. This type of CBD includes a spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. By featuring all of these compounds in unison, their individual potential benefits are understood to be enhanced due to something called the entourage effect. However, as a consequence of this, THC is also present in these products, albeit in trace amounts.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all the possible benefits of full-spectrum products, without containing any of the risks associated with THC. During the extraction process, it's ensured that the intoxicating cannabinoid is completely removed. At the same time, the host of other beneficial compounds is still retained - helping broad-spectrum CBD to be the best of both worlds.
What are CBD topicals?
CBD topicals are cannabidiol infused substances that can be rubbed into the skin, and they include products like lotions, creams, balms, or gels. Deriving from the Greek phrase for "of a place", topicals are usually applied to a particular place on the body for either cosmetic or medical purposes. Compared to other CBD products like edibles and sublingual oils, topical products are much more effective at offering the user targeted relief. This makes them a perfect choice for individuals who are looking to use CBD infused products to address symptoms on localised problem areas rather than those who are after full-body effects.
How do they work in our body?
The main reason topical CBD products are understood to have the potential to generate effects is because of the unique way they interact with our bodies' endocannabinoid system - or our ECS, for short. Our ECS is a complex signalling network that helps our body to balance out a range of important functions, including our inflammatory and pain response. It's made up of a vast collection of enzymes, endocannabinoids, and cannabinoid-receptors that are located within every organ in our body - including our skin.
CBD for Skin
So, as this 2019 research article outlines, one vital way CBD topicals may be able to be beneficial to our skin is by helping our ECS to work more effectively. When cannabinoid-infused ointments, creams or balms are absorbed into our skin, the CBD may mimic the functions of our bodies' natural endocannabinoids. By doing so, it helps our skin's ECS to maintain more of a balance in the areas that have been targeted, which supposedly helps to subdue symptoms of redness, inflammation, and irritation, while also purportedly tackling the symptoms associated with numerous skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema too.
Aside from this, CBD is also understood to protect and nourish the skin, due to the abundance of fatty acids and antioxidant properties it contains. By featuring kind-to-skin ingredients like omega 3 and 6, and Vitamins A, D, and E, the cannabinoid is widely recognised to have moisturising values. Also, due to CBD's nature as an antioxidant, cannabinoid-infused topicals may also be able to protect our skin against free radicals that harm the skin's delicate layers and contribute to its deterioration. However, more research into CBD and it's skincare attributes needs to be undertaken before conclusions surrounding its efficacy can be drawn.
Potential benefits of CBD topicals
Possible anti-ageing qualities
As we've just addressed above, by acting as an antioxidant, CBD may be able to protect the skin against factors that can contribute to the process of ageing. Since free radical sources like sunlight, pollution, and cigarettes have been shown to slowly deteriorate the skin over time, by potentially impacting these free radicals, CBD may be able to exhibit rejuvenating qualities that could help to slow down some symptoms of ageing.
Additionally, due to the special relationship between the cannabinoid and our bodies' ECS, the herbal compound may also be able to keep our skin youthful in a range of other ways, too. According to this 2014 study, by improving the function of the regulatory network, CBD is understood to slow down the process of ageing while softening visible lines and mimicking the function of natural skin lipids, improving the natural turnover of cells, balancing oil production to keep skin hydrated, and crucially, slowing down our skin's collagen loss.
Purported pain-relieving properties
Another popular reason why people are using CBD topicals is to help them address pain and inflammation. Whether pain arises from chronic or acute cases, cannabidiol's potentially therapeutic qualities have been shown to lower feelings of discomfort - especially when the ingredient is applied topically. According to this research, this is likely to be because of CBD's potential analgesic, antispasmodic, neuroprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties that arise due to the way the cannabinoid may interact with our body's ECS.
When the herbal agent is rubbed into the skin in the form of CBD infused lotions, creams, or balms, the product is understood to possibly interact with the systems receptors, thus helping the ECS to restore a balance in the body's pain and inflammatory response. As this study reveals, CBD has also been shown to trigger other non-cannabinoid receptors like the serotonin, GABA, and dopamine receptors. So, by boosting more of these feel-good chemicals, the topical administration of cannabidiol has the potential to be even more effective in soothing areas that are experiencing discomfort.
Finally, as this 2006 research article into CBD's therapeutic potential points out, by boosting the production of anandamide (a pain-relieving chemical), it's possible that this is another way the cannabidiol is able to induce an ever more robust pain-relieving response. However, despite promising implications for CBD's pain-relieving capabilities, further research needs to be conducted before people consider using it instead of more traditional painkillers.
May be able to soothe inflammatory skin symptoms
Inflammatory skin conditions include common disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. While symptoms of each condition vary, they can often result in itchy, red, and dry skin, especially during flare-ups. Fortunately, CBD skincare products have been shown to supplement traditional treatment of the irritated and inflamed skin associated with these conditions. This is likely because of their supposedly anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
As this 2014 study shows, CBD may be able to mimic the effects of lipids that are found in healthy skin, while possibly triggering key receptors that are renowned for soothing skin irritation and reducing irritation. In addition to this, according to this Harvard Health Blog. CBDs purported anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to reduce the severity of flare-ups by soothing inflamed skin, reducing itching, lowering the production of oils, while moisturising the areas that are affected. However, while there is promising evidence that backs the use of CBD topicals to supplement inflammatory skin conditions, more research needs to take place before indisputable results can be gleaned.
Has the potential to reduce acne breakouts
Zits, pimples, spots, whatever you call it; acne is an extremely common condition which we've all had the displeasure of experiencing. The condition is normally caused by oil, dirt, or dead skin cells blocking the pores in our skin, as this triggers our skin's oil glands to release sebum, or oil, onto the surface of our skin. Luckily, current research has indicated that CBD may be able to affect existing cases of acne, while also potentially preventing future breakouts from occurring.
As this 2014 study points out, CBD may be able to supplement ongoing cases of acne, by soothing the skin and regulating its oil production. Due to CBD's potential anti-inflammatory and non-comedogenic qualities, the compound is understood to prevent excess oil from building, while also supplementing symptoms of the inflamed skin which typically accompanies instances of acne. In doing so, when applied topically, CBD skin products may have the potential to impact existing cases of acne.
Also, as the study also asserts, when applied onto the skin topically, the cannabinoid is able to elicit notable sebostatic effects. In simpler terms, this means that the agent has been shown to potentially reduce the production of sebocytes, which are cells that produce sebum, aka acne, from occurring. So, as this indicates, in addition to addressing current cases of acne, CBD may also have the potential to prevent instances from emerging in the future too.
What CBD topicals are out there?
Find yourself sold on the purported benefits of CBD topicals? Here's a rundown on the four most popular CBD topical products on the market, to help you establish the best way to get your fix of cannabinoid skincare, and at the top of the canna beauty trend.
Topical CBD oils are one of the purest ways to reap the potential benefits of cannabidiol. They typically contain the extract of the compound alongside skin-friendly essential oils, like hemp or coconut oil, and potentially additional vitamins and minerals too. CBD oils are easy to rub into the body, and they can be used as a full body or facial oil, depending on where you would like to target.
This type of CBD infused topical can be a particularly good option for facial care, because cannabinoid-infused oils are able to offer intense hydration by forming a barrier to retain the moisture in your skin. This makes them especially potentially effective for those who suffer from occasional dry skin or symptoms of conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. However, when looking to buy CBD oils for skincare purposes, it's important to look out for products that are suitable for topical administration, since some oils contain ingredients that cater more towards oral or sublingual consumption.
CBD lotions and creams
CBD lotions and creams are some of the most convenient ways to incorporate cannabinoids into your skincare routine. They usually combine CBD extract alongside small amounts of water, as well as other skin-friendly ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, and vitamins and nutrients, to enhance the moisturising potential of the product.
While lotions and creams have subtle differences, with the consistency of creams being slightly thicker than lotions, they can both be excellent options for people who are looking to reap the possible benefits of CBD alongside a host of other nourishing agents. Similarly to CBD oils, lotions and creams can be used anywhere on the body, but due to the CBD being combined with other skincare ingredients, these types of products can often contain lower cannabinoid counts than other topicals. So, for this reason, it's important to check your product's CBD content before making the purchase.
In contrast to CBD lotions and creams, balms aren't diluted with water, which is why they have a more solid consistency than other topicals. They're typically made with natural ingredients like fatty oils and beeswax to moisturise the skin while improving the bioavailability of CBD. In addition to this, they often feature essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender to improve the aromatic and therapeutic effects of the products.
The thicker consistency of CBD balm makes it a perfect topical for moisturising lips or tending to particularly damaged patches of skin. Also, since CBD balm heats up when the substance is rubbed into the skin, this makes it a particularly good product for those who are tending to aching muscles, painful joints, or areas of the body that are particularly inflamed.
Finally, the last CBD topical we are going to explore is cannabidiol-infused patches. CBD patches utilise transdermal delivery to supply users with precise doses of CBD. Contrasting with other topical products that aren't able to penetrate the surface of the skin, transdermal patches transport the herbal compound directly into the bloodstream, thus dramatically increasing bioavailability rates.
This type of CBD topical is ideal for those seeking consistent and effective doses of cannabidiol, especially if they are looking to achieve targeted relief in a specific area. These types of patches may even be able to deliver more focused and powerful localised relief than oral and sublingual products, because they deliver the compound directly into the bloodstream. However, since this product doesn't need to be rubbed into the skin, it isn't able to provide the skin-friendly potential benefits of other CBD topicals.
How should I apply CBD infused topicals?
If you're looking to administer CBD oil, lotion, cream, or balm, it's wise to wash the affected area with soap and water before you rub the product into your skin. This helps to remove the residue of other products, natural oils, or dirt, as this could negatively affect the absorption of the product.
When applying the topical, massage a decent amount of the product into the area you are looking to achieve the desired result, before leaving it to absorb for a couple of minutes. When this is completed, wash your hands to prevent the possibility of any active ingredients in the products being passed on.
If you are looking to use a CBD patch, directly apply the product to a clean, venous area of your skin like the top of your arm, the inside of your wrist, or the back of your neck, and then leave it on for as long as you require.
What should I look out for when buying topicals?
So, now you're clued up on how CBD topicals work, the varied forms in which they come in, and how to apply them, here's a couple of things to look out for when deciding on a final product.
The cannabinoid count
Simply put, the higher the cannabinoid count, the more effective the product is likely to be. Many products may have a convincing design or seem like great value for money, but if the topical contains low levels of CBD, then it's likely to be a waste of your time. To avoid this happening, it's advised to check the product's cannabinoid profile before purchasing, to ensure the topical is potent enough to possibly deliver CBD's benefits into your skin.
Any accompanying ingredients
Secondly, when looking to buy CBD skincare products, it's recommended to look out for accompanying ingredients that will either improve or detract from its value. For instance, if you are buying a CBD lotion that features other fatty ingredients or skin-friendly vitamins or minerals, it's likely to make the topical more effective by enhancing the moisturising effects of CBD. Alternatively, if a topical product features less favourable, comedogenic ingredients like almond or avocado oil, it may counteract CBD's potential oil balancing properties, making the skincare product less beneficial to the skin.
The product's consistency
The consistency of skincare products can dramatically alter their results, so depending on what you're using the CBD topical for, some products may be much better suited to you than others. For instance, since balms and some creams have a thicker texture, they may be more suitable for areas that require a little more attention, and they may suit being used before bed, so they have a longer time to absorb throughout the night. Alternatively, if you are looking for a lighter moisturiser to wear throughout the day, lotions with thinner consistencies may be more suitable.
The product's overall quality
Finally, to ensure that your CBD topical will always deliver consistent, reliable, and effective results, it's essential to ensure it's made from high-quality ingredients. In addition to verifying the value of the product, ensuring the quality of the topical will also make sure it's free of any potentially harmful toxins and chemicals like heavy metals and pesticides. An effective way to quality-check your CBD products is by checking if they have a Certificate of Analysis (COA), and by making sure they have been tested by a third party.
CBD at Amphora
Here at Amphora, we understand the importance of high quality and effective CBD infused products. All of our products feature THC-free CBD distillate, alongside all-natural flavoured and unflavoured terpenes for ultimate wellness benefits. We also ensure everything we manufacture is thoroughly tested by an independent laboratory, and we list our Certificates of Analysis on our website to keep everything 100% transparent.
We take pride in helping our customers to reach their wellness goals, and we also love empowering both established and curious cannabinoid consumers through education and reliable, effective products. If you're interested in what we do here at Amphora, or if you'd like to take a look at our exciting range of vape pens, accessories, and CBD cartridges, have a look at our site here.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.