This buzzy ingredient is taking over your skin care

CBD has been the darling of the wellness world for the past year. in Los Angeles, you can walk into nearly any of-the-moment restaurant or cafe and find CBD-laced chocolates, tinctures, and cocktails. The beauty industry is starting to clue into the purportedly magical benefits of this compound, and a crop of chic CBD skincare products have emerged. But are they purely aesthetic, or does CBD offer actual skincare benefits?

First, a primer. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of hundreds of compounds found in cannabis. Unlike THC, another compound in cannabis that has more name recognition, CBD is not psychoactive—so it won’t get you high whether you ingest it or simply apply it to your skin. “Part of the reason people are so interested and engaged with CBD is the general interest across the board,” Verena von Pfetten, founder of Gossamer (“a magazine for people who also smoke weed”), explains. “Technically, it’s legal [across the US], and it’s a novel way for people to access cannabis where it’s not readily available.”

 

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In the beauty world, more evidence is surfacing that CBD could be a routine-changing—and in some instances, according to a few experts, life-changing—ingredient. “CBD is lipophilic, which means that it likes fat,” Alex Capano, a nurse practitioner and the medical director of Ananda Hemp, a Kentucky-based producer of CBD. That means CBD better absorbed by your skin via a product that’s oil-based.

According to Capano, there are two big areas that CBD can be beneficial in skincare: decreasing acne and treating dermatological autoimmune disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and lupus. “While data is very limited, it suggests that topical application of CBD may decrease oil production, making it an interesting option for people who suffer with acne,” says dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

CBD is not psychoactive—so it won't get you high.

CBD can be effective for treating skin disorders like eczema because, says Capano, “it has immunomodulating properties.” This essentially means it acts like a chill pill for your immune system.

For Kerry Benjamin, a celebrity aesthetician and founder of Stacked Skincare, CBD has done just that. She recently launched Calming CBD Elixir, a face oil infused with CBD, because of her own skin struggles. “I suffer pretty severely from eczema, and I get it around my eyes and neck, and have found this has been a natural way to help calm the inflammation and also hydrate my skin,” she explains. “It’s especially helpful to people who struggle with inflammatory skin conditions, skin sensitivity, skin dryness, and acne. Because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can help support the skin’s natural healing process, shortening the lifespan of breakouts and eczema/psoriasis flare-ups,” she says.

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But as the trend grows, so do the number of people who want to capitalize on it—which means as a consumer, it’s important to be aware of misleading product labeling. Watch out for products that only contain hemp seed oil or sativa seed oil, as those are not the same as CBD. That’s because those ingredients are extracted from the seeds, not the flower, of the plant. And the seeds contain no CBD. (However, hemp oil—not hemp seed oil—is synonymous with CBD.)

 

Von Pfetten recommends Vertly Hemp Infused Lip Butters. “Our bodies produce CBD, but we use it up during the day,” she says. “Consuming CBD is another way to keep those levels even, and reapplying a lip balm is an easy way of doing that.”

Other brands at the forefront include Lord Jones, a celeb-beloved brand whose standout product is its High CBD Pain & Wellness Formula Body Lotion; the packaging looks right at home among Marc Jacobs Beauty palettes and Diptyque candles.

Khus Khus is a line of plant-based products from Ayurvedic Health Practitioner Kristi Blustein—try the CBD-containing Sen Face Serum. The carrier is black currant seed oil, which helps improves CBD absorption and is also known for its skin-nourishing properties.

Mirai Clinical has a CBD Bath Bomb that’s cruelty-, sulfate-, and preservative-free; not only will you reap the aforementioned skincare benefits of CBD, it also helps to relieve sore muscles. And if your skin is most radiant after sex, there’s Karezza’s new Women’s Daily oral spray, which uses CBD and maca root to boost that postcoital glow.

Robert P. Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH, one of the authors of a study suggesting that cannabinoids are a promising treatment for a variety of dermatological conditions, says that we’re still in the early stages of learning what CBD can do.. “Medical practice is behind the curve on novel treatments like CBD,” he says. So don’t expect your dermatologist to prescribe you topical CBD for your acne… yet. There’s currently a farm bill waiting to be voted on in the House; if it passes, it would remove CBD from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, says Capano. And that would make it a lot easier to conduct studies on the effects of CBD and develop new products.

“Across the board, CBD has the potential to be a life-changing product in many instances,” von Pfetten says. This ingredient du jour looks to be much more than just a passing fad—and at the very least, it’s already well on its way to becoming a game-changer in your beauty routine.

—Allie Flinn. Collages: @labyrinthofcollages

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