What you need to know: CBD and Cannabis in skincare

One of the biggest new trends in skincare for 2019 are ingredients derived from the Cannabis plant. But these can come under different names, different claims and frankly – be pretty darn confusing. I know I’m not alone in feeling a bit baffled by it all so I wanted to take some time, read up and share a bit of information on what it all means and a bit of a guide to cannabis in skincare.

Cannabis in skincare

DISCLAIMER! Before I get fully stuck in I have to note that I am in no way a medical or plant expert. The information below is simply my own research into the topic being shared. I hope it is helpful and as simple as possible to follow.

Let’s have a look at some the different terms that are being thrown around with this new skincare trend and try and sum up what they mean and the differences. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one a bit baffled by it all.

Cannabis Sativa – This is one of the the botanical names for the plant species found in the Cannabis Genus. There are two others (Cannabis Indica and Cannais Ruderalis) although these aren’t terms used in the skincare sense so not going to cover these off in any detail here.

Cannabinoids – These are the chemical compounds found in the different plants of the Cannabis Sativa family. The two main ones and also terms you may have heard in relation to skincare are THC (full name – Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (full name – Cannabidiol). These are just two of the Cannadinoids associated with the Cannabis Sativa plant family.

Hemp – This is a term for a plant in the Cannabis Sativa family that has been grown for industrial use. This includes use in skincare.

Hemp Seed Oil – This is often used as a base or carrier oil for CBD products. From my research this is different to CBD oil as whilst they come from the same plant the Hemp Seed Oil is extracted from the seeds (as the name suggests…) but CBD oil is extracted from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant.

Marijuana – This is the plant that is used in the drug form (both medicinal & recreational). This is different to the Hemp plant with different compounds found within. The main key difference being THC content…

Cannabis in skincare


As mentioned above, these are the two Cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Genus plant family. With different compounds found in the different plants (eg Marijuana or Hemp as examples as different types of plant under the same family). CBD and THC each have their own different affects on the human body. THC is the one with a ‘psychoactive’ content – the thing that gives a user the ‘high’.

CBD is not a psychoactive but instead the general claims around it are that it can help chronic pain, ease anxiety. As for skincare claims are that CBD can calm inflammation, reduce oil production, soothe sensitive skin and offer anti-oxidant and anti-ageing benefits. There are also significant claims that CBD oil can help ease conditions like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis*

*Source: Cannabidoids in Dermatology

The confusing part:

A lot of the skincare I’ve looked at in fact contains Hemp Seed Oil or list ‘Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil’. Now again, I have to note I am NOT a scientist or expert on this at all but from the research I’ve been doing I am definitely finding myself in a spot of some confusion between the sources of the oil and the contents/benefits.

My understanding at the point I hit publish on this is that oil from the seeds of the Cannabis Sativa Plant are going to have little or at most a very low CBD content. The higher levels of CBD are from the oil from the flowers and leaves. That’s not to say there aren’t skincare benefits to be found in the oil from the seeds – however any CBD benefits being claimed are most likely to be exaggerated at best.

Cannabis in skincare

The biggest question around CBD skincare: Is it safe and legal?

Currently – according to the sources I researched for this blog – CBD is currently legal in the UK. This is based on the fact that CBD is extracted from the industrial hemp plant (one of a number that are legal to be cultivated in the UK) The regulation at present is that CBD can contain no more than 0.2% THC. So as long as the CBD adheres to those guidelines it is safe and legal. *

*Source: Business Matter: CBD Oil UK Law

One of the things I found when looking into this is that apparently the biggest ‘grey area’ around the sale of CBD is that the products on sale on the highstreet are not allowed to be considered in any way for medicinal use. Which is why the vast majority will be marketed as ‘nutritional supplements’. Although this is more likely to mean the oils and tinctures designed to be taken orally rather than CBD in skincare. Although some products cross over between skincare and things that can be taken orally.

My own biggest hesitation personally with something like CBD is regarding wether it has any impact on how you feel or behave. But the key piece of information I’ve found through researching this article is that the key difference is in the THC content and not the CBD oil itself. THC is the ingredient which causes the ‘high’ feelings associated with cannabis use. As the CBD in the UK has to have less than 0.2% to be sold (& most I’ve looked at have significantly less than this limit) any behavioural impact is extremely unlikely especially when it is an ingredient in skincare.

To add CBD to your skincare routine or not?

Well, as with almost anything – it’s a decision only you can make. My own view is that I need to really asses if I feel there’s a reason I want to try skincare with CBD in or not. Is it because it’s an added benefit that will really help my skincare concerns, or is it out of wanting to jump on the CBD bandwagon or ‘trend’ that seems to be happening.

Should I decide that I do want to trial some CBD products my first point of action will be to look at the ingredients list and really work out what levels of CBD there are and if there’s actually likely to have enough to make an impact or if it’s been added as a nod to skincare trend as much as anything else.

My own biggest question now, having actually investigated the context of CBD and more of the background to it is that there seems to be a complete lack of clarity over the CBD labelling of products and the source of ingredients. With the vast majority listing Sativa Seed or Hemp Seed Oil as the key ingredient – which from what I’ve read and understood is the part of the plant with little or no CBD cannabidiol. If it has actual CBD content then it will list CBD or Cannabidiol as a separate ingredient to the Hemp Seed Oil.

As before, that’s not to say products for skincare wont have skincare benefits. Far from it, Hemp Seed Oil has long been used in skincare and has great soothing and hydrating benefits as it is high in omega 6 & omega 3 – both great for skin. But perhaps not the benefits being claimed of CBD…

My advice? If you’re looking for CBD in your skincare – read the full ingredients list and look for a specific listing of CBD or cannabidiol. If you just want something hydrating & soothing for skin then any of the products with hemp seed oil may be good options for you. But you may need to hunt out those with the actual CBD in there a little harder than the trend may imply…

Products shown**:

  • Ho Karan The Morning Miracle (Ho Karan is a great source of info on Cannabis & CBD in skincare: https://hokaran.com/ – they also have a product called ‘Holy Flow’ that contains Hemp Seed Oil as a base and CBD oil and they clearly state the differences between the two)
  • Radical Skincare Rejuvafirm CBD Facial Oil – The ingredients list Cannabis Sativa Seed (CBD) oil. Which based on my understanding from the research would mean very little or no CBD present. But on checking with the brand they explained: “Ingredients are extracted from the whole plant. They grow feminized plants and try to avoid pollination, as seed of a crop drops cannabinoid content significantly.” So whilst the packaging doesn’t give a direct figure for what levels of CBD are present in this one. It does offer the hydrating benefits of the Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil.
  • Herbivore Emerald Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Deep Moisture Glow Oil – Contains Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Oil – offers the calming and deep moisture benefits of this part of the plant. In the US they have an alternative version of this that contains the CBD oil in addition to the seed oil.
  • Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate – Probably the most ‘mainstream’ brand to be joining the Cannabis trend train. This is one that ingredients wise is focussed on the hydrating benefits of the Cannabis Sativa Seed and not the CBD content. So a nod to the trend rather than claiming to be of any CBD benefits.

**Products in images shown all list Cannabis Sativa Seed (Hemp Seed Oil) as key ingredient so offer the key soothing and calming benefits of this ingredient.

As I mentioned at the start. By no means am I an expert at all on this and absolutely welcome responses or further information being shared. But it is a topic I was keen to explore and understand further before I trialled products around this trend for CBD in skincare. I hope the above post has shed a little light on this increasingly popular area of the beauty industry and perhaps help you decide if skincare with ingredients from the Cannabis family are something you want to try.

Any questions or further comments very welcome.

Products shown in images all provided as PR samples.

CBD and Cannabis skincare pin


    • Jen
      May 29, 2019 / 2:35 pm

      Thank you!

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