Beauty's best hemp secret

CBD is the hottest word in beauty. But do claims that it soothes the skin, relieves anxiety and eases post-workout pain hold up?

Hair & Beauty

Mary Jane, wacky backy, weed, dope: cannabis has many monikers, but in the beauty industry, CBD is the word on the street thanks to a growing number of brands who are popping the plant into their products. But what exactly is it and more to the point, is it any good for our beauty and wellness routine?

What is CBD?

There are two strains of cannabinoids that garner the most attention. The first, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most divisive because it’s the one that gets you high if you smoke it. Yet in countries where marijuana is legal, THC has begun showing up in skincare thanks to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. But here, where THC is banned unless it comes in concentrations below 0.3%, it’s a no-go in any product. This is where the second ingredient comes in. CBD (cannabidiol) is legal and entirely non-psycho-active - meaning it won’t induce a high. It’s also proving to have a wealth of health and beauty benefits.

What does the science say?

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory that is also neuro-calming, meaning when taken via a tinature or oil (that you place under your tongue) it boosts serotonin levels and reduces anxiety.

Where skincare is concerned, research led by dermatologists from the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine found that cannabinoids like THC and CBD can reduce inflammation in cases of psoriasis, eczema and allergic dermatitis. Dermatologists therefore suggest they might be able to help reduce acne and even ageing.

Dr Majid Shah from the Artistry Clinic tells us: “We’re biologically primed to reap the benefits of cannabinoids when ingested or applied topically, because our body has its own endocannabinoid system. This means we actually produce our own cannabinoids. So, when we ingest or apply cannabis, receptors pick up cues of the incoming CBD or THC and bind to cells like a key fitting a lock. This kick-starts a biochemical reaction that can alter everything from blood pressure and pain response to memory, appetite and skin barrier function. In beauty terms this means cannabinoids can help regulate sebum production and moisture retention within skin, explaining why studies into cannabinoids treating acne are so promising”.

So, what's the catch?

Well, the research is really promising when it comes to pain and relieving anxiety. However, studies on CBD in skincare are still small scale. Moreover, the number of products now available makes for an overwhelming choice. Some contain such a little amount that they won’t have any effect at all.

Moreover, Kim Smith, founder of Kloris, tells us it’s important to consider what the plant has been grown in or with. “Check it is without the use of pesticides,” she says. “The reason being that cannabis is a bio accumulator - meaning it is capable of absorbing both the good and the bad from the air, water and soil in which it’s grown. If pesticides were used it’s possible that they could be passed through to the CBD extract.”

The extraction process is also key. If harsh solvents are used (because they’re cheap), then nasty chemical leftovers will end up in the balm and oil. If the brand promotes or uses carbon dioxide (CO2) under high pressure and extremely low temperatures to pull out as much CBD as possible without the use of any chemicals, then that’s a good sign. Brands that use CBD isolates and crystals via their extraction methods are also good indicators that the CBD is potent and therefore more beneficial.

Is it a trend that will last?

The CBD trend shows no signs of waning, especially as consumers are seeing results. While the evidence is anecdotal, it’s only a matter of time before the research starts to build. What’s holding it back are the legal issues that prevent UK brands from harnessing cannabis’ full potential. The UK Cosmetic Trade Association prohibits the sale of products incorporating the flowering tops of the plants where psychoactive substance THC is found.

In the US, however, where cannabis is legal, products are ‘supercharged’ with THC and ready to buy. Take Vertily, a luxe CBD and THC infused beauty line created by former NYC-based fashion editor Claudia Mata. She says the difference between these THC and CBD cannabinoids is staggering, arguing that CBD found in most products is extracted from the cannabis seed oil, which doesn’t have the same potency as extracts taken from the flower or buds particularly when used in tandem with THC.

For now we’ll have to settle with CBD here in the UK, but watch this space as this trend certainly has the power and potential to grow…

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