Truths Behind the CBD Skincare Trend

by Michele Ross · Updated January 16, 2020

Over the past year, CBD has become one of the hottest—yet perhaps most misunderstood—trends in beauty, nutrition, and wellness. Heck, even Kim Kardashian hosted a CBD-themed baby shower in April!

But what is CBD exactly, and why is it suddenly in all of your favorite skincare products?

CBD Basics

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-psychogenic chemical compound within the cannabis plant. (When ingested, CBD doesn’t provide a high as does psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC.) CBD and THC are both cannabinoids—of which 113 are known—that work on cannabinoid receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system. (For in-depth look at the endocannabinoid system and taking CBD supplements, read our separate article on it here.)

Organic chemist Roger Adams first discovered CBD in 1940, though its chemical structure wasn’t completely understood until 1963. Studies on THC have largely overshadowed those on CBD. However, CBD research has flourished over the past decade, especially overseas.

CBD Skincare Tinctures with leaves in nature

CBD for Your Skin

CBD-infused skincare products are a recent development exploding on the beauty scene. But does it live up to the hype? To evaluate, we spoke with Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, a board-certified dermatologist, consultant, and speaker on holistic skincare and CBD. We also chatted with Ildi Pekar, a New York-based esthetician and leader in CBD beauty treatments.

What skin conditions does CBD address?

Studies on cannabinoids such as CBD for skincare are still in their infancy. However, a 2018 review found topical cannabinoids to be beneficial for acne, rashes, dermatitis, itching, and psoriasis. Dr. Jacknin tailors her recommendations based on studies in addition to anecdotal evidence she gathers in the field. Meanwhile, Pekar praises CBD as a great ingredient for all skin types. She’s witnessed its particular efficacy for helping treat acne, dry skin, fine lines, and wrinkles.

How To Find Quality CBD skincare products

To begin, Dr. Jacknin notes that dispensaries are typically a safe source to purchase topical CBD products since they’re under tighter regulations. At any rate, whether you’re buying from a dispensary or beauty retailer, she strongly recommends taking a closer look at the label.

For starters, verify that CBD is an active ingredient

Make sure that the product clearly lists CBD as its primary ingredient. Dr. Jacknin points out that “hemp seed oil/extract” and hemp-derived “cannabis sativa oil” aren’t interchangeable with CBD. “Hemp has a lot of vitamins and omega-3s,” she says, so it still has moisturizing and nourishing properties. However, hemp contains only trace amounts of CBD at most, so they’re not one and the same. Along these lines, if CBD isn’t one of the first ingredients listed, it’s not potent enough to work its wonders on your skin.

Get to know the brand to ensure its safety and origins

It’s worth investigating the company behind the product, especially if you strive to maintain a “clean” or non-toxic regmien. “Brands will advertise if they’re green or organic,” Dr. Jacknin notes. Trusted purveyors will be transparent with their sources and methods of production. She advises checking that a brand’s CBD products are backed by clinical studies and have been thoroughly tested.

Also, Dr. Jacknin notes the following on hemp-derived CBD: “Hemp absorbs what’s next to it, so it shouldn’t be produced in or near toxic areas.” Unfortunately, she cautions, “the FDA doesn’t overlook truth in advertising.” The bottom line? Even with due diligence, there are no guarantees.

How to incorporate CBD Into Your Skincare Routine

Dr. Jacknin says that serums are usually the most potent topical CBD source. But again, always refer to the ingredient list. She recommends starting with a small quantity of a high-potency CBD product. You can then adjust the amount based on your skin’s response over time.

Looking to up the ante on your CBD game? You might want to try a facial such as Ildi Pekar’s CBD Vibe, which Pekar deems a “full-body experience all about detoxification and relaxation.” It starts with a neck and shoulder massage using her CBD Balancing Drop and Uplifting Blend. Then comes cleansing and exfoliation, “proceeding with a vibrating lymphatic massage, using our special oxygenating machine to balance and detox your skin. We let the client relax under the oxygenating machine, then we close the facial by applying our CBD Serum and Mask.”

Woman getting CBD Vibe Facial at Ildi Pekar in New York City

Image via Ildi Pekar

How long does it take to notice benefits from CBD skincare products?

Pekar says that clients leave the CBD Vibe facial with “glowing skin, less puffiness and redness, and a more even complexion. After one application of CBD products, you’ll feel that the skin is more hydrated and any inflammation will be reduced.” She recommends continuing an at-home CBD regimen to gain even better, more lasting results within a week or two. Similarly, while Dr. Jacknin can only speak to anecdotal evidence, she says you can expect to see visible improvements in your skin within a matter of days.

Is it possible to have an adverse reaction to topical CBD?

“There are always potential sensitivities. But in all the cases I’ve read through that I speak about, there were no indications of contact dermatitis or adverse reactions,” says Dr. Jacknin.

Is CBD in skincare just a fad?

Dr. Jacknin is confident that CBD skincare is here to stay. As for what’s next? “Prescription-grade CBD is also coming out now. It’s not standardized, but it’s up to three times stronger than over-the-counter CBD,” she says. Experts are developing specialized creams for acne, psoriasis, and more by incorporating additives based on the dermatological concern at hand. Lastly, she adds, “More research is also being done on other cannabinoids [for skincare], such as CBG (cannabigerol) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid).”

Final Thoughts

More research is needed to better understand the therapeutic potential of CBD and other cannabinoids for skin. Also, stricter federal oversight would be great to take out the guesswork and give consumers the good faith they deserve.

Thus far, the benefits of CBD—for your skin and otherwise—are widely championed. At the end of the day, skincare should be enjoyable, experimental, and tailored specifically for you. Once you’re confident with your treatment of choice, feel free to relax and let CBD’s zen properties work their magic.

To Top