CBD – the Rising Star of the Beauty Market
Anyone who has ever spent five minutes on Instagram has surely noticed that beautiful, glowing skin, and natural, organic beauty products are the world’s new beauty obsessions.
Spurned in large part by a demographic shift in the personal-care industry as well as by a rise in demand for organic and natural products, the demand for skin-care and beauty products has soared, and the market has skyrocketed around the world. In fact, in 2015, the global skin-care market was valued at USD 116.3 billion, having generated 12.83 billion dollars in revenue in the United States alone. And there is one particular ingredient that is projected to become the breakout star within this spectacular beauty boom: cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 400 compounds produced by the cannabis plants, and it is hailed as being one of the most important compounds of the Cannabis sativa plant. For one, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that unlike the other cannabis-derivative substance, tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), CBD does not produce euphoric sensations in those who consume it; in other words, CBD does not get you “high.” Because of this, CBD, which is derived from hemp - a strain of cannabis with only small trace amounts of THC - is legal throughout the United States.
Second, studies have shown that CBD is thought to have a lot of medical potential, from relieving pain to reducing anxiety and depression. But it is in the realm of dermatology that CBD is getting the most attention by showing real promise as a treatment for a wide range of skin conditions. Not only is CBD non-comedogenic and won’t therefore clog pores, it actually prevents excessive lipogenesis, or the excessive production of sebum on your skin, while displaying remarkable anti-inflammatory effects, thereby making it a safe and effective way to treat acne. Furthermore, it might also be a viable treatment for itch and other skin conditions such as pruritus and psoriasis, as well as for swelling, muscle pains and irritations, due to its aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties.
While the market for CBD products is still very much a niche one, a few personal-care brands have begun to hop on that promising train and have released their own CBD skin-care and beauty lines.
In order to ascertain how well the CBD skin-care and beauty market is delivering on its promise of utilizing CBD’s cosmetic potential, I tried out all of the CBD beauty products that I could get my hands on, which amounted to about 20 products from nine different brands. The following is not an exhaustive list of all the CBD skin-care products that are currently on the market, but they are the most readily available, as well as the most Instagram-friendly.
If you spend any time on the beauty and skin-care corner of Instagram, chances are that you’ve come across some beauty influencer waxing poetic about a tiny, chic black vial containing a CBD-infused super-serum that is supposed to work magic on your skin. That cute vial is the product of Hora, a new and trendy LA-based beauty company that succeeded in incorporating CBD into essential skin-care products.
Besides an array of jade and quartz facial rollers, Hora’s actual skin-care lineup is currently limited, which is understandable for a brand that is barely a year old. Their most popular product is the aforementioned CBD super-serum, which uses eight super ingredients, including vitamins A and C, rosehip oil, argan oil and yes, CBD, to protect, hydrate and regenerate all skin types. It only took me two weeks of daily use for my stress-induced acne to begin rescinding. But for me, the best part about Hora’s super-serum isn’t even what it does to your skin, but to your hair. Hora encourages its customers to apply the super-serum to their hair while it’s wet – which I did, and honestly, I was quite satisfied with the results. After every use, my normally frizzy and dry curls became visibly silkier and shiner, sometimes to the point that I’d choose to keep my unruly curls instead of reaching for my flat iron.
The other product in Hora’s lineup, the exfoliating overnight mask, complements the super-serum quite nicely. Because it has a higher concentration of CBD and other ingredients than the super-serum, it’s suitable to be used up to about four times a week. Indeed, after using it regularly for almost two weeks, I have noticed that my skin has become smoother and less irregular, which leads me to believe that the mask has done its job.
Established beauty and wellness brand CBD For Life seems to be focused on the healing and relaxing properties of CBD oils, them being the majority of their lineup. That said, the brand does have a line of skin-care and beauty products, including face creams, an eye serum, and a hand and body lotion.
First, let’s talk about their CBD face cream, which I used for a few days, and it moisturized my skin way better than my regular moisturizer, especially during the winter. My face remained even and dry-patch-free throughout the entire day without clogging my sensitive pores – even in freezing temperatures. Now, it does leave your face with a shiny sheen for a while (I’d say, for half an hour), but once it seeps into your skin, it does its job very well.
Speaking of virtual perfection, CBD For Life really hit the jackpot with their CBD eye serum. Speaking as a college student who has not had a full night’s sleep in three years, and whose dark under-eye bags have become a permanent facial feature, I have to thank the CBD gods and CBD For Life’s R&D department for delivering this eye serum to us perpetually sleep-deprived mortals. I used this serum twice a day, every day, for about a week, and while my under-eye bags haven’t completely disappeared from my face, they are visibly brighter. There are even days when I can afford not to put on concealer!
Furthermore, this serum is so liquid and spreadable that even the smallest amount – a quarter of a pea size - will be enough for both eyes, meaning that those 0.5oz will go a long way.
Finally, the CBD hand & body massage lotion. It’s a lotion with a pleasant peppermint-y smell – perfectly good and serviceable.
Next up, here is Milk Makeup’s new Kush mascara, a product of its new CBD-containing (meaning that lashes are nice and soft, not crispy, yay) beauty line. I can confidently say that this mascara is amazing with the perfect amount of wetness – thick, creamy and long-lasting – as it leaves your eyelashes looking long and voluptuous with one quick swipe. It’s a good product to create bold, dramatic looks with, which is why it’s one of my favorites on this list. I mean, who doesn't love extra volume, curl, and length to eyelashes?
My comments about the Kush mascara are totally applicable to Milk’s new Kush fiber brow gel. Make sure you get the right shade that matches with your eyebrows because this product is such a great express brow definer, making every swipe quite generous. With this, you can just discard some brow pomades and gels that get dusty-looking after hours of wear because this product has enough hold to style your brows whatever the way you like.
Humble Flower Co., a women-owned and operated wellness brand that specializes in producing CBD wellness and beauty products, wants you to feel comfortable in your bath: They want you to feel as relaxed as you’ve ever been, and they’ve got you covered with their relaxing bath soak. Unlike the other products on this list, the majority of Humble Flower Co.’s CBD products also contain some amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound of the Cannabis genus. This brand focuses on the medical attributes of cannabis, namely its healing and anti-inflammatory properties, and thus its products are geared towards promoting bodily wellness and beauty. The aforementioned relaxing bath soak contains 50mg of CBD and 25mg of THC, and it is intended for medical purposes only. While adding the salts to your bath water won’t alter your state, your body will still be absorbing CBD as well as THC through your pores, which is something to keep in mind if you’re curious. At the same time, this product does exactly what it says on the label: Soaking in a bathtub filled with warm water and those fragrant bath salts will leave you feeling light and relaxed like you couldn’t believe, and it will relieve all of the aches and sores in your body. I tried out this product after a couple of hours at the gym, and it was amazingly effective at reducing the soreness that you feel after spending half an hour doing squats.
Humble Flower Co. also sells a couple of healing balms: a cannabis-infused muscle balm, which smells of ginger and peppermint, and a cannabis-infused, arnica and clary sage pain-relief balm (both are topical use). These balms also contain small amounts of THC, and they are to be administered locally in sore or inflamed areas in your body. They work quite well too: I rubbed a little bit of the arnica and sage relief balm on a bruise that I had in my underarm, and by the end of the day, it had faded noticeably. I also discovered that they work quite well as impromptu lip balms although I would advise to use them sparingly only because that is not their intended use.
For those who do not want to use products that have THC in them, Humble Flower Co. also sells a couple of soothing body lotions that contain only CBD. Perhaps, due to the lack of THC in their formula, the body lotions are slightly less effective than the balms at soothing soreness and pain, but at the same time, they are more pleasant to use on a regular basis. There are two varieties: unscented and scented, with the latter smelling like a pleasant blend of lavender and vanilla, and both varieties feel nice against the skin and provide a decent amount of moisture.
Lord Jones’ high-CBD-formula products are mainly for personal wellness as their product lineup mostly consists of CBD tinctures and apparel, as well as CBD edibles. Indeed, they only have one skin-care product in their store, and that is the high-CBD pain & wellness formula body lotion.
For instance, Lord Jones’ body lotion works very well as a regular body and hand moisturizer. Formulated with Frescolat, a natural cooling agent, moreover, you feel a cooling sensation exactly where you apply the lotion. Another distinctive feature is its use of whole plant extract. While some CBD-based products are made with CBD isolate, which is easier to obtain and less expensive, Lord Jones uses whole-plant extracts, yielding the “entourage effect,” a phrase coined by researchers upon discovering that CBD and THC (in addition to other compounds in the plant) work better together rather than in isolation. No wonder their users have been vocal in raving about how quickly and effectively the lotion has eased their ailments like arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and migraines.
Lord Jones also did a great job with their CBD edibles, most notably their gumdrops: Their high-CBD all-natural gumdrops are meant for medicinal purposes even though they don’t contain any THC. But that does not mean that they aren’t effective: Pop one or two into your mouth, and within half an hour to an hour, you will begin feeling calmer, more relaxed, and less anxious, but no less alert. They are also quite tasty, possessing a subtle, sweet yet slightly tangy taste.
Although very social media-friendly, skin-care/wellness brand KHUS+KHUS is primarily focused on promoting general body wellness, as evidenced by the body waxes and body serums included in their product lineup.
I got my hands on one of those body serums, called Copious, which you are supposed to apply to your body in long strokes towards your heart in order to stimulate lymph, at least according to the package. Whether KHUS+KHUS means that it stimulates the production of lymph or the movement of lymph through the lymphatic system is unclear. All in all, it’s a perfectly serviceable product – it does feel quite nice on your skin, and it has a soft, pleasant smell to it. It’s indeed one of their best-selling products flooded with overwhelmingly positive testimonials from their users. (And I am writing another positive one as we speak.)
The same can be said about KHUS+KHUS’ Sen face serum, which has a distinctively luxurious feel to it. Like most KHUS+KHUS products, it’s a very Instagram-able product, one that would look adorable in an aesthetic millennial-pink tinted photograph, and will also feel great on your skin.
Remedi does not sell face creams or face serums like a typical beauty company. Instead, it sells a series of topical lotions containing CBD, along with a whole host of tinctures, capsules, gummies and even vapes, all of which supposedly use CBD’s extensive list of medical benefits to make you feel relaxed and pain-free.
One of those products is Remedi Plus soothe CBD topical cream, which utilizes CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties to provide a natural and cooling pain relief. It is a slow-acting product, just like many other products on this list: While the cooling effect is instant upon contact with the skin, the actual pain relief only begins to occur about an hour after application. After that, it’s quite effective – I used it on my left shoulder and my lower back, which have been troublesome areas in my body since high school, and after a while, the pain subsided to the point that I was able to spend a couple of hours sitting on my bed writing this article without much discomfort.
Remedi also sells a topical cream that is specifically designed to help people with recent tattoos deal with the irritated and inflamed skin by using CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. Now, I do not have any recent tattoos so I couldn’t try this product on myself, but according to people who have tried it on, such as King Moses OG, a caregiver in L.A. and Cannabis Cup-winning grower, tattoo aficionado and brand owner of AfterTatt CBD, it not only helps with the inflammation that naturally occurs whenever one gets a new tattoo, but it also helps heal the tattoo itself without damaging the skin or the ink. It smells pleasantly, too, which is a bonus in my opinion.
If you don’t have tattoos but are still plagued by muscle pains, wounds, or skin irritations, then you can also use their healing-blend topical cream, which uses CBD and magnesium, in addition to other powerful ingredients, to treat your ailments. It is faster-acting and effective, too.
While the growing CBD skin-care market is mostly dominated by small brands, there are some larger, more established skin-care companies that have taken notice of the new CBD trend. Such is the case of Origins, a well-known beauty brand, founded by the Estée Lauder Companies in 1990, that markets itself as the provider of natural, sustainable and organic beauty products. They have recently released their own CBD-adjacent product: a plastic tube called Hello, Calm filled with an avocado-green paste – a relaxing and hydrating face mask that supposedly contains not CBD, but Cannabis sativa seed oil rich in omega acids and anti-irritants. It is a product that is supposed to hydrate, relax, and soothe your skin, leaving you looking and feeling refreshed.
If you want to feel like your face just had its own relaxing spa day, then Origins’ Hello Calm mask is for you. It’s more practical than the average mask: You only have to keep it on your face for 10 minutes instead of the typical 20, and wash it off. Your face will feel so hydrated and smooth.
And finally, we have our last brand and our last product: Namah’s green-tea face cleanser. It’s unlike any other face cleanser I’ve used that it does not produce much foam but it still did a good job washing away impurities and vestiges of makeup from my face, leaving my skin feeling clean and refreshed. I can’t speak about its long-term effects on the skin, given that the sample that I was given only lasted for a couple of uses, but I would wager that its contents will promote control of sebum production and help with inflammation caused by acne or other skin problems. It is the product to look out for.
Writer: Monica Dias
Photographer: Ron Contarsy (for Highmark Studios)