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 skyrocket 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, chique 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 that, by all accounts, actually work.
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’s a product that requires patience; if you expect to see results right away, you’re going to be disappointed. Indeed, it took me almost two weeks of using the super-serum twice a day, every day, to notice that my stress-induced acne was finally 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 costumers 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 become visibly silkier and shiner, sometime to the point that I choose to keep my unruly curls instead of grabbing my flat iron.
The other product in Hora’s lineup, the exfoliating overnight mask, complements the super-serum quite nicely. It has a higher concentration of CBD and of other ingredients than the super-serum, suitable to be used about four times a week. Like the super-serum, one needs to be patient when using that mask because the effects of it don’t start becoming evident until after at least a couple of weeks of regular use. Indeed, after using it regularly for almost two weeks, I have noticed that my skin has become somewhat smoother and less irregular, which leads me to believe that the mask has done its job.
Unlike the niche beauty brand Hora, the more established beauty and wellness brand CBD For Life seems to be more 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, such as face creams, an eye serum, and a hand and body lotion.
First, let’s talk about their CBD face cream. I’m not going to lie, I was afraid to try this product. As soon as I opened the container and saw how rich and thick the cream was, I began praying for my combo/oily skin. Even though CBD is non-comedogenic, I had no doubt that a cream so thick would make my face break out like there was no tomorrow. But, fortunately, my fears turned out to be unfounded. Despite the same look and consistency as the face creams my grandmother used, this one does not make my face resemble a game of Whac-A-Mole. Instead, it moisturizes my skin way better than the moisturizer I usually use – so much that my face remains dry-patch-free throughout the entire day without clogging my sensitive pores. Now, it does leave your face with a shiny sheen for a while (I’d say, for half an hour), which can be a turnoff for some, but once it seeps into your skin, it does its job quite well. If only it had SPF 15 built into its formula, then it would be virtually perfect.
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. Unfortunately, I can’t muster as much excitement for this product as I can for the previous ones because it is just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly good and serviceable lotion with a pleasant peppermint-y smell, but there’s not much else that’s exciting about it. That said, while it’s true that you can probably find a better lotion than this one somewhere in the market, you could also find many that are considerably worse.
There are some products on the list that undoubtedly benefit from having CBD as one of their ingredients but there are others which the inclusion of CBD is nothing more than a blatant gimmick to capture a slice of the growing CBD beauty and skin-care niche market. Such is the case of Milk Makeup’s new Kush mascara, a product of its new CBD-containing beauty line. How a mascara benefits from having CBD included in its list of ingredients is a good question, even after trying out the product in question. Mind you, Kush mascara is a pretty good product and I do like it a lot – in fact, I’ve begun to use it quite often myself – but whatever the amount of CBD is in it does nothing to improve or diminish the product’s quality.
My comments about the Kush mascara are perfectly applicable to Milk’s new Kush fiber brow gel. I have nothing else to add other than: Make sure you get the right shade that matches with your eyebrows if you decide to buy this good, albeit gimmicky, product.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not only get high in your bath, but also because of your bath? If so, then don’t worry, because Humble Flower Co., a women-owned and operated wellness brand that specializes in producing CBD wellness and beauty products, has got you covered with their medical-marijuana 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 make you high per se (I mean, unless you have a really low tolerance for THC), your body will still be absorbing CBD as well as THC through your pores so keep that in mind if you are 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 of which 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 don’t condone that sort of unprescribed use of a product containing a psychoactive agent.
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 less effective than the balms at soothing soreness and pain – but one can also argue that 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.
In a way, Lord Jones’s high-CBD-formula products are quite similar to those sold by Humble Flower Co. that they don’t promote beauty as much as they do personal wellness (and Lord Jones’ products do not include THC). Much like Humble Flower Co., their product lineup is limited on actual skin-care and beauty products, and instead, 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.
Out of all the products on this list, this is the most disappointing one - not because it’s bad but because it’s just like every other CBD body lotion on here. The only difference, in fact, is that Lord Jones’ body lotion has a considerably more pungent smell than, say, Humble Flower Co.’s lotions, which can be a turnoff for some. It certainly was a turnoff for me.
However, Lord Jones did a good job with their CBD edibles, most notably their gumdrops. Much like Humble Flower Co.’s relaxing bath soak, 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. As a college student, I must say that those gumdrops were a lifesaver during midterm season although I do not advise that anyone take them during midterms themselves.
KHUS+KHUS, a perfectly Instagram-able skin-care/wellness brand, is also much like Humble Flower Co. and other brands listed here. Like those other companies, KHUS+KHUS isn’t much concerned with beauty as it is with 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 all right. It’s serviceable. It gets the job done although I’m not sure what its job is. It’s not a lotion so it doesn’t moisturize, but neither does it relieve pain or soreness, or cure rashes, and I can’t speak for its lymph-stimulating properties, so forgive me for not being too impressed.
Fortunately, I know what the point of a face serum is, so I was better prepared to deal with KHUS+KHUS’ Sen face serum. That said, I wasn’t blown away by this product either even though I understood its purpose. Don’t get me wrong, Sen facial serum is not a bad product but it is just like every other face serum on the market in its price range, even those that do not have CBD in their formulas.
In many ways, Remedi is a similar brand to Lord Jones but Lord Jones’ aesthetic is much more vibrant and allusive to free-spiritedness than Remedi’s comparatively more subdued, professional and indeed almost clinical presentation. But they are competing in the exact same market which sells not beauty but wellness. This means that Remidi does not sell face creams or face serums like a typical beauty company, but instead 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 actually pretty 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. It’s about as effective as Humble Flower Co.’s topical balms although it is largely scentless (and it can’t be used as an impromptu lip balm).
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. This cream works similarly to the healing balms distributed by Humble Flower Co., except that it is somewhat faster-acting and more effective, though not as pleasant to smell or use (you also can’t use this cream as a lip balm, sadly).
While the growing CBD skin-care market is mostly dominated by small brands seeking to profit off a niche market, there are some larger, more established skin-care companies that have taken notice of the new CBD trend and have decided to jump on board of the hype train in hopes of ripping off a slice of the growing pie. Such is the case of Origins, a well-known beauty brand 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.
Now, if you’re like me and you only use masks to exfoliate and remove impurities, then this mask probably won’t have much to offer you; but if you want to feel like your face just had its own relaxing spa day, then you can do much worse than Origins’ Hello, Calm mask. It’s a mask of relatively short duration that you only have to keep it on your face for 10 minutes instead of the typical 20, and its tint will make you look like Shrek’s second cousin twice removed, but once you wash it off your face will feel so hydrated and smooth. It is worth it, in my opinion, even if it doesn’t cleanse my pores as much as I would like.
And finally, we have our last brand and our last product: Namah’s green-tea face cleanser with CBD. It’s unlike any other face cleanser I’ve used that it does not produce much foam – indeed, its consistency is more akin to Hora’s super-serum than to anything by Bioré – 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 CBD 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)