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Why cannabis is the buzziest ingredient in skin care


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The beauty world has been sparking up lately: Cannabis is proliferating in beauty products, and it’s poised to take your skin-care routine to a higher level. That’s because the star ingredient, known for its reputed stress-reducing and pain-relieving (among many others) benefits in the wellness space, has incredible prowess when it comes to topical, skin-boosting use.

“For 5,000 years, cannabis has been helping everyone,” says Cindy Capobianco, co-founder of Lord Jones, a brand that makes CBD-laced edibles and body lotion. “Before 1937, when it was prohibited, there was a cannabis elixir on every shelf. It reduces inflammation and pain in a way I’ve never seen anything work.”

Keep reading for more on how cannabinoids work in beauty products, the skin-care benefits, and which products to add to your top shelf.

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cannabis in beauty products
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Why cannabis?

You already know that inflammation is the root cause of oh-so-many skin woes, from acne to rosacea. Because of cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, using it can reduce puffiness, swelling, and even soreness, says Jessica Assaf, The Cannabis Feminist. “It’s this all-in-one solution because of its ability to target those problems simultaneously,” she says.

“It’s this all-in-one solution because of its ability to target all of those problems simultaneously.”

Studies have shown that CBD can potentially be helpful for fighting acne, too, and may even give your skin a more youthful appearance, thanks to its inflammation-fighting prowess. And here’s yet another anecdotal way cannabis is becoming a BFF for holistic types: It can potentially help relieve pain. Capobianco says she has witnessed cannabis lotion provide super-quick relief countless times. “I could tell you a hundred different stories of people standing in front of me with tennis elbow, a shoulder injury, or some sort of pain, and they use our lotion and 10 minutes later they don’t feel it anymore.”

Science shows why this is the case: “CBD binds to a special set of receptors in the skin known as TRPV-1 receptors, where it can help feelings of heat, itch, and pain,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. “This explains why it has a soothing effect on the skin. Just as other natural oils are used in skin care, the natural fatty acids and antioxidants in hempseed oil make it a good choice for people with dry skin and eczema.”

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cannabis in beauty products
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The wide world of cannabinoids

While CBD is the compound popping up in beauty products, it’s not the only one within the cannabis plant to be aware of. “There are nearly 100 [naturally occurring compounds called cannabinoids], and CBD is the one that’s most well-known for its health and wellness benefits,” says Capobianco.

Real talk: There are a lot of chemicals within cannabis, and our body has an entire system that regulates them. All of this comes into play when you slather the plant’s extracts on your skin.

“If you just have one cannabinoid, such as CBD, you’re missing out on the over 100 additional cannabinoids that work together to produce the entourage effect,” Assaf explains. “I really believe in the whole plant, full-spectrum extract or oil as the active ingredient in skin-care products.” In other words, you want the whole system working together, she says.

Your body’s endocannabinoid system has receptors, and Capobianco notes that the full spectrum of cannabinoids work in concert more efficiently and effectively than one on its own—hence it’s good to look for the whole plant’s extract in the beauty aisle. “It’s like with supplements, you need black pepper in order to absorb turmeric,” explains Assaf. “You need all of the cannabinoids to connect with your body’s receptors.”

But then, there is the legality issue. “Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states,” notes Capobianco. “By contrast, cannabis-infused products are regulated at the state level and cannot cross state lines.” And obviously, full-on cannabis is illegal throughout the US.

“Legally, as long as the plant (either cannabis or hemp) is grown with under 0.3 percent THC [the cannabinoid that gets you high] it is considered legal, so theoretically it doesn’t matter whether it is hemp or cannabis,” adds Assaf. And hemp’s legal to import, but you can only grow it legally under an educational pilot program because of the Farm Bill—which is how most companies get away with growing it domestically, she explains.

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cannabis in beauty products
Photo: Stocksy/Kristen Curette Hines

What to look for in the beauty aisle

As is the case in the food industry, knowing where your extract comes from is crucial, Assaf says. “It’s important to know the source. It’s not enough to say you’re getting CBD or hemp extract,” she says. “Some could be processed so intensely that the phytonutrients are stripped away and you’re left with a CBD isolate that’s just a white powder, which is missing all the potent cannabinoids.”

Capobianoco compares whole plant extract to extra virgin olive oil. “It’s a pure extraction method where you’re left with a brownish oil,” she says. “It’s key to look at this when purchasing, so that you’re getting something effective. It [also] helps with our overall goal and mission to de-stigmatize and normalize the plant. The last thing we want is someone to use something and think it does nothing and is a hoax.” So, according to Assaf, look for whole plant extract on the packaging to confirm what you’re using isn’t simply capitalizing on the buzz around the ingredient.

Keep scrolling to shop it for your own beauty bag.

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This is why cannabis is also great for women’s health products. You can even infuse CBD into your cocktails. (Hey, it’s 4:20 somewhere, right?)

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