Guide to CBD topicals
As well as being a popular food supplement, CBD can also be applied to your skin. In the US there is a broad choice of CBD creams and balms available that can be applied to your skin, joints and muscles.
CBD or hemp extract may not be the first thing you consider when you think of topical creams and balms, but it offers a host of benefits that make it well worth adding to your skincare or exercise recovery routine.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the best known of over one hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the notorious tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-intoxicating and is used in numerous food supplements and skincare products.
After reviewing the latest research, the World Health Organization announced that they consider it to be safe for use as a food supplement. They also stated that it’s “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile”.
What is a CBD topical?
CBD balms and creams are topical products that allow CBD to be applied directly to your skin. Hemp has a long history of use in ancient cultures. The first recorded use of it being applied topically was in 1500 BC in Ancient Egypt where it was prepared in balms and poultices.
CBD balm usually has a firm consistency, like that of butter. A balm is easy to use and will have a wax and oil base. This moisturises your skin and acts as the carrier for the hemp extract. They are suitable for soothing dry or irritated skin.
CBD cream contains similar ingredients to a balm but with added moisture. Liquid, usually water, is included to create a looser consistency. A CBD cream can be used anywhere but is slightly less greasy than a balm; this makes it ideal for use as a face or hand cream.
What different terms are used to describe CBD topicals?
When you begin searching, you may notice that lots of different names and descriptions are used to label CBD topicals; hemp balm, cannabis balm and CBD balm are in common usage. In some cases, manufacturers misunderstand the subtle differences between these phrases and use them interchangeably to mean the same thing. However, they should actually refer to different products:
A hemp balm or cream is a topical that contains hemp of some kind. This could be in the form of hemp seed oil. Products labelled as hemp balm usually do not contain CBD: look closely at the label, if CBD is not listed as an ingredient and there’s no mg amount (for example, 50mg CBD), then it doesn’t contain cannabidiol.
In countries like the UK, THC is a controlled substance and the term cannabis balm is usually used to describe a product containing hemp. Like the hemp balm, it could contain any part of the hemp plant and doesn’t necessarily contain CBD. However, in countries where higher levels of THC are permitted it will likely contain an extract or oil from a THC-rich cannabis strain. In these cases, it may or may not contain CBD or THC so again, you should check the label and the third-party lab results.
This is a topical product that contains CBD extracted from the hemp plant. The extract may be full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or isolate. Full-spectrum extracts contain CBD alongside traces of all other cannabinoids from the hemp plant. Broad-spectrum extracts contain traces of other cannabinoids but no THC. Isolate extracts have been refined until only the CBD remains.
Is CBD balm legal?
In the US, CBD topicals like balms, creams and cosmetics are legal if they meet a few requirements:
- Each container of a CBD product must hold less than 1mg THC.
- They must not be sold as medicines or labelled as having specific medical benefits.
- They must be made in a way that makes it difficult to extract any illegal cannabinoids like THC or CBN.
What does CBD balm do?
CBD balm is most used for one of two reasons; some people use if for their skin and others use it to target their muscles or joints.
Although our understanding of how CBD interacts with our bodies is improving there is still a lot that we don’t know. Consultant dermatologist Dr. Ophelia Veraitch explained to us that, “The concept of using CBD is relatively new in skincare. Out of the studies done using CBD, relatively few have been studied for potential skin benefits. However, over the years there have been a small number of studies that have shown that CBD can be used topically.”
Currently, the information provided by scientific studies indicates that CBD produces most of its beneficial effects by interacting with substances around our endocannabinoid receptors. One type of these receptors is known as CB2 and can be found throughout our bodies including in skin cells. When CBD is present in your cells your body is better able to restore a healthy balance.
Does CBD balm work?
Our customers often contact us or leave reviews to let us know how it’s worked for them. One told us that CBD balm was “Excellent!!! I would definitely recommend.” Others were particularly impressed with the 1000mg Love CBD balm we stock, “the balm is lovely, goes on easily, smells good and is not greasy”.
Are there any side effects?
If ingested, CBD may cause some mild side effects such as dry mouth, gastrointestinal problems and changes in appetite. In larger measures it may also increase the risk of low blood pressure, dizziness, headaches and liver toxicity. However, there are currently no publicised reports detailing any side effects from the use of CBD balms or creams when applied externally.
Most of the ingredients used in CBD balms and creams are chosen for their low risk of side effects, however there are a couple of things to look out for:
Allergies – If you suffer from sensitive skin or allergies, it’s vital that you carefully check the list of ingredients. Some products may contain nuts, soy, parabens or alcohol.
Essential oils – Essential oils are generally safe when properly diluted but can cause burning and irritation to the skin.
Where can I use CBD balm?
Most CBD balms can be safely used anywhere on your body externally, although as with any skincare you should avoid getting too close to your eyes or open wounds. However, each product has its own formulation and may be designed for a specific purpose, like this lip balm from PharmaHemp.
Most CBD balm formulations, like those from BioBloom, are safe to be used all over the body and face. However, face cream formulations address face care needs exclusively.
Some brands may use ingredients that aren’t suitable for use on sensitive areas, including your face. Read the label carefully before buying a CBD topical and follow any safety guidance regarding where it can be applied safely.
How do I use CBD balm?
Decide where you want to apply your balm or cream; then clean and dry the skin on and around the area. Use your fingertips to generously apply it directly to your skin and rub it in vigorously.
You should always refer to the instructions supplied with your products, but most can be safely applied two or three times a day.
Start with a pea-sized amount of balm or cream and apply it to your skin; you may need to adjust the amount depending on how well it smooths on. Continue to apply it generously until the area is completely covered.
Pros and cons of using balms and creams
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using CBD balms and creams to help you decide if they will meet your needs:
- They can be applied directly to a specific area.
- They absorb quickly into your skin (some are better at this than others).
- Alongside CBD, they also contain a blend of other beneficial ingredients.
- They’re available in various types and strengths for different uses.
- You can use as much as you need and apply it sparingly or thickly.
- It’s tricky to apply a precise measure of CBD with a balm or cream.
- The CBD in topical products is unlikely to reach your bloodstream, so you won’t experience any whole-body benefits.
What to consider when choosing a balm or cream
Choosing the right CBD topical is essential. According to Dr Ophelia, “One of the major issues with CBD is that it’s difficult to know the exact dose, composition, and that products are free of contamination.”
When choosing your CBD balm or cream you can use these tips to ensure that you know how much to use and that you’re getting a high-quality, genuine product:
- Only choose products with the CBD content clearly displayed on the label.
- Look for brands that are members of industry organisations like the Cannabis Trades Association, CannaPro or the British Hemp Alliance.
- Only consider products that can verify the amount of cannabinoids they contain with third-party lab certificates.
- Choose products with all-natural ingredients.
- Check customer review sites like Trustpilot for brands with excellent reputations.
Topical CBD products are a great way to apply CBD directly to your skin. Whether you’re looking for a moisturiser or want something soothing after a long run, CBD balms and creams are an excellent choice.