One of the components of the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants. Although listed on a cosmetic product by the approved name of cannabidiol, this ingredient is commonly referred to as CBD. Cannabidiol is one of numerous cannabinoids found primarily in the Cannabis species of plants. It occurs naturally in the flowering tops of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) but not in hemp seeds. Products that contain hemp seed oil that tout it as the source of cannabidiol most likely do not contain this substance (especially if you don’t see it listed among the product’s ingredients); however, it is possible to grow CBD-enriched hemp, where meaningful amounts of the cannabidiol is found in multiple parts of the plant. Confusing? Absolutely, which is why it’s important to only purchase CBD skin care from a trusted brand.

Cannabidiol has been shown to offer numerous benefits related to calming skin. Skin has specific receptor sites for cannabinoids (referred to as its endocannabinoid system). It seems CBD can “talk” to these receptor sites on skin, sending unique signals to stop firing the wrong messages, which in turn leads to healthier, better-looking skin. This benefit makes cannabidiol an intriguing ingredient for interrupting the progression of damage within skin’s uppermost layers that can lead to visible problems; however, more research needs to be done to gain a greater understanding of how CBD works on skin.

Research has also shown, though isn’t entirely clear on how this works, that CBD seems to visibly reduce oily skin. It’s also a very good antioxidant, on par with vitamins C and E.

A quick note on the other compound in Cannabis that’s often mentioned, and that’s THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is the cannabinoid in marijuana (Cannabis indica) that has psychoactive effects (gets you high). The cannabidiol in skin care products must be THC-free, which means it contains 0.3% or less of this chemical, an amount lawmakers have deemed safe and unable to produce any sort of “high.”

Last, the legal status of CBD in skin care (meaning for topical use only, not ingestion) appears to be on solid footing for now, but it’s a changing landscape that is being examined with an aim on clarifying its usage for consumers.

References for this information:

Biochemical Pharmacology, November 2018, pages 122-133
Dermatology Online Journal, June 2018, pages 1-17
Journal of Investigate Dermatology, May 2018, page S173
Dermatoendocrinology, January 2018, ePublication
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Reserarch, June 2017, ePublication
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 2017, pages 188-190

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!