You may have noticed that 2021 was a big year for CBD. Suddenly, almost everything is infused with it, including a burgeoning collection of skincare products. According to one estimate, the American CBD market could reach $16 billion by 2025.
But is there actually a benefit to having CBD in your skincare routine? I’ll answer that question, and a few other nagging ones, below.
How does CBD even work?
Let’s start with an even more fundamental question: What is CBD? It’s short for cannabidiol, and it’s one of more than 80 compounds extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. The two most well-known ones are THC, which gets you stoned, and CBD, which doesn’t.
The 2018 Farm Bill loosened regulations on CBD by allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp (basically, cannabis with less than 0.3% THC content) and dropping hemp-derived products from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. And just that quickly, CBD permeated the mainstream in America.
Here’s where it gets truly interesting. Our bodies naturally make a chemical called anandamide. It’s been referred to as the “bliss molecule.” (Think runner’s high.) CBD naturally elevates our anandamide levels. Increased anandamide in our body and brain has been linked to anti-inflammatory effects, among other activities at other receptors. (Researchers are only just beginning to understand what CBD can – and can’t – do.)
When it’s applied topically, it acts only on the spot where it’s applied. Which leads us to our next question:
What’s the benefit of having CBD in a skincare product?
So far, topical CBD’s only clear-cut attributes are its anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties. But there’s increasing evidence that it can also treat dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema, which is why it’s appearing in the ingredient lists of so many face creams, serums, and body lotions.
Truth be told, much of the skincare industry is driven by two forces: treating acne and minimizing the signs of aging. Inflammation is at the root of both. So, any indication that CBD may help with one or the other is going to draw a lot of interest from beauty brands.
However, for all the active studies, there are few conclusive results so far. A 2014 study found that CBD helps suppress breakouts by regulating the sebaceous glands’ oil production. Currently, only retinoids can control inflammation and oil production.
While important work continues in the labs, the FDA is trying to sort out the CBD market. It seems no one anticipated it exploding the way it has. And while cosmetic products and ingredients don’t require premarket approval by the FDA, food and drugs do. Until more – or, really, any – regulation is in place, be skeptical of products claiming that CBD cures one thing or another.