Amid the excitement surrounding the legalization of marijuana, a relatively little-known use for cannabis has gotten experts in the skin care industry downright thrilled â€” and it has nothing to do with getting high.
Cannabis is being increasingly used to counteract a range of skin concerns, from acne and wrinkles to more serious conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
â€śThis is going to be the best panacea for skin care and many other areas in medicine,â€ť says Adam Friedman, a professor of dermatology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Friedman sees a potential significance to the dermatological industry that â€śfar outweighs retinoidsâ€ť because of the wide-ranging potential applications. â€śThe skyâ€™s the limit,â€ť he predicts.
Thatâ€™s largely because of cannabis-derived compounds called cannabinoids, which boost our own internal endocannabinoid system. The most recognized of the cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol), which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the compound that results in the psychoactive properties for which cannabis is typically known.
Confused? Surprised? Thatâ€™s normal. Because of a lack of extensive clinical trials in using medical cannabinoids in topical skin care, it can be hard to provide guidance on exactly what a patient might need, and how much, Friedman says. He estimates that it will be a few years before this information hits the mainstream, and five to 10 years before the market is flooded with products.
Early studies suggest that cannabis can have uses in sebum production, inflammation, itchiness, wound healing and skin cancer, and that CBD works best in concert with the other cannabinoids found in cannabis, something experts call the entourage effect.
â€śRight now, my recommendation â€” are you going to cause harm if you buy a CBD oil or THC and CBD oil? Chances are no,â€ť Friedman says. â€śAnd the question of if will you absorb enough for a psychoactive effect? All data says no.â€ť
For now, evidence of CBDâ€™s efficacy is largely anecdotal.
Since starting the cannabis-centric lifestyle site Miss Grass with Anna Duckworth, CEO Kate Miller has tried â€śa lotâ€ť of CBD skin care products, she says. Miller can vouch for CBDâ€™s anti-inflammatory benefits, as itâ€™s one of the few successful ways she has found to treat her psoriasis.
CBD â€śhas helped my skin and lips stay hydrated, even in the dead heat of summer and in the brutal cold of winter,â€ť Miller says. â€śAnd it has supported my body and skin to bounce back faster after long nights or rough workouts.â€ť
Cannuka CBD Calming Eye Balm, $38, https://cannuka.com
Khus+Khus Sen Face Serum, $80, www.khus-khus.com
Idli Pekar CBD-Infused Tissue Repair Facial Serum, $148, https://missgrassflowershop.com
Vertly Hemp Infused Lip Balm, $22, www.vertlybalm.com
Speakeasy CBD Sunscreen, $19.95, www.speakeasycbd.com
Apothecanna Everyday Cream, $40, https://missgrassflowershop.com
Wildflower CBD+ Healing Stick, $75, https://missgrassflowershop.com
Malin+Goetz Hair Pomade, $24, www.malinandgoetz.com
High Gorgeous Plain Jane Cannabis Infused Body Lotion, $40, www.highgorgeous.com
Cosmic View Psori-Assist Skin Relief Formula, Bay Area dispensaries (prices variable)
There is a growing range of topical skin care products containing cannabis-derived ingredients, from Malin + Goetz Hair Pomade to an Apothecanna Circulating Leg + Foot cream.
One of Millerâ€™s favorite products is the luxurious-looking CBD-infused Tissue-Repair Serum made by Ildi Pekar, who is supermodel Miranda Kerrâ€™s facialist.
â€śThis has been my savior in fighting the effects of summer sun exposure,â€ť Miller says, adding that with additional ingredients that include aloe, vitamins C and B3, probiotics, hyaluronic acid and maple syrup, it reduces redness in her skin.
Sheâ€™s also devoted to Vertly CBD Lip Balm, which is the only lip balm she has loved enough to reach the end of the tin, because of its hydrating properties (additional ingredients include coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, jojoba oil and vitamin E).
Products targeted to specific uses, like Vertlyâ€™s lip balm, tend to be popular.
Cannukaâ€™s CBD Calming Eye Cream, for example, which combines manuka honey with CBD, has been a top seller, says Cannuka founder and chief executive officer Michael Bumgarner.
â€śOur CBD Healing Skin Balm was our hero product, but that has really transitioned to our eye balm,â€ť Bumgarner says. â€śBecause the space is so new, out of all of our products, itâ€™s the most clear on what itâ€™s used for: Our eye balm is for your eyes.â€ť Plus, he adds, an eye treatment is universally appealing.
â€śWe can all relate to getting circles around our eyes. Once you see the immediate effect of decreasing circles and wrinkles, you can see the benefit immediately.â€ť
The packaging of todayâ€™s cannabis-derived products would blend in among the shelves of Sephora, although many are available only online or at a dispensary (depending on whether they contain THC).
That elevated aesthetic is all a part of the plan. High Gorgeous is touted as â€śthe first mainstream cannabis beauty line,â€ť with feminine, cheeky packaging and product names. Its most popular product is PiĂ±a-Co-Canna Body Butter, which smells like a piĂ±a colada and is made to soothe aches and pains; others include Nice Buns Cellulite Treatment and Plain Jane Bubble Bath.
High Gorgeous Chief Marketing Officer Kymber Ward says the products are popular with celebrities including Lisa Vanderpump and Jane Fonda, and it just began a campaign with fashion, fitness and beauty bloggers.
Celebrity endorsements like these have enhanced the mainstream appeal of cannabis-centric beauty products. Red-carpet stylist Karla Welch has boasted of using Lord Jones CBD lotion on her clients, who include Olivia Wilde and Katy Perry. Gwyneth Paltrowâ€™s Goop just partnered with Venice (Los Angeles County) dispensary MedMen to endorse products like Kush Queenâ€™s CBD bath bomb.
Still, celebrity makeup artist and natural skin care expert Jessa Blades cautions clients about treating topical CBD products as a one-dose-cures-all elixir. She emphasizes that while cannabis can be helpful for a range of applications, it does have limits and works best in concert with other wellness habits.
â€śWhile this new world of CBD-based skin care is very exciting and promising, we have to remember that healthy skin is about working to balance the equation of what you are putting on your skin topically, what you are eating and drinking, as well as how you are living your life,â€ť Blades says. â€śThe fact that cannabis can help to balance the body is the most exciting to me.â€ť
But until skin care and cannabis are more widely researched and understood, the jury is still out on exactly how to use it most effectively.
Cancer researcher and toxicologist Christine Skibola solved her â€śuntreatableâ€ť autoimmune skin condition with a concoction she created using cannabis, olive oil, grape root, chamomile, yarrow leaves, beeswax and vitamin E oil, among other ingredients. The formula slowed and reversed the growth of her condition â€” so much so that her physician took pictures and said, â€śWhatever you are doing, keep doing it,â€ť Skibola says. â€śBut unfortunately, physicians canâ€™t recommend for their patients to take cannabis products, or sell it.â€ť
But she can.
That skin-healing formula is now Psori-Assist, which Skibola sells through Cosmic View, a company she founded with her daughter, Nicole. Her timing was prescient. As she has observed, â€śPeople are just starting to catch on to the benefits.â€ť