Topical CBD for Wound Care: Healing with Hemp

CBD has been shown to possess potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antioxidant properties that have been successfully applied to treatment protocols for many diverse conditions, from arthritis to dementia to diabetes to high blood pressure. Research also indicates that CBD may be effective at promoting wound healing, making it a natural choice for wound care applications as well. Topical CBD products can be used to care for wounds like burns, cuts, scrapes, bites, and broken skin, but [not all CBD topicals are created equal].

While CBD itself can be highly beneficial when applied to wounds, those benefits can be reduced (or potentially even negated) by the wrong supporting ingredients. Quality carrier oils and botanicals absolutely have a place in CBD wound care products, but since CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA the way that pharmaceutical medicines are, a few extra precautions are necessary.

There are many balms, salves, ointments, creams, and gels formulated with CBD available, designed to help treat everything from sunburns to cuts to abrasions to fresh tattoos. While many can be used effectively, some may contain questionable ingredients or potential allergens. Your skin works pretty hard to keep you healthy, and a break in the barrier can be a major stressor for the integumentary system. Using inflammatory ingredients can inadvertently add to that stress and prolong healing time.

Here, we’ll dissect the science behind effective wound care and the role CBD topicals can play in staving off infection and promoting healing. Next, we’ll discuss the role of supporting ingredients (beginning with carrier compounds, followed by botanicals and a cursory examination of common additives) individually, noting the potential benefits and risks of each. We’ll close with a couple of notes concerning sanitary practices for wound care and sustainability in wound healing, providing a bit of guidance to help you choose products that reflect your values and ethics.

How Does Wound Healing Work?

topical cbd for wound care

Wound healing is a highly intricate and complex process involving collaboration between many different types of cells and different body systems. While it’s impossible to convey every detail of the process here, there are a few key principles to know. Wound healing tends to happen in stages: inflammation, proliferation, and maturation. Each of these phases marks a focus on different cellular activities. 

The inflammation phase is the most well-known, as it’s a phase that’s often quite painful. Inflammation is the body’s immediate response to a wound: raising the alarm, heightening sensitivity, sending lots of immune cells to the site of the wound, and setting off frequent (and sometimes intense) pain signals. 

After a few days of inflammation, the proliferation phase begins. This is the time when the body begins to close the wound and is usually marked by wound contraction. During this important period, the body is building a matrix of new cells, collagen, and other tissues to replace the damaged or destroyed cells. Blood vessels and nerve connections re-establish themselves at the wound site during this time, making it more likely that [neuropathic pain] will arise during this period (though it may not be permanent).  

Finally, when it has closed fully and the supporting tissues have regenerated beneath the new skin, a wound is considered mature. At this point, there may be considerable scarring, but the wound will continue to mature for many weeks after closure. Over time, the scar tissue will soften and become less visible, itching and tingling tend to diminish, and discoloration starts to fade. 

The main goal of most wound healing technology is centered around accelerating the healing process, which can be accomplished in a number of ways. Reducing inflammation at the site helps the skin to move from the inflammatory to the proliferation stage more quickly, yielding faster wound closures and improved appearance of scarring. Promoting cellular movement and activity is also key to successful wound healing, as the healing process depends on high levels of oxygen

Wound care also requires ingredients to keep the area clean and free of harmful bacteria and other microbes. Finally, most topical wound care products also typically include some ingredients intended for pain management, reducing the alarm signals sent by damaged nerves at the site of an injury.

The Role of CBD In Wound Care & Healing

topical cbd for wound care healing

CBD, the common name for cannabidiol, has been shown to have many medical applications across a wide variety of conditions. The compound possesses potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties (among many others) that make it especially beneficial for wound healing. It acts as a vasodilator, helping to improve oxygen supply to the wound and accelerating healing time. Together, these properties make CBD a promising therapeutic ingredient in wound care and healing products.

As with most CBD science, more research is necessary to determine the exact mechanisms that make CBD a good promoter of healing activity. However, emerging research is sufficiently compelling that many people are opting for CBD over old standbys from the pharmacy. While minor wounds likely do not present a safety concern for most people, more severe injuries may demand special consideration in product choice to avoid inadvertently causing additional inflammation and delaying healing.

If you prefer to use CBD alone (a completely respectable position that may be necessary for people with serious allergies or sensitivities), we recommend using a CBD tincture with no flavorings or additives. You could also dissolve some pure CBD isolate into the carrier oil of your choice (just be sure everything is clean!) to accomplish the same goal: CBD and oil, the end. However, if you are interested in using botanical ingredients and other bioactive compounds to accelerate wound healing, we invite you to consider the ingredients listed below.

Topical CBD Carrier Oils for Wound Care

topical cbd for wound care healing

Carrier oils determine the consistency of the product and help to amplify its skin-protecting properties. We highly recommend opting for ointments, balms, or salves for wound care over roll-on or lotion products. This is for two primary reasons. Firstly, roll-ons and lotions are often formulated with alcohols that can damage the bonds between skin cells — pretty counterproductive when you’re trying to support your skin’s healing processes. Secondly, roll-on products in particular are not possible to use in a sanitary way on broken skin. If you really need something formulated with an alcohol, try to reach for sprays over roll-ons. 

One benefit that salve and ointment formulas offer over their high-alcohol counterparts is their ability to create a physical barrier over skin. This helps to keep bacteria and other microscopic irritants out of your bloodstream while also protecting your skin from damage and moisture loss as it works to heal itself. We prefer to use products made with ingredients that specifically confer skin barrier benefits. 

These might include beeswax (which possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties), shea or cocoa butter (both yield anti-inflammatory benefits to healing skin), coconut oil (another anti-inflammatory oil popular in CBD formulas), and lanolin (a compound beloved for its skin-protecting properties that may also help promote healing). Olive, safflower, pumpkin seed, and grapeseed oils may also help to promote healing, though they do not offer the same skin barrier benefits as heavier oils and plant butters. 

Ointments are sometimes formulated with compounds like petroleum jelly (also called petrolatum), which is derived from fossil fuels. Because petroleum is a nonrenewable resource and its processing has some pretty detrimental effects on the environment, we prefer to steer clear of petroleum-based formulas. That doesn’t mean you have to, of course, but it might be something worth considering.

Supporting Topical CBD Ingredients for Wound Care

topical cbd for wound care healing

Because the skin is broken or damaged in the case of a wound or burn, wound care products have a special potential to contribute to the inflammation they’re meant to fight, especially in people with sensitive skin. If you have any skin sensitivities or allergies, please take special care to avoid ingredients that could cause an adverse reaction. If you aren’t aware of any allergies but find a product causes itching or redness, listen to your body and seek out a gentler alternative. 

A few common culprits of inflammation include ingredients like capsaicin, cinnamon oil, and menthol, which can cause pain and discomfort when applied to wounds. Though these compounds all act as anti-inflammatories on the skin’s surface, they behave a bit differently when applied to broken skin. Even seemingly innocuous ingredients like goldenrod or chamomile may trigger a reaction in some people when applied to wounds, so we advise being very picky about your wound care topicals, CBD and otherwise. 

  • Aloe Vera – Aloe vera (sometimes called aloe barbadensis on product labels) is a desert-dwelling succulent with well-known healing properties. The gel contained within its elongated leaves has been used by many cultures throughout human history to soothe burns and speed skin repair. The plant has been demonstrated to yield antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties that help it to heal skin damage, soothe pain, and reduce inflammation in injured skin. Clinical studies have shown aloe vera to be well-tolerated and hypoallergenic, making it an excellent healing option for many people. It is especially helpful for minor thermal burns and sunburns, reducing pain with a gentle cooling sensation and rehydrating damaged skin.
  • Chamomile Chamomile is a staple of soothing teas and aromatherapy products, but studies have demonstrated that it can confer significant benefits for wound healing as well. Chamomile flower extract acts as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial when applied to broken or damaged skin. This allows it to help to reduce pain and inflammation while protecting skin and underlying tissues from harmful bacteria and microbes that can hamper the healing process and cause infection. A potential caveat: chamomile is a member of the family Asteraeceae, which includes ragweed and other common allergens, and can cross-react in those with ragweed allergies. However, the benefits likely outweigh the risks for most people without significant ragweed sensitivity.
  • Goldenrod – Goldenrod is a bit tricky to discuss, as it’s quite a common allergen and wreaks seasonal havoc on sinuses from coast to coast. This is because it belongs to the same family as ragweed and therefore frequently cross-reacts in people with ragweed allergies. However, in people without ragweed allergies, goldenrod has been shown to promote healing by acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory, reducing pain, swelling, and redness in the wake of an injury. This effect may make goldenrod particularly useful in the first few days of wound healing, when inflammation is at its peak. Goldenrod may also help to reduce pain and soreness as skin heals, including the nerve pain and discomfort that often arises as the healing nerves form new connections.
  • Lavender – Lavender carries many different therapeutic applications, inducing relaxation and reducing inflammation throughout the body. These properties also extend to wound care — when applied to broken or damaged skin, lavender reduces inflammation, dulls pain, and improves circulation to the affected area. It also possesses powerful antimicrobial properties that can be especially beneficial for people or wounds prone to infections. While it’s no replacement for a rabies or tetanus vaccine, lavender contains compounds that neutralize many types of bacteria and fungi that can hamper wound healing or cause infection. Lavender may also be applied to wounds in the proliferation stage to help address the pain and tingling that results from mending nerve cells.
  • Marigold – Also labeled as calendula, marigold flowers are an autumnal favorite with an abundance of beneficial bioactive compounds. Extracts of the plant and its blooms can contribute to wound healing, acting as an anti-inflammatory agent to soothe damaged skin and reduce pain. The plant also possesses antimicrobial properties that can protect skin from harmful bacteria and other microbes, preventing infection and further damage to the affected tissues. It is generally well-tolerated, but may trigger a reaction in people with an allergy to marigold or calendula.
  • Neem – Neem oil is derived from the neem tree (also known colloquially as Indian lilac) and is a popular health and wellness ingredient in much of Southeast Asia. The oil is rich in bioactive compounds, conferring powerful antimicrobial and antifungal benefits. This allows neem to help protect wounds from infection by fending off harmful bacteria and microbes. Neem can also help to alleviate pain at the site of injury. That said, it is a very intense oil and should only ever be applied diluted. Even in its dilute form, neem may cause an adverse reaction in some people, so exercise caution and be mindful when using neem for wound care.
  • YarrowYarrow has been used as a supplement and wellness ingredient by many cultures throughout human history. It is shown to act as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, reducing pain and inflammation when used on broken skin. It may also help to reduce bleeding in wounds, making it especially helpful for cuts and gashes (though it is not a substitute for medical attention in the case of severe injuries). 

Sanitary Use of CBD Salves & Balms for Wound Care

topical cbd for wound care healing

While there are a handful of ointments, creams, and other wound care products packaged in tubes, most of our favorite go-tos come in pots or tubs. This presents a bit of a dilemma, as it’s much more difficult to keep these products sanitary during regular use. Many products are sufficiently effective that we don’t mind taking a few extra precautions to use them for wound healing, but we hope to see more variety in packaging to make sanitary application of CBD topicals easier. 

To ensure that a salve, balm, or other CBD topical packaged in a jar or pot remains free from contaminants during its usable life, we suggest using a cotton swab or other applicator tool to dispense the product, as opposed to a fingertip. Hands are wonderful for many things, but using a single-use applicator (or a recyclable equivalent if you’re about that low-waste life) instead of your hands for wound care helps reduce the chance of something undesirable ending up in your ointment — or in the wound, for that matter.

If your preferred product comes in a jar or pot, we suggest using a sanitary tool like a cotton swab or scoopula (which can be sanitized after use) to remove your desired amount of product from the container. Once you’ve taken what you need, you can apply the product to the wound using your chosen applicator tool and dispose of or sanitize the applicator accordingly after use. You could also apply the product to a sterile bandage or dressing, or — in the case of a sunburn, new tattoo, or thermal burn — distribute the product over the skin using clean fingertips. 

Taking care to avoid contaminating your chosen wound care product(s) is important to supporting efficient and healthy wound healing. Salve and balm formulas can be just as effective as tube-packaged ointments, they just need a bit of extra finesse to function at their best from start to finish. 

A Note On Sustainability & Supporting Ingredients

topical cbd for wound care healing

While there is a growing consciousness surrounding where the products we use come from, we collectively pay fairly little attention to the sustainability of our purchases. Part of our mission of consumer education includes helping people learn to discern sustainable ingredients that allow them to take control of their health while making buying choices that are better for the planet. 

We also acknowledge that “better” doesn’t equate to “perfect,” and we aim to provide information in a way that educates without condescending — or worse, condemning — our readers for their decisions and lifestyles. Making conscious purchases can be difficult for many reasons, and we recognize the highly personal nature of those choices. No one is capable of single-handedly halting climate change or ecological damage by choosing one bottle over another, just as no one is the sole reason for habitat destruction or environmental pollution. Nonetheless, we believe that there is value in selecting sustainably sourced and manufactured products where possible.

We strongly prefer to reach for plant-based ingredients over animal products (and the same is doubly true for formulas made with petroleum products). This has to do with sustainability as well as concern for animal welfare, as sustainably-farmed plant products tend to have less of an environmental impact next to large-scale industrial animal husbandry. Plant-based ingredients are also generally well-tolerated and (with a couple of freaky exceptions like figs) vegan by default.

While we tend to prefer plant-based products, there are some animal-derived ingredients that can be hugely beneficial for therapeutic purposes (things like collagen, honey, beeswax, and lanolin). These ingredients are not vegan, but that does not mean that there aren’t ethical (or at least more ethical) ways to use them. Some people consider these ingredients an important component of their symptom management regimen, and that’s valid. Again, this stuff is very personal, so listen to your gut and do what is right for you.

We’ll close with a brief comment on the word “vegan.” A vegan product is one that is not derived from animal products in any way and includes non-food items like clothing, shoes, and cosmetics. Vegan products are becoming increasingly popular, with many brands choosing to make their entire product lines strictly vegan.

You may notice, however, that the above definition doesn’t include a requirement that the product’s components must be plant-based. This means that decidedly environmentally unfriendly products like plastics, petroleum products, and synthetic fabrics are considered vegan despite a demonstrably negative environmental impact. We don’t mean to imply that looking for vegan formulas is useless, just that it isn’t an automatic guarantee that the product in question is sustainable.

Takeaway

CBD is a promising ingredient for wound healing that can promote regeneration while reducing pain and inflammation in the skin and underlying tissues. However, because wound care products are applied to broken and damaged skin, it’s important to be choosy about the ingredients you incorporate into your medicine cabinet. Be conscious of any allergies or skin sensitivities you may have, use sanitary handling and dressing practices, and feel empowered to reach out to companies with questions before making a purchase. You can also consult with a medical professional about the safety of a particular product if you are unsure — it’s much better to play it safe with wound healing.

 

Topical CBD for Nerve Pain: Managing Neuropathy with CBD Topicals

Anyone who has experience with neuropathy knows that it’s a uniquely unsettling experience. The electric tingling, burning, stinging, and pinprick sensations tend to happen in the extremities, but can occur anywhere in the body. Nerve pain is unique in that it is caused by damage to the nerves themselves (be it from a slipped disc, a compressed nerve, chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, or damage sustained in an injury) and not the surrounding tissue. Therefore, neuropathic pain is the result of a misfiring of your body’s pain perception system.. 

Because the damage is done to the nerve cells, the cells your body uses to relay signals to and from the brain, neuropathic pain can produce strange and unnerving sensations that make sleeping, eating, and other day-to-day activities difficult — or even impossible. Nerve damage is notoriously difficult to heal (though much research is devoted to the topic), and many conventional painkillers are of little help.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been shown to impart neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic effects that may be successfully applied to a neuropathic pain management regimen. Derived from hemp and known for its effectiveness without risk of addiction or dependence, CBD can be consumed orally, inhaled, or applied topically for relief from neuropathic pain.

Because of their ability to manipulate sensations in the skin and body, many people find CBD topical products to be particularly helpful at soothing and alleviating neuropathic pain. Topicals offer faster relief than oral dosing methods, as well as a greater degree of customizability. Supporting ingredients like  cinnamon, ginger, peppermint, and capsaicin can change the way nerve cells fire, reducing or eliminating nerve pain when applied to the skin. 

While these supporting ingredients open many doors for more effective pain relief, they also raise the risk of adverse reactions, especially in people with sensitive or allergy-prone skin. CBD topicals have a place in neuropathic pain management, but the wrong supporting ingredients for your skin type can reduce (or even entirely negate) their benefits. 

Here, we’ll illustrate the physiology of neuropathy before discussing the role of topical CBD in alleviating it. Then, we’ll talk about the best carrier and supporting ingredients to soothe neuropathic pain, including how they work, what they’re best for, and any risks associated with them. Finally, we’ll close with a short note on sustainable ingredients.  

What Causes Neuropathic Pain?

topical cbd for nerve pain neuropathy

Your nervous system is made up of a couple of different key players: neurons, myelin, and glial cells. Neurons are like your body’s electrical wiring, carrying signals to and from your brain. They’re long, branching cells that use charged molecules to move signals down the length of the cell before relaying it to the next one.

Some neurons are covered with a substance called myelin, a protective coating that helps accelerate the movement of chemical messages. Cells called glia help to support the nerves and keep them functioning normally. In a healthy nervous system, these different types of cells work together and ionic messengers flow smoothly across synapses (the gaps between neurons that facilitate chemical communication between them).

Neuropathy occurs when any of these nerve cells are damaged. This damage can result from many different causes. While injuries like herniated discs or nerve compression can cause physical strain and injury to neurons, they aren’t the only possible cause. Chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, diabetes (even pre-diabetes), and cardiovascular disease can lead to nerve cell damage by changing the body’s chemical environment or causing immune cells to mistakenly attack neural tissue.  

So, why is nerve damage such a big deal, and why does it cause such strange and severe pain? Think of your nerves and their myelin like an electrical wire coated with rubber. If that rubber coating is damaged, electricity will no longer flow neatly down the wire, but can cause short circuits, sparks, or even stop altogether. Your neurons work very similarly, and a damaged neuron is more likely to send errant pain signals in the absence of a problem; the more severe the damage to your nerves, the more intense neuropathy is likely to become.

How Can CBD Help to Manage Neuropathic Pain?

topical cbd for nerve pain neuropathy

This may sound a bit bleak so far, but stay with us. It’s true that the science of repairing nerve damage is still a ways out, but that doesn’t mean that relief is out of reach. While the research is still preliminary, current studies suggest that CBD possesses neuroprotective and antispasmodic properties that may help to calm frazzled neurons and ease neuropathic pain. 

The exact mechanisms of this action are still being studied, but what we do know is that CBD has a positive regulatory effect on many of the body’s systems, including the nervous system. This means that CBD can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of neuropathic pain signals by quieting overexcited neurons and reducing inflammation and pain often associated with them. It may also reduce the tingling, burning, stabbing, and prickling sensations common in neuropathy, as well as spasms and involuntary contractions often associated with the condition. 

Ongoing research suggests that topical CBD may more effectively manage neuropathy than traditional therapies, including opioid pain relievers. Because of the higher number of supporting ingredients relative to oral CBD, however, topicals carry a relatively higher risk of adverse or allergic reaction. Their effects can also vary substantially from product to product depending on the carrier and supporting ingredients it contains.

Topical CBD Carrier Oils for Nerve Pain

topical cbd for nerve pain neuropathy

Carrier oils and other base ingredients have a significant impact on the overall effect of the finished product, and especially its sensory effects. Because sensation is so important to effectively addressing and calming neuropathic pain, we feel that a bit of education around carrier ingredients can help our readers more easily navigate the baffling variety of topical CBD products available and find the best formula for their needs.

Because CBD is a nonpolar molecule, it doesn’t dissolve in water, a polar molecule. This makes it hard for our bodies to absorb and metabolize — we are over 70% water, after all, and it’s the solute for many of our biological processes. While it isn’t readily soluble in water, CBD does bond well to lipids like oils, fats, and plant butters. When it’s attached to these compounds, CBD is much more readily absorbed by the body, improving its effectiveness drastically. This applies to both topical and oral CBD products. Because of their oily composition and emollient properties, these ingredients tend to support soothing and warming sensations best.

Lipids aren’t the only type of molecule that can help make your CBD dose more bioavailable, though; other molecules with a relatively weak polar charge can also be effective. These compounds might include things like aloe vera gel, different types of alcohol, or glycerol. In contrast to the heavy, oily feel of lipid products, these “polar lite” molecules tend to evaporate more readily, making them ideal for supporting cooling, tingling, or numbing effects.

If your nerve pain tends to feel like burning, stinging, or pinpricks, a cooling product might help to regulate the firing of the damaged nerves, reducing pain. We suggest choosing products made with aloe vera, glycerol, or cetyl alcohol where possible. This is because other alcohols, such as isopropyl, stearyl, or ethyl, can cause damage to the bonds between skin cells over time, increasing dryness and triggering discomfort. Cetyl alcohol, by contrast, is a fatty alcohol derived from coconut that may be less damaging (though it should be avoided by those allergic to coconut).

If you desire something with more warming, relaxing properties to help ease spasms, we recommend opting for products formulated with oils, waxes, or plant butters. Oils from plants like olive, avocado, safflower, argan, jojoba, grapeseed, almond, and coconut can be used alongside plant butters like shea, cocoa, and mango for creamy formulas, while carnauba or beeswax can lend a firmer, more salve-like consistency. We find that more emollient formulas keep warming ingredients like ginger, cinnamon, and capsaicin active for longer periods, extending symptom relief.

If you prefer to refrain from using products that manipulate your sensation and perception, that’s okay! There are plenty of helpful CBD topicals out there that produce no thermal sensation whatsoever. We suggest selecting a carrier based on your skin type and avoiding ingredients that tend to produce changes in tactile sensation. These tend to be things like menthol, capsaicin, cinnamon, and ginger, but can sometimes include milder extracts like lavender or arnica, so listen to your body on this one. 

If you want to try topical CBD for nerve pain but have very sensitive skin that balks at most mainstream ingredients, don’t lose hope just yet. Instead of reaching for a topical formula with a lengthy ingredient list, try using an unflavored CBD tincture made with only CBD and a suitable carrier oil. You can apply it safely to your skin without worrying about hidden allergies while still reaping the analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic benefits of topical CBD. If you decide to try a topical formula, we suggest a salve or balm, which tend to contain fewer common allergens than cream, lotion, or roll-on formulas. 

Topical CBD Supporting Ingredients for Nerve Pain

topical cbd for nerve pain neuropathy

  • Capsaicin – The chemical that gives chili peppers their signature spice (and pepper spray its notorious burn), capsaicin certainly has the potential to cause inflammation. However, in small doses, the fiery compound can actually act as an anti-inflammatory, encouraging circulation and reducing pain and swelling. It also causes a warming sensation when applied to the skin (again, well-diluted) that may be beneficial in alleviating some types of nerve pain. Researchers believe that this analgesic effect may be due in part to this sensation, which helps to desensitize the skin and, therefore, the sensation of pain. Capsaicin is used in very tiny doses in topical CBD pain relief products and is generally well-tolerated. However, those with an allergy to peppers should take care to avoid it.
  • Clove – While it may not be as effective for deep-seated neuropathy in the fascia, clove oil works very well to soothe the sensation of neuropathic pain in the skin and superficial tissues. Clove is a small but mighty spice with surprisingly powerful analgesic properties. Clove oil has been demonstrated to be as effective as benzocaine at relieving pain when applied topically. There is also some evidence to suggest that clove may have a positive regulatory effect on nerves, helping to regulate their firing and, potentially, reducing the intensity and sensation of pain. Clove has an autumnal, spicy scent and is generally well-tolerated, but should be avoided by those with a clove allergy.
  • EucalyptusEucalyptus is widely used for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (and its ability to clear stuffy noses). The extract of the fragrant tree native to Australia, eucalyptus may have a role to play in alleviating neuropathic pain. While the precise mechanism is not yet understood, two factors appear to be at work. Eucalyptus shows analgesic properties when applied topically and may help to reduce the sensitivity of damaged nerves, regulating their firing. Second, the aroma of eucalyptus may have an effect on the central nervous system’s processing of pain signals, reducing pain perception. Those with asthma should be advised that eucalyptus can trigger attacks in some people (though it may be helpful to others).
  • Feverfew – The name of this plant comes from its traditional use in treating pain and inflammation. Also known as bachelor’s button, feverfew leaves and flowers produce compounds that reduce muscle spasms and the burning, tingling, pins-and-needles feeling associated with neuropathic pain. It has been demonstrated to possess analgesic and antispasmodic properties when applied to the skin, though it isn’t fully understood how these effects are produced. Emerging research suggests that this may be due to the terpenes, flavonoids, and other bioactive compounds within feverfew extract. If that is the case, these terpenes and other phytochemicals could help to support the dose of CBD in a topical pain reliever.
  • Ginger – A piquant favorite in cuisine, ginger’s use as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiemetic has been well-documented throughout history. Extract from the root of the plant may help to alleviate neuropathic pain and soothe inflamed nerves when applied topically. It can also induce a gentle warming, tingling sensation in the skin, which may help to numb neuropathic pain while desensitizing damaged nerves, regulating their firing. These benefits are also apparent when ginger is consumed (though a separate supplement should be used), indicating that it may be beneficial to the diets of people struggling with neuropathy as well. Those with a ginger allergy or certain sensory integration issues should exercise caution before using topical CBD products made with ginger.
  • Peppermint – Peppermint (and other members of the mentha genus like spearmint) contains menthol, a popular ingredient in topical pain products for the cooling sensation it produces when applied to the skin. Some people may find menthol in particular to be helpful in managing their neuropathic pain. This may be due to menthol’s effect on receptors in the skin, sensitizing them to cold sensations and, therefore, potentially alleviating burning or stinging types of pain. Limonene and carvacrol, two other primary components of peppermint extract, have also been shown to help relieve pain and inflammation when used externally. To receive the full therapeutic benefit, look for products that list peppermint extract rather than just menthol among their ingredients — and keep any substance containing peppermint or menthol far away from mucous membranes. Exercise caution with peppermint (and other mints) if you are allergic or have especially sensitive skin.
  • Rosemary – A culinary darling popular in cuisine traditions across the globe, rosemary is a shrubby herb rich in terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals that may be effective against neuropathy. The plant has historically been used against pain, fever, and seizures, and current research suggests that it may possess antispasmodic properties. One study showed rosemary to be effective at relaxing smooth muscles (the muscles you don’t have conscious control over; they contract involuntarily and can cause debilitating pain due to their proximity to organs and bones). This characteristic may make rosemary a soothing antispasmodic addition to topical CBD products for neuropathic pain.
  • Turmeric – A brightly-colored root popular in Southeast Asian cuisine, turmeric is exceedingly high in a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has been utilized to combat pain, fever, and inflammation, and research suggests it may be helpful against neuropathic pain as well. While further study is needed, curcumin acts on receptors that can help block neuropathic pain signaling, relieving pain. When applied topically, curcumin may be able to regulate the activity of damaged neurons, reducing the frequency and intensity of neuropathic pain. It’s generally well-tolerated, but should be avoided by those with a turmeric allergy.

A Note On Sustainability

topical cbd for nerve pain neuropathy

Our goal at Key to Cannabis is to help our readers find CBD products that support their health and wellness goals, largely through consumer education. This includes not just the science behind CBD products, but their environmental impact as well. As our society grows more conscious of our relationship with (and dependence on) our planet and the ecosystems it supports, sustainability of ingredients is increasingly important to many people (ourselves included).

We recognize that, while there is value in making better buying decisions, “better” doesn’t really ever mean “perfect.” Our intent is not to shame anyone for making the decisions that they feel are best for them (in fact, those are exactly the decisions we want to support), but to encourage conscious consumption where possible. What that looks like to you is fully up to you, and we always want to empower you to define that for yourself.

Wherever possible, we prefer to select plant-based ingredients for CBD topicals, particularly over petroleum products. This is for two primary reasons: first, petroleum is a finite resource with a massive environmental impact at every stage, from extraction to refining to transportation to consumption. Second, a connection has been established between long-term use of some topical petroleum products and cancer later in life.

We also prefer plant products to those derived from animals, though we recognize that not everyone feels the same way. Some animal products, like beeswax, lanolin, and gelatin, are important components in the wellness lifestyles of many of our readers, and that’s valid. While it’s true that there are vegan alternatives to these ingredients, they aren’t viable options for everyone. Also, there’s some nuance to the label “vegan.”

The vegan description on a product label indicates that the product contains no animal products. However, it doesn’t necessarily denote a more sustainable product. Microplastics, pleather, plastic fur, polyester, and petroleum products are considered “vegan,” but aren’t exactly more environmentally friendly than their animal-derived counterparts. We don’t mean to imply that the vegan label is meaningless, but we are suggesting that it isn’t the sole criterion by which to measure a product’s sustainability.

Takeaway

Neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult to treat, but CBD may be able to provide relief where other treatments have failed. Topical CBD may be especially beneficial for peripheral neuropathy, soothing the tingling, burning, stabbing pain often associated with nerve damage. While CBD has strong therapeutic potential for neuropathic pain, the right ingredients can make a world of difference to your wellness experience. We encourage you to be choosy about what’s on the label of your go-to CBD topicals — when in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer with any questions or concerns.

 

Topical CBD for Muscle Pain: Alleviating Pain & Spasms with CBD

Muscle pain and discomfort is a fact of life for everyone at some point, and topical products are often a first line of defense against it. Whether it’s caused by tension, injury, an especially intense workout, or chronic illness, many people find relief from muscle pain by using topical pain relief products. When occasional pain becomes chronic, however, it often becomes more difficult to treat. Topical CBD can help to treat chronic pain even more effectively than opioids in some patients. 

Chronic muscle pain (and honestly, chronic pain in general) is especially difficult to address effectively, and many people feel forced to turn to opioid painkillers (transdermal and otherwise) and other pharmaceutical products for relief. Not only are these interventions often ineffective at curbing chronic pain, they also carry a high risk of addiction and a number of unpleasant side effects.

A growing number of chronic pain sufferers are looking to manage their symptoms without resorting to opioids, turning instead to CBD. CBD, the common name for the molecule cannabidiol, has been shown to be an effective remedy for chronic pain — more effective than opioid pain relievers. Derived from hemp (a close cousin of cannabis), CBD has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, and antiemetic properties, among many others, and may be applicable to therapies for a diverse array of conditions and symptoms. 

While CBD is often taken orally in the form of tinctures or softgels, its medicinal properties extend to topical application as well. This allows CBD to be used to treat pain more directly, at the site of soreness or tension, alleviating symptoms more quickly than oral delivery systems. It may also help to soothe muscle spasms and cramping when used topically. 

Topical CBD products offer many different opportunities for people to manage (and even eliminate) chronic muscle pain, tension, and spasms safely and effectively, especially in combination with a systemic dose of CBD. However, topical products often contain many more supporting ingredients than oral formulas. This makes them more likely to be made with potentially inflammatory or allergenic ingredients that can reduce the effectiveness of the CBD they contain — not to mention wreak havoc on your skin.

Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the most effective supporting ingredients for topical CBD pain relief. We’ll discuss the science of CBD topicals and their role in pain management before explaining how to use temperature therapies to manipulate pain perception. Then we’ll move on to discussing topical CBD supporting ingredients in detail, from carrier oils to botanicals to additives. We’ll examine the benefits different ingredients offer, along with any risks associated with their use. Finally, we’ll close with a note about sustainable ingredients and the environmental impact of CBD topicals. 

The Science of Topical CBD & Pain Management 

topical cbd for muscle pain

While more research is needed, CBD is demonstrated to possess potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antispasmodic effects in humans. These benefits aren’t limited to oral consumption or inhalation, either — CBD acts on many of the same pathways in the skin when applied topically. This can help to alleviate pain, reduce cramps and spasms, and release tension from sore or overworked muscles.

Existing research shows CBD to be a promising ingredient in topical pain relief products, and while many of the exact mechanisms are still unclear, the results are pretty compelling. What we know so far suggests that CBD engages with endocannabinoid receptors in the skin, helping to promote circulation, relieve inflammation, reduce spasms, and alleviate pain in muscles. 

Because they are applied at the site of pain, CBD topicals are quicker to provide relief than an oral dose of CBD. For this reason, it may be especially beneficial for people looking to manage symptoms that come on suddenly or rapidly spike in severity, such as cramping or muscle spasms. Topical CBD can also aid muscle relaxation and soothe tension, making it a good addition to massage oils and salt soaks as well. 

Because of the wide variety of product types that can incorporate the benefits of CBD into their formulas, there are many ways to customize your CBD experience to get the most pain relief possible from your dose. Product formulation plays a major role in this (which we’ll discuss in a moment), but there’s another significant factor that can dramatically impact pain relief: temperature sensation

Temperature & Pain Perception

topical cbd for muscle pain

There is a reason that temperature therapy is so commonplace in pain management. Ice packs, hot water bottles, warm salt soaks — even bags of frozen vegetables can help to manage pain and inflammation. If you’ve ever injured yourself, you were probably given the RICE protocol — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — to manage your pain and reduce the severity of the injury as much as possible. 

These principles are often applied to pain management as well, and not without reason. It turns out, temperature affects not just the way our body processes and responds to pain, but also the way we perceive it. This means that we can manipulate temperature to help support our bodies as they heal, but it also means that we can use compounds that create the sensation of temperature change without actually subjecting our cells to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time.. 

Unlike actual temperature fluctuations, these ingredients can influence cells to reduce pain without the side effects brought on by extreme temperatures. These compounds can also help to boost the anti-inflammatory action of CBD, aiding relaxation and reducing tension by alleviating the inflammation within the muscle. Cold sensations can help to numb pain and discomfort, while warm sensations can help to facilitate muscle relaxation and alleviate cramping or spasms.

Bengay, IcyHot, Tiger Balm … each of these drugstore standbys utilizes ingredients that manipulate your sensation of temperature with the goal of reducing pain perception. Ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, cinnamon oil, ginger, and others can be combined in different proportions, yielding sensations that range from warm to sensitive to tingling to icy (and lots of places in between). When utilized correctly, these sensations can help to dull pain while addressing some of the factors (like tension, inflammation, and swelling) that contribute to pain.

While these products often work well for some, they can also be quite intense — everyone knows someone with a disastrous IcyHot story after the product found its way to a sensitive area. For some people, especially those with sensitive skin or sensory processing issues, these products may be a bit much for regular use. However, many people find that their pain perception is dulled when they use products that manipulate temperature sensation, and this effect can often be achieved without causing discomfort.

Topical CBD Carrier Ingredients for Muscle Pain

topical cbd for muscle pain

Because temperature sensation is such an important factor in relieving pain, it will also be a central feature in our discussion of carrier ingredients. This is for a couple of reasons. First, the carrier ingredients a product is made of can help to extend or mitigate the effects of any warming or cooling ingredients it contains. Secondly, the carrier oil(s) of choice can alter the way the product feels on the skin, affecting the efficacy of the product.

Finally, carrier ingredients have the most potential to cause skin problems in some people, especially those who are prone to breakouts or have allergies. If your skin is sensitive or prone to things like dryness, itching, or breakouts, it’s especially important to be mindful of the stuff you put on your skin. Remember, the goal of all this is to find what works best for you.

Topical hemp products tend to be more subject to individual variation than oral CBD because of these supporting ingredients. Even the best CBD topical could work terribly if it’s made with stuff that doesn’t agree with you, and using the wrong products could actually negate the benefits of the CBD within them. For more on the role of skin health in overall wellness (and how to use CBD to support your goals), check out our dedicated article [here].

Cooling ingredients like menthol and arnica are demonstrated to help reduce the severity and intensity of pain sensation in many people. If this is true for you, we suggest reaching for products formulated with ingredients like aloe vera gel, cetyl alcohol, mango butter, or vegetable glycerin (propylene glycol also falls in this category, and while it isn’t our favorite, it is a safe topical choice for many people). 

These ingredients help to intensify the effects of cooling ingredients as they evaporate from the skin. The way it works is similar to the way sweat cools your body; heat energy is released when the product evaporates, creating a cooling sensation on the skin. While this isn’t the same mechanism by which cooling ingredients like menthol work (more on that a little later), it does contribute to the overall cooling effect, intensifying and extending it. 

We like to reach for aloe vera gel wherever possible, as it’s great for the skin and possesses anti-inflammatory and healing properties of its own. Vegetable glycerin (also labeled as glycerol) is also well-tolerated by most people and will help to get the most mileage out of your CBD experience. While we generally advise avoiding most alcohols (they tend to break down the connections between skin cells, leading to dryness in some people), cetyl alcohol is a possible exception. It is a fatty alcohol derived from coconut that contains emollient compounds that may help belay the damage done by its more astringent components.

Mango butter is another good choice (and gentler on the skin) because it carries cooling properties of its own, which can help to amplify the effects of other cooling ingredients. Mango butter is an excellent choice for people who desire a cooling effect without the potential dryness often caused by alcohol and other compounds. 

Warming ingredients like capsaicin and cinnamon, on the other hand, tend to be enhanced by oil-based formulas. If you’ve cooked with hot peppers or carry pepper spray on your runs, you might intuitively understand how this works. Oils work to keep warming ingredients active on the skin by making them more absorbable at the molecular level — very similarly to the way they help to improve the bioavailability of CBD. Since your skin is able to absorb and metabolize more of the warming ingredient when it’s attached to oil molecules, those soothing effects will be more pronounced.

Good carrier ingredients for warming compounds might include coconut oil, beeswax, shea or cocoa butter, carnauba wax, and oils from plants like olive, safflower, jojoba, argan, and grapeseed. With the exception of beeswax, each of these compounds are vegan, and most possess mild anti-inflammatory properties of their own. They are also more hydrating, making them better options for people with dry skin. 

We prefer to stay away from petroleum-based products, partly because of their environmental impact (which we’ll talk more about later), and partly because of the link established between use of products like mineral oil and cancer. In the interest of preserving your long-term health, we strongly advise avoiding petroleum products where possible, especially for the skin.

If you prefer to avoid products that affect skin sensation entirely in favor of more neutral topicals, there are still options for you. We suggest selecting milder formulas made without ingredients that trigger sensory discomfort for you. These are likely to include compounds like capsaicin, cinnamon, menthol, and ginger, but may also extend to ingredients like clove, arnica, and lavender. Listen to your body on this one — it may take some trial and error to find your balance, but you’ll find it all the same. 

If traditional topical formulas simply do not work for you (due to severe allergies, restrictions, or other reasons), you might try applying an unflavored CBD tincture to your skin instead. Since the CBD is bonded with oil in the tincture, you’ll reap its benefits without having to worry about the impact of supporting ingredients.

Topical CBD Supporting Ingredients for Muscle Pain

topical cbd for muscle pain

    • Arnica – Also known colloquially as mountain daisies, arnica flowers have been used traditionally to ease pain and reduce inflammation. While the exact mechanism is not yet clear, there are studies that suggest arnica may possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties when applied topically. Arnica extract may help to support the actions of CBD, improving the intensity and duration of relief. However, as a member of the (beautiful and often-problematic) Asteraceae family, arnica may be cross-reactive in people allergic to ragweed and related plants. 
    • Basil – A staple of both spice cabinets and herb gardens alike, basil is understood to possess anti-inflammatory benefits when applied to the skin. It reduces inflammation and calms cramping, acting as an antispasmodic and analgesic. These properties make it a good option for those recovering from injury or overexertion, as well as people who suffer from spasms and severe muscle tension — and it may help to alleviate soreness after intense physical activity or a medical event like a seizure.
    • Capsaicin – A fiery compound that produces severe inflammation in high doses, capsaicin is interesting in that it behaves very differently in small amounts. Capsaicin is responsible for both the kick in your chili peppers and the debilitating burn of pepper spray, but in very low concentrations it actually helps to reduce inflammation, opening blood vessels and improving circulation while oxygenating tissue. These properties can help to release muscle tension, dispel soreness, and relax away cramps and spasms. Most topical preparations that include capsaicin use very minute amounts, but even that little bit can trigger an adverse reaction in a small proportion of people. If your skin is on the sensitive side, proceed with caution.
    • Chamomile – Chamomile, a small yellow flower favored for use in relaxing teas and supplements, demonstrates anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties when applied to the skin. The plant’s extract has been used to reduce pain, [promote healing], and quell inflammation while easing spasms and cramping. As such, it may help to bolster the anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions of CBD, though there is a potential caveat to consider. Chamomile belongs to the same family (Asteraceae) as ragweed, a common allergen, and often cross-reacts in people with ragweed allergies. It may not be a good option for those allergic to ragweed, but it may offer an added benefit to people who are able to use it: chamomile is shown to help reduce pain perception when used for aromatherapy. Like lavender, it demonstrates a soothing effect that subjects reported helped to diminish their pain after use.
    • Clove – An unsung hero of pumpkin spice season, cloves pack a surprisingly potent analgesic punch. One study found that clove oil was just as effective as benzocaine at alleviating pain during a dental procedure — the kind of acute pain that’s more intense and harder to soothe. This finding suggests that clove oil might make an extremely beneficial addition to topical CBD pain management products, especially for sharp, stinging, or burning sensations that often come on acutely (and can be very distressing).
    • Lavender – Lavender flowers and the extract produced from them are perennial favorites in spheres ranging from cuisine to gardening to beverages to essential oil enthusiasts. It’s an immensely popular fragrance for body and home alike and has received attention from medical experts for its ability to ease stress and reduce pain. Studies have shown lavender oil to possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, and anxiolytic properties when applied topically, and these effects align perfectly with the properties of CBD. Lavender can help to alleviate pain and soreness, promoting muscle relaxation while easing the anxiety often associated with chronic pain. While those with a lavender allergy should avoid it, we find it very helpful at alleviating chronic pain when used in conjunction with CBD on the skin.
    • Lemongrass – A hearty grass with a piquant citrus flavor, lemongrass is rich in phytochemicals and bioactive compounds that can help to bolster the effectiveness of CBD against muscle pain. The herb possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties in its own right; these effects can help to support the pain-relieving action of CBD. Emerging research suggests that lemongrass may be beneficial to injured muscles, helping to support athletic recovery and recuperation after an injury. 
    • Magnesium – Don’t let the name fool you — transdermal magnesium isn’t some weird synthetic compound. It’s been used to treat muscle soreness, pain, and cramping in the form of Epsom salts for many years, and for a reason. Magnesium is a compound crucial for the coordination and regulation of muscle contractions (both voluntary and involuntary). It is absorbed through the skin when dissolved in water, so the best way to use it is in a [CBD salt soak] or [bath bomb]. Try to soak for at least fifteen minutes, though you’re welcome to relax as long as you need to feel relief. 
    • Marjoram – To us, marjoram doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Often relegated to a dusty, untouched bottle on the back of the spice rack, marjoram is a delightful herb that’s packed with bioactive compounds that can enrich the effectiveness of your topical CBD dose. Studies reveal marjoram to possess antispasmodic and analgesic properties on its own; these actions can support relaxation and pain relief, especially in combination with CBD. As a fun and unnecessary bonus, the plant also smells wonderful, complementing other common herbal ingredients like lavender and lemon balm nicely.
    • Peppermint – The mother of menthol, peppermint (and other members of the mentha genus like spearmint) produce antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects when applied to the skin. The extract also induces a cooling sensation by sensitizing receptors in the skin to cold signals. This action, in turn, causes the nerves to relay messages to the brain saying “it’s cold over here!” The body then reacts to reduce swelling and slow activity in the area, much like it would if you were exposing it to actual cold temperatures. For this reason, we strongly advise against using mint of any kind near mucous membranes or adding it to a bath, as the potential for overstimulation of the skin is very high. With peppermint, less is definitely more. 
    • Tart Cherry – While research is still in its early stages, there is some evidence to support the use of tart cherry extract to treat muscle pain. One study found that tart cherry juice helped to alleviate soreness and muscle fatigue after an intense workout, and another found that compounds in tart cherry extract may help to calm inflammation and relax muscle tension, reducing pain in turn. As a stone fruit, tart cherry should be avoided by people who are allergic to peaches, nectarines, plums, and other drupes.
    • Willow Bark – The herbal ancestor of aspirin, willow bark (and maritime pine bark) contains compounds that reduce inflammation, pain, swelling, and muscle tension in humans. These benefits extend to both oral and transdermal dosing, making willow bark a natural accompaniment to the analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions of CBD. While it’s relatively rare, an aspirin allergy or sensitivity could cause an adverse reaction to topical  willow bark, so be aware of labeling if your body does not respond well to aspirin.

A Note on Sustainability

topical cbd for muscle pain sustainability

Our primary goal here at Key to Cannabis is to give our readers the information they need to make the best CBD purchasing decisions for their wellness and lifestyle goals. To that end, we feel it’s important to address the sustainability of different [types of ingredients] used in CBD products. As we’re collectively becoming more conscious of our relationship to our planet (and everything else on it), sustainably sourced ingredients are of huge importance to many people (ourselves included). 

We want to help educate people on how to make better buying decisions while acknowledging that “better” never quite means “perfect.” It’s true that no single consumer decision is going to make or break the planet, but nevertheless, we feel that there is still value in making the best choices we are able to, both for our health and for our world. 

We prefer to reach for plant-based ingredients wherever possible, especially over petroleum products (which are absolutely not sustainable, have a massive environmental impact, and have been linked to illness in humans when applied to the skin).  We also prefer them over animal ingredients, though we’re not strictly opposed to their use. 

It’s true that there are vegan alternatives to many things, but there are a few caveats to this. Firstly, the word “vegan” doesn’t necessarily mean that a given product is entirely plant-based. Polyester, microbeads, rayon, pleather, and other plastic products are also considered “vegan,” yet have a much greater environmental impact than their naturally-derived counterparts.  We don’t mean to imply that vegan labels are a meaningless distinction, but to illustrate the idea that the meaning of the word in labeling might be different from the idea of veganism as being plant-based. 

Second, the vegan alternatives available (especially for topical products) don’t necessarily work universally. Carnauba wax is an excellent example of this. Used as a vegan substitute for beeswax, carnauba wax causes an allergic reaction in some users and therefore isn’t a viable option. Finally, and most importantly, the decision whether or not to use animal products is a deeply personal one, and we don’t intend to shame people for making that choice. When they’re raised and harvested as ethically as possible, there is a valid place for animal products as part of a healthy lifestyle, which is what we’re here to support in the first place.

Takeaway

Topical CBD products can make a powerful addition to your muscle pain management regimen, but you’ll need the right supporting ingredients to get the most from your CBD dose. When choosing a product, consider the type of sensations (if any) that contribute to pain relief for you, then select carrier oils and ingredients that support your wellness goals. If you’re uncertain about something you see on the label, feel free to reach out to the company for clarification.

 

Topical CBD for Dry Skin: Healing Sensitive Skin with Hemp

Cannabidiol, or CBD, demonstrates significant anti-inflammatory benefits that have been successfully applied to therapies for a broad range of conditions. A growing body of evidence suggests that topical CBD products can be hugely beneficial to many of these conditions, whether applied alone or in combination with systemic CBD therapy. Many of these benefits create a compelling case for the applicability of CBD for dry skin, a common condition affecting millions of people.

While we tend to think of CBD as a predominantly therapeutic compound, and for good reason. More research is needed, but emerging studies support the application of CBD and other cannabinoids for the treatment of a diverse array of conditions and symptoms. Chronic pain, autoimmune conditions, dementia, cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, type II diabetes, psoriasis, arthritis, and many other conditions have been shown to respond positively to CBD, helping people lead healthier, happier, more comfortable lives without the expense and potentially harmful side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. 

CBD (and other beneficial cannabinoids) possess clearly evident therapeutic use, but they may also be beneficial to people looking for relief from dry skin. This might seem a bit obvious (after all, CBD is usually taken dissolved in an oil, and oils are commonly used to treat dry skin), but there’s a bit more to the relationship between CBD and skin health than you might expect.

Here, we’ll examine the causes of chronically dry skin before breaking down the science of how CBD acts on different parts of the skin to modify crucial processes. Then, we’ll discuss the secondary ingredients (which are [very important] to the effectiveness of topical products especially) to look for to get the most relief from using CBD for dry skin. We’ll talk about how and why some ingredients work, what works best, and what to avoid to keep your skin looking and feeling its best.

Why Does Our Skin Dry Out?

To understand how to heal dry skin, we need to know a little bit about what’s causing it. Everyone’s skin gets a little dry now and again — you’ve likely experienced chapped winter skin or scaly knees at least a time or two. These isolated instances are often due to climate or a sudden change in environmental conditions, but chronically dry skin may be rooted in a different cause (or even a few of them).

Our skin can grow dry when we become dehydrated, from over-cleansing with harsh soaps and detergents, after taking a long, hot bath or shower, in relation to chronic illnesses, or due to an underlying skin condition like psoriasis or eczema. Sometimes, however, our skin just tends to be on the dry side.

The moisture levels in your skin are largely maintained by the sebum, or oil, produced by your sebaceous glands. When these glands are overactive, we often see oily skin, large pores, and persistent acne. When they under-produce oil, however, our skin dries out, feels tight, and begins to crack, developing a rough, scaly texture. If left untreated, dry skin can actually result in open wounds in the skin, so addressing dryness at the first sign is important, especially for people with sensitive skin (including children and the elderly).

Topical CBD for Dry Skin: the Science

CBD has a regulatory effect on many of the body’s processes, including sebum production. A 2014 study found that topically applied CBD had a positive regulatory effect on sebaceous glands. In patients whose skin was overly dry, researchers found that application of CBD helped to stimulate their sebaceous glands to produce more oil. This, in turn, led to higher cutaneous moisture levels (a measure of skin hydration) and improved skin health for study participants. 

There is also evidence to support the idea that topical application of CBD affects the skin differently compared to oral or inhaled CBD, especially in treating skin conditions. This is because CBD engages with receptors in the skin in different ways than when it is absorbed through the lungs or digestive tract. While we still have much to understand about the specific actions by CBD on different receptors, emerging evidence indicates that CBD has a regulatory (or homeostatic) effect on skin in general, alleviating itching, soothing inflammation, protecting against environmental damage, reducing hyperpigmentation, and maintaining hydration

Topical CBD Carrier Ingredients for Dry Skin

When using CBD to address dry skin specifically (or choosing topical products for therapeutic reasons when you have dry or sensitive skin), the supporting ingredients are of special importance. If you’ve struggled to find a go-to moisturizer on drugstore shelves, you probably understand why: many common ingredients in lotions, creams, serums, and other topical moisturizers contain ingredients that can actually dry out your skin even more. An otherwise outstanding CBD product won’t effectively address dry skin symptoms if it’s formulated with the wrong carrier ingredients.

Moisturizers tend to fall into one of four categories: humectants, emollients, ceramides, and occlusive moisturizers. Humectants include things like aloe vera, glycerin, and honey that attract moisture to the skin throughout the day, helping your body hold onto hydration in the environment more easily. Emollients serve to fill in the gaps between skin cells, improving texture and alleviating much of the sensation of dryness. Emollient ingredients include things like shea and cocoa butters, plant oils like olive, sweet almond, and avocado, and lanolin (a waxy molecule commonly derived from sheep’s wool). 

Ceramides are a class of waxy lipid compounds found in skin cells that help the body to repair bonds between cells, improving skin condition and preventing moisture loss through damaged skin. Occlusive moisturizers, which include things like mineral oil, beeswax, argan oil, and jojoba oil, work by creating a barrier that helps skin retain more moisture throughout the day. Some compounds (including beeswax, argan oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and safflower oil) work by two or more of these mechanisms, which may make them more effective.

If dry skin is your primary concern, there are a few carrier ingredients to steer clear of. Alcohols are major offenders common to lotion and cream formulas. Alcohol possesses strong astringent properties and is consequently used in many lotions to help break down bonds between skin cells to help the product penetrate better. This may be fine for oilier skin types, but it can be a real nightmare for dry skin. 

We recommend avoiding stearyl, ethyl, and isopropyl alcohols because they tend to be the most drying. If you must reach for something formulated with an alcohol, try to opt for cetyl alcohol, a fatty compound derived from coconut that is far less damaging to skin. If cetyl alcohol triggers an allergic reaction for you, stearic acid (a large lipid molecule found in cocoa butter) might be a better alternative, though products formulated with it may feel more buttery than creamy.

Supporting Topical CBD Ingredients for Dry Skin

    • Almond Oil – Almond oil makes a good moisturizer for sensitive skin, as it’s non-comedogenic and demonstrates anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. This makes it an especially good choice for people prone to acne, as it can help reduce redness and inflammation associated with cystic acne while reducing bacteria on the surface of the skin. Almond oil also possesses some occlusive moisturizing properties, protecting skin from excessive water loss throughout the day. 
    • Aloe Vera – The clear, jelly-like substance contained within the leaves of the aloe plant (also commonly called aloe barbadensis) possesses powerful hydrating properties for the body and skin. Many cultures have used it traditionally to heal burns and scrapes, but it may also be applied as a moisturizer. Aloe possesses antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that can help speed healing and protect skin from environmental damage due to sun exposure. The plant extract may also help diminish signs of aging, improving skin texture and tone by increasing the moisture content of skin cells at the surface. 
    • Argan Oil – Made from the nuts of the argan tree (native to Morocco), argan oil has become something of a cosmetic darling in recent years. It possesses impressive antioxidant effects (potentially helpful for people who spend a substantial amount of time in the sun) as well as high levels of  vitamin E, which is shown to promote healing and hydrate skin. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, making it a good option for many with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. However, it may cause breakouts in some people, especially those with tree nut allergies, so approach with caution if your skin is especially sensitive.
    • Beeswax – While it isn’t strictly vegan, there are some compelling arguments to be made for the use of sustainably harvested beeswax in skin products. Beeswax has been used throughout human history to soothe and heal dry skin, protecting it from damage while helping it retain moisture. It truly is a powerhouse of skincare, forming a strong barrier on the skin’s surface while nourishing and helping to restore bonds between skin cells. It acts as a humectant, drawing moisture into the skin from the environment, and confers powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits. It is also well-tolerated among users with sensitive skin and does not clog pores, even when used in acne-prone areas of the face and body. That said, it can cause an allergic reaction in a small proportion of users, especially those who are allergic to poplar trees, from which most beeswax is derived.
    • Carnauba Wax – Derived from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil, carnauba wax behaves very similarly to beeswax and is often used as a vegan alternative. It does offer many of the same skin-protecting and occlusive benefits as beeswax, and carnauba helps topical products stay solid and glide on smoothly as well. However, there’s a bit of a catch: carnauba wax tends to be more associated with breakouts compared to beeswax, and some people are allergic to it. It’s also important to use sustainably harvested carnauba wax, as the trees die if too many leaves are harvested at once.
    • Cocoa Butter – A product of cacao processing, cocoa butter is a thick, rich, highly emollient plant butter that is popular among people with dry skin — and for good reason. While it may be too heavy for more delicate skin (and especially the face), cocoa butter yields a rich texture and lasting protection from the elements. Its characteristic richness comes from its high fatty acid content, which provides both emollient and occlusive hydration. Like the cacao it comes from, cocoa butter also contains lots of antioxidants and yields anti-inflammatory benefits. 
    • Coconut Oil – Coconut oil has emerged as something of a darling in the health world, touted as a cure-all for a myriad of ails. While it isn’t exactly a miracle oil, coconut oil (and its sister in the beauty world, Monoi, which is coconut oil infused with the Tiare flower of Hawaii) does confer some powerful moisturizing benefits. Coconut oil is composed largely of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which act as both emollient and occlusive moisturizers to improve skin hydration. Coconut oil also shows to have anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin and may be beneficial in wound healing. It is a heavy oil, however, and may cause some people to break out, especially with continuous use. Coconut is also a potential allergen for some folks, so be sure to check the label — especially on products like salves and balms, which often heavily feature coconut oil.
    • CucumberOne of the few botanicals on our list, cucumber packs a surprising punch of moisture without oils or buttery compounds. The hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties of cucumber come from its balance of antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin C, and lots of good old-fashioned water. Cucumber may help to protect skin from environmental and sun damage, promote healing, reduce redness and puffiness, and alleviate itching while improving the skin’s ability to retain moisture. While it may not be heavy enough to do the job on its own, cucumber extract can work very well alongside more emollient moisturizers to hydrate without smothering the skin. It’s generally well-tolerated, though those with cucumber allergies should avoid it.
    • Grapeseed Oil – Grapeseed oil is, in our opinion, rather an underrated carrier oil. Unlike many of the other oils listed here, grapeseed oil (derived from the leftover seeds from wine grapes) absorbs nearly instantly into the skin, leaving behind no greasy residue. It’s also non-comedogenic and well-tolerated among sensitive skin types. Grapeseed oil has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well, and may help to promote healing while protecting skin from damage. Of course, take care to avoid grapeseed oil if you are allergic to grapes.
    • Jojoba Oil – While jojoba oil (derived from the nut of the North American desert-dwelling jojoba plant) has historically been used by many indigenous cultures, it’s a relative newcomer to mainstream Western beauty and hygiene products. The oil possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its high vitamin E content, and it acts as a humectant, drawing in moisture all day long. It’s also non-comedogenic (it’s quite similar in composition to the body’s natural oils) and suitable for sensitive skin. It is generally considered to be hypoallergenic, though there are a few rare exceptions.
    • Mango Butter – Pressed from the pits of the tropical fruit, mango butter is similarly rich in texture to shea and cocoa butters. However, its composition is subtly different, conferring many of the same benefits without causing breakouts. Mango butter is non-comedogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and hydrating to the skin. It can also yield a cooling effect, helping to soothe the itching and discomfort often associated with severe dry skin. While mango butter may be beneficial to many different people, it should be avoided by anyone with a mango allergy.
    • Neem – Also known colloquially as Indian lilac, neem trees yield a potent oil rich in bioactive compounds that may help soothe skin. However, because it’s quite strong, it may cause inflammation in some people. Like any essential oil, neem should only be applied diluted (and should be avoided if it produces an adverse reaction). That said, it demonstrates powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties that may help protect skin from environmental and microbial damage. Preliminary research has shown it to be effective at reducing the severity of psoriasis symptoms when used consistently in diluted form, and it may be effective against some types of acne as well.
    • Papaya – A tropical fruit popular in Southeast Asia, papaya contains high levels of vitamin C and lycopene. These compounds give the fruit extract antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Papaya may help to reduce inflammation, itching, and dullness associated with chronically dry skin. However, it may be best reserved for the occasional application, as it can contribute to dryness in a small proportion of people. 
    • Pumpkin Seed Oil – Pressed from the seeds of the favorite autumnal gourd, pumpkin seed oil contains antioxidants, fatty acids, and phytonutrients that may help promote healing while hydrating and protecting the skin. These include linoleic acid, an occlusive moisturizer, alongside the antioxidant compounds called sterols and tocopherols. Pumpkin seed oil is non-comedogenic and may help to reduce redness, itching, and swelling. It’s also generally well-tolerated, though those with a pumpkin or squash allergy should opt for other ingredients instead. 
    • Shea Butter – Shea butter has been historically used by African cultures to hydrate, soothe, and protect skin and hair. A richly emollient substance derived from the nut of the African karite tree, shea butter is high in antioxidant polyphenols and essential fatty acids. It acts as an occlusive and emollient moisturizer that can help shield skin from environmental damage while encouraging healing and improving skin texture and elasticity. It is a rich, intensive plant butter that is generally well-tolerated, but may be associated with breakouts in some users. 
    • Tamarind – Tamarind, a piquant fruit popular in cuisine around the world, may possess antioxidant properties that can help promote healing and prevent skin damage when applied as a prophylactic. While the precise mechanisms aren’t yet completely clear, preliminary studies demonstrate tamarind seed extract to be beneficial to the skin, helping prevent the damage caused by the sun’s UVA rays. Tamarind extract may also help to promote healing in severe dry skin, though it could cause an allergic reaction in some people, particularly those who suffer from peanut allergies.

A Note About Sustainability

In a consumer environment where relatively little attention is paid to the sourcing and sustainability of ingredients, making conscious buying decisions can be a challenge. While we want to use our platform to help people choose products that are better for both them and the planet at large, we also recognize that “better” often doesn’t mean “perfect.” 

We want to empower our readers to make their own decisions, and part of that conversation involves an understanding that individual values differ from person to person. In the spirit of education, we’d like to offer some general advice for choosing better (though not necessarily perfect) products where possible. None of us can single-handedly change the world with our purchasing decisions, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in choosing to support sustainably sourced products where we can.

We prefer to use plant-derived ingredients over animal products wherever possible, and certainly over petroleum products. This is largely to do with sustainability, as petroleum is a nonrenewable resource and animal products require a great deal of resources to produce. In general, plant-derived products have a lower impact on the environment (especially when farmed organically) and tend to be well-tolerated by most skin types. They’re also vegan, with a few weird (but cool!) exceptions like figs.

That said, there are a couple of animal-derived ingredients like collagen, honey, beeswax and lanolin that are able to be harvested sustainably. While these ingredients are not considered vegan, some people may find that they play an important role in managing their symptoms. If this is true for you, make the decisions you feel are most appropriate for your situation. 

Lastly, about that word “vegan” — it may not mean what you think it means. You might have seen the term vegan applied to cosmetics, clothing, shoes, and other non-food items.  In labeling, “vegan” indicates that no animal products were used to make the product, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better for the earth. Vegan materials include things like pleather, acrylic, polyester, and rayon, which are made of petroleum-based plastics — not exactly natural or great for the planet. We advise you to closely examine products labeled as “vegan;” they may not be as environmentally conscious as they appear.

Takeaway

Topical CBD can be highly beneficial for soothing and healing dry skin, but its effects can be reduced by the wrong supporting ingredients. When searching for a topical CBD product to alleviate dry skin, look for plant-derived ingredients with emollient and hydrating properties over synthetic or petroleum-based ingredients. Be mindful of any special concerns you may have, such as sensitivities or allergies, when examining product labels to find the best CBD topicals for your skin.

 

CBD Topical Ingredients by Condition: Finding What Works


Roll-ons, salves, balms, creams, sprays, gels — there is no shortage of variety with CBD topicals. If you’ve looked into using CBD for pain relief, you’ve probably seen half a dozen of each of these formulations, each with different carrier and supporting ingredients. There are even CBD topicals dedicated to addressing skin care, wound healing, and other concerns outside of pain management. Even within the pain management sphere alone, topical products can be used to produce varying sensations to alleviate different types of pain, from aching joints to tingling neuropathy to pulled muscles.  

This variety is due largely to the supporting ingredients a particular product is formulated with. While the active ingredient (CBD) remains the same across these formulas (provided they meet our CBD Buyer’s Guide criteria), the carrier and supporting ingredients can modify its effects, enhancing certain effects by acting in concert with CBD. This broad range of potential products presents some potentially wonderful outcomes for patients and consumers (which we are absolutely here for), but not without some potential pitfalls.

Part of our mission at Key to Cannabis is a commitment to helping our readers make informed purchasing decisions that support their well-being in both the short and long terms. In that spirit, it’s important to us to share the current science of topical CBD products. This includes details about how different ingredients work as well as what symptoms they might help alleviate. Skin plays a significant (and often overlooked) role in overall wellness, and we believe strongly in empowering our readers to treat it — and themselves — more kindly.

Here, we break down supporting ingredients by condition, highlighting the most effective product formulations, herbal extracts, and minerals for your symptoms. We’ll also discuss potential concerns associated with topical use of these ingredients, focusing on sensitive skin types and common skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. If you’d like to read up on the general purpose and usefulness of topical CBD products, check out our article [here].

CBD Topical Ingredients by Condition

Below, you’ll find a list of different symptoms beginning with types of pain before addressing symptoms of injury like swelling and broken skin. We close with dry skin because it’s such a common issue (check out our article on CBD and skincare for skin-specific concerns). We’ve chosen to limit this discussion to medicinal use, as there’s quite a bit of ground to cover. For a more detailed breakdown of ingredients for a certain symptom, look for links to our dedicated articles on CBD topicals in each listing. 

  • CBD Topicals for Joint Pain – There are many potential causes of joint pain and swelling, from  sprains and injuries to chronic conditions like rheumatoid, psoriatic, or osteoarthritis. Regardless of the root cause, the pain and swelling you feel in your joints is the result of damage to the joint capsule itself, which causes debris to create friction within the joint and induces an inflammatory response that disturbs the fluid balance of the joint. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and mobility problems and may be influenced by factors like barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature.
    • Topical CBD Carrier Types for Joint Pain – Because of the nature of joint pain, temperature sensation is of special concern — and different temperatures can work differently to alleviate joint pain. 
      • Most of the time, we tend to prefer warmth over cooling on our joints, as the temperature can help encourage better circulation and fluid movement. To that end, we prefer oil-based or waxy products, like salves or balms, for use on joints. We find that these formulations better support the warming action of ingredients like ginger or capsicum, aiding circulation and extending relief. Our preferred ingredients include:
        • Plant oils like those from coconut, olive, grapeseed, and avocado make for nourishing and sustainable carrier oils that maximize the absorption of CBD.
        • Beeswax is a heavier ingredient that hydrates and soothes skin while providing a protective barrier over the surface. It isn’t vegan, but can be collected sustainably, so use your discretion here.
        • Natural butters like shea or cocoa have long been used to hydrate skin, and their lipid-rich compositions make them ideal carrier ingredients — just know that their intensive emollient properties may be a bit heavy for oilier skin types.
      • When we’re looking for a cooling sensation to ease swelling and freeze away pain, we reach for a product with a lighter formula. While alcohols like stearyl and cetyl are often used (and may be effective for some people), they can be quite drying for others, especially when used regularly. Our preferred carrier ingredients for cooling products include:
        • Aloe vera juice provides plenty of hydration while contributing to cooling by evaporating quickly — the benefits of alcohol without the skin damage.
        • Vegetable glycerin (sometimes noted as glycerol or just plain glycerin) is often used to improve the texture of products like roll-ons, thinning and smoothing them for better application while providing some skin-soothing and hydrating benefits. Propylene glycol may also be used for this purpose, which is mostly fine for topical products (though it may negatively affect some people in high concentrations). 
        • While we prefer to skip alcohol-heavy products, we’ll definitely choose cetyl alcohol over stearyl or isopropyl any day. This is because cetyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol derived from coconut, has a high lipid content that can help return moisture to the skin, minimizing the potential drying effects of alcohol.
    • Supporting CBD Topical Ingredients for Joint Pain
      • Aloe Vera – While we tend to think of aloe vera for burns and other acute injuries, there’s evidence to show that it may have joint pain-relieving properties as well, and that these benefits are available when the plant is used topically. Aloe vera extract also helps hydrate, soothe, and protect the skin, and is well-tolerated by most people.
      • Capsaicin – You might know this molecule as the stuff that gives peppers their heat (and yes, it is the active ingredient in pepper spray), but it’s more than just the kick in your hot sauce. Capsaicin is excellent at improving circulation in the skin and underlying tissues when applied topically — in low concentrations, of course. This compound can produce a warming sensation that helps soothe pain while it dilates blood vessels and increases the ability of fluids to move through your tissues, making it potentially highly effective at addressing joint pain and stiffness (especially the pain caused by weather changes and cold snaps).
      • Cat’s Claw – This is a tricky one, so use with awareness and caution. Cat’s claw is an herb that has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, which may be beneficial to many people suffering from joint pain. However, there’s a potential catch for rheumatoid arthritis patients in particular, as that immune-boosting power might send an already-overactive immune system into full-on beast mode, worsening symptoms as the body attacks its own tissues. Cat’s claw may work well for people with osteoarthritis, but those with rheumatoid arthritis should proceed with caution.
      • Epsom Salts – Don’t overlook bath salts for joint pain! Epsom salts can help soothe soreness, and some evidence suggests that they might be useful in helping restore electrolyte and mineral balance to joints and muscles. They also combine well with heat therapy to alleviate pain and help improve mobility.
      • Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus is another plant with wide-ranging medicinal benefits, including pain management. Eucalyptus contains a hefty dose of tannins, which help reduce the inflammation and swelling that exacerbate joint pain. If your joints are especially swollen and painful, eucalyptus may help alleviate inflammation and restore balance to your tissues.
      • Frankincense – Also known as Boswellia, this plant resin may be especially beneficial to sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune illnesses. This is because frankincense helps block the action of leukotrienes, chemical messengers for the immune system that increase inflammation. This action may help support the anti-inflammatory action of CBD, especially when used consistently over a longer period of time.
      • Ginger – Sometimes called zingiber on product labels, ginger has been used in traditional medicine for millennia to treat a wide range of symptoms, including joint pain. When applied to the skin, the extract can help improve blood flow and circulation to the skin and underlying tissues. This action, in turn, can support the body’s ability to clear tissues of excess fluid and promote healthy circulation. This effect may produce the secondary benefit of reducing swelling when ginger is applied topically.
      • Green Tea – One of the world’s most popular beverages, the anti-inflammatory action of green tea has been used for medicine by many cultures and traditions throughout human history. While the specific mechanisms are still being studied, researchers believe that compounds called polyphenols help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body, both when ingested and when applied to the skin. Green tea is about 30% polyphenols by weight, and extracts from the plant are full of these helpful molecules.
      • Turmeric – Not just for culinary use, turmeric (sometimes labeled as its active ingredient, curcumin) has long been used to help soothe pain and inflammation, both internally and topically. Emerging evidence suggests that turmeric may be useful in slowing the advance of rheumatoid arthritis, and its soothing properties may help alleviate swelling and inflammation, thereby reducing pain and stiffness in sore joints. 
      • Willow Bark – This one goes back to the days of Hippocrates, who described patients chewing the bark to relieve pain and swelling. The plant can help alleviate pain and inflammation when ingested, but evidence suggests that these benefits may also extend to topical application. While willow bark is usually taken orally, we’re starting to see it added to topicals more often. 
  • CBD Topicals for Nerve PainNerve pain can be symptomatic of a variety of conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer to autoimmune conditions. The root cause of nerve pain is damage to your body’s nerve cells, which causes them to misfire and behave erratically. Nerve pain often feels sharp, like pinpricks, and may have an electric element to the sensation, making it potentially very disrupting and debilitating. Fortunately, topical products can be very beneficial for neuropathic pain, reducing the severity and frequency of pain. 
    • Topical CBD Carrier Types for Nerve Pain – Ultimately, the best type of product for you will depend on how your nerve pain feels. Different products will produce different sensations, which can be helpful to counter the pins-and-needles feeling of neuropathic pain.
      • For burning or stinging pain, you might prefer lighter products with a cooling sensation. We find that products formulated with things like  aloe vera juice, cetyl alcohol, or vegetable glycerin produce a stronger cooling effect than heavier, oil-based products.
      • If you prefer more of a warming effect, we recommend using products with a base made of oils, plant butters, or waxes. The lipid-dense composition of ingredients like avocado oil, shea butter, and beeswax can help amplify and extend the effects of warming ingredients, helping you feel better longer.
    • Supporting CBD Topical Ingredients for Nerve Pain
      • Capsaicin – While it isn’t for everyone, products that feature small amounts of capsaicin (the compound that gives chili peppers their characteristic heat) may help soothe some types of nerve pain. Researchers believe that capsaicin may have a desensitizing effect on the skin, helping to temporarily reduce the sensation of pain.
      • Clove Oil – The humble clove is a botanical pain relief powerhouse; one study found its oil to be as effective as benzocaine at alleviating pain during a medical procedure. While the exact mechanism remains poorly understood, researchers think that the analgesic properties of clove oil may be due in part to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 
      • Eucalyptus – The analgesic properties of eucalyptus may extend to nerve pain as well, though current research suggests that this may have more to do with its aromatherapeutic application than through transdermal use. Eucalyptus can trigger asthma attacks in some people, so it’s best used well-diluted and with caution.
      • Feverfew – Long used to treat fever and pain in traditional medicine, the leaves and flowers of the feverfew plant (also known as Bachelor’s Button) may help reduce muscle spasms and the tingling or burning often associated with neuropathic pain. This may be due to the terpenes and flavonoids within the plant, according to emerging research.
      • Ginger – Ginger has been used to treat pain and inflammation for centuries, and its anti-inflammatory properties may benefit people struggling with nerve pain. Research suggests that the plant can help soothe pain and inflammation, whether consumed or applied topically
      • Lavender – A darling of the aromatherapy world, lavender is prized for its soothing, anxiolytic, sleep-inducing properties. However, the plant also possesses antifungal, antibacterial, and analgesic properties. Current research shows that lavender can help alleviate migraines compared to placebo, and may be applicable to other types of nerve pain.
      • Peppermint – Peppermint contains, among other compounds, menthol, which is well-known for the cooling sensation it gives when applied to the skin. This cooling may be helpful for some types of nerve pain, providing a pleasant numbing effect. Limonene and carvacrol, other major constituents of peppermint, may also help alleviate pain and inflammation when applied topically.
      • Rosemary – Current research suggests that this beloved culinary herb may be used to treat seizures and pain. Rosemary has been demonstrated to help relax smooth muscle (the muscles that contract automatically, without your control), which may help to reduce the pain caused by erratic nerve firings.
      • TurmericCurcumin, the active compound in turmeric, possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. In fact, turmeric was found to be as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief when used over a period of weeks.
  • CBD Topicals for Muscle Pain – Muscle pain can result from a number of common conditions such as stress, injury, strain, or overuse. The pain is caused by trauma to the muscle fibers themselves, which send pain signals when the tissue is flexed or stretched. Topical CBD products may help support healing within the muscles while alleviating inflammation and pain in the immediate term. Evidence suggests that topical CBD can help relieve muscle pain, support athletic recovery, and ease inflammation in injured muscles.
    • Topical CBD Product Types for Muscle Pain – Your preferred product will likely vary depending on the severity of your pain and the sensations you most enjoy: cooling, warming, a combination of the two, or neither of them. For people looking for the most neutral experience possible, we recommend cream- or oil-based products with minimal added ingredients.
      • For patients seeking a cooling or tingling sensation, we suggest a lighter product formulated with something like cetyl alcohol. The more volatile base means that the product will evaporate quickly, amplifying the cooling sensation and increasing immediate numbing and pain-relieving effects.
      • If you desire a more warming product, we recommend something formulated with a heavier base like coconut oil, cocoa butter, or olive oil. These base ingredients will help extend the warming effects of other supporting ingredients, thereby prolonging relief.
    • Supporting CBD Topical Ingredients for Muscle Pain
      • Basil – Research has shown basil, a common garden herb and spice cabinet staple, to possess anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. When applied to the skin, basil oil can help reduce cramping and soreness, as well as aid in recovery.
      • Chamomile – You might know chamomile flowers from your tea cabinet. Often used to promote sleep, chamomile can also provide soothing benefits when applied to the skin. Evidence suggests that chamomile may possess antispasmodic properties, soothing cramps and easing tension.
      • Capsaicin – Capsaicin, the chemical compound that gives hot peppers their fiery taste, is a vasodilator that promotes circulation and widens blood vessels. This can be very beneficial for muscle pain, especially pain resulting from an injury or overuse.
      • Lavender – A perennial favorite among essential oil enthusiasts, lavender acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic when applied to the skin. Research shows it to be effective at reducing muscle pain and tension when used topically (diluted, of course).
      • Lemongrass – Lemongrass, a staple herb of Thai cuisine, may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to the skin, emerging research showed lemongrass to reduce pain and inflammation in injured muscles. 
      • MagnesiumTransdermal magnesium has been used to treat muscle pain for many years in the form of Epsom salts. Magnesium is crucial for regulation of muscle contractions, and a 15-minute soak can help relieve pain and cramping in sore or injured muscles. 
      • Marjoram – Marjoram is a bit of an unsung hero of the spice rack. The herb possesses antispasmodic and analgesic properties, helping to alleviate pain and reduce cramps and spasms when applied topically. 
      • Peppermint – Peppermint oil possesses antispasmodic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects when applied topically. It also produces a cooling sensation that can help numb pain within a few minutes of application (again, diluted!).
      • Tart Cherry Juice – Emerging research shows that tart cherry juice may help reduce pain in both the short and long terms. Participants using tart cherry extract in a recent study reported less pain 24 and 48 hours after a strenuous exercise session compared to participants using a placebo. 
  • CBD Topicals for Swelling – Swelling is, essentially, an inflammatory response that causes the body to retain fluid. While this often occurs in the extremities or at the site of an injury, swelling can also affect mobility, quality of life, and general physical comfort. Topically applied CBD has shown to be effective at helping to reduce swelling, both in the skin and in the underlying tissues. 
    • Topical CBD Carrier Types for Swelling – Cooling to neutral products tend to be more effective against swelling compared to warming topicals, though there are some exceptions. We recommend starting with a product formulated to emphasize cooling and anti-inflammatory effects, then gradually moving toward warming products if you feel they are more effective for you.
      • To amplify cooling ingredients like peppermint or arnica, we suggest choosing a more liquid formula like a roll-on. These products tend to be made with things like cetyl alcohol or sunflower seed oil, which absorb more readily into the skin and evaporate relatively quickly, soothing pain and swelling in the immediate term.
      • If you find that warming ingredients like capsaicin and turmeric are better suited to your body, reach for oily or waxy product formulas. These might be made with coconut oil, shea butter, or beeswax and may help extend the effectiveness of warming ingredients as well as amplify them.
    • Supporting Topical CBD Ingredients for Swelling
  • CBD Topicals for Wound Care & Broken Skin – CBD can be applied to cuts, burns, sores, and other injuries that break the skin’s surface, but you should be especially choosy about carrier and supporting ingredients. While there are benefits to applying CBD to a wound, those benefits could be reduced or even negated by ingredients not intended to be applied to broken skin. If you’re in doubt about a product’s safety, opt for a pure CBD oil with no added flavorings or colorings.
    • Topical CBD Carrier Types for Wound Care – We strongly recommend using ointments or balms for wound care over roll-ons or other fluid products. This is for two reasons: first, roll-on applicators in particular are not sanitary for use on broken skin. Second, the oil-based nature of ointments and salves helps to create a protective barrier over the skin that supports healing. Gels and liquids do not offer this benefit as strongly (though they may be used effectively for things like mild burn or sunburn).
      • When looking for a CBD product to apply to broken skin, seek out something specifically formulated for broken skin. The best carrier ingredients for wound care tend to be things like coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, or lanolin. These ingredients will help protect your skin from irritants while promoting healing activity in skin and underlying tissues.
    • Supporting CBD Topical Ingredients for Wound Care – This is probably the situation where individual skin sensitivities have the most potential to cause discomfort or other issues, so knowing your body is important. Also, there are some ingredients to avoid. These include capsaicin, cinnamon, menthol, and other intense ingredients — it’s best to stick to gentler botanicals (if you choose to use them at all). These may include:
      • Aloe Vera – One of the gentlest botanicals available, aloe vera gel has been used throughout human history to treat burns, cuts, scrapes, and other forms of skin damage. The gel within the plant’s leaves has been shown to possess skin-healing and protective properties, making it an ideal addition to wound healing CBD topicals. 
      • Goldenrod – While it often gets a bad rap for causing allergies (like chamomile, it’s in the same family as ragweed and may cause reactions in some people), goldenrod can help promote healing activity by reducing inflammation at the site of injury.
      • Lavender – The soothing properties of the  lavender plant extend to wound healing as well — not only can lavender extract reduce inflammation in injured skin, it can also help keep infection at bay while a wound closes. This is because lavender possesses antibacterial properties alongside its anti-inflammatory and analgesic compounds.
      • Marigold Marigold flowers, also known as calendula, are favored among landscapers, but the plant and its blooms may provide wound-healing benefits beyond their aesthetic appeal. Research suggests that marigold flowers may promote skin healing through anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions.
      • Neem – Neem oil is widely used in southeast Asia for skin, hair, body, and even oral hygiene products. Neem is a powerful antimicrobial and antifungal, helping protect wounds from infection. It may also help to reduce inflammation and promote healing in injured skin.
      • Yarrow – Yarrow, a plant used by many cultures to reduce pain, inflammation, and anxiety, may help promote healing and reduce bleeding when applied to wounds. 
  • CBD Topicals for Dry Skin – Topical CBD can be very beneficial to dry skin, especially parts like elbows and knees that are more prone to flaking and scaliness. When combined with hydrating and humectant ingredients (more on those below), CBD can help alleviate itching while soothing skin, protecting against free radical damage while improving symptoms like hyperpigmentation and rough texture. 
    • Topical CBD Carrier Types for Dry Skin – When using CBD to treat dry skin, it’s crucial to select products made with quality carrier ingredients. It’s best to choose emollient ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, or olive oil for intensive, lasting hydration. As an added benefit, these ingredients will help to create a protective barrier over the skin’s surface (beeswax is especially good for this), helping to heal damage and prevent further injury. 
      • It’s best to avoid products formulated with isopropyl or stearyl alcohols for dry skin, as they can actually exacerbate the problem. This is because alcohols chemically break apart the bonds between the cells on your skin’s surface. While this is intended to help hydrating and humectant ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin, it can do more harm than good in very dry skin. If you must use a product with alcohol, opt for cetyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol derived from coconut that is shown to be less damaging to the skin. 
    • Supporting CBD Topical Ingredients for Dry Skin
      • Almond Oil Almond oil is an excellent option for people with very sensitive or acne-prone skin. This is because almond oil possesses antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help to soothe cranky skin. Almond oil is ideal for dry skin because it hydrates in the short term and protects from excessive water loss in the skin in the long term, maintaining moisture balance throughout your busy day.
      • Aloe Vera – A favorite for burns and scrapes, aloe vera is an intensive, non-comedogenic (won’t clog your pores) hydrator that restores moisture to skin quickly and effectively. Aloe vera gel also gives the added benefit of absorbing well into skin while still creating a protective barrier over skin, shielding it from damage that can occur when the top layers of skin are dehydrated.
      • Beeswax – Beeswax acts as a very effective skin protectant and can help attract moisture to the skin throughout the day, promoting long-lasting hydration. Because of its intensity, beeswax may be best used in areas prone to dryness, such as elbows, knees, and hands.
      • Cocoa Butter – Richly emollient cocoa butter is a good option for skin that is very prone to dryness and cracking, though it may be a bit too heavy to use all over for many people. Cocoa butter is demonstrated to be an effective moisturizer and skin protectant, and its thick consistency gives it a luxurious feel.
      • Cucumber – There’s a reason that cucumber slices are such a pervasive component of spa treatments: the vegetable contains compounds that help restore hydration to the skin’s surface. Cucumber also helps your cells to retain the moisture it imbues them with and is especially gentle for sensitive skin types.
      • Grapeseed Oil – A sort of dermatological powerhouse, grapeseed oil offers a plethora of skin-nourishing benefits. First, it’s non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and gentle for even sensitive skin types. Second, it contains high levels of vitamin E and linoleic acid, two compounds shown to help reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation while improving skin tone and texture. Grapeseed oil also possesses mild anti-inflammatory properties and helps to reduce the appearance of spider veins, hyperpigmentation, and other inflammatory skin conditions over time. 
      • Mango Butter – Mango butter is shown to provide intensive, lasting hydration to skin, especially in people prone to dryness. The butter, extracted from the pit of the mango, contains high levels of vitamins A and C, which may help brighten dull skin and improve overall texture and tone. Because of its richness, mango butter is likely best kept away from the face and any areas of the body prone to breakouts.
      • Neem – Neem oil is demonstrated to hydrate skin while extending anti-inflammatory benefits that may be especially helpful for people with dry, itchy skin. The oil also possesses antifungal and antimicrobial properties, making it a good option for people looking to protect skin damaged by severe dryness.
      • Papaya – While it’s less common in the West, many cultures have historically used papaya to nourish skin, fight aging, and reduce inflammation. Papaya is rich in antioxidants, as well as vitamins A, C, and E, all of which play important roles in restoring and maintaining skin health. Papaya may help to soothe inflammation, itching, and redness while hydrating dry skin.
      • Pumpkin Seed – A tasty byproduct of Halloween Jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin seeds are high in skin-protectant, anti-inflammatory components like linoleic acid, tocopherols, and sterols. These compounds are found in high concentrations in pumpkin seed oil, which can confer both nourishment and protection while alleviating red, itchy skin.
      • Shea Butter – Shea butter is a richly emollient plant butter that possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also provide skin-protecting benefits, though further study is needed.
      • Tamarind Seed – A tangy fruit popular among many cultures and cuisines across the globe, tamarind seeds may possess antioxidant properties. While the exact mechanism isn’t yet fully understood, early studies show tamarind seed extract to be effective at preventing skin damage from UVA rays. 

Takeaway

While CBD can be used to effectively treat pain, inflammation, injury, and a variety of skin conditions, its effects can be modified and enhanced by the ingredients working alongside it. When searching for a topical CBD product, be mindful of the label and reach for formulas that are targeted to alleviate your symptoms. Selecting the best formula for your needs can help ensure a more satisfying experience that supports your health and wellness goals.

 

CBD for Skin: Making Sense of CBD Topicals

If you’ve been looking into (or even actively experimenting with) using CBD for pain relief, you’ve likely seen topical products like roll-ons, balms, and creams. These products are usually marketed towards people seeking pain relief, but as the CBD market continues to grow, products targeted toward skin care, wound healing, and other concerns are starting to emerge. As an ingredient, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest CBD for skin health is effective, but using CBD for skin may not be that straightforward.

To improve their effectiveness, many of these topical products include supporting ingredients that help modify the effects of CBD to amplify the desired effect(s). This makes for more diverse choices and greater customizability for CBD users (and we’re here for that!), but it also makes navigating the field of available products more difficult. How can you know which product to choose? 

We at Key to Cannabis seek to help our readers make informed purchasing decisions that support both their immediate and long-term wellbeing. To us, part of this mission includes providing information about the current science of topical ingredients and their potential impact, both on symptoms and on overall health. The role of skin in wellness is often-overlooked, and we feel that consumer education can help support healthier lifestyles for our readers and the CBD community as a whole. CBD for skin can be a valuable part of a treatment plan for a variety of conditions, and we seek to support that.

Here, we talk about why being conscious of what goes on your skin is so important and break down a little bit of the science of how your skin supports homeostasis. We’ll then discuss CBD topical supporting ingredients by condition, highlighting what works and what to watch out for. We’ll close with a special note for people with skin allergies or sensitivities that highlights common inflammatory culprits and provides some guidance for navigating product labels when searching for CBD for skin.

Your Skin & You: Promoting Homeostasis

topical cbd for skin care

If you’ve researched the ways that CBD affects different systems within the body, you may have noticed the term homeostasis popping up repeatedly. Homeostasis is the term for your body’s natural equilibrium — sweating when you’re hot to bring your temperature down, signaling hunger when your blood sugar is low, and even your inflammatory response to stress or an injury are all examples of your body attempting to maintain homeostasis. CBD has a regulating effect on many of the body’s systems, including the skin — and that’s important, because your skin works hard to support your health.

Your skin really doesn’t get enough credit. We tend to take it for granted, but it’s responsible for much more than just containing your insides and defending your body from damage, pathogens, and debris. Your skin is an organ — in fact, it’s the largest organ you have — and, as such, its duties are vast and diverse. It helps regulate your body temperature, synthesizes important hormones and vitamins, senses and relays information to your brain, and absorbs beneficial nutrients and hydration from the things it comes into contact with.

Your skin shields you from UV rays, pollution, and environmental contaminants. It’s constantly changing throughout your life, and it helps keep your body in balance as you go about your day. It plays an obvious role in things like temperature regulation and sensation, but it’s also the site of synthesis of a couple of important compounds that have widespread effects on the body. 

The first is the hormone vitamin D (yup, it’s correct. Sometimes scientists name things before they’re understood), which is crucial for bone strength and may play an important role in gut health. The second, melatonin (involved heavily in sleep and wakefulness regulation) plays an important role in protecting your cells from damage due to oxidative stress, the kind of stress environmental factors like pollution and solar radiation inflict on your body. If your skin is stressed, inflamed, or damaged, your body’s ability to synthesize and process these two critical hormones may be compromised.

Because of the composition and intimate connection to other systems of the body, the skin can also provide early warnings of underlying problems. The skin can serve as a sort of “canary in the coalmine” of systemic inflammation, showing signs of underlying illness before other symptoms become apparent. If you’re having skin issues, there may be other forces at play under the proverbial surface — and if you’re having trouble controlling pain and inflammation, don’t neglect your skin! Topical CBD for skin can help to support your integumentary system as well as what’s underneath it. 

Why Do Topical Ingredients Matter?

topical cbd ingredients

We tend to assume that, as long as our skin isn’t cut, burned, or broken out, it’s fine, and that’s not exactly wrong. However, it isn’t exactly the whole story, either. Your skin keeps lots of stuff out, but it’s more permeable than it appears, especially at the molecular level. If you’re using products with inflammatory ingredients, you may inadvertently sabotaging yourself. CBD can be very effective against muscle and joint pain, inflammation, and neuropathic pain, but its benefits could be reduced (or even negated) by the wrong stuff.

Product formulations also play a role in how the ingredients behave and function in a practical setting. For example, an alcohol-based roll-on won’t double as a massage oil the way a heavier, oil-based salve might. Something made of volatile (meaning “quick to evaporate,” like isopropyl or ethyl alcohol) carriers that evaporate more readily will have a stronger cooling effect than an oil-based formula (and the reverse is also true: an oily product will produce a more lasting warming effect than something alcohol-based). In this way, two products with otherwise very similar supporting ingredients might behave very differently when the basic formulation is changed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, everyone’s skin is different! There are, quite literally, as many different skin types as there are people on earth, and everyone has different needs and concerns. Knowing the composition of the topical products you use helps you avoid things that don’t agree with your body and choose products that support your individual health goals. 

In the spirit of serving individual goals, conscious consumption also helps keep you from inadvertently compromising your values through your purchases. Knowing the origin of the ingredients can help you make safer, more ethical, more sustainable buying decisions that align more closely with your values. This could include buying vegan, kosher, cruelty-free, certified organic, non-GMO, local, and any number of other criteria that are important to you.

Carrier Ingredients: What Type of Product Do You Need?

topical cbd ingredients for your skin

The main difference between different product formulations and consistencies is the carrier ingredients they utilize. A carrier ingredient is one that is used to dilute the active ingredients in a product while making it more absorbable into the skin. Carrier ingredients are also used in oral CBD products (usually MCT oil, though hemp seed, olive, almond, and other oils may also be used), but our focus here is on topical carriers.

Since CBD is lipid-soluble, the most effective CBD skin care carrier ingredients tend to be non-polar molecules like fats, oils, and alcohols. While petroleum jelly and other oil products are sometimes used, the high environmental impact of these ingredients inclines us to pass on them.

For salves, balms, lip products, and other intensely emollient formulas, carrier ingredients often include things like coconut oil, shea or cocoa butter, beeswax, mango butter, and other plant-derived oils. The consistency of formulas based in these ingredients ranges from waxy to whipped to creamy, and they often feel rich and heavy on the skin. Some absorb fairly quickly, while others take on a tacky or oily texture for some time after application. 

Because of their characteristic heaviness, these ingredients may cause some skin types to break out (coconut oil is a particularly common offender) when used all over, especially on the face. For dry skin, however, heavier formulas may be preferred to lighter products. Effects like the warming sensation brought on by capsicum or the tingling induced by peppermint tend to be extended in these buttery formulas. This may be especially helpful to people seeking to manage pain or relax muscles.

For hydration and skin protection without the waxiness, we suggest reaching for formulas that use plant-derived oils as a base. The options are pretty broad here; you’ll likely see oils from sources like olive, safflower, apricot seed, hemp, grapeseed, sweet almond, avocado, jojoba, argan, Monoi, and others. These oils will do a good job of extending the effects of warming or cooling products, though olive and Monoi may contribute to breakouts for some skin types. 

These ingredients yield products ranging in consistency from very fluid oils to more viscous lotions. Some absorb quickly without much residue, while others may leave a lingering oily feeling on the skin after application. To minimize greasiness, we suggest reaching for products that blend plant-derived oils with an even lighter ingredient like aloe vera juice or cetyl alcohol.

The lightest and most volatile (quick to evaporate) carrier ingredients aren’t oils at all, but a sort of semi-polar group of ingredients that include aloe vera juice, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and alcohols like isopropyl, stearyl, or cetyl. Of these, we strongly prefer aloe vera juice, vegetable glycerin, or cetyl alcohol, which tend to be gentler on the skin than alternatives. This is because propylene glycol, while generally safe for topical use, may be inflammatory for some skin types.

Isopropyl and stearyl alcohols have a tendency to dry skin over time due to their impact on the bonds between skin cells. These ingredients may be okay to use once in a while, but we prefer to stick to products we don’t have to second-guess reaching for again and again.

Cetyl alcohol, a coconut-derived fatty alcohol, is less damaging to skin due to its higher emollient content. Aloe vera juice is a very well-tolerated and non-comedogenic moisturizer for even the most sensitive skin types. Vegetable glycerin, like cetyl alcohol and aloe vera, evaporates quickly and is gentle enough for general use, even for sensitive skin. Since these ingredients evaporate from the skin more readily, they’re ideal for enhancing the cooling effects of things like peppermint, arnica, and chamomile. 

Plant-Derived Compounds & Botanicals

topical cbd ingredients botanicals

In the interest of sustainability, we prefer to opt for plant-derived ingredients wherever possible. Additionally, the terpenes found in plant extracts may help improve the efficacy of CBD and other cannabinoids. Terpenes can modify the effects of CBD by amplifying specific effects or adding complementary properties of their own. 

We should note that just because an oil or extract is natural doesn’t mean that it’s completely without risk for everyone. Undiluted essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, and cinnamon can cause chemical burns if applied undiluted to the skin, for instance, and chamomile may provoke a potentially dangerous allergic reaction in people sensitive to ragweed or other members of the Asteraceae family. “Natural” ingredients are equally capable of producing an adverse reaction as synthetic ingredients, so don’t assume a product labeled “vegan” or “all-natural” is automatically safer by default. We love our botanicals, but they aren’t fully risk-free.

One of the main therapeutic effects of CBD is its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory, reducing excess inflammation and taming related symptoms like redness, fever, swelling, and pain. The natural world is full of anti-inflammatories — aspirin is derived from willow bark, for instance — that may be utilized to enhance the soothing properties of CBD. These may include green tea, turmeric, ginger, capsaicin (extracted from chili peppers), lavender, chamomile, frankincense, resveratrol, arnica, peppermint (or any other variety of mint), cinnamon, clove, lemon balm, and other plant extracts. 

Many of these compounds also possess pain-relieving properties when used topically, including willow bark (and some types of pine bark), turmeric, ginger, lavender, frankincense, arnica, clove, lemon balm, and cinnamon. In addition to analgesic effects, many herbs can produce temperature sensations in the skin that may help to reduce pain perception.

For example, herbs like peppermint, arnica, frankincense, and lemon balm yield cooling, tingling sensations that may help to reduce swelling. Plants like ginger, peppers, and cinnamon can induce a sensation of warmth, helping muscles to relax and ease tension. Herbs with differing effects can be combined to produce more of a tingling sensation that can help stimulate nerves in a way that reduces nerve pain in many people. 

Because there are so many different compounds that work through so many diverse mechanisms in the body, herbal ingredients are often a major source of difference in function between otherwise comparable products. The scent produced by a particular blend may also be a benefit, as there’s some pretty compelling evidence to suggest that scent is important to how we perceive pain. Eucalyptus, lavender, chamomile, citrus, and cinnamon are popular in aromatherapy circles, but you should use whatever you find soothing or comforting.

Vitamins, Minerals, & Unpronounceables

topical cbd ingredients for your skin

While some products (usually salves and balms) consist solely of CBD, a carrier oil or two, and a few botanical ingredients, products like roll-ons, lotions, sprays, and other more modern formulas will have at least an ingredient or two that looks a little intimidating. These might include things like L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C, a skin brightener and antioxidant), niacinamide (vitamin B3, a humectant and skin protector), retinol (vitamin A, an antioxidant that helps fight signs of aging), or alpha tocopherol (vitamin E, used to restore moisture to the skin and protect it from damage). 

For the most part, these ingredients are included for a reason and likely bring some skin-nourishing benefits to the table. That said, you may need to be on the lookout for things like phthalates and parabens (plasticizers used to emulsify ingredients that can cause adverse reactions in some skin types), DMDM hydantoin (a preservative known to release formaldehyde over time, which is irritating to most skin types), and phenoxyethanol (a stabilizer linked to allergic reactions in some consumers). 

These are some of the most common causes of allergens in topical products, so try to avoid them if you are prone to breakouts or skin allergies. That said, it isn’t an exhaustive list — sodium laureth sulfate (and other sulfates), fragrances, dyes, and other compounds can also act as irritants in some people. If you have a bad reaction to a product, discontinue use immediately and monitor your symptoms. If they persist longer than a day or two, visit your doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem at work. 

Other additives might include something like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (mineral sunscreens that form a barrier between skin and damaging solar radiation). Thickeners or emulsifiers may also be used to maintain product texture (hydroxyethylcellulose is one, but others might include xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan, or potassium sorbate). These ingredients aren’t necessarily anything to panic about, but may cause adverse reactions for those with especially sensitive skin. For this reason, we recommend exercising caution with unfamiliar compounds and researching them when necessary.  

Takeaway

CBD topicals can be therapeutic beyond their active ingredient alone. Especially with topical products, the supporting ingredients added to the formula have the potential to substantially modify the effectiveness of the CBD they contain, helping make less potent products more effective and maximizing the therapeutic potential of high dosage strengths. Learning to utilize supporting ingredients can help you maximize the benefit of your dose of CBD while avoiding problematic ingredients and allergens. 

By noting which botanicals, carriers, and other supporting ingredients work best for you, you can find a product (or even a full regimen) that is effective for you. When considering the right products to choose, take a look at our breakdown of CBD topical ingredients by condition for an idea of what to look for on product labels and how to navigate the different choices available. We also have more detailed articles available addressing the specific mechanisms of different ingredients, again broken down by symptom. CBD topicals offer strong therapeutic potential for a broad range of symptoms.

CBD For Skincare

How Does Cannabis Help With Skincare?

Skin conditions are incredibly common. In fact, up to 50 million Americans are affected by acne every year. Ten percent of people will develop atopic dermatitis during their lifetime, and nearly 16 million Americans will experience the discomfort of rosacea. Over 7 million people struggle with psoriasis. Most adults have an array of skincare products to help manage their skincare concerns, while others must utilize prescription options to get relief. 

 

Many of these skin conditions are uncomfortable on their own, causing burning, itching, pain, or general discomfort. Additionally, the appearance of certain skin disorders can negatively affect mental health. Antifungals and antibiotic creams are often used for managing skin conditions. More severe conditions may require the use of topical steroidal medications. 

 

The problem with some of these medications is that regular exposure can cause them to become less effective. The constant use of antibiotic medications has been known to disrupt the skin’s natural microbiome, which can negatively impact the skin’s immune system. These medications also require a regular prescription, which can be a hassle when creating your skincare routine. Unfortunately, many people are unable to control their skin conditions without them. 

 

Now, CBD is emerging quickly in the skincare industry, and researchers are working to investigate the anti-inflammatory, sebostatic, and antiproliferative properties that make CBD a suitable therapeutic option for many skin concerns. CBD can be used regularly with no adverse side effects, and in many cases may work as a replacement for prescription medications. We turn to a list of studies to help explain the link between CBD and common skincare concerns, like psoriasis, acne, inflammation, and more. 

 

What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in Skincare?

CBD was first discovered in the 1940s, but researchers have put more emphasis on the therapeutic value of THC until more recently. Now, our increased understanding of the endocannabinoid system’s regulatory role in the body has led to an influx of research regarding the non psychoactive cannabinoid. 

 

Studies have identified several ways that CBD could be useful for managing a range of skin conditions. Most of the evidence surrounds the use of CBD for psoriasis, but studies have also highlighted the anti-inflammatory and sebostatic properties of cannabidiol that may make it useful for many other conditions, like acne or eczema. 

 

Researchers have uncovered evidence of the endocannabinoid system’s involvement in the regulation of skin cells, and some sources have even identified CBD as a potential therapeutic avenue for skin tumors. Because researchers know that the endocannabinoid balance directly affects most aspects of skin health, research regarding CBD for skincare is expected to continue to advance. 

 

For now, we have multiple studies that help support the strong link between CBD and skincare:

1. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.

A 2014 study suggests that cannabidiol may be useful for managing various skin conditions in multiple important ways. “Collectively, our findings suggest that, due to the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and antiinflammatory effects, CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris”

 

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061872

2. Epigenetic control of skin differentiation genes by phytocannabinoids.

A 2013 study suggest that CBD could be useful for a range of different skin conditions by controlling genetic skin differations. The study concludes that “the phytocannabinoids cannabidiol and cannabigerol are transcriptional repressors that can control cell proliferation and differentiation. This indicates that they (especially cannabidiol) have the potential to be lead compounds for the development of novel therapeutics for skin diseases.”

 

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23869687

3. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis.

A 2007 study investigated the use of CBd for psoriasis and found that “The results indicate that while CB receptors may have a circumstantial role in keratinocyte proliferation, they do not contribute significantly to this process. Our results show that cannabinoids inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, and therefore support a potential role for cannabinoids in the treatment of psoriasis.

 

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17157480

4. Attenuation of allergic contact dermatitis through the endocannabinoid system.

A 2007 study concluded “Cannabinoid receptor antagonists exacerbated allergic inflammation, whereas receptor agonists attenuated inflammation. These results demonstrate a protective role of the endocannabinoid system in contact allergy in the skin and suggest a target for therapeutic intervention.”

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17556587

5. Cannabinoid 1 receptors in keratinocytes modulate proinflammatory chemokine secretion and attenuate contact allergic inflammation.

A 2013 review dives deeper into the function of the endocannabinoid system in the skin and concluded that “CB1 receptors are functionally expressed by KCs in vivo and help to limit the secretion of proinflammatory chemokines that regulate T cell-dependent inflammation in the effector phase of CHS.”

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23585676

6. Endocannabinoids modulate human epidermal keratinocyte proliferation and survival via the sequential engagement of cannabinoid receptor-1 and transient receptor potential vanilloid-1.

A 2011 study looked at the endocannabinoid’s role in regulating keratinocyte proliferation and suggests that manipulating the ECS may be an effective route of treatment for psoriasis and skin tumors. “The data reported here may encourage one to explore whether the targeted manipulation of the above signaling pathway of the cutaneous ECS could become a useful adjunct treatment strategy for hyperproliferative human dermatoses such as psoriasis or KC-derived skin tumors.”

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21248768

7. A novel control of human keratin expression: cannabinoid receptor 1-mediated signaling down-regulates the expression of keratins K6 and K16 in human keratinocytes in vitro and in situ.

A 2013 study looked further into the role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating keratinocytes. The study concludes that “cannabinoids and their receptors constitute a novel, clinically relevant control element of human K6 and K16 expression.”

Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23638377

Which CBD products help with skincare?

As you formulate your CBD skincare routine, it’s important to note that CBD should be used regularly for maximum relief. That means that CBD topicals need to be used as a preventative. Then, you can apply spot treatments to help manage sudden flares, but your regular applications are most important. 

There are multiple different CBD skincare products to choose from, all of which may better suit different unique needs. For managing most skincare concerns, we recommend a high-quality full spectrum CBD oil or CBD-infused cream.

Both products utilize the same wholesome ingredient—full spectrum CBD oil. The main difference between the two is application technique, where as oil will go on thin and cover a larger area, and cream provides a thicker consistency appropriate for targeted applications. Oils are also useful for adding CBD to your current face serums, masks, or lotions to reap the benefits of CBD without giving up your favorite products.  

Many people find they still need a safe way to sudden flares in addition to a consistent CBD skincare routine as outlined above. For sudden skin flares, like inflammation, acne blemishes, or irritation due to chronic skin conditions, we recommend a CBD-infused balm, which provides a thick application that is often combined with high-quality MCT oil, an ingredient that aids the absorption of CBD in the body. 

You may find that multiple products fit into your skincare routine, and many people find that combination of products helps provide quick and consistent relief from many skin conditions. We’ve thoroughly tested many CBD skincare products, and below are the ones we’d recommend.

What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat skincare concerns?

Dosing for CBD topicals is a unique experience for every person, and the amount of CBD needed to provide complete relief depends on certain factors. Your best dose is mainly affected by your tolerance to cannabinoid-based medications as well as the type and severity of your skin conditions. 

 

CBD topicals can be used frequently to manage the symptoms of most skin conditions, but it may take a little guess and check work to design a CBD skincare regimen that works for you. We recommend starting with one application of the CBD skincare product you choose and applying an adequate amount to lightly cover the entire affected area. 

 

Keep in mind that CBD topicals may take up to 30 minutes to kick in. Make sure that you allow adequate time to monitor the effects. If no relief is felt after one application, re-apply CBD as often as necessary to control symptoms. 

 

CBD is known to potentially interfere with some medications through interactions with certain liver enzymes, though this may not apply to topicals. Still, you should be cautious about using CBD in combination with prescription topicals. If you’re unsure or already use prescription medications daily, talk to your doctor about CBD before you get started. 

Joy Organics CBD Salve Product Review

Perfect Skincare With Cannabis: Why and How?

The benefits of CBD are never-ending. CBD is becoming increasingly popular in skincare (Ulta recently introduced a line of CBD-infused skincare products, and more are sure to follow suit). Still, lack of regulation means that many of the products on the market are at best inconsistent and, at worst, downright ineffective.

For those of us who have experience with them, skin ailments and conditions can be devastating and embarrassing, affecting the physical and mental well-being of those who have them. With the increasing use of harsh chemicals in skin care products, it makes sense people are searching for more organic and natural beauty products.

Beauty products like face masksday creams, and body lotions with CBD as its active ingredient are emerging rapidly in the market. Whole plant CBD and hemp-derived CBD are natural anti-inflammatories, which makes them ideal for combatting skin ailments.

Why Use CBD for Skincare?

It is well known that CBD was used as a curative herb thousands of years ago. It is now known as the magical herb having a myriad of health benefits. It is known to aid in the treatment of a wide range of skin diseases ranging from psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and acne to minimizing seizures, stress, and insomnia.

Here are a few reasons as to why CBD works well in the skincare regime.

1. Healing Properties of CBD

CBD has therapeutic and anti-inflammation properties and can work better than vitamin C and A as an antioxidant. This can help to treat and soothe irritated skin, painful acne and stimulate cell regeneration for a healthier, youthful look.

2. CBD Produces Lipids

Research indicates that CBD has the ability to produce lipids, which are essential components of skin and play a crucial role in the skin’s barrier function. Thus, CBD helps in increasing the skin’s hydration and barrier function, and in regulating and treating the skin cells.

3.  CBD is Anti-Bacterial

Due to the presence of the terpenes in it, CBD has strong anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and sebum-reducing components. When applied to the affected area, it can work as both an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic to heal and cure the infected area.

4. Immunosuppressives of CBD

CBD, like other cannabinoids, has immunosuppressive properties, which means it can partially or completely suppress the immune response of an individual. This helps CBD to work on skin conditions from the inside out. This can help to treat severe skin diseases like Psoriasis.

5. CBD Provides Ultraviolet Protection

Hemp oil, extracted from marijuana seeds, is loaded with fatty acids that address sun damage. UV rays are associated with a number of skin ailments like aging and cancer, so using CBD oil can ease dry skin and result in a healthier, more protected skin.

6. CBD Stimulates The Endocannabinoid System 

CBD stimulates activity in the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in the regulation of sebum production. If your body is producing too much sebum, CBD can calm the sebaceous glands by regulating oil production. It can also provide much-needed balance to a deficient endocannabinoid system.

How To Incorporate CBD In Your Skincare?

1. CBD Oil for Skin

People have been using coconut oil and tea tree oil for centuries in their skin care routine but there’s an important ingredient to use – CBD oil. Apart from using CBD for anxiety, it can also be used directly as a night serum or can be added to your scrubs and face masks for instant hydration and rejuvenation. Opt for pure CBD oil with no THC content for best results.

2. CBD Infused Creams for Skin

Switch your regular cream with a CBD infused cream for replenished and supple skin. Many of these come with non-greasy and entirely plant-based formula and are specially designed to work with your natural pH to deliver the ultimate skin protection. There are sunscreens also available which are infused with CBD.


3. CBD Topicals for Pain Relief

Topicals are the best method of application of CBD to give instant pain relief. Many people use these to treat aching feet and joints and to soothe cramped muscles. The anti-inflammatory properties are also perfect for prevention of wrinkles and acne.

4. CBD Lip Balms

If you’re skeptical about using CBD beauty products, CBD infused lip balms are the best way to try out this trend. They work to hydrate and moisturize chapped and dry lips to give soft, supple lips and are available in fresh mesmerizing flavors.

5. CBD Facial Cleansers

With CBD-infused cleansers, your daily skin care routine can benefit from the naturally nourishing and rejuvenating properties of CBD. These cleansers are sulfate free and gently washes away dirt and oil to leave your face smooth and youthful looking. Using it can help to keep your pores clean and skin clarified.

Obstacles concerning the legal use of cannabis can also obstruct its use.

CBD is legal to purchase online — as long as it is derived from industrial hemp and not marijuana. The trick is to find a brand that is able to put this powerful ingredient effectively combined with other good ingredients in a modern formula. One of our favorites is Joy Organics.

Joy Organics removes all traces of THC from their CBD extract.  This process yields a full-spectrum product that provides the benefits of secondary cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids without the risk of THC contamination.

Joy Organics has created a line of skincare products that combine CBD with other skin-nourishing ingredients to improve the look and feel of any complexion over time.

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