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Everything to need to know about CBD, the hyped-up and confusing skin care ingredient

Beatriz Kaye
Even though CBD is everywhere, so many people still don't know what it is, and how it's beneficial for skin care. Legacy brands like Kieh's and Josie Maran have hopped on the trend, but smaller brands gain a loyal following among the $350 million CBD industry.

There’s no mistake—CBD is everywhere. You can smoke it, vape it, put drops of it in your tea, and rub it on your stretch marks. I even watched someone buy a CBD drink with their chopped cheese at my local bodega, and that’s when I knew this trend was going overboard. Legacy brands like Kiehl’s and Josie Maran have hopped onto the trend with infused face oils, while smaller brands like Verte Essentials and Disciple Skincare have gained a loyal following in the booming $350 million CBD industry.

Even though the CBD hype is inescapable, so many people still don’t know what it is. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound derived from cannabis plants proven to reduce anxiety, soothe inflammation, and elevate mood. CBD is often conflated with its more stigmatized cousin, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the chemical responsible for that euphoric, stoner high that you get from smoking weed. The cannabidiol used in most beauty products right now are derived from CBD-rich hemp, since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized its production. Cannabidiol won’t get you high, but its calming effects can work wonders for the skin. CBD can be derived from any cannabis plant, but it’s typically derived from hemp because of its low traces of THC.

Full Spectrum CBD

Make note of the words “full spectrum,” “broad spectrum,” and “isolate” when shopping for products. Full spectrum CBD means that all the chemicals derived from the plant are still present, including essential oils, terpenes—chemicals that give plants their taste and smell—and sibling cannabinoids like THC. Legally, products cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

Full spectrum products can be more effective due to a phenomenon called The Entourage Effect, where terpenes and cannabinoids interact to amplify the plant’s effects. Think of all the chemical components in the cannabis plant as the Spice Girls. They’re exciting and fun as separate entities, but together, they’re an incredible powerhouse (we’re still screaming over the Mel B and Geri Halliwell hookup, btw).

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate, on the other hand, is completely separated from terpenes and other cannabinoids, so you won’t experience the Entourage Effect and its subsequent benefits.

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum falls somewhere in between, but typically excludes traces of THC. It’s typically a more stable, controlled way to consume CBD, as the chemical makeup within the hemp plant can vary between different grow batches.

Hemp Seed Oil

Then there’s hemp seed oil, which is also proving to be a heavy hitter in the beauty industry, but is more than likely riding on the CBD trend’s coattails, as it typically doesn’t contain CBD or THC. (More on that, below.) However, hemp seed oil is rich in fatty acids, which does make it ideal for skin care products.

In order to be effective, acne-fighting products need to be a Lady-Gaga-level triple threat in fighting irritation, sebum production, and healthy moisture retention. Multiple studies show that cannabidiol is strong enough to regulate all three. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can work wonders on muscle pain when you vape or smoke it, but applied topically, CBD can significantly reduce irritation caused by acne, psoriasis, and eczema. It’s also a strong antioxidant that can kill off acne-causing bacteria.

While CBD is powerful on its own, it can also be combined with different chemicals and application techniques to boost its powerful effects. Facialist Ildi Pekar offers CBD facials that combine oxygen therapy, electric stimulation, and CBD oil to reach the highest possible glow-up. Electrostatic polarization massage helps the cannabidiol seep deeper into the pores to improve the skin. Clients drop a whopping $400 per session and return monthly to reap the facial’s rejuvenating rewards.

Hemp snobs all over the country swear by Verte Essentials’ CBD-infused skin care line that includes micellar water cleansing pads, rosewater sprays, and vital oils. I spoke with Romany Pope, the social media manager of Verte Essentials, and asked what consumers are looking for when they’re looking to add CBD to their skin care routine. Pope says, “[Cannabidiol] is slowly being accepted back into society—in the 1920s, hemp was used regularly in everyday life, from newspapers to cannabis tinctures for digestion.” The allure to CBD-infused products can be more about demystifying a hype and participating in the plant’s deep culture than its scientifically-proven benefits.

Even though CBD has so many amazing benefits for skin care, the wild world of CBD is still in its formative stages. Catherine Loverich, owner of New York delivery service The CBD Cloud, warns:


Since the CBD industry is expected to exceed $1 billion by 2020, it’s important to be aware and literate so you can find products that work well for your skin. CBD is being touted as a magic potion that cures all skin care ailments, but it’s still important to have the facts in mind. With this freshly dropped knowledge on that THC-free good green, we hope that you’ll go forth and glow accordingly with all that CBD has to offer.

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