Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, is enjoying serious traction in the world of beauty care. Face creams, bath bombs, conditioners and primers are now featuring CBD around the world. And, as the likes of Sephora, Ulta and even the Kardashians adopt similar products, many are asking if the hype is justified.
Grey CBD markets need some colour
Long gone are the ripped jeans, flannels and traditional stereotypes of the average stoner. Instead, the cannabis space is seeing an uptick in health nuts and bubbly social media influencers taking over. Even athletes are turning to the plant to relieve aches and pains.
There’s just one very complicated question: Do CBD beauty products really work?
First off, one needs to define the use case. If users are looking to treat sore muscles, skin irritation or promote healthy hair, then, yes, these products might be helpful. But there’s another condition to be aware of. Because CBD has only recently hit the market, there are very few tried-and-true sources. Often, products claiming to use cannabidiol either have only trace amounts or are using a highly-variable substrate.
In a blind test of 29 different CBD oils conducted last summer, the Centre for Medical Cannabis found one product with 0 percent CBD despite claims to as much as 10 percent. Further, less than half of the 29 CBD products were within the 10 percent range.
Although there haven’t been any serious health risks reported, users are still limited by the lack of clear labels and guidelines. This is all the truer in what has become a labyrinth of varying regulations for CBD throughout Europe.
Before digging into the finer details of CBD-based beauty care products, readers need to keep these points in mind. The sector is booming as brands pivot to capture what is being touted as a cure-all product. These claims, however, are vastly under-researched and lack critical regulatory approval. What emerges is a frontier grey market where users and companies alike are having difficulties cutting through the noise.
First, let’s define the proposed benefits of a few of these products. For the sake of this analysis, assume that the CBD being used is of premium quality. For active individuals, balms, creams and rubs have already been reported to have real anti-inflammatory benefits. Some are even using the compound to replace traditional medicines like ibuprofen.
Former pro-cyclist Floyd Landis felt so strongly about his experience he launched his CBD company called Floyd’s of Leadville. The focus of his Colorado-based firm has been helping primarily endurance athletes.
Landis’ entry into the broader cannabis sphere is also striking. Before being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory for using synthetic testosterone, he was using painkillers to help manage pain related to a hip injury. He soon switched over to cannabis to help ease his pain and wane himself off a budding opioid addiction.
Almost ten years later, a friend suggested he also begin exploring CBD. And, like medical cannabis, he told Outside Magazine:
‘I try not to oversell it, because I don’t want to sound insane. But if you can stop taking other pain medications, if you have a natural solution, that’s probably the better option.’
The New York Times also touched upon the negative effects of long-term use of ibuprofen in 2009. Panellists of the American Geriatrics Society even said that if patients have to decide between the extended ingestion of such painkillers, and still experience little relief, they ‘may be better off taking opiates, like codeine or even morphine.’
Though the research is far from substantial, clinical trials are trickling in confirming CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation. This has implications far beyond the world of sports. Those with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and even irritable bowel syndrome can all benefit from access to high-quality cannabidiol. Here marks the entry into skincare products.
Irritated skin meets its match in CBD
Different airborne pollutants, allergens, diets or simply too much UV exposure can cause the skin to become incredibly irritated. The body’s natural reaction is to start up the immune system and begin fighting back. This, in most cases, is why people develop rashes or experience acne breakouts. It’s the body’s healing response, and it’s totally natural. It can, however, become chronic.
In severe cases, this can cause eczema, psoriasis or rosacea. Now, natural remedies may not kick these irritants entirely, but chamomile, maracuja oil and blue tansy have been known to help soothe and heal the symptoms of these issues. Now, it appears, that cannabidiol can be added to this list. The amount of research has been limited and far from conclusive, but a handful of studies show promise.
In one trial, 20 patients were asked to apply ‘topical CBD-enriched ointment to lesioned skin areas twice daily for three months.’ The group of patients is too small to earn headlines, but the conclusion from researchers from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Medical School was very positive.
‘The results showed that topical treatment with CBD-enriched ointment significantly improved the skin parameters, the symptoms and also the PASI index score. No irritant or allergic reactions were documented during the period [of] treatment.’
Thus, any way to resolve some of the more pesky health and beauty issues also comes with a healthy bounty. Cannabis research firm Prohibition Partners placed this sum at roughly €655 million in 2018.
It also predicted this sum to reach ~€885 million by 2024. This growth will find its strength in the high-end cosmetics niche, according to the firm. This is because of the cost of extracting and manufacturing products that leverage costly processing.
Prohibition Partners writes:
‘The highest-quality CBD is derived through an expensive process using CO2 extraction at a level that is believed to provide genuine performance benefits.’
Even after collecting premium cannabidiol, beauty care businesses will still rely on incoming regulations. At current, there is very little clarity or formal stamp of approval that consumers and entrepreneurs can trust. This makes it very difficult to separate products made in good faith, and those that are exploiting hype.
In the UK, the issue has seen some clarity if only for ingestible versions of CBD.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Great Britain recently announced that pregnant women, those prescribed traditional medications or children should not be taking CBD unless advised by a doctor. Individuals who fall outside of this range should not take any more than 70mg per day.
They even indicated that taking more than this amount could result in liver damage, somnolence and interference with other drugs a consumer may be taking. This is in part due to the uncertainty of non-medical grade CBD products outlined above.
Critically, the announcement signals the beginning of much harsher surveillance of consumers and brands in the UK.
If companies do not file their novel food applications by Mar. 31, 2021, they risk having their products taken from store shelves. Some have criticised the idea, but it can also be seen as the healthy maturation of the market.
In the end, only the best, highest-quality products will survive. This will serve entrepreneurs and consumers alike.