The lives of beauty editors and influencers are enviable indeed, at least when it comes to swag.

They routinely receive samples of just-dropped products boasting a wide range of anti-ageing properties, from caviar to stimulate collagen production to clay masks that fizzles on your skin like Pop Rocks and allegedly shrinks pores.

In recent months, the beauty influencers in Costhetics network say they’ve been receiving a variety of cosmetic cannabis products that promise a range of facial rejuvenation benefits. When established companies like Estee Lauder and Sephora, and beauty resources including Harper’s Bazaar Australia and Pop Sugar are weighing in on the subject, Team Costhetics knew it was time to get the facts for you.

Cannabis Beauty: Why Now?

Cannabis proves that everything old is new again. It’s believed that Cleopatra, Egypt’s original beauty queen, used naturally derived cannabis oil to keep her skin looking gorgeous for Mark Antony and Julius Caesar. The 21st Century has seen increased demand for ingredients sourced from Mother Nature and cannabis fits right into that zeitgeist.

In The Sydney Morning Herald article High on the List of Priorities: Cannabis Beauty Takes Off, the newspaper quotes Alexia Inge, co-founder of the cannabis-inclusive Cult Beauty company as saying, “The legalisation of Marijuana [in 10 U.S. states] has led to a flurry of research on the effects it has on the human body. It’s widely celebrated for its medicinal properties, but one of the unexpected side effects was the discovery of how amazingly calming and anti-inflammatory certain cannabinoids are on the skin.”

The enthusiasm for legalised cannabis in Australia is growing, too. Echoing the decision of several states in America, Sydney legalised the recreational possession and cultivation of the plant in 2019, despite the fact it remains prohibited federally. (Medical marijuana was legalised in 2016.) The profit potential for cannabis-based products has not escaped retailers. As reported by Bustle, the Hemp Business Journal says worldwide sales of CBD products exceeded $580 million (AUD) in 2018 alone. That’s just the tip of the cannabis iceberg, however.

According to Brightfield Group, a company that specialises in cannabis and CBD market research, CBD is the “next hot, functional beauty ingredient,” that just might have a similar impact on the beauty industry as Shea butter and aloe. Due to the increased interest in cannabis’ use in medical, recreational, and cosmetic categories, the CBD industry is expected to reach an estimated value of $22 billion by 2022.

You see what we did there? We switched from talking about the cannabis beauty industry to the CBD industry. The distinction is important and we’ll help explain why very soon.

Smoking Out the Truth: Cannabis FAQ’s

Unless you’re Willie Nelson, you may not have a strong grasp of the nuances of cannabis culture. Let’s bring you up to speed, starting with information about CBD, THC, and their use in beauty products.


  • What is CBD? – CBD is short for cannabidiol, one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis (marijuana) plants. It’s being used as an ingredient in oils and edibles. CBD has been shown to have calming properties and a positive effect on skin inflammation. CBD does not have intoxicating effects and is legal for use in Australia.


  • What is THC? – THC is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, another chemical compound found in cannabis. Although THC does have anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial in topical skin care, researchers say it is too early to endorse its effects. THC is responsible for marijuana’s signature ‘high’ and is illegal in Australia.


  • What is CBD oil? – CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the entire cannabis plant. The CBD is then diluted with hemp seed or coconut oil for topical use.


  • What is hemp seed oil? – Hemp seeds are the seed portion of a cannabis plant. The oil is made by pressing the seeds. Like other seed oils including sunflower seed and jojoba oil, hemp seed is high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. It contains no cannabinoids (no THC or CBD) and does not offer the same skin benefits as oil with cannabinoids.

Cannabis, How Do You Do That Thing You Do?

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, but did you realise it’s also your body’s first line of defence against invasive toxins. The skin acts as a protective layer with the body’s highest density of cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors sit on the cell surfaces, waiting for specific neurotransmitters (those found in cannabis) to bind them. Different types of receptors are found in other parts of the body, as well, in what is known as your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is “a network of receptors found throughout every mammal,” a representative from Dosist said in a The Zoe Report article titled What to Know about CBD Before Putting It On Your Skin. Dosist is a company known for its CBD dose pens. Your body depends on the ECS to keep it in balance and regulate important functions including:

  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Appetite
  • Immune function
  • Stress

Cannabinoids are the key to unlocking these receptors and triggering natural body processes that can reduce inflammation, calm anxiety, and soothe skin.

Maybe It’s Cannabis, Maybe It’s These 6 Ingredients

There’s an alternate theory about CBD skincare formulations. Cannabis sceptics say the real stars of these products are other ingredients, not the ones derived from cannabis. They’re talking about:


  • Vitamin E – Also known as tocopherol, Vitamin E is a known antioxidant with calming and anti-inflammatory properties. It slows down signs of ageing by neutralising free radicals and improving the efficacy of sunscreen.


  • Vitamin A – Added to creams, it can boost collagen and plump skin, improving skin tone and alleviating pigmentation problems.


  • Squalane – An oil produced naturally in our skin which mimics sebum and balances oil production.


  • Melatonin – With properties similar to CBD when ingested, topical melatonin is an antioxidant that can reduce and prevent sunspots and fine lines due to photodamage from the sun.


  • Caffeine – Caffeine derived from paullinia cupana extract (also known as guarana) reduces puffiness under the eyes.


  • Healing acids – Eye creams may contain acids that hydrate and plump the skin, helping fine lines and wrinkles disappear.

High Time for Skin Care

As long as cannabis-based skin care products contain only trace amounts of regulated THC, they can legally be sold to consumers. Your skin, however, may still experience euphoria when it reads this list of benefits that can be derived from non-intoxicating hemp seed oil and CBD Oil:

  • Improve complexion
  • Blot up excess oil
  • Soften wrinkles
  • Erase fine lines

Products with hemp seed oil are rich in several vitamins, as well as Omega fatty acids, which has a hydrating and plumping effect on the skin. Hemp oil also contains magnesium-rich chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is just what your skin needs during the winter thanks to its hydrating effects and ability to soothe itchy, red skin.

CBD oil, extracted from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of cannabis, provide a significantly higher level of anti-ageing and regenerative effects than help seed oil. One reason may be the “entourage effect” whereby three different parts of the plant work together in a way that amplifies the overall benefits.

Your Skin’s Love Affair with CBD

While much more research needs to be done, the existing anecdotal evidence and limited studies point to CBD’s positive healing potential. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers found that CBD can help reduce acne by curbing the production of sebum that leads to unwanted breakouts. Another promising cannabinoid study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD substantially reduced chronic inflammation.

Other reasons Costhetics has found for the rush to cannabis-based skincare include:


  • Healing Properties – CBD has therapeutic and anti-inflammation properties and may be more effective than vitamins C and A as an antioxidant. CBD has said to help treat and repair irritated skin, soothe painful acne, and stimulate cell regeneration for a healthier, youthful look.


  • Controls Sebaceous Glands – There are many cannabis-derived beauty products offering to help people dealing with acne. The best of all contain CBD oil, which inhibits the activity of sebaceous glands to keep skin smooth and clear.


  • Produces Lipids – Research indicates that CBD has the ability to produce lipids to support your skin’s barrier function, as well as regulate and treat skin cells.


  • Anti-Bacterial Properties – Packed with terpenes, CBD can work as both an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic to heal and cure infected skin. (In nature, terpenes repel predators and lure pollinators.)


  • Immuno-suppressive – CBD, like other cannabinoids, has immunosuppressive properties. It addresses skin conditions from the inside out and can be useful in the treatment of severe skin diseases like psoriasis.


  • 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 ageing and cancer, so using CBD oil can ease dry skin and result in a healthier, more protected skin.


  • Limits Signs of Ageing – CBD oil’s Omega-6 fatty acids can help offset the signs of ageing by targeting free radicals that can cause signs of ageing like wrinkles.


  • Helps Treat Psoriasis, Eczema, and Other Skin Conditions – CBD oil is believed to have a positive impact on psoriasis and eczema because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Preliminary research findings suggest CBD oils may even help prevent melanomas.

This is just the beginning of an emerging beauty trend that’s being developed using cannabis-derived beauty products. Costhetics looks forward to seeing the ‘next big thing’ so we can report all the good news to you, but first let’s talk more about what’s on market shelves now.

The Full Spectrum of CBD Beauty Offerings

CBD comes in a variety of formulations:

  • Full Spectrum: Cannabis extract with all cannabinoids, including THC, along with minerals, vitamins, omega acids, and terpenes. (Don’t be alarmed though, you won’t get a buzz from these products as the THC content is minimal.) Full spectrum cannabis beauty products, like full spectrum sunscreen, provide more of what your skin needs.


  • Broad Spectrum: Cannabis extract with all cannabinoids, but no a hint of THC. Broad-spectrum products still deliver the benefits of using multiple parts of the plant.


  • Isolate: An isolate is CBD pure and simple, without any other cannabinoids, oils, plant material, waxes, and chlorophyll. It is the ‘cleanest’ form of CBD, but not necessarily the most potent. Researchers agree that CBD proves to be more powerful. As a result, you might need to use more of the isolate for it to be as effective as a broad- or full-spectrum product. The reason isolates are popular is that they are less likely to be affected by additives such as fragrances, which can cause problems with the terpenes, plant material, and cannabinoids in full spectrum products.

Before we talk about more about CBD and your skin, let’s first discuss the difference between eating a CBD gummy and applying a CBD balm to your skin.

CBD Topical Skin Care vs. CBD Supplements

CBD supplements have the potential to affect skin through multiple internal pathways, some better than others. When you eat CBD-derived supplements, 100% of the chemical will reach your bloodstream, through the glands underneath your tongue or through your digestive tract. That’s fast, but not necessarily productive as digestion can reduce the bioavailability of CBD’s active properties.

Topical applications of CBD do not reach your bloodstream. Instead, they are absorbed by the receptors in your skin and never make it to your bloodstream. In order to do so, it would need to be administered by a patch or a gel specifically made with that function in mind. There are, however, many things CBD can do from the outside, providing a local and more direct benefit.

There are limited studies showing both ingestible and topical CBD delivery can be useful in dealing with skin issues. For patients with chronic skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, a CBD sublingual tincture may prove valuable. Some people say it’s similar to comparing collagen supplements with collagen moisturisers. Both may work, but you will likely have to wait longer to enjoy the benefits of the supplements.

Want to try both? Go ahead! Cannabis-derived beauty products are thought of as quite safe.

You Don’t Have to Wait Until 2020 for 420 Beauty

From facial oils to body washes, Costhetics has discovered lots of products to help you light up your life with cannabis-derived beauty products. With everything you’ve learned in this article, you can choose from:

  • Bath Soak/Bath Bombs – Cannabis sativa oil helps reduce tension and enhance blood circulation to relax and soothe the body. Both products include meadowfoam seed oil to lock in moisture or poppy seed oil to improve skin elasticity.


  • Eye Balm – CBD oil can help reduce puffiness and help erase the appearance of dark circles and fine lines. Fun fact: the balm is initially cool to the touch, but it warms to a soft, silky consistency when you apply it to your skin.


  • Face Mask – A cannabis sativa oil mask can hydrate and help retain moisture while soothing the skin.


  • Facial Moisturiser – Look for hydrating facial moisturisers that include hemp oil, olive oil-derived squalane and soothing cannabis essential oil for skin that is radiant and blissed out to the max.


  • Lip Balm – A cannabis-derived balm can help lips rebuild their natural oil barrier. It prevents moisture loss and ensures your lips stay hydrated throughout the day.


  • Tissue Repair Serum – Serums made with cannabis oil rebuild skin cells to give you glowing skin.

Cannabis beauty products should only be sourced from a reliable retailer and manufacturer. The market is a little wild right now, making it doubly important to ask questions and do your research.

  • Does the product actually contain CBD?
  • Does the product contain hemp seed oil?
  • How much CBD is in the product?
  • What studies show this product actually works?
  • Are complementary ingredients used in the formulation?
  • How well does the product absorb into skin?

Costhetics always recommends optimistic scepticism. Leave the cynicism at home.

Closing Thoughts on CBD, THC & Beauty: Put that in Your Pipe & Smoke It

Research has only scratched the surface of cannabis power, but the industry is evolving every day. There have not yet been any clinical studies to show cannabis-derived beauty products are any more effective than other varieties of skin care. Until further data comes out, you might do just as well with products that contain known skin care vitamins and other better-studied antioxidants. Costhetics will keep covering this evolving beauty topic so we can keep you informed.

High and good-bye!

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