Beauty + WellnessUses

CBD Beauty Benefits Might Be Overhyped

In 2019, comedian Lewis Black appeared on The Daily Show to talk about the new health craze, CBD. He looked at CBD yoga, coffee, cookies and other related items that people claim improve health and wellness, yet he noted that nearly all of these claims lack conclusive evidence. This led Lewis to joke,”The ‘B’ in CBD might stand for bullshit.” 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a plant compound found in hemp flowers that affects neurotransmitter activity in the body, and laboratories can extract the chemical from hemp plants and add it to food, medicine and creams. Science has established that CBD can help with pediatric epilepsy, and preliminary evidence suggests it might improve symptoms of pain, insomnia, inflammation, pain and mental health disorders. Government prohibitions hindered CBD study for decades, but proper clinical trials are now underway with more conclusive findings expected over the next couple of years. 

Yes, answers are coming, but some companies already made up their own answers that naturally promote the sale of their products. This is particularly true in the beauty industry with CBD face creams. 

A Clinics in Dermatology study highlighted all the beauty claims being made: “Cannabidiol has garnered considerable attention in the public and media as a trendy and popular ingredient in skincare products…. It has been marketed to consumers as being anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hydrating, moisturizing, and wrinkle-reducing. Others claim it to be a cure for skin aging, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and pruritus.” 

Those are some big marketing claims, but as the researchers noted, these claims lack data and evidence, and there are real “regulatory concerns.” Still, retail CBD creams sell at premium prices with bold claims and questionable results. 

What benefits do CBD creams provide? 

The anti-inflammatory potential of CBD might make it an effective tool in treating arthritic pain, immobility and sunburn. What about the possible beauty benefits? The creams might reduce redness and inflammation in the face — benefits that other parts of the hemp plant can provide without the complicated extraction process and higher price point — so they really don’t offer much. This likely inspired the In the Gloss headline, “Turns out CBD beauty products might be a lie.” 

Remember, CBD is not a vitamin or a mineral or a moisturizer or an essential fatty acid — it is a plant chemical extracted from hemp that indirectly helps produce chemicals in the body that act on the immune system. For this reason, CBD is typically taken orally, which is how most researchers study it. Topical-use studies to date are mostly preclinical (i.e., tested on animals, not humans), and even those tend to focus on pain and inflammation, not beauty. Future studies might find that CBD alone provides beauty benefits, but most of the research points in the sole direction of medical therapeutics. 

Why then do so many people swear by CBD beauty creams? Simply put, many people unintentionally give credit to the wrong part of the hemp plant. 

Here’s an example. The Huffington Post article “Do CBD Beauty and Skin Care Products Really Work?” said the following: “CBD has potential for acne treatment because of another role it can play in regulating oil gland cells. ‘In a single-blinded, split-face study, 3% cannabis seed extract cream decreased skin sebum and erythema content, demonstrating a potential treatment for acne vulgaris and seborrhea,’ [dermatologist Adam] Friedman said. In other words, when applied topically, CBD could calm down oily skin and therefore reduce the potential for clogged pores and breakouts.”

Well, not exactly. The author used a hemp seed study to highlight the beauty benefits of CBD, but CBD comes from hemp flowers, not seeds, which contain little if any CBD at all. It’s a bit like trying to claim the plastic in a water bottle provides hydration. 

This is the type of inaccurate reporting that confuses the public. 

To quote a VICE reporter who tried 40 different CBD skincare brands, “Some of these moisturizing CBD products have soothing emollients such as manuka honey, and cocoa and shea butter. We can’t really know if it’s the CBD in the product or the other stuff that’s making a difference until we have some more formal research on humans.” 

VICE points to manuka honey and shea butter as the likely source of the benefits, but the source can also be the other part of the hemp plant we just mentioned: the seeds. The study referenced by the Huffington Post is just one of many that highlights the benefits of cold-pressed seed oil from organic hemp plants. 

Seed oil delivers generous amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids like alpha-linolenic (omega-3) and gamma-linolenic (omega-6), all of which have real potential benefits for healthier skin. A 2014 study concluded that hemp seed oil is an “excellent choice for nourishing the skin and protecting it from inflammation, oxidation and other causes of aging,” highlighting its potential as a treatment for skin issues like eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, varicose eczema, inflammatory skin conditions and acne. Food Chemistry published a study in 2002 that said seed oil has potential as a broad spectrum UV protectant sunscreen, while other studies suggest simply eating hemp seeds might promote healthier skin. While many mositurizers clog the pores, hemp oil does not, and other skin-related studies suggest it can help increase moisture content, skin thickness, and collagen and elastic fibers; decrease dryness, redness, itchiness and irritation; and repair the outlayer of the skin. In 2010, Beijing-based researchers summarized these benefits as the “anti-aging effect of hemp seed oil.” 

Herein may lie the source of the confusion. CBD oil is actually CBD + oil, and many companies simply add CBD isolate to a hemp seed oil so that they can charge a premium. The seed oil does all the work, while the CBD justifies jacking up the price. 

Sounds shady, right? 

Some companies also seem to exaggerate CBD’s potential beauty benefits. For example, one skincare brand boldly proclaimed, “CBD skin care is hot right now — so hot that it’s surrounded by all sorts of marketing claims and rumors. As hemp experts, we won’t let half-truths hide the skin-calming, youth-boosting effects of CBD. Here, we’re separating myths from facts.” 

Right on! Sounds great. So, what are the facts? 

“CBD helps reduce redness and soothe the skin,” the site continued. “It also helps counteract breakouts by helping to regulate bacteria and lipids, and it softens the look of signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. Smoothing CBD on your skin, rather than taking it as a supplement, allows you to get targeted results more quickly.”

It’s far from a “fact” that CBD delivers all this, especially the “youth-boosting effects” that softens fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging. The same goes for its CBD shampoo claims, which seem to suggest CBD strengthens hair and brings balance to your scalp and hair.

Unfortunately, the concerns don’t stop at the marketing level.  

In 2019, the Mayo Clinic warned, “Care must be taken when directing patients toward CBD products because there is little regulation, and studies have found inaccurate labeling of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol quantities.” Case in point, a 2018 study ran tests on 14 different CBD brands, and nine failed to deliver what the packaging promised. Worse still, the FDA found that some brands add dangerously high levels of lead, and it issued warning letters and a mandatory recall of several CBD products in July 2020. Worse still, an Associated Press investigation in 2019 found that “some operators are cashing in on the CBD craze by substituting cheap and illegal synthetic marijuana for natural CBD.” 

CBS News reported on a lab that ran its own tests on various CBD oil products, and the lab founder said it best: “What you get on the shelf is, you don’t really know.” 

Unlike CBD, hemp seed oil does not come from chemical extraction in some laboratory, it’s the natural oil produced from the seeds when pressed, and it’s arguably one of the most effective ingredients of any kind in a beauty product. Still, like CBD, quality matters. The best of the best comes from cold-pressed seeds sourced from pesticide-free, non-GMO organic hemp grown in the United States. 

Settle for nothing less because lower-quality seeds produce lower-quality oils, and your face deserves the very best. 

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