Evidence of marijuana’s many health benefits is nothing new.Weed-based beauty products are suddenly chic. Moisturizers, soap, lip balms, candles and even fancy serums spiked with cannabidiol oil — one of the natural compounds found in the cannabis plant — and other derivatives of the cannabis plant have begun to appear in a new crop (pun intended) of beauty lines that seek to appeal to a stylish consumer base. Call it The Alexander Wang/Rihanna Effect: for fashion people, displaying one’s penchant for pot is cool. But as it turns out, weed (well, more specifically, CBD oil) is also a really great beauty ingredient.
First things first: CBD oil in skin care is truly nothing new. And before you even ask, no, it’s not going to get you high. “It’s important to recognize that hemp seed oil has been used for decades for its skin benefits, and while it comes from a plant related to marijuana, it does not contain high levels of the compound THC responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He’s a big proponent of the ingredient when it comes to skin care. When I asked if he’d recommend CBD-oil-based products to his patients, he didn’t hesitate: “Definitely. They provide excellent hydration from natural sources.”
There’s science that supports the notion that CBD oil is actually a fairly remarkable and effective skin-care ingredient. “There is lab data suggesting that cannabis seed oil is anti-inflammatory and may help decrease activity of oil glands, which may explain a benefit in acne,” says Zeichner, citing a 2014 study. In terms of helping skin retain moisture, CBD oil might be effective there as well. “Cannabis oil is rich in fatty acids, which fill in the cracks between skin cells like mortar between bricks. It also has moisturizing and skin soothing properties, which makes it useful in treating dry skin and rashes like eczema,” says Zeichner.
One such company is Herb Essntls, a tightly edited line of cannabis-sativa-oil-laced products that includes a lip balm, body lotion, facial moisturizer and candle. The products, priced between $12 (for the lip balm) and $65 (for the candle), come housed in stark, black-and-white packaging with a modern looking logo. Those are them, above — tell me they aren’t chic as hell. You know you’d ‘gram it. And fashionable retailers agree: Herb Essntls is currently sold at The Frankie Shop and In Support Of in New York City, as well as in boutiques in Portland, Stockholm and Paris.
Founders Robert Lund and Ulrika Karlberg, both from Sweden, have a background in marketing across a variety of industries. “Cannabis in all forms has gone from a big and longstanding cultural movement with a message of love and tolerance to a mainstream megatrend,” says Lund. He and Karlberg walked me through the process of what it’s like to source the ingredient for products. “We are using cannabis sativa seed oil as our main ingredient, so there are no legal issues whatsoever. CBD is a tiny bit trickier, but it’s not a legal issue, it’s more of a costing issue. As legal grow houses and fields are exploding onto the market, any issues with the non-psychoactive derivatives from the plant will disappear pretty fast. When it comes to THC, however, it’s a different playing field. THC infused products are only allowed to be sold in licensed dispensaries. The benefit for THC in skin care is also a bit unclear at the moment, which is why we’re not using it in our products right now.” But the duo doesn’t rule out potentially using THC in the future.
Spafinder Wellness 365 reports that many marijuana dispensaries have been aligning themselves with the spa school of thought, adopting similar, blissed-out offerings, like massage, acupuncture, “medicinal” smoothies, and consults with naturopaths. Editor-in-chief Elaine D’Farley says the growing support for marijuana legalization and an increased awareness of the potential benefits of cannabis are the driving forces behind this movement. As it stands, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington, D.C., have green-lit recreational use of pot; 23 states allow some form of medicinal use. And with more legalization initiatives on the 2016 ballot, many more states could follow suit later this year.
Clinical studies have found THC to be a pain reliever, antioxidant, and suppressor of seizures. CBD has anxiety-quelling, antibacterial, even cancer-killing properties. In the derm realm, these same molecules are proving to be useful remedies for treating skin woes, like acne, psoriasis, and eczema (more on that ahead). Yet, despite all the buzz, our understanding of cannabis and the ways it can benefit our skin, hair, and senses has been hazy at best…until now.
Ahead, we call on dermatologists, cosmetic chemists, perfumers, botanists, even a couple of neuroscientists and psychopharmacology researchers (the guys who investigate myriad uses for medical marijuana) to enlighten us on the age-old ingredient when it comes to makeup, fragrance, skin, and hair care. It’s high time, wouldn’t you say?