Should you be using CBD oil?

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is the skincare industry’s latest anti-inflammatory wonder ingredient. But is there any scientific basis for the buzz? CHRISTINE LENNON investigates


Depending on who you ask, cannabis is either a miracle cure, an addictive and dangerous psychoactive drug, or the culprit behind many misguided Seth Rogen comedies. It’s hard to think of a plant more polarizing. However, in recent years, the scientific community has been increasingly open to the medicinal properties of cannabis to treat pain and anxiety. In the US, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is now legal by prescription in 31 states, but it’s cannabidiol, or CBD for short, that has grabbed the attention of beauty and wellbeing enthusiasts. Due to its reportedly powerful anti-inflammatory effects, it’s today’s buzziest skincare ingredient.

What is CBD oil?

The cannabis plant contains over 100 different compounds, one of which is CBD. This compound does not have psychoactive properties, as it contains no or very low amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the mind-altering effects – the ‘high’ – traditionally associated with the plant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has just approved CBD-rich Epidiolex, which is taken orally, to control seizures in epilepsy patients, and CBD is increasingly being used in oil and lotion form to treat pain and inflammation. There is also promising but early research (and lots of anecdotal evidence) confirming CBD’s benefits in treating inflammation from arthritis to acne, hence its potential in the beauty industry. “Cannabinoids such as CBD appear to be able to bind to receptors in the skin, decreasing inflammation and irritation,” says Dr Robert Dellavalle of the University of Colorado, who led a 2017 study into the use of cannabinoids. “However, clinical research is needed to confirm these effects beyond a doubt and to determine the best combinations and concentrations to use.”

How does CBD oil treat skin?

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, plant-driven skincare formulators are excited about the possibilities of CBD oil, which has been proven to be effective in even trace quantities. “Mostly, it reduces inflammation, which could mean acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, broken capillaries and even sunburn,” says New York-based facialist Ildi Pekar, who has formulated four topical CBD-rich products, including a facial serum and a roll-on formula for menstrual cramps. Based in LA, Lord Jones is another cannabis company that produces edibles, topicals, tinctures and soon-to-be-released skincare, which celebrity stylist Karla Welch reportedly gives to clients like actress Busy Philipps, who slather it on their feet to prepare for long nights in stilettos.

“The science of CBD is pretty new and there needs to be more research,” says plant-based skincare pioneer Tata Harper, who is tinkering with her own formulation and uses the ingredient in her own regimen. “Hemp seed oil, which contains CBD, is nutrient-rich and offers many benefits beyond CBD alone,” she explains, adding that it contains vitamins A and E (good for wrinkle reduction), omega-3 and omega-6, antioxidant flavonoids and chlorophyll, which treats pigmentation.

CAP Beauty, the cult-favorite natural-beauty emporium in New York City, is just as convinced of the healing properties of CBD. It currently sells an ingestible product formulated by Colorado-based brand Apothecanna, but is working on its own CBD topicals. “Living in our modern world, almost everyone has an issue with inflammation, and CBD is a very powerful antioxidant that addresses that issue, and offers protection from UV rays and environmental pollutions,” says CAP co-founder Kerrilynn Pamer.

Is CBD legal and is it safe?

Cannabis is illegal in many countries, including the US at a federal level, and the distribution of hemp and CBD oil also varies widely from state to state in the US, as well as from country to country, so you need to do your research. As ever, speak to your doctor or health practitioner first and, until there is tighter and more uniform legislation on the use of CBD within skincare, only invest in trusted and established brands.

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.