Cannabis sativa plants contain a large variety of cannabinoids. The most studied and significant cannabinoids are called THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound responsible for the psychological effects of cannabis) and CBD (cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component). 1
There are 5 types of Cannabis sativa plants depending on the levels of cannabinoids present in the plant (as shown in the table below). Generally, two main types of plants are colloquially spoken about: Cannabis (Type 1-2) and Hemp (type 3-5). 1
Traditionally, the hemp plant has been used for the fibre hemp used to make rope or textiles. More recently, following the increase in popularity amongst the public, hemp is used for the extraction of high levels of CBD with less than 0.2% THC, which can be introduced to cosmetics.
When the compound is extracted from the hemp plant, it is initially collected as the naturally occurring acid derivative, cannabidiol acid (CBDA). CBDA cannot cross the cell membranes so it must undergo an activating chemical reaction known as decarboxylation. This is done by applying heat that transforms it into the CBD found in marketed products. The final oil will also contain some other lipophilic compounds like vitamin E and phenolic acid, which add to the beneficiary effects of using CBD oil. 2
CBD and the Skin
Cannabinoids have been introduced into the world of cosmetics due to their action on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is found in the human body. The endocannabinoid system is composed of a network of receptors found in various cells in the body which can control factors like pain, itch, mood, and appetite. CBD can interact with some of these receptors providing some beneficial effects. Additionally, CBD has been shown to interact with TRP receptors and even some enzymes. 3
So, let’s take a look at how CBD oil is used within the world of cosmetics:
CBD is used to enhance the hydration and calming properties of many skincare products. As previously mentioned, compounds such as vitamin E, omega 3, 6 and 9, and phenolic acid may also be found in CBD oil. These are good antioxidants which help capture free radicals in the skin, therefore, slowing down the ageing process, allowing products to carry the “anti-ageing” claim. 4
As it shows anti-inflammatory and sebum-regulating properties, it can be used to adapt skincare for customers suffering from inflammatory skin diseases such as acne, psoriasis, or eczema. Although they are not pharmaceutical products, they will not treat the diseases, but they can help relieve some of the symptoms. 5
CBD oil contains a high content of other lipophilic compounds which can help some make-up products become more hydrating and nourishing to the skin.4 This is mainly observed in products containing oily components such as lipstick, foundation, mascara, and eyeliners.
In the EU, the use of CBD in cosmetics was legalised in February 2021, highlighting that the CBD must be derived from cannabis extract, tincture or resin or be synthetically produced. The cosmetic product must have no trace of THC to be legally marketed. Other markets follow different regulations therefore the presence of CBD cosmetic products in the market may differ around the world. It is also important to note that CBD cosmetic products cannot claim to have medicinal or therapeutic effects. 6
1) Aizpurua-Olaizola, Oier et al. “Evolution of the Cannabinoid and Terpene Content during the Growth of Cannabis sativa Plants from Different Chemotypes.” Journal of natural products vol. 79,2 (2016): 324-31. doi:10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00949
2) Rupasinghe, H. P. Vasantha, et al. “Industrial Hemp (Cannabis Sativa Subsp. Sativa) as an Emerging Source for Value-Added Functional Food Ingredients and Nutraceuticals.” Molecules, vol. 25, no. 18, Sept. 2020, p. 4078. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25184078.
3) Baswan, Sudhir M et al. “Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology vol. 13 927-942. 8 Dec. 2020, doi:10.2147/CCID.S286411
4) Mnekin, Léonid, and Lionel Ripoll. “Topical Use of Cannabis Sativa L. Biochemicals.” Cosmetics, vol. 8, no. 3, Sept. 2021, p. 85. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics8030085.
5) Oláh, Attila et al. “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.” The Journal of clinical investigation vol. 124,9 (2014): 3713-24. doi:10.1172/JCI64628