Van der Pop

Green Glow


Dear Vandy,

Do cannabis-infused cosmetics really work?

Green Glow

Illustration by Leia Bryans

Illustration by Leia Bryans

Dear Green Glow,

Cannabis-infused products may seem like a marketing gimmick, especially considering how quickly beauty trends proliferate. CBD (cannabidiol), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound, is now in everything from bath bombs to sheet masks and is becoming a more popular beauty ingredient by the second. (There’s no way it’s not being studied in the labs of major brands as we speak.)

Here’s some background information to help navigate this ocean of new products and their potential benefits.

First, just look at the reputation of plain old hemp seed oil. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can thin sebum and help to heal acne and wounds. It’s pretty cool that most parts of the plant have a beauty use, in addition to hemp seeds having great nutritional value.

Your body has a vast, and still not completely understood, endocannabinoid system. We are sure that it can shift appetite, sleep, body temperature, immune and reproductive function, and yet we haven’t even mapped all the relevant components of the system — just the first two “official” puzzle pieces. CB1 and CB2 receptors accept cannabinoids in the brain and other tissues like skin, and they’re the means by which we get high, find relief from anxiety, or experience any other benefits of the cannabis plant.

Additionally, the phytochemicals in cannabis — such as terpenes — generate tastes, smells, and colors in many plants. You may recognize them most easily from the oil you see and smell when you squeeze a lemon peel or sniff the strain, Super Lemon Haze. Essential oils like lavender and tea tree are also terpenes, and the skin loves them in safe doses.

So what are the benefits to using cannabis in cosmetics? Just like when taken on the inside, cannabinoids like CBD are very promising to those with inflammatory skin conditions and other concerns when applied topically. We don’t know entirely enough about why CBD, THC and some of the less-discussed cannabinoids are helpful to the skin in particular, but we’re beginning to uncover exciting theories about their healing and balancing potential.

Studies are generating cool info and pointing to cannabinoids’ potential antioxidant effects. This one discusses how CBD helps to control sebum and treat acne — probably one of the last things anyone thought cannabis could help with. Others explore the anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting action that CBD can provide. We haven't even started to look at how this could potentially help to repair photo-damaged skin (skin that has an uneven texture, irregular pigmentation and other damage that occurs from exposure to UVA or UVB rays from the sun) or even build collagen, two of beauty’s big money-making categories.

The truth is, as we keep peeling back the detritus of prohibition, we keep uncovering the benefits of cannabis that hold a new promise in the maintenance of these bodies of ours, both inside and out. And that means big money for beauty brands and cannabis brands alike, so watch this intersection closely.

Highest regards,

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.

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