The body of evidence grows: Marijuana is good skincare.
Topical cannabis won’t get you high, but the same qualities that give it the power to relieve pain and soothe irritated skin are finding their way into balms, bath soaks and beauty products that boast anti-inflammatory and anti-aging powers.
“The relief from inflammation – that has an application for pain, an application for swelling, an application for redness or itching … and it also has an application for dark circles and skin irritations,” says James Kennedy, cofounder of Apothecanna, which has been making all-natural, organic, cannabis-infused lotions and oils since 2009.
Select products from the Apothecanna line became available on the Eaze platform this week, including Relieving Creme and Relieving Oil, which are exclusively re-launching on the Eaze marketplace.
But do they work?
There is, in fact, growing clinical evidence to support that they can.
The anti-inflammatory power of cannabis is well-established when inhaled or ingested, which speeds cannabinoids into the bloodstream. Topicals, which soak into the dermal layer but don’t cross into the blood, have not been as well-researched – though a 2015 clinical study involving mice demonstrated that CBD, in particular, decreased skin inflammation by binding with subdermal CB2 receptors.
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Precisely what healing powers cannabis topicals may possess isn’t well-known, and scientists are still exploring its benefits and applications. That’s because while researchers have known about the endocannabinoid system for a few decades now, they only recently discovered that the skin has an endocannabinoid system of its own.
“We’re still discovering ways to use our products,” adds fellow Apothecanna cofounder Joie Meffert.
Your mileage may vary.
“Putting cannabinoids on your skin, in my firsthand experience, literally takes the wrinkles away,” says Maya Elisabeth, founder of San Francisco-based Om Edibles and creator of the brand’s (potentially wrinkle-removing) Rose Body Oil. “It’s insane. This plant just keeps giving and giving and giving.”
There’s a wide range of individual responses to all types of cannabis therapies. But this much we know: The endocannabinoid system is at play in nearly every skin function, says Dr. Tamas Biro, director of immunology at the University of Debrecen, Hungary, and adviser to a cannabis biotech research company.
“This includes the skin barrier, which is very important for moisture retention, sebum production, and sweat-gland function, as well as skin-centric sensory functions such as pain and itch,” he told Elle magazine. “But perhaps most important, it appears that the endocannabinoid system controls skin inflammation — so if an inflammatory or irritation challenge assaults the skin, the endocannabinoid system fights against it.”
That anti-inflammatory effect, along with cannabis’s role in sebum regulation, makes it a potential powerhouse cosmetic ingredient, Biro says. Early lab tests show topical CBD can prevent the inflammation and oil overproduction associated with breakouts.
We repeat: They won’t get you high.
Because marijuana-infused skincare potions have no psychoactive properties, they’re ideal “gateway” products for curious new cannabis consumers and the broader marketplace: those who have no interest consuming cannabis or getting high but are seeking a topical solution for pain or smoother, healthier skin.
“We love to create topicals for people, because not everybody wants to consume things all the time, with their mouth, and some people prefer not to be altered at all,” says Elisabeth, of Om Edibles. “Some people just want to be able to find relief.”
Unlike transdermal cannabis patches, whose active ingredients can be transmitted into the bloodstream through the skin, topical cannabis lotions, balms and sprays don’t penetrate the dermal layer.
“These products stay localized to that specific region and are responding to receptors in that region, so it’s tremendously effective to use a topical cannabis product,” says Kennedy.
And they’re not just for vanity’s sake.
Anti-inflammatory power also means less pain and swelling, which is how Apothecanna’s best-selling product, the Extra Strength Relief Crème, became a surprise hit in one Steamboat Springs, Colorado, senior community. Elderly folks there found it eased their arthritis pain like nothing else.
“One dispensary called and asked if we were running some kind of promotion because they had so many seniors coming in for the product,” Kennedy recalls.
Today, the brand is as popular with health enthusiasts as it is with seniors and regular cannabis consumers.
But beauty can be only skin-deep.
The plant’s antioxidant effects show promise for smoothing skin, improving skin tone and fighting everyday environmental toxins and free-radical exposure.
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“Basically, antioxidants cancel free-radicals,” Elisabeth says.
Even corporate cosmetics companies are embracing cannabis for its skin-soothing effects: Estee Lauder’s Origins line recently introduced a face mask infused with cannabis seed oil. A GQ writer wrote earlier this year that he was experimenting with cannabis-infused products and appreciated the texture and moisturizing power of Apothecanna’s Everyday Face and Body Oil.
“I use it every day from head to toe,” Elisabeth says.
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