I Wasn’t Fussed About CBD Skincare Until I Tried This Incredible Product
Keeping up with what's what in the world of skincare can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to ingredients. Sure, the likes of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid have been tried and tested and have proven their worth to take up space in our bathroom cabinets, but what about those buzzy ingredients that come out of nowhere and disappear just as fast? When basically everyone started raving about CBD a couple of years ago, I was certain that it would fall into the latter category: a trending beauty fad that wouldn't last. Pretty much all of the press releases that landed in my inbox were focused on CBD oils and their magical abilities to ease stress, calm anxiety, and reduce pain, and I wrote it off as a bit of a placebo to well-being. If it works for you, great. But I wasn't buying into it.
Fast-forward to now, however, and there is no sign that CBD is going anywhere. In fact, its popularity as a scientific skincare ingredient—not just as a stress reliever—is growing fast. So when Paula's Choice, one of my favourite skincare brands of all time, launched a CBD collection last month, my interest was finally piqued. And when I learnt at the launch event that CBD could actually be beneficial for acne-prone skin, well, I was sold.
Before I give you the full low-down on my new favourite CBD skincare product, let's delve a little deeper into what CBD actually is. Cannabidiol—CBD for short—is an active compound, also known as a cannabinoid, naturally found in the cannabis plant. " What makes CBD and cannabinoids so fascinating is the human body also has a complex endocannabinoid system that is found extensively in skin," explains Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice. It can be consumed, which is where we see the mood-calming, pain-relieving, and well-being benefits mentioned earlier, but it can also be used topically to treat an array of skin conditions including eczema, rosacea, and acne.
Despite my initial scepticism, I've been using the Paula's Choice CBD Skin Transformative Treatment Milk (£43) for the past few weeks, and I'm genuinely impressed. While it isn't the only thing that I've recently changed in my skincare routine, I have had a particularly rough few months of dealing with painful breakouts, and since I started using this product, my skin has felt and looked so much calmer. It has a really lightweight consistency that sinks in quickly and feels instantly soothing on the skin, especially on areas with angry, active blemishes, and it immediately brings down redness in those spots. With frequent use, my breakouts have reduced, and overall, my skin feels calmer and looks more even in tone.
All sounds pretty impressive, right? Well, yes. But how does CBD actually work within skincare products to give such impressive results? I caught up with Begoun to find out.
What are the benefits of using CBD skincare products?
"Research has shown that topical application of cannabidiol (aka CBD) reduces inflammation in skin, and because acne is an inflammatory disorder, anything you can do to reduce that inflammation will help diminish breakouts, acne-triggered redness, and help to speed healing time," explains Begoun. "For oily skin, CBD has been shown to decrease oil-producing cells known as sebocytes. CBD can do this because it is a cell-communicating ingredient and can actually 'talk' to these cells that cause too much sebum to be produced and tell the cells to normalise oil production, and the cells listen."
Pretty clever stuff, but it isn't just spot-prone skin that will benefit from CBD skincare. CBD is an anti-inflammatory, and Begoun tells me that all skin types will reap the rewards of this. "Reducing inflammation helps improve every aspect of skin health, including signs of ageing, environmental damage, acne, rosacea, and on and on," says Begoun. "Fighting inflammation is a crucial part of great skincare."
Who should incorporate CBD into their skincare routines?
My prior misconceptions about CBD had me writing it off as an ingredient aimed at young people or those seeking a more natural approach to skincare—I was wrong. Turns out, CBD makes a valuable addition to the skincare routines of all ages.
"When it comes to taking great care of your skin, the earlier you start the better," explains Begoun. "This includes never using products that irritate skin, wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater every day of your life, and making sure your products are loaded with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients. When it comes to CBD, because the body has its own cannabinoid system, applying CBD to reduce inflammation is incredibly helpful at any age."
It's clear that it's CBD's unique targeting of inflammation that makes it such a game-changing ingredient for all of us. " Research over the past 10 years has made it very clear that inflammation is a major problem for almost every skincare concern we have: Acne is an inflammatory disorder, rosacea is an inflammatory disorder, oily skin can be made worse by inflammation, and inflammation is behind most signs of ageing." says Begoun. "Anything you can do to interrupt inflammation is incredibly important. At Paula’s Choice, I’ve been formulating products with anti-inflammatories ingredients for years. Information about inflammation is not new. What is new is the detailed research on just how damaging unchecked inflammation within skin and the body can be and the new ingredients [like CBD] that can provide such impressive results."
What should we look out for when buying CBD skincare products?
While I've definitely had my head turned to the benefits of CBD after trying out the new Paula's Choice range, I'm keen to know if all CBD skincare products are created equal and what we should be checking for when choosing CBD products to add to our routines.
"It’s important to know that it isn’t easy to tell what a CBD product contains," warns Begoun. "Many products list hempseed oil, but unless the hempseed oil has CBD added to it, which is often stated on the label, it doesn’t contain CBD. Hempseed oil is a great ingredient for skin but only contains trace amounts of cannabidiol, if any. To really know that the product you’re buying contains CBD, I think it’s best when the ingredient label states 'cannabidiol' since this is the correct regulatory-compliant name for CBD."
As for choosing the correct dosage? "Many brands selling CBD skin products list the total cannabidiol content in milligrams," explains Begoun. "However, there is no consensus on how much CBD skin needs per application." The amount of CBD used in the Paula's Choice products corresponds to the amount that research shows can reduce inflammation. However, Begoun stresses the importance of choosing a well-rounded skincare product for the best results. "No single ingredient can do it all, [so] both of our CBD products are packed with other skin-beneficial ingredients, including replenishing hempseed oil, emollient squalane, and barrier-replenishing glycerin," she adds.
Begoun also mentioned the importance of choosing CBD skincare products in stable packaging—that means "no jars, clear bottles, or any component that exposes this delicate plant ingredient to a lot of light or air"—to preserve the product's potency and efficacy.
Here's everything you need to know about CBD and the best CBD products to buy
CBD has taken the skincare and self-care space by storm. Searches for the ingredient have skyrocketed, turning it from relatively unknown to the power term on every big skincare and wellness brand's hit list. In fact, the CBD market is one of the fastest growing in the world, with some predictions estimating it will be worth more than $20 billion by 2024, thanks in part to the influence of celebrity fans. Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow take it to cope with stress and Alessandra Ambrosio takes it for anxiety. There's now even a National CBD Day (which is 8th August, FYI), and with 24% of Brits expressing the desire to use holistic remedies to alleviate the anxieties felt in lockdown, there's no better time to invest in its calming powers.
Simon Manthorpe, CEO of EOS Scientific – the UK's leading CBD oil testing service – said: "The number of UK users of CBD oil has almost doubled in the last year, with many claiming the cannabis-based product to be a more natural and easily accessible way to manage their mental health. We are seeing increasing numbers of people turning to more alternative remedies, not just for their mental health but for a number of ailments which can include insomnia, psoriasis and eczema.
"During a period in which people many people are suffering from increased stress levels due to the impact of COVID-19, we would recommend CBD to try to alleviate the pressures felt during this time."
Certainly, there's no shortage of CBD products to choose from – it has infiltrated the offerings of leading beauty retailers like Cult Beauty, Selfridges and Boots. But whilst it’s undeniably a talking point, it remains a head-scratcher for many. Why has this ingredient taken off quite so monumentally? And what actually is CBD?
We've answered all the questions you may have about CBD and rounded up our favourite products to help you enjoy the benefits for both skin and mind.
What is CBD?
CBD (it's full name is Cannabidiol) is a type of cannabinoid, which is a group of chemical compounds derived from the cannabis plant. CBD is said to have many benefits, namely relieving feelings of pain, stress, depression and anxiety as well as helping to reduce insomnia.
While it is derived from cannabis, it's important to note that CBD won't make you feel high. The reason why people feel high when taking cannabis itself is because cannabis also contains another cannabinoid called THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol), which has strong psychoactive properties and creates feelings of euphoria and sedation.
Is CBD legal?
The short answer is that yes, CBD is legal in the UK when sold as a cosmetic product (so long as it meets the strict cosmetic regulations set out in UK law) or a food supplement (so long as it meets the standards set by the Food & Drug Administration and the brand has submitted a Novel Food Application – this measure was introduced earlier this year to ensure higher quality products and attempt to regulate the booming industry).
While CBD is legal, another component of cannabis, THC, is illegal and any product containing THC is prohibited by law. Cannabis contains both CBD and THC and is illegal, except in very rare medical circumstances.
How is CBD used in medicine?
In the UK, cannabis is prohibited by law due to the fact it contains THC. However, there are a few rare medical circumstances when doctors can legally prescribe cannabis to a patient who suffers from a specific medical condition. These conditions are limited to severe epilepsy, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) and vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy. Cannabis is not authorised as treatment of any other medical condition in the UK.
Some medical professionals advocate the use of CBD oils and supplements as a form of alternative medicine (remember, CBD within a cosmetic product or food supplement is legal in the UK). Dr Danielle Gordon, a specialist in cannabis medicine prescribes CBD to patients with conditions including chronic migraines and epilepsy, but at low doses you can’t expect miracles, she says. “It’s kind of like the turmeric lattes you can get at Starbucks,” she explains. “They’re not going to treat your inflammatory arthritis or stop your brain ageing, but it’s certainly not a bad thing and it’s bringing awareness to [CBD] as an ingredient.”
In her clinic, Danielle might start a patient on a dose as low as 5mg and increase it gradually. “Everyone has a different threshold, so it really is an art and science,” she says. “What I use [CBD] for most often is anxiety,” she says. “It binds to the serotonin receptors in the brain and in the body, so it’s a natural anxiety relieving medication with virtually no side effects.”
But recent studies have revealed that the benefits of CBD are best realised when it is combined with THC (for example, in cannabis itself), leaving people who could benefit from treatment at a loss – anxiety is not one of the approved medical conditions for which doctors can prescribe cannabis for. There is ongoing debate within the medical and legal professions as to whether there is cause to expand the list of conditions that can receive a legal prescription for cannabis.
How is CBD used in wellness?
CBD is making waves in wellness amongst claims that CBD oil supplements can help relieve an array of issues. Hemp and Cannabis Consultant at Naturopathica, Yewande Okuleye explains: “We have lots of information about CBD but the official research is incomplete so we can’t categorically say CBD is anti-inflammatory or that it’s going to help you sleep better, but we do know from the way it affects our endocannabinoid system [an internal bodily system that works to regulate a number of our functions such as pain, anxiety and appetite] that there’s a likelihood it will help.” Plus, anecdotally, there are millions of cases where people feel that CBD has helped with conditions such as stress and insomnia, which are also encourgaing.
How is CBD used in skincare?
Unlike when taken as a supplement, topically applied CBD can’t enter the blood stream and will deliver benefits directly to the skin. Samir Juneja, Founder of CBD of London explains: “Through scientific research we’re finding that CBD could be a powerful compound in fighting a multitude of skin ailments including psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, acne, redness or itching. We’re also seeing provenance for CBD as a powerful anti-ageing compound, anti-inflammatory and as an anti-oxidant."
The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-acne properties are what gives CBD extra appeal – celebs like Olivia Wilde and Mandy Moore both use CBD oil topically, while brands including Origins, Ohana, MGC Derma and Aurelia all feature it in their skincare. CBD balms and bath bombs are also used as pain relief for aching muscles.
"A major benefit, is that CBD shares part of the ‘fingerprint’ of our genetics, allowing the body to instantly recognise it – and utilise it accordingly,” explains High Winters, CEO of cannabis-focused beauty brand MGC Derma.