When Canada decriminalized marijuana use, many pictured the emergence of Amsterdam-style cafés or small balconies lined with homegrown plants. Few predicted the enormous array of applications for the cannabis plant, from organic linen hemp activewear to jewellery made from its leaves. And the multibillion-dollar world of beauty was certainly not going to sit this one out.
In other words, weed-related beauty is super hot right now. The plant and its derivative compounds can be found in a vast array of cosmetic and skincare products, from lip balms and mascaras to body lotions and face serums.
Beauty and skincare derived from marijuana plants isn’t exactly new. In the late 1990s, The Body Shop introduced beauty products made from hemp seeds. But this generation of products is largely formulated around cannabidiol, also known as CBD. (All cannabinoids are regulated in Canada, and when CBD topicals hit consumer shelves later in 2019, it’s presently unclear precisely what will be permitted and how it will be packaged.)
CBD is a compound found in marijuana and, unlike the better known marijuana compound, THC, it will not get you high and has no impact on cognitive functioning. It’s has become a panacea for all kinds of ailments, from insomnia and anxiety to muscle aches and nausea.
Celebrities have rapidly hopped onboard, with Gwyneth Paltrow using her Goop platform to tout the benefits of CBD-spiked cocktails, actress Emma Roberts swearing by a CBD bath soak and Martha Stewart signing on to help create a CBD brand for pets who can’t relax.
The latest frontier is skincare and beauty, and brands all over the world are now hoping to cash in on the growing demand. Earlier this year, Canada’s Canopy Growth, a cannabis company based in Smith Falls, Ont., announced they would buy beauty and skincare company This Works for more than $70 million. And LVMH’s Sephora chain has been selling CBD-related beauty products since 2018, even launching their own High Beauty cannabis-infused cosmetic line.
Celebrity stylist Karla Welch, who has worked with big names like Katy Perry and Olivia Wilde, reportedly swears by CBD lotion from Lord Jones and applies it to her clients’ legs before they hit the red carpet. It not only moisturizes—going on with a cooling sensation—but is marketed as having pain-relieving properties.
Smaller, more niche players are staking a claim, too. California-based, women-led online cannabis shop Miss Grass (founded by Canadian Anna Duckworth) offers a range of CBD-infused options, including a US$148 “high-potency” facial serum that promises to “turn on the skin’s natural glow.” Earth Dragon Organics, based on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, now offers a range of cannabis-related beauty products, including sunscreen, lip balm and face oil.
Products containing CBD have also capitalized on the growing obsession with “natural” beauty that contains familiar ingredients instead of simply a list of multi-syllable chemical components. Cannuka, for example, combines CBD with Manuka honey, known for its antibacterial and healing properties and harvested exclusively in New Zealand.
Is it effective? One recent study has linked cannabidiol to anti-inflammatory properties, which could be effective in treating diabetes complications and cardiovascular disorders. But skin problems like rosacea, psoriasis and eczema can also be linked to inflammation—so it’s possible that CBD could serve a dermatological function. Other studies have linked its antibacterial nature to potential anti-acne applications. Additional research has suggested that CBD oil, which is rich in vitamins A, C and E, might help stimulate collagen production to help keep skin looking plump and youthful.
Overall, the science remains inconclusive surrounding the use of CBD in beauty products and more research is definitely needed. But most cannabis-related cosmetics and skincare products also have plenty of other enticing ingredients. So there’s likely no harm in liberally applying some mascara, moisturizing your legs, knocking back a couple of CBD Mint Juleps, and waiting for your turn on the red carpet.