Aesthetic Dermatology Update

CBD in beauty products


Cannabidiol (CBD) seems to be everywhere now. Since the Farm Bill of 2018 legalizing the cultivation of hemp was signed into law last December, many CBD-based products have hit the market. The advent of potent CBD oil concentrates, nonintoxicating CBD-rich products, and innovative smokeless delivery systems has transformed the therapeutic landscape and changed the public conversation about cannabis. That, and with the surge in legal availability, its use is more commonplace now – even in elderly populations and regions of the country where products thought to be associated with the marijuana plant would have once been considered taboo. A recent Gallup poll found that 14% of Americans say they now use CBD. As the benefits of CBD are demonstrated and perceptions change, having background knowledge of the manufacturing and available data on CBD will be helpful when patients ask about these products for skin care, to provide an evidenced-based approach.

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, a dermatologist who practices in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley

CBD is one of over a hundred phytocannabinoids, which are naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the oily resin of the flower or “bud” (and to a lesser extent the leaves) of the cannabis plant. This is opposed to synthetic cannabinoids, as well as endocannabinoids (cannabinoid receptors found in humans and animals). Both CBD and THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol), another phytocannabinoid, can provide anti-inflammatory and pain-control benefits; the main difference is that THC has psychoactive effects and CBD does not.

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family, made up of three primary species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. CBD can be harvested from either Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. People often confuse hemp as equal to Cannabis sativa species and marijuana as equal to Cannabis indica, but neither hemp or marijuana are specific strains or species of cannabis plants, they are broad classifications of cannabis that do not indicate a specific strain.

Hemp, a term used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain trace amounts of THC, has generally been used to describe nonintoxicating cannabis harvested for the industrial use of its derived products, such as textiles, paper, food (hemp seeds), building materials, and skin care. While both “hemp” and “marijuana” can produce high amounts of CBD, CBD products sourced from hemp contain 0.3% THC or less (the legal allowance), while CBD products derived from “marijuana” typically contain 5%-35% THC. Since the 2018 Farm Act legalized the production of hemp in all 50 states, but not marijuana, most CBD nationwide is sourced from hemp. CBD from a marijuana source or a product containing both CBD and over 0.3% THC can only be sold in states where marijuana is legal. At this time, 11 states have legalized marijuana.

Dr. Lily Talakoub, McLean (Va.) Dermatology and Skin Care Center

Dr. Lily Talakoub

Marijuana varieties, grown to maximize the amount or quality of THC, are selectively bred in controlled environments designed to optimize the breed’s characteristics and produce female plants that yield budding flowers. In contrast, because of hemp’s diverse uses, it is grown to maximize its size and yield and is typically grown outdoors and does not require the level of control and attention needed to grow marijuana.


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