Updated: Jun 8, 2019
CBD skin care is the most buzzed about beauty ingredient of the moment - and also perhaps the most poorly understood. Shrouded in mystery, acronyms, and jargon, Vogue unpacks what CBD really is and how it is used in skin care.
CBD sits at the perfect intersection of a few of our current preoccupations: wellness, natural beauty, and general feeling of anxiety. Given the backdrop of political instability and a news cycle that often feels unrelentingly bleak, it's no wonder we're all looking for something that can offer some serenity. Enter CBD. It's quickly moved from the "crunchy granola" realm of beauty to something that's seen as slick, sophisticated, and luxurious. You can find CBD gummies, sheet masks, and rose gold vape pens in high-end department stores.
It's been a long time since a single ingredient caused such industry-wide ripples. It rapidly achieved super-star status and yet questions abound. What exactly is CBD? Does it get you high? Can a serum boost your mood? Why should you bother including it in your routine? To answer these questions, and more, Vogue spoke to Samir Juneja who left behind a career in pharmaceuticals to start CBD of London.
What is CBD?
"CBD is found in the different varieties of cannabis that exist. These include hemp, indica and sativa - the latter two remain controlled substances in the UK, though the government granted limited legal medical use in exceptional circumstances in 2018. The reason that indica and sativa aren't legal is that they're high in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound which gets you high. Hemp, on the other hand, is low in THC but high in CBD which is just an abbreviation of cannabidiol. It doesn't have the same psychoactive properties."
What's the difference between hemp and CBD?
"This is where things get a little interesting. CBD is extracted from hemp. But to get CBD from hemp, you have to use a special process or you still just have regular hemp. For example, a normal hemp process might just be cold-pressing to hemp seed oil, but to get CBD you have to do an extraction process like CO2 extraction."
What benefits can CBD skincare offer?
"CBD offers a three-pronged skincare approach; it's anti-aging, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. In terms of an antioxidant on the skin, it provides a missing particle that a free radical can bond with stopping it from going on to cause DNA damage. As for anti-inflammatory properties, we know that skin aging and inflammation go hand in hand and CBD helps to combat oxidative stress."
Hemp seed oil in itself is a moisturizer and rich in fatty acids, so it's still a strong skincare ingredient. But if you're looking specifically for CBD skincare, it's worth reading the fine print to check that your product of choice actually has CBD and not just hemp.
How does CBD affect your mood?
While standard hemp seed oil has been popular in beauty for a long time (as well as the textile industry), it's only recently that research has started to emerge suggesting the benefits of CBD, hence why it's seen as the hot new thing. "Studies have shown that we have something called an endocannabinoid system which stimulates certain responses within your cell receptors. It affects your skin, brain, lungs - it's quite far reaching," noted Juneja.
These receptors, known as CB1 and CB2, have the sole purpose of processing cannabinoids, which means your body is always ready to absorb the benefits of CBD. CB1 is found in the brain and nervous system (CB2 is found in more of the peripheral organs), which sheds some light as to why it can help quell anxiety and ease stress. "Topically, it can't affect your mood," said Juneja, "But taking it orally in the form of a little bit of oil under the tongue can."
Should you try hemp or CBD?
Hemp is a long-standing beauty workhorse and plenty of the other ingredients commonly found in facial serums and creams alongside hemp like Vitamin E, tocopherol, and hyaluronic acid have brilliant restorative and rejuvenating properties; they just might not have CBD properties. Whatever you choose, as long as you feel calmer for using or applying it, you're one step closer to that serenity anyway.