Pot Of Gold: How The Beauty Industry Hopes To Profit From Cannabis

5 Min Read |

Historically, cannabis has never been regarded as a key ingredient in beauty manufacturing. But now, this controversial plant is having a moment; it is present in an increasing number and variety of beauty products. Brands market their inclusion of cannabis in cosmetics as a means to enhance consumer skincare routines. Known for reducing pain and relieving stress, its powerful natural properties are being used to heal and soothe skin.

What Does Cannabis Do For Skin?

Inflammation is among the top issues that cosmetics consumers want addressed by brands and manufacturers. People want products to soothe red and swollen skin and reduce the appearance of rosacea and acne, as well as improve skin resilience to prevent scarring and stretch marks.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis, when added to cosmetics in oil form (cannabinoids), binds to a set of skin receptors called the TRPV-1 receptors. In doing so, it soothes sensations of itching, pain and excessive heat. New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, says that the antioxidants and natural fatty acids in hempseed oil — derived from the same plant as cannabis, but slightly different from CBD oil and lower in cannabinoids— make it a “good choice for people with dry skin and eczema.”

Cindy Capobianco, co-founder of Lord Jones — a brand that offers body lotion and edible products containing CBD — says that CBD oil is highly effective for reducing inflammation and pain. She recounts stories of customers applying CBD-infused lotion to physical injuries and experiencing almost instant relief.

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Other compounds found in cannabis are also rich with health benefits. Beauty Lies Truth founder Jessica Assaf suggests that the complete plant — either concentrated as a ‘whole’ oil or extract or used directly in its leaf form — can be a valuable, active ingredient for skin cosmetics. The complete plant interacts with the human body’s endocannabinoid receptors which means that its properties work more effectively together than as individually extracted parts. So Assaf recommends looking for beauty products which contain the whole plant extract.

Cannabis Beauty Products On The Market

Capobianoco agrees that looking for products containing the complete oil, extracted using a method that preserves its purity, is important when choosing the best cannabis infused beauty products. And Assaf notes that it’s important to know where the plant comes from; how it’s been grown; and how it’s been processed. Some oils and extracts are processed so heavily that the nutrients are destroyed and what’s left is an oil or powder which is “missing all the potent cannabinoids.”

Sephora currently stocks a cannabis seed oil concentrate by apothecary brand Kiehl which is aimed at calming skin and reducing redness. US natural beauty brand Cannuka offers a line of CBD and Manuka honey-based skincare products including cleansing body bars, creams and healing balms. Cannuka highlights CBD’s antioxidant power and free-radical fighting qualities in its marketing material, promoting the oil as effective for exfoliating and rejuvenating skin and making skin look younger. And CBD For Life, a New Jersey based beauty and pain management brand, sells a comprehensive range of slickly branded CBD-infused beauty and health products — from eye serum, lip balm and shampoo to bath bombs and roll-on oils.

Is It Legal To Use Cannabis Plant Ingredients In Beauty Products?

As mentioned, there is a difference between hemp-derived and cannabis-derived ingredients. Hemp oils are pressed from the seeds of the plant, while cannabis derived ingredients come from the plant itself. Ingredients derived from Hemp are legal throughout the US and in many other areas of the world — but cannabis-infused products are more tightly regulated.

Marijuana and hemp, both being member of the cannabis family, share many characteristics. However the crucial difference between the two is the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in each. While marijuana mat contain up to 30%, hemp contains no more than 3%- a level that doesn’t give a ‘high’. As long as the plant is “grown with under 0.3 percent THC it is considered legal”, in which case it shouldn’t matter whether it’s hemp or cannabis.

In the UK, data from the Cannabis Trades Association shows that the number of CBD product consumers increased from 125,000 in 2017 to 250,000 in 2018. In 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) passed a ruling allowing CBD products to be sold in the UK as long as the providers did not make claims about medical benefits. This means that cannabis use has become less hidden, and has become more widely acceptable to use its ingredients in a variety of products.

In Australia cannabis is legal for medical use. Pharmaceutical company MGC Pharma creates products with medical-grade cannabis, and has a skincare branch called MGC Derma. The company funds and undertakes research in Australian hospitals; and renowned high-end UK department store Harvey Nichols also now stocks MGC Derma’s cannabis skincare lines. One of its products in particular, the CBD Brightening Facial Cream, is a popular talking point in beauty media.

In fact, cannabis and CBD infused beauty products is a trending topic around the world, fuelled by celebrities who use and readily promote cannabinoid beauty products; including Karla Welch, fashion stylist to Olivia Wilde; and music artists and actors including Katy Perry, Ruth Negga and Sarah Paulson.

Legislation differs between countries and states. But overall, many beauty brands across the globe are building strong followings for their cannabis based skincare products and beauty lines. These products are to be closely watched, as the body of research regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids for beauty use grows, more, and more brands may take up the way of weed.

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