Cannabis For Your Face? Why CBD Skincare Is Everywhere Right Now
Illustration by Mr Andrea Mongia
The legal high that’s good for your skin.
Marijuana moisturiser? Yes, you read that right. And no, we haven't been smoking something. Cannabis-derivative skincare is experiencing something of a high right now, buoyed by the plant’s legalisation for recreational use in Canada and a handful of US states. As the stigma that once surrounded the leaf dissipates and its medicinal qualities become more widely understood, the beauty industry is beginning to wake up to its benefits too, which brings us to something scientists have termed “phytocannabinoids”.
This refers to cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, the prefix “phyto” being derived from the Greek word for plant. The word includes tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound responsible for a lot of the best music of the past few decades, not to mention the reason why cannabis remains a prohibited substance in most countries. It also contains at least 100 other, less trippy compounds that act on our body’s cannabinoid receptors that regulate a range of bodily functions, including our immune and inflammatory responses.
The most widely known of these is CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound that has been lauded for its ability to relieve chronic pain, combat anxiety and even prevent seizures. But it is CBD’s potency as an anti-inflammatory agent that has piqued the interest of dermatologists such as Dr Nicholas Perricone, founder of the cult skincare brand Perricone MD, which recently entered the cannabis-derived skincare market with its CBx collection.
It’s a natural fit for Dr Perricone’s brand, which is rooted in the theory that inflammation is a major cause of ageing and age-related health conditions. “I introduced the theory 30 years ago,” he says. “My topical products have all been based on the anti-inflammatory qualities of the active ingredients. CBD, when used in an appropriate base, has anti-inflammatory activity, which can improve the health and clinical appearance of the skin.” The range includes the Super Clean Face Wash, a Soothing Post-Shave Treatment (that’s where the anti-inflammatories earn their stripes) and an incredibly Lightweight Moisturizer that you can barely feel on your skin, but which keeps it looking healthily rejuvenated all the same.
Dr Perricone stops short of proclaiming CBD as a miracle cure, saying instead that it will “be added to the armamentarium of cosmetic formulators” that Perricone MD employs in its skincare products. It’s a smart move given the hype surrounding CBD, not to mention the lack of conclusive clinical trials into its effectiveness as a topical skincare ingredient – something that’s perhaps to be expected of a substance that has existed for so long at the fringes of the law.
Still, even in these enlightened times, CBD’s legal status remains a grey area. As a product derived from industrial hemp, a strain of the cannabis sativa plant that has been selectively bred to contain only negligible traces of THC, CBD is technically legal, but remains subject to a range of regulations, some more draconian than others, depending on where in the world you happen to live. For its part, Perricone MD is at pains to point out that the phytocannabinoids present in its CBx range “are derived from the mature stalk of the fibre-type hemp plant” – not marijuana, in other words – “and have no recreational use”. (A sentence straight from the legal department if ever we saw one.)
In the US, a microcosm of the globe with regard to cannabis regulation, certain states still only permit hemp cultivation under a state pilot programme or for the purposes of medical research. Meanwhile, it’s possible to buy marijuana for recreational purposes in 10 out of 50 states. With more and more countries and states considering loosening regulations around cannabis, both medically and recreationally, this is a situation that’s sure to evolve. For now, though, this is as close to an outlaw experience as you’re likely to get from the contents of your grooming cabinet.