Beauty goes to pot

Po­tent anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties mean cannabis is the hottest in­gre­di­ent in beauty right now. Be­fore you ask, no, we’re not ad­vo­cat­ing smok­ing it – just slather­ing it on


It’s one of the world’s most con­tro­ver­sial

nar­cotics, but a grow­ing num­ber of beauty and well­ness brands be­lieve that a pair of cannabis-de­rived in­gre­di­ents can rev­o­lu­tionise how we treat every­thing from acne to eczema and wrin­kles.

The first, THC (tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol) is the most di­vi­sive. Of the 80 dif­fer­ent cannabi­noids har­vested from the cannabis plant, it’s the one that gets you high. In coun­tries where dope is le­gal, in­clud­ing some US states, THC has be­gun show­ing up in skin­care thanks to its an­tiin­flam­ma­tory and anal­gesic ef­fects. But here, THC is banned – un­less it fea­tures in con­cen­tra­tions be­low 0.3% it’s off lim­its.

This is where the sec­ond in­gre­di­ent comes in. CBD (cannabid­iol) is en­tirely non-psycho-ac­tive (so won’t make you high), le­gal ev­ery­where and prov­ing to have a wealth of beauty ben­e­fits. It’s also the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent found in the Body Shop’s Hemp range. Launched in 1998, founder Anita Rod­dick was the first to bring cannabis to the high street and worked tire­lessly to ed­u­cate consumers on the dif­fer­ence be­tween in­dus­trial-grade cannabis ( known as hemp) and mar­i­juana (the cannabis peo­ple smoke). Twenty years on, and a shift in at­ti­tude has meant that brands are no longer afraid to use the term cannabis when de­scrib­ing their prod­ucts.


New re­search car­ried out by der­ma­tol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado School of Medicine found that cannabi­noids like THC and CBD can re­duce in­flam­ma­tion in cases of pso­ri­a­sis, eczema, and al­ler­gic der­mati­tis. Der­ma­tol­o­gists there­fore sug­gest they might be able to help re­duce red­ness and even wrin­kles.

Dr Sarah Shah from Be­spoke Aes­thet­ics isn’t sur­prised at the re­sults of this re­search. In­ter­est­ingly, ‘we’re bi­o­log­i­cally primed to reap the ben­e­fits of cannabi­noids when in­gested or ap­plied top­i­cally, be­cause our body has its own en­do­cannabi­noid sys­tem,’ she ex­plains. This means we pro­duce our own cannabi­noids. So, when we in­gest, eat, smoke or ap­ply cannabis, re­cep­tors pick up cues of the in­com­ing CBD or THC and bind to cells, like a key fit­ting a lock. This kick-starts a bio­chem­i­cal re­ac­tion that can al­ter every­thing from blood pres­sure, to pain re­sponse, to mem­ory, ap­petite and skin bar­rier func­tion.

In skin­care terms this means cannabi­noids can help reg­u­late se­bum pro­duc­tion and mois­ture re­ten­tion within skin, ex­plain­ing why stud­ies into cannabi­noids treat­ing acne are so promis­ing. ‘Pa­tients with acne and se­b­or­rheic der­mati­tis were treated with a 3% cannabis-seed ex­tract cream, and re­sults showed they went on to have lower lev­els of skin se­bum and ery­thema (or red­ness),’ con­tin­ues Shah.


‘ Thanks to the in­ter­net, the free­dom to ac­cess stud­ies and anec­do­tal sto­ries, cou­pled with the snow­balling well­ness move­ment, at­ti­tudes to­wards cannabis have shifted,’ says Tony Calamita, the founder of Uk-based CBD Oils. He started the com­pany af­ter spot­ting a gap in the mar­ket two years ago and the web­site is now the UK’S largest dis­trib­u­tor of cannabis-based prod­ucts. Tak­ing around 2,000 or­ders weekly, they sup­ply every­thing from body salves to cold pressed oils to be taken as di­etary sup­ple­ments or to boost skin health. Brands stocked in­clude Love Hemp and Char­lotte’s Web, which source their cannabis from Colorado, widely thought of as the weed mecca due to the su­pe­ri­or­ity of their pro­duce. ‘It’s the best in the world be­cause it’s been le­gal there for five years,’ says Tony. The UK now ranks sec­ond in the num­ber of web searches for CBD prod­ucts on­line. It’s also es­ti­mated that the global CBD in­dus­try is al­ready worth around £200 mil­lion, with in­creased de­mand for cannabis lead­ing to an ad­di­tional 42,000 acres of crop-farm­ing in parts of the EU.


Ad­vo­cates of this new move­ment say le­gal is­sues pre­vent us from har­ness­ing cannabis’s full po­ten­tial here in Bri­tain. The UK Cos­metic Trade As­so­ci­a­tion pro­hibits the sale of prod­ucts in­cor­po­rat­ing the flow­er­ing tops of the plants where psy­choac­tive sub­stance THC is found.

Not so in the US states where cannabis is le­gal and prod­ucts ‘su­per­charged’ with THC are avail­able. Vertly for ex­am­ple, is a luxe CBD- and Thc-in­fused beauty line. Its founder, Clau­dia Mata, a for­mer Nyc-based fash­ion ed­i­tor, says the dif­fer­ence be­tween these cannabi­noids is stag­ger­ing, ar­gu­ing that CBD found in most prod­ucts is ex­tracted from the cannabis seed oil, which doesn’t have the same po­tency as ex­tracts taken from the flower or buds, par­tic­u­larly when used in tan­dem with THC.

She isn’t alone. Cindy Capo­bianco, an­other for­mer US ed­i­tor, co-founded Lord Jones, which has an ex­ten­sive celebrity fol­low­ing. Its sell-out Pain and Well­ness For­mula Body Lo­tion, £36.95, has equal amounts of CBD and THC and is de­signed to mois­turise skin and re­lieve ten­sion. Rich, lux­u­ri­ous and scented with fresh sage, mint and green cit­rus, it has been hailed as the ul­ti­mate mas­sage ther­apy lo­tion, but un­less you live in a cannabis-ap­proved US state, it’s prob­a­bly eas­ier to score a bag­gie than get your hands on it.

As a com­pro­mise, you can how­ever pur­chase Lord Jones Pure CBD Body Lo­tion, £36.95, which com­plies with our Bri­tish leg­is­la­tion and can be shipped to the UK as it con­tains less than 0.3% THC.


De­spite cur­rent road­blocks, the suc­cess of brands har­ness­ing CBD and THC sug­gest the trend hasn’t peaked. ‘ The move­ment is still in its in­fancy,’ says Tony. ‘It has the bur­geon­ing well­ness move­ment on its side and this shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated.’ He might be right; health has fast be­come the new wealth, and its cur­rency now comes in the form of many ‘al­ter­na­tive’ treat­ments. As the beauty world aligns it­self with this ethos, it is per­haps in­evitable that the cannabis plant, if proven ef­fec­tive, will be em­braced more widely.

And ‘if proven’ is key. Beauty in­dus­try ex­perts like skin­care spe­cial­ist Paula Be­goun ad­vise cau­tion. ‘ The re­search on cannabi­noids for skin seems promis­ing, but is still new. We need to see com­par­a­tive stud­ies on how cannabi­noids’ calm­ing ac­tion dif­fers from those of the omega fatty acids, liquorice ex­tracts, wil­lowherb, green tea, which we know from ex­ten­sive re­search are ex­cel­lent for nu­mer­ous skin con­cerns.’ Some beauty re­tail­ers are also wary. Mil­lie Ken­dall, co-founder of cult Brit beauty store Beau­ty­, says, ‘It’s not on our im­me­di­ate agenda to stock these kinds of prod­ucts. The ben­e­fit of CBD as a so­lu­tion-based in­gre­di­ent is clear to me, but the le­gal­ity is not and I wouldn’t put my busi­ness in that sit­u­a­tion.’

So, are CBD and THC likely to be­come the in­dus­try’s next It in­gre­di­ents? Prob­a­bly only if cur­rent le­gal­i­sa­tion al­lows for more flex­i­bil­ity. Stud­ies, although im­pres­sive, are still on a small scale, so un­til we can see fur­ther and more ex­ten­sive re­sults, the fu­ture re­mains un­clear.

2. 1.

5 ∕∕ Known for his work with skin in­flam­ma­tion, Dr Per­ri­cone has em­ployed CBD for its anti-in­flam­ma­tory ben­e­fits in Per­ri­cone MD Sooth­ing PostShave Treat­ment, £39. 3 ∕∕ Hemp husks found in Op­tiat Pu­ri­fy­ing and Ex­fo­li­at­ing Face Mask, £17.95, slough...

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