Recently one of my good friends went on a trip to Colorado and fully embraced the state’s legality of recreational marijuana. She came back with a newfound obsession with edibles—and some seriously glowing skin. When I asked her what was going on with her face, she casually said she’d started using CBD-infused oils and thought they were helping with her acne. The radiance probably had more to do with a stress-free vacation than a skin care product she had just started using, but it was enough to pique my interest in weed-based beauty.
I was aware the beauty world had been hitting the cannabis craze hard for the past few years, but until I started searching for a gateway serum of my own, I didn’t know just how hard. This past year, it seems like products made with CBD and cannabis seed oil lit up out of nowhere. Milk Makeup came out with a hemp-derived mascara and brow tint, aptly named Kush. Clean beauty destinations including Credo and Cap Beauty added pot-based products to their offerings, and entirely new skin care brands based around the ingredient have launched. The further down the weed rabbit hole I went, the more I realized I could easily replace not only my serum but all of my beauty products with their kush counterparts. So—and you can see where I’m going with this—that’s exactly what I did. For the sake of experimentation, I vowed to use only beauty products made with either CBD or hemp for a solid week.
For the uninitiated, CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. I know your first question: No, it won’t get you high like fellow cannabinoid THC. But it does pose certain legality issues depending on what it comes from. CBD derived from hemp is always legal while CBD derived from the marijuana plant is illegal except in states that have recreational or medicinal marijuana programs. While there is hard evidence showing that CBD and THC can reduce inflammation and pain when applied topically, the science behind their benefits in skin care is less clear, though many consider them solid sources of antioxidants and beneficial amino acids.
Before fully committing to my weeklong CBD experiment, I asked cosmetic dermatologist Shereene Idriss, M.D., of Union Square Laser Dermatology if she thought the ingredient was effective in skin care. It’s possible, she says. “There’s a 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that showed promising results for using CBD to treat acne.” Until additional research backs up those findings, she won’t advise her patients to use it, but she does have high (sorry) hopes for it.
OK, but would anything bad happen to me if I used it now? Probably not, says fellow NYC cosmetic dermatologist Sejal Shah, M.D., founder of Smarter Skincare Dermatology: “Generally CBD is well tolerated by all skin types, but be sure to look for it in products that best suit your skin type.” Essentially, the CBD wouldn’t cause irritation but another ingredient in the product might. “Just as you would with any new product, start ones containing CBD with caution and stop using it if develop a negative reaction,” she advised me.
Armed with that information, I began overhauling my vanity. Out went my Clé de Peau Beauté Le Sérum and Sisley Paris Black Rose Crème. In came counterparts from brands I hadn’t heard of, like Hora, Kana, and Khus + Khus. Much to my husband’s surprise and amusement, he found the Dove, Kiehl’s, and Oribe in our shower replaced with Ananda Hemp soap and CBD for Life shampoo and conditioner.
I had assumed that replacing all of my go-to products with their weed-based counterparts would feel like a huge undertaking, but with so many options available, the hardest thing was actually deciding which ones to use. I mean, how many CBD serums does a girl need? I also expected my bathroom to look (and smell) like one of those hippie gift stores you find in Woodstock, New York, and was pleasantly surprised to find that was far from the case. So many of the products were beyond chic.
Because I’m nothing if not dedicated, I also used CBD during all my usual self-care rituals. I got a CBD massage. I filled my baths with hemp milk and CBD-laced bath bombs. I surrounded myself with cannabis-scented candles and drank (probably illegal) THC tea. I slathered Charlotte’s Web CBD lotion all over my body and indulged my face with a CBD and lavender sleeping mask at night.
Some of the products, like a body serum I liberally applied after a shower without testing first, were particularly fragrant. “You smell like a forest,” my husband complained hours later. Others, like a hemp soap that was labeled “unscented,” smelled exactly the way I had envisioned all CBD products to and made me gag at first sniff. That one didn’t make its way into the mix.
Overall, though, I was shocked at how many of the items I really did like. A few caught my attention based on their packaging alone. There was none of the hippie-dippie flower-power tie-dyed designs that I had expected. In fact, some, like the black-bottled Hora Super Serum + CBD, were so pretty that I’d be willing to bet they’ll become beauty catnip for Insta. The Burkelman Sensory Seeker candle also fell into this category, but be aware that its cannabis resin, fernet, and clove scent is strong.
One of my favorite additions was the Kana Skincare Lavender CBD Sleeping Mask. It has moisturizing hyaluronic acid and soothing lavender oil in addition to antioxidant- and fatty-acid-rich CBD and hemp seed extract. Its whipped texture and light scent make it such a dream to apply before bed that I wish I could use it more than the recommended three times per week. I’m also keeping the CBD for Life Eye Serum. It’s unscented, gives off a cooling sensation when dotted under your eyes, and seems to keep the area hydrated longer than most of my eye creams. The peppermint-scented Vertly Lip Butter was another winner. I don’t know how much CBD benefit you really get from such a small amount, but I love the way it hydrates without feeling sticky or gloppy.
Outside of the THC-laced tea, the only time I really felt a change in my body was after the Chillhouse CBD massage. During the 50-minute treatment, a wonderful therapist named Vee kneaded the knots in my back into oblivion and then applied a cooling CBD oil at the end, which really alleviated some of the aches I usually get after a massage with medium-deep pressure. “Think of it like a better version of Ben-Gay,” Vee told me. I’ll be back for another one those for sure.
In the end, switching to all CBD beauty products for a week didn’t drastically change my life or my skin (not that anyone thought it would), but it did make me rethink those largely off-base stereotypes I had made about them. There is so much more out there than the patchouli-scented products I envisioned. So, while I may not be ready to join my friend in the edible club, I can safely say I now get the buzz around CBD beauty.
Ahead, shop the best of the bunch.