What comes to mind when you think of cannabis: stoned old hippies? Teenagers smoking illicit joints? It’s about as far away from luxe skincare as you can get. Yet cannabis looks set to be the hottest new ingredient in beauty products in 2018. Yes, it’s legal. And no, these creams won’t get you high.
Both luxury and High Street brands are launching products containing extracts of the cannabis sativa plant, and are busy proclaiming its unique anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing and skin-healing potential.
It’s already a huge growth area in the U.S., where cannabis has been legalised in some form in 29 states.
So, what’s the magic ingredient? It turns out there are two: hemp oil, which is made from the seeds of the cannabis plant, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is extracted from the flowers and leaves.
CBD is one of the two main active ingredients in cannabis, but not the mind-altering one — that’s THC, illegal in the UK.
Hemp seed oil doesn’t contain either CBD or THC, but it’s prized for its moisturising properties. It has more of the essential fatty acids our skin needs than any other vegetable oil. So far, so uncontroversial.
But it’s the growing trend for using cannabinoids such as CBD that’s potentially more revolutionary. Around 250,000 people in the UK use CBD oil (usually orally) to treat medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are promising for skincare, explains consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite at London’s Cadogan Clinic. ‘If you can reduce inflammation, you can also reduce ageing.’
She points out that scientific proof is thin on the ground as yet, although a research review last year showed CBD could have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin.
‘We have to be careful because the studies that exist so far are small,’ says Dr Granite. ‘As the U.S. continues to legalise cannabis there will be bigger scientific studies, which will be very interesting.’
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