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Understanding how cannabis is used in beauty and lifestyle products

Understanding how cannabis is used in beauty and lifestyle products

When people think about cannabis, the first thing that pops into their mind is usually someone smoking a joint or taking a puff from a pipe - not applying lipstick, drinking a bottle of water, or moisturizing their hands. But these days, cannabis is going through some big transformations. You can find this controversial plant in all sorts of products, from cosmetics like lip balm or eyeshadow, to body care products like topical lotions, shampoos, or toothpastes, to consumables like candies, mints or infused water... and so much more. This wide variety of beauty and healthy lifestyle products is shifting the way we see cannabis and how we might use it to benefit our lives. But not all these products are the same.

While all cannabis beauty or lifestyle products contain some type of cannabis - what exactly it includes could make all the difference. Many of these products contain active chemical compounds from the plant, such as cannabinoids like THC or CBD, or terpenes. Others simply contain hemp seed oil - which has some great health benefits on its own. Whatever a cannabis product contains, there are some questions you might want to ask before you decide if it is right for you.

Curious to use cannabis beauty and lifestyle products yourself? Read on to learn what you should look for, and what you should avoid.

Why is cannabis used in lifestyle and beauty products?

Cannabis has a wide variety of uses but in wellness, beauty and lifestyle products, it is often used for its pain relieving, relaxing and inflammation reducing properties, or for its array of nutrients and healthy fatty acids - which are great for our skin and our diet.  

In consumables like food and drink, cannabinoids like THC or CBD, as well as some terpenes, can leave people feeling pleasantly relaxed and may ease aches and pains.  

In cosmetics and topicals, these same chemicals from cannabis can be helpful for their inflammation reducing properties, their ability to relieve skin and muscle pain, and their antibacterial and antimicrobial effects which can both be a big help for skin issues. CBD, for example, has been found to reduce the production of sebum in skin, so may be helpful for acne. And it has even helped treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis for some patients.   

Hemp seed or hemp seed oil is also sometimes used in these products. In both consumable products and topicals for cosmetics, hemp seed oils are beneficial because they are packed with healthy fatty acids and vitamins. Healthy fatty acids can be a helpful addition to most diets, and are a fantastic way to moisturize skin. Vitamins in the oil like vitamins B and E can also be a strong reason to add this supplement to consumables, cosmetics, or topicals.  

For example, vitamin B can help with energy levels, brain functioning, and cardiovascular health when consumed. When applied directly to the skin in a topical or cosmetic, it can also reduce the signs of aging by renewing skin cells, boosting collagen, and reducing inflammation. 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which may help repair damaged cells, making it another excellent reason to consume hemp seed oil. It can also help reduce scarring and acne when used on the skin.  

In other words, there are many reasons why someone might want to add cannabis to their beauty and lifestyle products. The real question is: which ones appeal to you?

What should you look for when purchasing cannabis beauty or lifestyle products?

Before you jump into purchasing a beauty or lifestyle product that includes cannabis - you might want to ask yourself a few questions. Not all products are alike, and some might be better for you than others (or just better in general). Here are a few questions to consider as you start your purchasing process.

1. What are you using your cannabis product for?

People use cannabis for so many different reasons. Depending on what you are using it for, you might want to try a different product. For example, if you are looking for a beauty and skin product with ingredients to boost your natural beauty and keep your skin healthy, you might look for something with hemp seed oil - so you can take advantage of those fatty acids and vitamins.

On the other hand, if you are looking for relaxation or pain relief, you might want something that packs a little more power - like THC or CBD. Consumables with these chemicals are best if you want to get a full body effect from your cannabis. But to avoid any unpleasant highs, start low with dosing (around 2.5-5 mg’s) and slowly increase until you find the ideal dose for your needs.

In general, if you have something specific in mind for your cannabis product, do a little research on what types of cannabis products might be best for your needs. Then, when you do pick out that perfect product - you’ll know it is exactly what you wanted.

2. Does your cannabis product include THC?

Another question to consider is whether your product contains any THC. THC is a highly psychoactive chemical that is largely responsible for the characteristic ‘high’ associated with cannabis. It is also more strictly regulated than other byproducts of cannabis. Before you use anything with THC, make sure it is legal to use in your area.

If this is a consumable product (or even something like lip balm that might get into your mouth), you need to understand that it may alter your experience in ways that may temporarily impact your functionality and make you feel high. If you do want to try out THC, start with a low dose and prepare for a big mental shift until you get used to its effects. Plan to be in a safe space where you don’t need to drive, and are around those you trust. It can be a disorienting experience - although often a very enjoyable one.

If THC is in a topical product, it will likely not impact your functionality or make you feel high - but in rare cases sensitive patients report feeling high from topicals with THC. And certain types of topicals, like patches or water soluble products may cause the average person to feel high.

If feeling high isn’t what you are looking for, opt for CBD or hemp-seed oil products instead.

3. Has your cannabis product been lab tested for purity and potency?

The final, and perhaps most important question to ask yourself is whether the product has been tested for purity and potency. Most cannabis products in states with legal cannabis programs have to be tested by a third party lab to make sure they don’t contain any contaminants - and do contain the cannabis they advertise. But CBD and hemp products are not regulated in this way. Some studies show as high as 60% of these products are mislabeled and don’t contain the CBD they claim they do. And there is no one checking these products to ensure they aren’t tainted with pesticides, heavy metals or other contaminants.  

That’s why buying CBD products from a trusted source is important, and the best way brands can build trust is by having their products tested by an independent lab. Do a little investigation before you buy. Many brands now offer copies of the lab tests for their products. This can offer you a little peace of mind that you are consuming a safe and accurately labeled product.

Did you know?

Many CBD products claim to have more CBD than they actually do?


Emily Earlenbaugh, PhD
Emily Earlenbaugh, PhD is a writer and educator focused on bringing cannabis education and content to the public. Emily is a prolific writer in the cannabis space, writing regularly about cannabis science and culture for publications like Forbes, Leafly, Cannabis Now Magazine, SF Chronicle’s GreenState, The Cannigma and HelloMD.