Skin up: could weed be the secret to perfect skin?

Could weed be the secret to perfect skin? HOLLY O’NEILL looks at the benefits of incorporating cannabis into your regime.

Public perception of weed is in flux; it’s legalised in 43 states in the US (33 for medicinal use and 10 for recreational), and while it may not be completely normalised, it has shaken off its former image to become something close to accepted in most Western cultures. A couple of months ago, luxury brand Shine Papers sent me some of their 24 karat gold hemp blend cigarette rolling papers, much to the amusement of the IMAGE staff, and brought all the secret stoners sliding into my Instagram DMs looking to take them off my hands. Today, cannabis exists at a kind of crossroads, depending on where you are in the world or who you’re talking to. It’s the most commonly used illegal drug in Ireland, and Holland & Barrett is proudly displaying cannabis-derived products in their windows on the high street, meaning weed has officially gone wellness, existing somewhere between a beer and a green juice. Equally as surprising as a box of bourgeois drug paraphernalia making its way to my desk was the arrival of everything from masks to mascara with a new ingredient: cannabinoids extracted from hemp plants, a variety of the plant cannabis sativa.

“We’ve been tracking cannabusiness since 2015, when we saw a rise of businesses ranging from technology to hospitality, beauty and retail, reconsidering and repackaging the drug as a sophisticated product that’s no longer the preserve of twentysomething stoners,” says Jessica Smith, creative researcher specialising in wellness and beauty at The Future Laboratory. Of course, it all stems from the wellness industry, which, in terms of beauty, covers everything from crystals and vitamin supplements to wearing a sheet mask on a Sunday in the name of #selfcare. And now, weed. “Last year, we explored the rise of ‘total beauty’, which investigated the transformation of the beauty industry into a broader wellness category,” says Smith. “This saw the industry break free from the confines of cosmetics and skincare, and take its place in the modern wellness pantheon, incorporating aspects of fashion’s athleisure trend, the food sector’s obsession with all-natural products, and the health and fitness industry’s drive towards optimisation and mindfulness. Cannabis is very much part of the booming wellness industry.”

Cannabis is very much part of the booming wellness industry.

Today’s cannabeauty comes in chic minimal packaging – no Bob Marley references, no leafy plant packaging, and not from hippy indie labels, but brands you know, love and trust (Kiehl’s! Murad!). So, what can cannabis, as a cosmetic ingredient, do for your skin? The first thing to know is that not all cannabis-derived products are created equal. There’s CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, a cannabinoid that’s non-psychoactive (you won’t get high). In skincare, this regulates oil production, has anti-inflammatory effects and antibacterial properties, with preliminary research showing it to help cell turnover. Hemp oil and CBD oil are the same thing. On the other hand, cannabis sativa seed oil, the scientific name for hemp seed oil, does not contain CBD. Hemp seed oil is non-comedogenic (doesn’t block pores) and is used as an emollient, as it’s packed with omega 3 and 6 acids for hydration in the skin. CBD is the one you’ll find on the high street which, according to CBD company Irish CBD Connection (irishcbdconnection.ie), legally has no medical benefits, but is reported to help with sleep, stress, pain and other conditions. “We have customers using our products in search of relief for a wide range of conditions, such as pain, sleep issues as well as arthritis, autism and Parkinson’s,” says Irish CBD Connection owner Daniel McCallion. With the explosion of cannabis beauty from taboo to mainstream in what’s become known as “the green rush”, the risk is that those in search of CBD will land upon cannabis sativa seed oil, which, while also of great benefit to the skin, has very different results.

The market for CBD is set to reach €1.8 billion by 2020, according to a 2016 report released by Hemp Business Journal.

“CBD has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and can reduce the production of sebum in the skin,” says Jennifer Rock, founder of The Skin Nerd online skin consultancy and author of The Skin Nerd: Your Straight-talking Guide to Feeding, Protecting and Respecting Your Skin (Hachette). “This means that for those who see redness, itching and irritation, it could be highly effective for them, as well as those who are excessively oily or prone to spots. In the skin, it works to bring down inflammation within and slows down our sebum production. Inflammation actually causes our skin to age faster too. In this respect, CBD could be a fantastic ingredient when it comes to anti-aging products. Many believe that it can be highly effective for inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. From what we know about it, the oily, spot-prone and irritated should lunge for it. As far as we are aware, there are few reasons for people not to use it.”

So how much CBD do you actually need in your skincare to see results? In the US, where CBD can be found in everything from honey to body creams to gummy vitamins, Lord Jones became one of the first CBD brands to launch on Sephora.com. They use “broad spectrum” CBD extracts, which contain 80-90% CBD with the remaining 10-20% being made of naturally occurring terpenes and phytocannabinoids, which they say is the best method for the body to absorb it. According to Jennifer Rock, “Nobody is certain about what amount of CBD or cannabis extract is actually beneficial in skincare, and as it is mostly unregulated, at least in the US, it’s hard to be sure that the amount listed in the packaging is what is in the product. There is more research happening now, so hopefully we’ll have a more definitive answer on this and can decide whether to kick our salicylic acid out of our routine – but I never will, personally.” She remains sceptical. “I’m intrigued, and anti-inflammatory ingredients are key, but I’d like to see some more studies first.”

For the ultimate guide to the CBD and hemp seed oil infused skincare to add to your routine, check out the April issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now. 

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