Inside the rise of cannabis-infused beauty

It’s 4/20 for the beauty industry. Cannabis culture is expanding fast. Look no farther than the new arrival of cannabis oil–infused body lotions and ‘kush’ mascara.

Enterprising beauty companies have begun to brand marijuana as a wellness ingredient, a potential draw for customers who have already bought into charcoal masks and turmeric scrubs. Cannabidiol, aka CBD oil, is growing increasingly common in beauty and skin-care products. CBD won’t get you high — and it is still unclear how exactly it will affect your skin.

“There is no literature to date that shows any benefit to these products. As their use becomes more prevalent, however, that might change,” said dermatologist and Dermstore founder Alan Parks. CBD has yet to be widely studied, but that hasn’t stopped brands from banking on word-of-mouth and trend momentum by creating products featuring the ingredient.

According to Samantha Czubiak, CEO of Hora Skin Care, CBD works as an anti-inflammatory to help ease skin problems like acne, eczema and rosacea. “Specifically in the skin-care category, CBD’s benefits are not explained,” she said. Since beauty lovers may know more about AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) than strains of marijuana, Czubiak opted to focus on ingredient education and attractive packaging. “I want to bring awareness to CBD in mainstream beauty and not necessarily associate it with a marijuana product,” she said. “It’s important to put as much information as possible on the packaging to explain the benefits of CBD and what [consumers] can expect from it. She chose sleek, minimalistic packaging, purposefully avoiding a marijuana leaf or any pot insignia.

Milk Makeup, which recently made the move to 100 percent vegan products, is using today to launch the first mascara formulated with CBD oil. In a mascara, the CBD works as a binding agent to fuse the mascara itself to the lashes. “We know we couldn’t use beeswax, a common binding ingredient, as [it’s not vegan],” said Milk co-founder and COO Dianna Ruth. “That’s where cannabis oil came in.” Unlike Hora, the brand’s advertisements do make allusions to marijuana’s other uses, which fits in well with their “cool girl” aesthetic.

The market may be in the midst of a CBD overload, but The Body Shop has been selling a range of hemp products for two decades. Like CBD, hemp oil won’t get you high. Unlike CBD, it’s derived from hemp seeds and has more research behind it. As customers become more aware of these beauty benefits, The Body Shop’s Hemp line is seeing a rise in popularity. “The rest of the world is finally catching up with The Body Shop’s trailblazing attitudes two decades later,” said Andrea Blieden, general manager of The Body Shop. “Not only is there no longer a stigma surrounding the ingredient, but hemp seed oil is game-changing in beauty. With all this awareness, consumers are much more open-minded to try what we refer to as our ‘miracle crop.’”

As beauty brands lean in to cannabis, cannabis brands are also leaning into beauty and wellness. Charlotte’s Web started as a dietary supplement nicknamed “Hippie’s Disappointment” for its inability to get customers high. Now, the product line includes both a balm and a moisturizer. Papa & Barkley, which was developed as a balm to heal back pain, now includes CBD-infused bath soak and body oil.

This red-carpet season, the brand Lord Jones, which makes CBD-infused products, enjoyed a nice crossover moment. At the Golden Globes, Mandy Moore mentioned that she rubbed her feet in the brand’s CBD oil to help her endure an evening of high heels. Outlets like The Coveteur and Refinery29 picked up the story. Beauty writers even tested out the product themselves. It’s coverage like this that’s helping move CBD-infused products from something the most New Age-y shopper uses into the mainstream. Actress Olivia Wilde also gave Lord Jones the seal of approval in the New York Times, claiming, “The CBD has relaxing benefits, and the idea is to avoid using too many painkillers.” Wilde discovered it through “her friends in LA.” Beauty lovers won’t need friends in LA to induct them into CBD for long.

Unlike other buzzy wellness products, those featuring cannabis have an additional opportunity to end up on shelves. Legal marijuana dispensaries, of the kind found in Colorado and California, have been known to sell beauty items next to the weed gummies. Lord Jones, for one, is reportedly sold in dispensaries in California. But while the cannabis-extract market is largely unstudied and unregulated, dispensaries do have product requirements. In fact, CBD personal care products are often not strong enough. “[Products] at Colorado dispensaries must contain a percentage of THC that’s higher than the percentage in hemp, the usual source of CBD in beauty products. Products with hemp CBD oil in them, an increasingly active skin-care category, are stymied from the dispensary channel, as a result,” reports Beauty Independent. Therefore, dispensary customers, like everyone else, largely have to shop online for the products they seek.

As the trend grows, customers are advised to shop carefully. In 2017, a Penn Medicine study revealed that 70 percent of cannabis oil products sold online are mislabeled and contain either a greater or lesser amount of CBD than is revealed on the packaging. Some products also contained more THC than announced on the packaging, which could result in accidentally impaired states. “The big problem, with this being something that is not federally legal, is that the needed quality-assurance oversight from the Food and Drug Administration is not available,” said lead author Marcel Bonn-Miller at the time. “There are currently no standards for producing, testing, or labeling these oils.” According to the same study, the market for CBD products will increase by $2 billion from 2017 to 2020. With big money involved, regulation likely won’t be far away.

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