When serial beauty entrepreneur Melissa Jochim, formerly of ingredient-focused lines Blossom Organics and Juice Beauty, decided she wanted to launch a cannabis-based skin-care product line as her next act, she originally came up with a “safe, conservative” cannabis beauty brand. But when she met with luxury beauty retailer Sephora, the merchandising team encouraged her to think bigger. “They told me a cannabis revolution was coming,” she says.
In November 2018, Jochim’s High Beauty, which is comprised of cannabis sativa seed oil extracts, landed exclusively in Sephora doors after a summer pre-order tease on HighBeauty.com. Jochim launched with two hero products — High Expectations, a cannabis facial oil, and High Five, a cannabis face moisturizer. Both are legal and free of psychoactive substances including tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, and five more cannabis beauty products are on the way in 2019. “Next year is going to be really big for us. We already have so many products ready for launch and production, and I’m formulating more as we speak,” she says.
Rich Gersten, partner at private equity fund Tengram Capital Partners, agrees that 2019 will be big for cannabis and beauty. (Tengram has a 15-year history of investing in beauty companies like Lime Crime and RéVive.) “The growth is too significant to say otherwise,” he says. “The pace has dramatically increased, and everyone is trying to capture some share of this fast-growing segment.”
According to research from Grand View Research, Inc., the global legal marijuana market is expected to reach $146.4 billion by the end of 2025, with the U.S. and Canada markets anticipated to be the largest in terms of revenue. Jochim’s High Beauty is positioned well, as are Milk Makeup’s Kush High Volume Mascara and Origins’ Hello, Calm face mask — all of these products use the legal cannabis sativa seed as an ingredient and have been recently stocked by Sephora, legitimizing cannabis as a key ingredient in beauty and wellness.
The aforementioned brands are carefully toeing the line from the cannabis industry’s larger legal issues. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law, even in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, and the federal government categorizes all CBD products other than the drug Epidiolex (which the FDA approved in June for severe forms of epilepsy) as a Schedule 1 drug, like heroin. Beauty and wellness products continue to pop up, despite the ramifications.
Examples include buzzy direct-to-consumer brand Dirty Lemon’s CBD-infused functional beverage (made in partnership with luxury cannabis brand Beboe), Dosist’s disposable vape pens with CBD that “deliver health and happiness” and Kush Queen’s pumpkin spice CBD bath bomb. There is also Lord Jones’ High CBD Formula Body Lotion, sold at Sephora as part of its “Clean at Sephora” initiative.
“We will 100 percent start to see more cannabis beauty companies,” says Samantha Czubiak, CEO of Hora Skin Care, who launched her hemp-derived CBD lineup of serums and masks in January 2018. “I don’t think we are even near the peak; we are still climbing.” Aside from using CBD as part of a strong ingredient story in her products, Czubiak is relying on other trendy add-ons in her formulas like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and argan oil. She plans to release a CBD lip balm in the coming months.
Google and Facebook — prime for advertising and brand-awareness online plays — do not allow drug or drug-related promotions on their sites since marijuana is still illegal, but Czubiak says Instagram is driving most of Hora Skin Care’s traffic to its online site.
As much as it is about the cannabis product itself, it’s also, of course, about marketing, said Kimberly Dillon, chief marketing officer of Papa & Barkley, a California-based line of cannabis-based body oils, balms, tinctures and patches that launched in 2015. “While we think the marketing, branding and packaging of new cannabis products has helped the plant gain mainstream attention, we also know cannabis can improve people’s skin and lives in so many ways,” she said. “We know that it’s not just traditional cannabis consumers looking to incorporate cannabis into their lives, but it is also moms, the elderly, athletes and everyone in between. We know that we need to appeal to a wider lens of consumers with the increased interest as a wellness product.”
Though Gersten isn’t looking to acquire a cannabis beauty brand just yet and none of his portfolio of brands has cannabis-related products, he did share that some of Tengram Capital Partners’ beauty brands are looking at CBD innovation right now. “The brand doesn’t need to be a cannabis [only] brand,” he said of the brand’s drawing interest from investors. “The brand permission just has to allow for a CBD ingredient play.” But within that, Gersten says specific positioning does matter: Is it about wellness, pain, inflammation or skin benefits?” he says. “It is still very confusing.”
Regardless, Dillon calls cannabis the “new acai bowl.” “When you start hearing celebrities and athletes talking about CBD as part of their routines, places like Sephora start carrying CBD products, and mainstream beauty editors writing about them, we will continue to see cannabis beauty pop up everywhere,” she said.