Well, it’s finally caught on, cannabis-based beauty products are now being sold at mass market retailers such as Sephora, boutique organic stores like Kiehl’s and even high end retailers like Neiman Marcus. But is it just a fad or does it really work? That’s a question that’s going to take some time to answer as these products haven’t been around that long. In fact, I just got my 1st bottle of cannabis sativa concentrate today and so far, it’s just like any other oil I’ve used on my face except it smells bad.
Nevertheless, I am very interested in this because several years ago, I worked on the regulations implementing the legalization of marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts. At the time, I hadn’t thought much about the plant because it was taboo. Not very many scientists were interested in studying it and as a DEA Schedule I drug (it still is btw) so not very many people COULD study it. Because of this, we didn’t really have a lot to go on as far as figuring out how to regulate its distribution and more importantly, ensure the safety and quality of the formulations that would eventually end up on the market. At the time, I never even considered that any element of the plant would be used in skin care.
To be clear, none of the cannabis-based skin care products on the market now contain any significant, if at all, amounts of the psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC…it wouldn’t be allowed entry into inter-state commerce if it did. Instead, the cannabis-based skin care products are focused on the cannabis sativa oil, which has been tested and shown to have high concentrations of antioxidants and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. But here’s the thing…the beauty industry already has tons and tons of products that are cannabis-free and claim to have the same things so why are cannabis-derived skin care products proliferating?
Well, ’cause it’s new and novel. A quick Google search on the benefits of cannabis-derived skin care products will suggest to you that cannabis is an anti-inflammatory agent, skin hydrator and even anti-acne. But how can anyone be sure when up until 5-7 years ago, you couldn’t even work with the plant let alone make beauty products out of it? Personally, I don’t believe that cannabis-derived skin care products are better than other cannabis-free skin care products that contain the same concentration of anti-oxidants and fatty acids at treating anything.
The more interesting property of the plant to me, is that it’s active compounds have a longer half life once ingested or absorbed by the body, which means it stays in the body for a long time. Think about if you smoke pot today, you’ll probably fail the drug test for THC for weeks and this is just the dried version of the plant, no chemical manipulation, etc. So , to me, that means that there are properties of the plant that make it an excellent drug/chemical transporter.
In skin care, this property would be very useful because one of the challenges of developing skin care products is that it takes a long time to see the effects of the product and often times, it evaporates or changes its chemical composition before it can be absorbed by the skin. As an example, think about how hard it is to keep the SK-II essence or vitamin C on your face for long periods of time. That’s the whole premise of using sheet masks, keeping the active ingredients on your face long enough for it to work. So what if, we could use cannabis (minus its psychoactive compounds) to deliver and maintain active skin care ingredients on the skin? Now wouldn’t that be more useful than yet another, anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant/anti-aging agent?