Since CBD was legalized on a national scale in late 2018, there has been an explosion of CBD products on the market. While you can find CBD products available at dispensaries, you’ll also find them lining the shelves of traditional retail stores, including some large national retail chains.
CBD topicals, which include lotions, balms, creams, and salves, have become a popular product for people looking to find relief from both localized pain and skin conditions. CBD is often used to alleviate symptoms of eczema, headaches, arthritis, muscle strains, and minor aches and pains from exercise and more.
But with an explosion of CBD topicals available, it can be hard to choose the right products and to know which products are worth buying. We’ll cover everything you need to know about topical CBD, including how it works, types available and how to choose the right product.
How Do CBD Topicals Work?
Unlike CBD that is inhaled or taken sublingually (tinctures), CBD from CBD balms, lotions, and other topical treatments is not absorbed directly into your bloodstream. Instead, it is absorbed into your skin and surface tissue, making them a treatment option for localized pain relief, as well as skincare products. While the science of how CBD works is still being researched, CBD topicals are believed to provide pain relief in at least three principal ways:
Increasing Endocannabinoid Availability
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body. These receptors play a role in regulating a huge range of body processes including pain, inflammation, and appetite. CBD topicals can play a role in reducing pain and inflammation as well. By binding to receptors in subdermal tissue, CBD increases the availability of endocannabinoids, which may help reduce local aches and pains.
Through the same system, CBD balms may also reduce inflammation. When you exercise, your muscles develop small tears, which causes your body to produce inflammation. The purpose of inflammation is to prompt your immune system to repair the tissue. However, too much inflammation can lead to pain and stiffness. CBD seems to reduce natural inflammation, whether it’s caused by exercise or inflammatory illnesses.
TRPV1 receptors are proteins responsible for regulating your body temperature and detecting dangerous temperature-related conditions. If you put your hand on a hot stove, it’s your TRPV1 receptors that send out pain signals to let you know to pull away quickly. CBD may stimulate these receptors, producing heat and desensitizing your nerve-endings to pain.
Types of CBD Topicals and Common Uses
CBD topicals are any products that include CBD and are applied externally. Some products focus on providing a strong dose of CBD for pain relief. Others tout a wider variety of healing botanicals, herbs, and essential oils for a sensual experience.
Despite major differences from product to product, however, CBD topicals typically fit into three main categories: balms/salves, lotions/creams, and roll-on products.
Balms and Salves
Common uses: Localized pain relief, arthritis, skin inflammation treatment, headache and migraine relief
The terms salve and balm are often used more or less interchangeably. Both contain the same base ingredients: oil and wax. The oil portion is often coconut oil, which has nourishing fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties that nourish the skin. A variety of other oils like olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, vitamin E, and various essential oils can also be used, either alone or in combination. It’s actually the oil that helps the CBD absorb into the skin.
The wax portion is generally beeswax, although vegetable waxes can also be used (particularly for vegan balms). The purpose of the wax is to form a barrier, protecting the skin while it heals.
Wander All-purpose CBD balm provides a great combination of skin treatment and CBD therapy, making them useful for anything from sunburns to achy joints.
Lotions and Creams
Common uses: Localized pain relief, dry skin treatment, skincare products
Lotions and creams are a lot like balms, typically containing oils as well as some waxy ingredients. The main difference is that they have some amount of water, which helps them moisturize the skin. Some lotions use aloe or other plant ingredients that contain water. Others may just add water directly.
The light texture and water content of lotions make them ideal for treating dry skin. For local relief such as relieving muscle aches, however, lotions aren’t inherently better (or worse) than balms. The ingredients and quality matter more than the terminology.
Elite Hemp Products CBD Cream is like a combination of skincare products and CBD treatment. It moisturizes and soothes your skin while treating aches and pains, and other issues.
Salves and Roll-Ons
Common uses: Localized pain relief, arthritis, soreness from exercising, headache and migraine relief
Unlike balms and creams, salves generally contain no wax. CBD salves contain carrier oils like other CBD topicals, along with essential oils, CBD and other cannabis extracts. Without wax, the consistency is thinner, which makes them perfect for rolling onto trouble spots. CBD salves can be great for after-workout care, arthritis relief, and other applications where the main goal is to administer the CBD to an area of the body, rather than skincare.
Mary’s Jane All-Natural Pain Relief Roll-On is a simple and effective treatment for localized pain. Use it to treat headaches, migraines, arthritis flare-ups, or any other muscle or joint pain.
How to Choose CBD Topicals
The CBD industry is new, and not well-regulated. While there are many reputable companies making high-quality CBD products, there are many others who aren’t. In fact, one study of CBD products purchased in Miami found that one third contained no CBD at all. The only way to tell for sure if a product contains what it’s supposed to is to look at the lab results. It’s a good idea to ask a company how it ensures quality, and ask for an independent lab report.
At Heally, we know that not every consumer is going to take the time to research their CBD topicals. That’s why we ensure all our products are independently tested for quality, purity, and consistency. That way, you can be sure any cannabis product you buy through Heally will be safe, natural, and effective.
You should also look at how your company sources and produces its CBD. Look for a company that either produces its own cannabis or has a close relationship with its vendor. Organically-grown CBD products, produced in the United States are preferable to conventionally grown ones.
Topical CBD Ingredients to Look Out For
In general, you’re better off with broad or full-spectrum CBD products than isolates. Cannabis has a range of cannabinoids and terpenes that can enhance the healing power of CBD. These are present in broad and full-spectrum products, but not in CBD isolates.
Finally, take a look at the other ingredients in the CBD topical. Avoid products with phthalates, as they have been linked to cancer, endocrine system disruption, and other health effects. You may also want to avoid synthetic fragrances, dyes, and other artificial ingredients that may cause irritation.
Do consider the other healing ingredients in a CBD topical — particularly if they’re specific to the condition you’re seeking to relieve. For example, Mary’s Jane Menstrual Roll-On Relief contains clary sage oil — an essential oil traditionally used to treat menstrual cramping — which may make it more effective for menstrual pain relief.