March 13, 2024 | Uncategorized | By Dave McShane

What Are CBD Topicals? An Overview

This article provides an analytical exploration of CBD topicals, an emerging sector within the broader CBD industry.

We examine the science underpinning these products’ perceived benefits and usage.

We also address common misconceptions supported by scientific data.

This comprehensive overview is for a discerning audience seeking mastery of CBD topicals, their role in health and wellness, and their potential future trajectory.



Understanding CBD and Topicals

CBD topicals, a term denoting a category of products infused with Cannabidiol (CBD), have emerged as a popular choice for those seeking alternative therapeutic solutions. The growing acceptance of these products is due to the unique properties of CBD. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in Cannabis Sativa plants. The CBD compound interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This complex cell-signalling system regulates various functions and processes, including pain, inflammation, mood, and sleep.

As the name suggests, topicals are designed to be applied directly to the skin. They penetrate the epidermal and dermal skin layers to deliver localised relief. The CBD in these topicals interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the skin, muscles, and nerves, providing targeted relief. Unlike oral CBD products, topicals bypass the digestive system and bloodstream, thus avoiding systemic distribution.

CBD topicals include creams, lotions, salves, balms, and oils. Each of these products contains varying concentrations of CBD, allowing users to tailor their usage according to their therapeutic needs. The combination of this flexibility and the potential therapeutic benefits has sparked interest in CBD topicals among consumers and researchers alike.





The Science Behind CBD Topicals

How exactly do these CBD-infused topicals work from a scientific perspective? The complex interaction between CBD and the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the answer.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a type of cannabinoid – one of many naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant.

When applied topically, CBD penetrates the skin to interact with cannabinoid receptors. These receptors, namely CB1 and CB2 receptors, are located throughout the body. These receptors are part of the ECS, a biological system regulating various physiological and cognitive processes, including pain sensation, mood, and memory.

CBD’s interaction with these receptors can help modulate the body’s response to pain, inflammation, and skin conditions.

Interestingly, CBD does not bind directly to these receptors like other cannabinoids, such as THC. Instead, it acts indirectly, enhancing the body’s natural levels of endocannabinoids and internally produced cannabinoids. This indirect action is one of the reasons why CBD topicals are well-tolerated and have few side effects.

In essence, the science behind CBD topicals lies in their ability to leverage the body’s own ECS, providing potential relief for a variety of conditions without the psychoactive effects associated with other cannabinoids.



Different Types of CBD Topicals

After exploring the science behind CBD topicals, we discuss the various types available in the market.

The CBD topical market offers a wide assortment of products, each uniquely formulated to deliver the benefits of CBD in different ways.


  1. CBD Creams and Lotions are designed primarily for pain relief and skincare. They often contain additional ingredients like essential oils and herbs for added benefits. CBD is absorbed directly through the skin, targeting specific areas for relief.
  2. CBD Balms and Salves are thicker and more concentrated than creams and lotions. They are ideal for treating localised pain and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
  3. CBD Transdermal Patches: These deliver a steady dose of CBD over a prolonged period. The CBD contained in the patch is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, providing systemic effects.


Each type of CBD topical has its unique formulation and application, making it essential for the user to select the product that best suits their needs. As CBD research advances, we expect the market to offer even more specialised products, further enhancing the therapeutic potential of CBD topicals.


How CBD Topicals Work

In the realm of therapeutic products, a significant number of CBD topicals function by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system to provide relief. This system, present in all mammals, regulates many physiological processes, including pain, inflammation, mood, and sleep.

CBD topicals penetrate the skin layers to reach the endocannabinoid receptors when applied to the skin. Contrary to systemic CBD products, topicals work locally, only affecting the area where they are used. This localised action allows targeted relief, making CBD topicals particularly useful for localised pain, inflammation, or skin conditions.

The effectiveness of CBD topicals hinges on the presence of endocannabinoid receptors in the skin. As per the scientific understanding, these receptors, part of the broader endocannabinoid system, bind with the CBD molecules in the topical, triggering a response that culminates in alleviating the symptom, be it pain, inflammation, or a skin condition.

Hence, the working mechanism of CBD topicals is a tailored interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system, facilitating localised relief for a spectrum of conditions.


Benefits of Using CBD Topicals

CBD topicals offer many benefits, primarily stemming from their unique ability to target specific areas of discomfort in the body. Their transdermal application allows for localised effects, providing relief where needed. This advantage is particularly significant for those seeking to manage chronic pain, inflammation, and skin conditions.

Further advantages are:


  1. Non-Psychoactive: CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. As a non-psychoactive compound, this means that CBD topicals can provide therapeutic benefits without the user experiencing the ‘high’ associated with cannabis.
  2. Skin Health: CBD has known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may promote healthier skin. It can help manage conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne by reducing inflammation and soothing the skin.
  3. Ease of Use: CBD topicals are easy to use and can be applied directly to the affected area, providing targeted relief. They are also available in various forms, such as creams, lotions, balms, and oils, giving users a range of options to suit their preferences.


Understanding these benefits can help individuals decide whether CBD topicals might be valuable to their health regimen. As with any health product, consulting a healthcare professional before starting use is recommended.



The Legality of CBD Topicals

Navigating the legal landscape of CBD topicals, it’s essential to note that regulations can vary widely depending on geographical location and local laws. On a federal level in the United States, the 2018 Farm Bill legalised the production and sale of hemp and its extracts as long as it doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC. Consequently, CBD topicals derived from hemp are generally legal to sell and use across the United States.

However, nuances exist within the regulatory framework. For instance, the FDA maintains regulatory authority over the marketing and labelling of CBD. These regulations mean that CBD topicals can only be marketed with claims of therapeutic benefits that have been FDA-approved. Furthermore, some states have enacted stricter regulations on CBD than the federal government.

Internationally, the legality of CBD topicals varies even more significantly. In Canada, for example, CBD is treated like a prescription drug and can only be sold legally with a prescription. In contrast, in many European countries, CBD topicals are legal as long as the THC content is below a certain threshold.

Thus, consumers and businesses must be aware of and abide by the specific regulations in their jurisdiction.


How to Use CBD Topicals

You must understand the correct application method to ensure maximum CBD topical effectiveness. The application method involves scientific and systematic processes that, when done correctly, can provide you with the potential benefits of CBD in a targeted, localised manner.

Here are three essential steps to follow when applying CBD topicals:


  1. Preparation: Before you use your CBD topical, ensure the target area is clean and dry. This preparation is crucial as it allows the CBD to penetrate your skin effectively without barriers like dust or oil.
  2. Application: Apply a generous amount of the product onto your skin, massaging it gently but thoroughly. The aim is to encourage the absorption of CBD into your skin’s surface, so don’t rush this process.
  3. Patience: After application, give the product time to work. CBD topicals don’t offer immediate effects. Allow the CBD to interact with the skin’s cannabinoid receptors to provide the desired results.


Understanding this procedure and the underlying scientific principles will enable you to harness the maximum potential of your CBD topical, leading to a more effective and satisfying experience.


Potential Side Effects of CBD Topicals

Despite the numerous benefits that one can derive from using CBD topicals, a small percentage of users might experience specific side effects. These are often minor and transient, but potential users must know them.

The most commonly reported side effects of CBD topicals include skin irritation, redness, or rash at the application site. These symptoms are typically due to an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in the product rather than the CBD itself. However, instances of sensitivity to CBD have been reported, albeit rarely.

Furthermore, there may be some systemic effects to consider. Even though the transdermal absorption of CBD is limited, it can still enter the bloodstream in small amounts. In rare cases, this could lead to side effects such as dizziness, light-headedness, or dry mouth.

It is also important to note that CBD may interact with certain medications, enhancing or reducing their effects. Therefore, individuals who are on any medications should consult with a healthcare professional before starting to use CBD topicals.

Despite these potential side effects, CBD topicals remain a safe and effective option for many people seeking relief from a variety of symptoms.



CBD Topicals for Pain Management

Transitioning from potential side effects, it is crucial to highlight the prominent role CBD topicals play in pain management. Numerous studies substantiate their therapeutic efficacy for the relief of chronic pain symptoms, primarily through their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system.


  1. Interaction with Endocannabinoid System: CBD topicals interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in our skin, muscles, and nerves, potentially reducing pain and inflammation.
  2. Localised Pain Relief: Unlike oral CBD products, topicals focus on localised pain areas, making them ideal for targeted relief. For instance, individuals with arthritis may benefit from applying CBD topicals directly to painful joints.
  3. Non-Addictive and Safe: The World Health Organization affirms the safety profile of CBD, highlighting its non-addictive nature. This official approval allows CBD use as a compelling alternative to conventional pain medications that may carry risks of addiction and harmful side effects.



CBD Topicals for Skin Health

One significant aspect to consider is the potential impact of CBD topicals on skin health. Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, has been extensively studied for its potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic properties. When infused into topical products, CBD may benefit the skin.

Research suggests that CBD can help reduce symptoms of various skin conditions. Its anti-inflammatory properties can prove beneficial in managing conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. It can alleviate inflammation and redness, promoting skin healing and regeneration. Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of CBD can neutralise harmful free radicals, thus preventing oxidative stress and reducing signs of ageing such as wrinkles and skin dullness.

CBD topicals, including creams, lotions, and balms, come with different concentrations of CBD, allowing users to choose a product that best suits their skin needs. It is crucial to note that while CBD has shown promise in skin health, more comprehensive studies are needed to understand its effects and potential fully. It is also advisable to consult a healthcare provider before incorporating CBD topicals into a skincare routine.


Comparison: CBD Topicals Vs. Oral CBD

A considerable number of consumers often find themselves comparing CBD topicals and oral CBD, two distinct methods of CBD administration, each with its unique benefits and drawbacks. This comparison is primarily driven by a desire to maximise the therapeutic benefits of CBD while minimising potential side effects.


  1. Method of Administration: CBD topicals are applied directly to the skin, allowing for localised relief of pain and inflammation. On the other hand, oral CBD is ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream, offering systemic effects and a longer duration of action.
  2. Onset and Duration of Effects: Topicals typically offer rapid relief, with effects felt within minutes of application. However, these effects may not last as long as those from oral CBD, which usually take longer to onset but persist for several hours.
  3. Bioavailability: Topicals typically have lower bioavailability than oral CBD due to the skin acting as a barrier to absorption. However, this can benefit those seeking localised relief without systemic effects.



Selecting Quality CBD Topicals

When picking out high-quality CBD topicals, several crucial factors come into play, ensuring you reap the maximum therapeutic benefits.

Firstly, it’s essential to consider the source of the CBD—quality products derived from organic, non-GMO hemp grown under rigorous cultivation standards.

Next, the extraction method is crucial. Supercritical CO2 extraction is the gold standard, preserving the purity and potency of the CBD while eliminating possible contaminants.

Thirdly, the type of CBD in the product should be considered. Full-spectrum CBD contains all-natural compounds in cannabis, including terpenes and other cannabinoids, leading to a synergistic ‘entourage effect’. If you prefer no THC at all, choose broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate.

Fourthly, pay attention to the other ingredients. Quality topicals often include other beneficial substances like essential oils, vitamins, or botanical extracts.

Lastly, reputable companies provide third-party lab results confirming the CBD content and the absence of harmful substances.

These considerations will guide you in selecting top-quality CBD topicals that deliver on their therapeutic promises. Always consult healthcare professionals before starting any new CBD regimen.


Common Misconceptions About CBD Topicals

Despite the market’s rigorous standards for quality CBD topicals, consumers’ understanding of these products often falls prey to common misconceptions. These misunderstandings can lead to biased judgment or misuse of the products.

Here are three common misconceptions:


  1. CBD Topicals Cause Intoxication: CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp. Unlike THC, CBD does not induce a high or any form of intoxication. This misconception may arise from the association of CBD with cannabis, but it’s crucial to understand that they have different chemical properties and effects.
  2. All CBD Topicals Are the Same: CBD topicals vary significantly in quality, potency, and formulation. Factors like the source of CBD, extraction method, and additional ingredients can affect the efficacy and safety of the product.
  3. Instant Results: While some users may experience immediate relief, CBD topicals generally require consistent use over time to achieve the best results. The effect also depends on individual factors like the severity of the condition, body chemistry, and dosage.


Understanding these misconceptions can help consumers make informed decisions and get the most out of their CBD topicals.



Scientific Research on CBD Topicals

Following clarifying common misconceptions about CBD topicals, we now focus on the scientific research conducted on these products.

Numerous studies have been carried out to understand the efficacy of CBD topicals, their potential therapeutic benefits, and their safety profile. For instance, a 2015 study published in the European Journal of Pain demonstrated that transdermal CBD could reduce inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat arthritis model.

Another study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2018 showed promising results of CBD topicals in reducing inflammation and symptoms in patients with skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, and allergic dermatitis.

It’s important to note that while these findings are encouraging, more comprehensive and longitudinal studies are required to fully understand the long-term effects and potential side effects of CBD topicals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates these products as cosmetics, not medications. As such, consumers should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new CBD topical regimen.



Future of CBD Topicals in Health and Wellness

Given their demonstrated therapeutic potential and increasing consumer interest, we can see a promising future for CBD topicals in health and wellness. As research continues exploring the myriad health benefits of CBD topicals, we anticipate several significant trends.


  1. Greater Scientific Understanding: As more clinical trials unfold, our knowledge of CBD’s therapeutic mechanisms will deepen. These trials will pave the way for more targeted and effective topical applications, enhancing their potential to manage chronic pain, inflammation, and skin disorders.
  2. Industry Growth and Innovation: The increasing acceptance of CBD topicals will drive industry growth, leading to innovation in product development. We expect more CBD-infused wellness products, from skincare creams to therapeutic balms.
  3. Regulations and Quality Assurance: The future will inevitably bring stricter rules to ensure product safety and efficacy. Robust quality assurance procedures will become the norm, increasing consumer trust and paving the way for CBD topicals to become an integral part of health and wellness routines.


Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Storage Conditions Required for CBD Topicals?”

CBD topicals are best stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Attention to optimum storage conditions helps maintain their potency and protects shelf life. Ensure the containers are sealed correctly to prevent exposure to air.


Are There Any Significant Drug Interactions When Using CBD Topicals?”

While studies are ongoing, current evidence suggests that CBD topicals may interact with certain drugs, potentially altering their effects. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before combining CBD with other medications.


Can CBD Topicals Be Used in Conjunction With Other Therapies?”

Yes, CBD topicals can be used in conjunction with other therapies. However, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended to ensure proper application and avoid potential interactions with other treatments.


What Is the Average Shelf Life of CBD Topicals?”

CBD topicals’ average shelf life varies, typically 1-2 years. This shelf-life can depend on the product’s formulation, packaging, and storage conditions. Always check the product’s expiry date for precise information.


Are There Any Substantial Differences in the Effects of CBD Topicals Across Different Age Groups?”

Differences in the effects of CBD topicals across age groups may exist due to variations in skin absorption, metabolism, and overall health status. However, comprehensive research on this topic currently needs to be completed.




In conclusion, CBD topicals have unique properties and potential health benefits and have carved a unique niche within the CBD industry. Backed by scientific research and growing popularity, they offer a promising future in health and wellness.

However, understanding the science behind them, selecting quality products, and debunking common misconceptions are essential to harness their full potential. As research progresses, these products may redefine our approach to skin-related issues and general well-being.