You’ve seen skincare products with hemp, CBD, and THC everywhere lately.
But, um: What is hemp lotion?
A hemp lotion is a face or body lotion infused with extracts from the cannabis plant. Some people swear by these creams as a way to treat dry skin, eczema, and other skin conditions. But what does the science say?
For decades, the US government prohibited scientific research on cannabis. Though many scientists are currently studying the potential benefits and risks of cannabis and cannabis compounds, much remains unproven. The government continues to keep a close eye on how manufacturers of cannabis products describe potential uses and benefits.
But as anecdotal evidence for cannabis products–including hemp lotion—emerge, many Americans are opting to begin their own personal scientific experiments with cannabis. And though a manufacturer of hemp lotion (High Desert Pure, to name a totally random example) can’t claim that their product will help skin ailments, individual consumers can. This word-of-mouth publicity has catapulted the value of the CBD industry in recent years.
The hemp market was valued at $3.61 billion in 2020, but if you don’t get it yet, you’re not the only one. It’s clear the industry is here to stay, though—so now is a great time to figure out what it’s all about.
What Is Hemp Lotion?
Hemp is a version of the Cannabis sativa plant that doesn’t contain the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). That means it can’t make you feel high even if you smoke or eat it. As of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp became legal to grow in 46 US states. It’s also grown in China, Australia, Canada, France, the UK…
All those hemp fields aren’t just for making CBD, though. Hemp grows quickly and is incredibly versatile—it can be used to make rope, plastic, fabric, concrete, and more, to say nothing of the potential edible uses, like hemp seeds. You could live in a house made out of hemp, wear hemp clothes, and drink smoothies full of hemp seeds. And, of course, slather yourself in hemp lotion!
You’ll see two different kinds of hemp lotion on the shelves: lotion made with hemp seed oil, and lotion made with hemp oil (AKA CBD oil, AKA cannabidiol oil).
Hemp seed oil is made from the seeds of the hemp plant and does not contain cannabinoids (like CBD).
Hemp oil or CBD oil is made from the leaves and flowers of hemp plants and cannabis plants. It doesn’t contain THC and can’t make you high. We use “hemp lotion” and “CBD lotion” interchangeably.
The truth? Hemp seed oil is basically just cooking oil. It’s not bad for your skin, but it’s probably not what your friends are raving about. So unless you want to rub a lotion full of cooking grease on your body, make sure the hemp lotion you’re buying contains CBD.
Some hemp lotion aficionados use the products to combat dryness and sensitive skin—but how well do hemp lotions really work?
What Makes Hemp Lotion Different Compared To Regular Lotion?
Hemp lotion has hemp in it. Regular lotion does not.
Whew. Sorry for getting so technical there.
But really: It can be hard to know what’s different about a bottle of hemp lotion! It doesn’t help that ingredient labels can read like a garble of impenetrable Latin. So let’s talk about ingredients—what to avoid and what to look for.
Our least favorite ingredients:
- Pesticides: Okay, so no one is putting pesticides in lotion on purpose (we hope). But a lot of ingredients that do end up in lotion are grown with pesticides, and if you’re trying to make your skin happy, maybe don’t slather it with something meant to kill insects.
- Parabens: Parabens are a category of preservatives. They’re meant to kill the little microbial doodads that would make a lotion go moldy. Some folks cite skin irritation and allergies to parabens; some people seem to cope fine. It’s always wise to test a small patch of skin for yourself to gauge your reaction. Ultimately, we’re not crazy about using parabens, so we rely on other antimicrobial agents, but if given the choice between putting a paraben on your skin and putting a container of mold on your skin, you should probably go for the paraben (sorry).
- Petroleum by-products: You are probably familiar with petroleum, AKA crude oil, AKA that fossil fuel everyone’s on about. But did you know it’s super prevalent in skincare? Petroleum jelly was discovered when oil rig operators noticed a goopy material building up on their equipment (which would not make this particular copywriter think, “I should put this on my face,” but, hey, you do you). It’s a controversial product, in part because though studies indicate that fully refined petroleum products are safe on skin, unrefined petroleum products are not. And from an environmental standpoint, though petroleum jelly is far from the biggest user of crude oil (transportation, heating, and manufacturing plastic all rank much higher), it’s still part of the oil industry.
Okay. Now that we’re feeling down about all the things we don’t want to see in our lotion, let’s get positive. What key ingredients make us happy?
Our favorite ingredients:
- Shea butter: Shea butter comes from shea tree nuts. It’s an emollient, which means it can make the skin feel softer and more moisturized. (The American pronunciation is shay, by the way!)
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is packed with essential fatty acids. Applying coconut oil as a topical can help prevent water from evaporating out of your skin (which leads to dryness).
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s thought to help combat UV-induced free radical damage to the skin.
- Aloe: The aloe vera plant is full of enzymes that can act as a natural exfoliant and help combat oily skin.
- CBD: We couldn’t forget CBD, could we? Though many studies are still ongoing, a promising body of research indicates topical CBD could have benefits for skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis. Why not run your own science experiment and try it for yourself?
|Comparison||High Desert Pure Hemp Lotion||Mass-Produced Regular Lotion|
|Ingredients||CBD oil, shea butter, vitamin E||Possible parabens and petroleum by-products|
|Production||Quality-based, small-batch||Industrially produced|
|Transparency||Offers third-party laboratory testing results||No batch-specific data|
|Accountability||Always cruelty-free||Sometimes cruelty-free|
What Makes Hemp Lotion Different Compared To CBD Oil?
Some forms of hemp lotion contain CBD oil. So what’s the difference?
Whenever you’re buying a hemp product, remember: Read the label. Read the ingredients. You may not be buying the product you think you’re buying.
When you see a product advertised as “CBD oil” or “hemp oil,” it could mean one of four things. Yes, four. Sorry. Regulators need to clarify all this. But for now:
- Pure CBD oil: Super potent, super pure, this is just plain old CBD oil. It’s been extracted straight from the plant. This is probably not what you are buying. It tends to be way too potent and difficult to use for general consumption. It’s what we use to infuse our products with CBD in our laboratory, but we don’t sell straight CBD oil.
- A CBD-infused oil or tincture: This is what shows up when you Google a list of “best CBD oils.” You will find mostly small dropper bottles (usually between 1 and 4 fl oz) filled with a carrier oil. This carrier oil is often coconut oil, MCT oil, or hemp seed oil. Remember, hemp seed oil doesn’t have any CBD—it’s basically olive oil. In a CBD-infused oil or tincture, the carrier oil is infused with a small amount of hemp oil (AKA CBD oil). These products are mostly taken orally.
- A hemp seed oil: As previously discussed, this product will contain no CBD. There’s a decent chance you’re getting ripped off. Maybe look elsewhere.
- A CBD-infused body oil: Though you could put a CBD-infused tincture on your skin, some companies also make skin-specific products called oils. The High Desert Pure CBD-infused massage oil, for example. It’s infused with CBD, but like a lotion, it’s meant to be applied topically.
90% of the time you see a “CBD oil” advertised, you’re looking at a CBD-infused tincture or topical oil. Let’s do a quick comparison:
|Comparison||High Desert Pure Hemp Lotion||CBD Oil|
|Ingredients||Moisturizing lotion infused with CBD oil||Just CBD oil and a carrier oil|
|Skin feel||Non-greasy and silky smooth||Can feel sticky and greasy on the skin|
|Value||Enough for many uses across your whole body||Usually packaged in small containers|
How Does Hemp Lotion Affect Your Skin?
By now, you have a solid understanding of what hemp lotion is. But what should you expect when you’re expecting (to put it on your skin)?
As we said at the top, current regulations make it really hard to make any direct claims about the benefits of CBD. We have to keep things a little vague—we’re not allowed to say CBD will cure X, Y, or Z ailment, but we can direct you to some of the latest research and let you know about some of the anecdotal stories we’ve heard from fans of our products. Ultimately, the best way to know if a CBD product will benefit you is to run your own experiment.
Some topical-lovers swear by CBD products for its anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Others say CBD products provide great hydration without clogging pores.
It’s worth noting that scientists are still studying CBD oil, so many of the best stories about CBD‘s potential benefits are anecdotal. Which brings us to…
Since CBD is still being studied, it’s worth mentioning the potential downsides, too.
For example, while most people don’t have negative reactions to CBD, some people don’t experience much of a reaction at all—positive or negative. Hopefully, with more research, we’ll understand how CBD interacts with different skin types and skin conditions.
What about allergies? Some people have reported allergies to different forms of cannabis, including hemp seed oil. If you’re trying a new skincare product, it’s always worth testing it out on a small patch of skin before slathering your whole body!
How To Apply Hemp Lotion?
So you’ve got your new bottle of hemp lotion. How the heck do you put it on?
We’ve got good news: There’s not a wrong way to apply it. You’re not going to get high from a topical application of a cannabis product, and it’s not possible to overdose on topicals. Basically: Apply a hemp body lotion the same way you’d apply any other body lotion or body cream.
Let’s break it down even more.
- Put just a dab of lotion on your hand or arm to make sure you don’t have any allergies.
- All good? Great. Apply more lotion wherever you feel needs attention—skin conditions, sore muscles, or areas of general dryness.
- Check in with how you’re feeling! Keep applying your lotion daily for a week; some folks find that CBD needs a few days to gain full efficacy.
We get a lot of questions about this, so here are a few quick answers that might assuage some fears:
- Can you overdose on a CBD lotion/hemp lotion? No. No more than you can overdose on any body lotion. The lotion isn’t entering your bloodstream.
- What if I ate it? Could I overdose if I ate your lotion? Still no. I mean, please don’t eat our lotion (that’s a waste of good lotion). But you’d be fine. For starters, you wouldn’t feel high if you ate CBD lotion because there’s no THC in it. And even if you were eating (gross) a lotion that did include THC, there are no reports of anyone dying from cannabis. Seriously.
- So you’re saying there’s no real way to screw up my first use of hemp lotion? Pretty much.
Does Hemp Lotion Affect Drug Tests?
And of course, the most common question we get asked deserves its own section: Will hemp lotion show up on a drug test?
If you’re worried about this, you’re not alone! This is a super common concern. You just have to look around Reddit to see how many people are worried their product will trigger a false positive:
Let’s unpack all this together.
First of all, drug tests are trying to find THC, not CBD.
Second, when you apply a cannabis product topically, it doesn’t pass into your bloodstream. Drug tests measure drugs that are in your bloodstream. Even if you used a THC lotion, it would not show up on a drug test. We feel especially bad for the guy worried about his hemp seed oil Old Spice lotion. Hemp seed oil, as we now know, doesn’t even have CBD in it, much less THC. The only thing he needs to worry about is that he may have been overpaying for a lotion full of cooking oil.
That said, we know drug tests are scary! Some folks worry that the CBD or hemp product they’re buying contains trace amounts of THC, and thus will trigger a false positive on their drug test. This is a great reason to always buy cannabis products that provide batch-specific, third-party lab testing data. This data will show you precise amounts of CBD and THC in your products. If you really want to avoid THC, look for the letters “LOQ,” which means “less than the limit of quantification.” That means that the laboratory running the test couldn’t find a quantifiable amount of THC.
We’re hopeful that the Federal Drug Administration will clarify its rules soon. CBD and hemp are federally legal, so it’s a shame that folks looking to CBD for relief feel nervous they might be doing something wrong.
Signs To Check When Buying Hemp Lotions
Now that we’re experts, what are some green flags to check for when you’re looking to buy hemp lotion?
- Formulas packed with natural ingredients—think vitamin E, shea butter, and aloe
- Formulas that leave out ingredients and practices you don’t love—is it paraben-free, gluten-free, and cruelty-free?
- The cannabis is listed as “hemp extract” or “hemp oil” rather than “hemp seed oil“
- A high potency. How many milligrams of cannabis are you getting per bottle? Some companies will try to sell a bottle of lotion with only 50, or even 10, milligrams of CBD per bottle. Look for a potency of 250 mg per bottle or higher
- Third-party testing data
Still with us?
It’s no surprise hemp lotion has developed such a devoted following over the past few years. People love it for its potential benefits in both skincare and pain management. While some trendy skincare ingredients come and go, it seems like hemp is here to stay.
Fortunately, you’ll be able to answer in (excruciating!) detail the next time someone asks you, “Hey, what is hemp lotion, exactly?” The only thing left to do is try it for yourself.