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How to Use Hemp Oil for the Skin

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Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University.

Hemp oil, more accurately called hemp seed oil, is the cannabis product most often used in topical over-the-counter skin care products, cosmetics, and cosmeceuticals. What is unique about hemp seed oil and why are so many people using it in their skincare routines?

What Is Hemp Oil?

Hemp seed oil is obtained from pressing the seeds of the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa L.). Unrefined hemp seed oil is a dark greenish color with a mildly nutty aroma. Refined hemp seed oil is clear with little to no smell, but it doesn’t contain as many of the skin-health benefits.

Hemp seed oil has become a very popular skincare ingredient. It’s also used in cooking.

Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana

Understanding the differences among cannabis, hemp, and marijuana can be confusing because marijuana and hemp all come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa. The distinction is the variety of the plant.

Cannabis is the name of a family of plants. Hemp is a variety within this family, and marijuana is another variety in the family.

Think of the types of tomatoes you find at the grocery store, like big beefsteak tomatoes versus small Roma tomatoes. Both come from the same plant (tomato vine) but are different varieties, and therefore, they produce different results if you were to cook with them. They would vary in nutrients, taste, texture, and more.

In the case of cannabis, the varieties differ in the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that they contain. THC is the psychoactive constituent responsible for the high that cannabis gives.

Hemp generally contains very little THC, so it has no psychoactive effects. As a result, hemp seed oil contains trace to no amounts of THC.

This, however, is under some scrutiny as some studies have shown that certain hemp seed oils may have detectable levels of THC. This could be the result of the oil becoming contaminated with other parts of the hemp plant during production.

Hemp seed oil won’t get you high. It is legal to be used and sold in skincare products.

Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil

Hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD) oil are also often confused with one another. Although they are obtained from the same plant, hemp oil and CBD oil are very different.

CBD is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant (both marijuana and hemp). You may be surprised to learn that hemp seed oil is naturally rich in CBD.

Hemp seed oil is comprised of a wide variety of different compounds, with CBD being just a tiny part. CBD is found throughout the entire plant, including stalks, seeds, leaves, and flowers.

While hemp seed oil is produced by simply pressing the seeds of the hemp plant, CBD oil is created by extracting and isolating the CBD compound. This compound is then blended with different ingredients to create a CBD product. Olive oil is most often used as a base to create a CBD oil.

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CBD itself does not have psychoactive effects, but it can be formulated with THC for a product that does cause a high.   CBD oil is often used for medicinal purposes.

Hemp-extracted CBD oil is also used in over-the-counter skincare products, but it’s not nearly as common a cosmetic ingredient as hemp seed oil.

It’s also important to know that hemp oil is not the same as marijuana oil or cannabis oil, either. Cannabis oil is extracted from the entire plant and has both CBD and THC. Cannabis oil is legal only in states that have legalized marijuana.

Skincare Benefits

Hemp oil is widely incorporated in many skincare products and cosmeceuticals. In fact, it’s become quite a trendy ingredient. Hemp oil is not just trendy, but it can offer benefits for your skin.

  • Moisturizing: This is the biggest and most well-verified benefit that hemp seed oil can deliver. Hemp oil is emollient and leaves the skin feeling soft and supple.
  • Antioxidant qualities: Hemp seed oil is high in antioxidant constituents: fatty acids like gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and vitamins A, C, and E. Antioxidant skincare products may help give your skin some protection against premature aging.  
  • Anti-inflammatory: Hemp oil contains components that have anti-inflammatory properties, and current research suggests it may help relieve skin inflammation.   There’s more research that needs to be done here, though, to fully understand how this works on the skin.
  • Potential antibacterial qualities: Studies also suggest that hemp oil has antibacterial qualities.   What effect this has on the skin, if any, is still being looked at.

Hemp oil, CBD oil, and other cannabinoids are being studied as possible treatments for a vast array of skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and skin cancer.  

Side Effects

Hemp seed oil has no side effects on its own, although it’s possible you may be sensitive to the ingredient.

When trying any new skincare product for the first time, be on the lookout for any signs of irritation: redness, itching, burning, or rash. If you notice any of these, stop using the offending product and give your healthcare provider a call if irritation doesn’t improve after several days.

Choosing a Hemp Oil Product

Hemp oil is incorporated in many cosmetic products, from soaps, lotions, balms and salves, facial products, and bath products.

  • Take a look at the ingredient listing. Sometimes manufacturers will put just a small amount of hemp oil in the product, simply so they can market their product as a trendy “hemp” product. Hemp oil needn’t be the first ingredient, but it shouldn’t be last, either.  
  • Consider your skincare goals. Don’t just choose a skincare product simply because it contains hemp oil. Consider what the product is designed to do and see if it aligns with your skin’s needs. For example, if your skin is dry, you’ll be happier with a more emollient cream rather than a light lotion.
  • Look at the other ingredients. The other ingredients in a product are going to have a lot to do with how the product functions, too. For example, if you’re looking for a highly moisturizing product, one that also contains hyaluronic acid is a good bet. For anti-aging, retinol or glycolic acid are good additions.  
  • Experiment. All hemp oil skincare products are going to feel differently on the skin. If you don’t care for one, don’t be shy about switching it out for another brand you may like better.
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How to Use Hemp Oil for Your Skin

You may decide to forgo the store-bought products and apply unrefined hemp seed oil directly on the skin, too. Hemp oil is considered noncomedogenic, which means it isn’t likely to clog your pores.

Hemp seed oil is considered a “dry” oil. This means it absorbs rather quickly and has a non-greasy feel, as far as lipid oils go.

Some ideas for using hemp seed oil:

  • Massage a few drops over a cleansed and moisturized face, for a DIY facial serum.
  • Apply after bathing or showering as a body oil.
  • Use as a carrier oil in aromatherapy.

Unrefined hemp seed oil is fragile and can quickly go rancid. To extend its shelf life, keep your hemp oil in the refrigerator.

A Word From Verywell

More research is being done to really know how hemp oil works on the skin. Although preliminary findings are intriguing, much more research needs to be done. Overall, you should like the way a product makes your skin feel and be happy with the results (and the price).

For treating skin problems, though, you should not rely on hemp-based skincare products for improvement. Many skin problems can be treated by your primary care physician. Your healthcare provider can also refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.

Remember, hemp oil is a unique addition to your daily skin care regimen, but it’s not a miracle cure. It shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a healthcare provider’s care.

How CBD Oil Can Help Dry and Itchy Skin in Cold Season

If you’ve ever suffered from a dry skin condition, you can attest to how irritating it is. Making matters worse, most people suffer from this condition. When you have dry skin, you tend to be scaly, and your skin is usually itchy. If you scratch, your skin may start to crack or peel off.

It’s not uncommon to feel like your whole body is experiencing dryness, but the most common place to experience this condition is in your legs, hands, arms, and feet.

Causes of Dry Skin

Weather

When the weather is dry, especially if you live in the desert or the mountains, your skin is bound to get dry. Your condition may worsen if you live in regions where the climate is humid – especially in the southeast part of the United States.

Seasons

Dryness is more prevalent during winter and fall since humidity levels are low.

As you get older, your body functions slow down. In turn, your skin experiences dryness more often because your body isn’t producing enough natural oil. You become more prone to sunburn due to decreased cell reproduction, and the change in hormones is also a contributor. Dermatologists may request that you use a daily moisturizer.

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Skin Ailments

Skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, cause dryness.

Your Job

Jobs can even be the cause of a dry body surface. For instance, if it’s a prerequisite to touch water as part of your job, your hands are destined to become dry. Some people become dehydrated using moisturizers that can have a wide array of side effects to treat dry and itchy body surfaces.

CBD as a Topical Application

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid obtained from cannabis and hemp. It’s not psychoactive; instead, it has therapeutic effects.

You may be wondering if CBD oil is effective for dry skin. This Green Mountain CBD review shows that people have successfully used CBD to treat dryness and itchiness.

CBD for dry skin is available either as a topical (balm or cream) or in oil form. You can apply it to your whole body, or only in places where you have dryness symptoms.

How CBD Helps Skin

Human skin is prone to suffering from various conditions, such as acne, itchiness, dryness, and inflammation. Thankfully, the use of CBD oil and topicals can treat these conditions. Here’s how CBD works for your body.

CBD Oil for Eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes your body’s surface to become dry, itchy, and cracked. This condition is often recurrent and severe. Although there’s no proven cure, people have been using topical steroid creams to treat it, but with side effects. Anecdotal evidence shows that CBD can be an alternative form of natural treatment, applying it topically or taking in capsule form.

Cannabidiol Oil for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another condition that causes skin dryness. It leaves your body with painful itching that results from excessive cell build-up on your skin surface. When you scratch, your skin may crack and bleed.

In other instances, your skin may become inflamed. Although there is no cure for this condition, the Journal of Dermatologists Science published a study that reveals that CBD can help treat psoriasis as it slows down individual skin cell production.

CBD topicals and oils can be used on the affected areas to heal cracked skin by providing an adequate amount of moisture. Anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol help ease itchiness, flaking, and dryness.

Talk to Us About CBD Oil

If you have dry skin and are looking to use CBD oil, consult with your doctor before making any significant changes to your skincare routine – especially if you’re currently taking a prescribed topical medication.

Have you ever used CBD oil for dry skin? What was your experience? Share your opinions and questions with us.

Rachel H. is an avid rock climber and a lover of outdoor activities. Her hands tend to suffer the brunt due to continuous use. Previously, she was using lotions and cream that had little to no effects on her hands. However, since she started using CBD lotions, her hands have improved significantly as she no longer has dry and cracked hands and fingers. A little amount goes a long way. Rachel also uses CBD lip revitalizer for her lips.