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The Ultimate Guide to Vegan CBD and Cannabis Skincare

Cannabis has quickly become one of the most buzzed-about beauty ingredients, much thanks to CBD.

CBD — short for cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis revered for a number of health benefits — is showing up in a number of categories from cocktails and sparkling water to chocolate, infused dinners, and even dog treats. But it has also crossed over into the beauty realm, especially when it comes to natural skin care and beauty products. Its appeal to the current interest in all-natural beauty and wellness speaks to its rise into the mainstream — but a few questions still remain: what is CBD? Does it get you high? How is it different from hemp? And what does it do for your skin?


What’s the difference between CBD and THC? | Kush Queen

The verbiage surrounding the recent trend can be confusing. The skincare aisle is lined with products toting cannabis-derived ingredients from hemp seed oil to full spectrum CBD to cannabis sativa oil. Each ingredient comes with its own unique skincare benefits, but there are distinctions that set them apart.

CBD oil is a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC, is the stuff in marijuana that gets you high. But marijuana and THC specifically have notable therapeutic benefits – it’s used to alleviate chronic pain, insomnia, trauma, and anxiety. It usually comes with the side-effect of couchlock, the munchies, impaired productivity, and sometimes paranoia, depending on the strain.

While CBD won’t get you high, it can help to treat some of the same issues THC tackles. It also comes with other benefits when included in skincare. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antioxidant properties, according to British Vogue. It’s extracted from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the cannabis plant. When CBD oil is labeled “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum,” it means that the oil contains other naturally-occurring components of the cannabis plant, such as cannabinoids, essential oils, terpenes, and even THC. But don’t worry about it making you high. Hemp contains no more than 0.3 percent THC — and some oils might not have any at all.

What About Hemp Oil?

Is hemp oil the same as CBD? | High Beauty

Hemp oil, on the other hand, is extracted through an entirely different process. It’s cold-pressed from hemp seeds and acts as a carrier oil — much like grapeseed — for other ingredients. It’s sometimes referred to has cannabis sativa seed oil on packaging. On its own, it’s rich in antioxidants and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and has been stocked on health food store shelves for years as a dietary supplement much like flax oil. As a skincare ingredient, hemp oil is a powerful moisturizer that doesn’t clog pores or leave skin feeling oily.

The past few years have seen to an influx of countless lotions, serums, and creams that make use of the potent plant. Here are 9 CBD and cannabis products to try.

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan CBD and Cannabis Skincare

1. High Beauty

High Beauty sources its hemp from Canadian farms

Cruelty-free and vegan brand High Beauty leverages the power of cannabis sativa — aka hemp — to hydrate, replenish, and protect the skin. High is much more than cannabis sativa seed oil. High is expertly formulated to deliver cannabis sativa seed oil in combination with certified organic plant oils, high-potency antioxidants, and pure plant essential oils for healthy beautiful skin. It doesn’t contain CBD or THC, but cannabis sativa seed oil from Canadian hemp farms. Its cannabis sativa-rich products take on a wide range of skin concerns ranging from inflammation to delicate or damaged skin, dryness, fine lines and wrinkles, and free-radical damage.

Its High Expectations cannabis facial oil contains 32 percent cannabis sativa seed oil. ​The concentrated formula is made for intensive repair and replenishment. It contains other potent plant ingredients like argan, borage, cranberry, and rose hip oil.

The High Five Cannabis Facial Moisturizer is formulated with 20 percent cannabis sativa oil plus other nourishing ingredients like antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, and essential fatty acids like vitamin E, vitamin A, ubiquinone aka CoQ10, pomegranate, and more. ​It’s made to calm, balance, protect, hydrate and replenish.

High is committed to using natural, organic ingredients and never includes additives like parabens, harsh preservatives, petrochemicals, pesticides, BPA & phthalates, sulfates, propylene and butylene glycols, silicones, artificial fragrances, or synthetic colors and dyes. The company is also dedicated to environmental sustainability by employing green manufacturing practices and powering its California facility with 100,000 watts of solar energy.

2. Kush Queen

Kush Queen’s DEFYNT skin serum brightens and smooths skin

Kush Queen is a vegan, cruelty-free leader in the CBD skincare space that aims to defy conventional beauty standards through its newest range, DEFYNT Skincare. The first product in the new line, The Anti-Serum, is a powerful formula made to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, shrink pores, and brighten skin after just a few days.

The Anti-Serum is specially formulated with 100mg of Nano CBD, made through Kush Queen’s proprietary Amplifi™ Nanotechnology. The process transforms CBD oil into water-soluble molecules that are 2,000 times smaller than the average pore size, which allows the ingredient to penetrate deep below the surface of the skin. Nano CBD is 20 times more powerful than regular CBD oil, so users get the most of its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, anti-acne, and antioxidant properties that help the skin look youthful and bright.

The Anti-Serum is suitable for all ages, genders, and skin-types and made from the highest-quality raw materials. Along with Nano CBD, it includes hydrating hyaluronic acid, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), antioxidant rich ubiquinone aka CoQ10, vitamin C, and organic plant-based extracts. It’s free from parabens and phthalates and has a silky-smooth texture that sits will under sunscreen, foundation, and heavier moisturizers.

3. The CBD Skincare Co.

The CBD Skincare Co. is ideal for dry skin

Crème de la Terre is a powerful anti-aging salve made by New Jersey-based brand, The CBD Skincare Co. The vegan and cruelty-free cream was developed with botanical ingredients such as full-spectrum CBD, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), vitamin K, and mushroom extract. Suitable for all skin types, it’s formulated to heal, lift, and firm skin.


FARMACY marries natural botanicals with the power of science

Cruelty-free brand FARMACY Beauty works with organic farmers and scientists to harness the power of all-natural ingredients without mineral oils, parabens, and phthalates. Its Better Daze Ahead cushion cream marries CBD oil sourced from sustainably-farmed Colorado hemp with moisture-rich hemp and adaptogens like reishi mushroom, purple ginseng, and holy basil. The full-spectrum CBD helps soothe inflammation and fine lines while the adaptogens balance the skin and protect it from environmental stress. This restorative vegan moisturizer has a silky-smooth texture that won’t leave skin feeling greasy.

5. Saint Jane

Cruelty-free brand Saint Jane uses sustainably sourced U.S.-grown hemp

Saint Jane’s Luxury Beauty Serum is formulated with 500mg of full spectrum CBD extracted from sustainably-grown hemp and 20 percent botanicals to calm, soothe, and brighten the skin. It has a silky texture containing active ingredients like sea buckthron, calendula, and rosehip that work with CBD to boost radiance and antioxidant-rich pomegranate and helichrysum. The fast-absorbing formula is ideal for layering skincare.

6. Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore Botanicals is free from filler ingredients

Woman-owned and founded brand Herbivore Botanicals’ first CBD product, Emerald Deep Moisture Glow Oil, is a light green facial oil is made with 100mg organic full spectrum CBD grown in Colorado. A combination of CBD and hemp seed oil soothes, moisturizes, and diminishes fine lines while adaptogens like ashwaganda help the skin recover from environmental stressors. It also contains ultra-hydrating skincare heroes like squalane, meadowfoam seed oil, and borage seed oil. Herbivore Botanicals is cruelty-free, vegan, and made without synthetic ingredients, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, chemicals, fillers, mineral oils, and petroleum.

7. Ohana

Ohana’s Saucha Face Oil evens out skintone

The founder of UK-based brand Ohana, Jasmin, found CBD after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. According to the brand, CBD oil helped alleviate the condition’s chronic pain, which led her to start making her own balms and salves. The Saucha Face Oil — named after the Sanskrit words for purity, cleanliness, and clearness — is made to moisturize, even out blemished skin texture, and help protect against pollution. CBD works in tandem with antioxidant-rich rosehip and sea buckthorn oils, which improve skin tone and pigmentation.

8. Ellis Brooklyn

Ellis Brooklyn’s CBD body oil is infused with aromatherapy oils

Luxury natural fragrance brand Ellis Brooklyn created its Marvelous Massage & Body Oil to soothe skin and help you relax. Organic, full-spectrum CBD restores and protects while French maritime pine bark extract is known for treating inflammation. Sweet almond oil gives this massage oil an extra boost of hydrating ingredients while grapefruit and rosemary essential oils help create a divine sensory experience.

9. Ildi Pekar

Luxury brand Ildi Pekar is formulated with skin-soothing ingredients

Luxury European beauty brand Ildi Pekar created its CBD-infused Tissue Repair Serum to tackle inflammation and damaged skin. Made with 250mg full spectrum CBD, the eco-friendly serum is also made from nourishing, organic ingredients like aloe vera juice, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, vegan probiotics, and soothing cucumber extract. This serum is suitable for using on your face prior to a moisturizer or on the body.


Let me start by saying this is the first time I have had such conflicting emotions about a product I've tested. I also have to admit I'm not exactly sure where I've landed with these feelings either; they are a bit jumbled and indecisive, so for this I apologise. To the beginning, then.

Cannabis products have started taking center stage in the skincare and wellness world. There is a lot of confusion to be had with cannabis products, as many are not well versed on the differences between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. Personally I have witnessed quite a divide in the brands and products featuring cannabis. On one hand you have the brands who are truly driven by destigmatizing the plant and are fighting for it and those affected by the unfair regulations on all fronts (e.g., Not Pot). On the other, there are brands monopolizing the hype and jumping on the bandwagon, seemingly only caring about being on trend and, obviously, profiting financially. (There is an enlightening article about how cannabis marketing is extremely exploitative which I will link here and encourage you to read). High Beauty produces two skincare products featuring cannabis and, like many other brands, I feel they are (likely unintentionally) participating in problematic marketing of the plant.

When you click into their website the landing page invites you to "Be the First to Get High". Let me make something crystal clear: their products do not contain CBD nor any psychoactive ingredients. Are you confused yet? I, and several others, certainly are. The CBD in most skincare is not psychoactive and would not get you high anyway, but at a time when CBD is all the rage surely one would think products from a brand called "High Beauty" which features cannabis leaves all over their boxes would contain CBD. One scroll through the reviews on the Sephora page attest I am not the only person who assumed this during my first impression. To further prove my point I posted a photo of these products on my instagram stating the brand had gifted me them to test and one of the first comments was asking if it was CBD skincare. Clearly, the name "High" is at best misleading.

The active ingredient in both of High Beauty's products is hemp seed oil, except nowadays no one calls it hemp seed oil, everyone calls it cannabis sativa seed oil. This is, seemingly, purely due to hype and marketing. In decades previous, "cannabis" was a highly controversial word so brands made sure to label it "hemp" to make their products more marketable. Fair. Today, cannabis is all the rage, so "hemp" is out. This isn't necessarily wrong nor is it anything new to the marketing world – in fact many would argue it's crafty marketing and smart business – but it feels, well, shady. To capitalize on people's assumptions knowing you aren't delivering what they are expecting for financial gain is shady as shit. High Beauty is not the only brand doing this; one merely has to stroll the aisle of any beauty store to discover countless others doing the same, Milk Makeup, Josie Maran, Herbivore Botanicals, Origins, Khiel's, & Peter Thomas Roth just to name the brands sold at Sephora. High beauty is, however, one of the only brands whose very namesake encourages the confusion. To their credit, High Beauty clearly states their products do not contain CBD oil on their packaging, but again, for someone just glancing at the box and seeing the name "High" – it's deceptive.

I reached out to High and asked them why they chose their name and why they do not use CBD in their products. You can see their answer here:

I would be lying if I said their answer erased my mixed feelings. Personally, I feel this is a cop out answer. This "high on life" philosophy isn't mentioned anywhere in their marketing materials or packaging. Generally speaking if a brand has a "philosophy" you're going to find it everywhere. It will be on their landing page, their packaging, their ad campaigns, their emails, their instagram bio, etc. Here is my hypothesis – CBD isn't federally regulated yet so they'd rather a product they can sell commercially in all 50 states which still capitalizes on the cannabis craze than deal with the legal maze of a product which can only sold to certain populations. Instead I'm left feeling like High Beauty knows their branding is deceptive but doesn't care because they are financially profiting from it. Which is unsettling.

Okay, now that we've ranted for about a year, let's talk about the products themselves, shall we? What initially peaked my interest in this brand was their ingredient lists. Skincare ingredients are listed by how much is in the product, largest to smallest. For both their serum and moisturizer cannabis sativa seed oil is the second ingredient. This is worth highlighting as I have encountered many products wherein the brand marketed a product based on a single ingredient only to find it's listed extremely low on the ingredient list, leaving one wondering if it's an active at all; so cheers to High Beauty for delivering on the cannabis sativa seed promise. High Beauty is also a "clean at sephora" brand, which could be important to some. (The conversation around "clean beauty" and whether or not it's even a valid concern is a whole other issue for another time; but read this in the meantime if you're interested).

First up, the High Expectations facial oil ($54). This oil is meant to be used at night after cleansing. It features 32% cannabis sativa seed oil alongside a cornucopia of bioflavonoids like red grape seed, cranberry, pomegranate, black cumin seed, troxerutin and broccoli seed and also yummy oils like sunflower, coconut, cranberry, black currant seed, rose hip, argan, borage, evening primrose, flax seed and shea butter. Unfortunately for me, I do not think my skin can handle high concentrations of coconut oil. The facial oil itself is soft and buttery, but would not sink into my skin. Every night for a week I tried different approaches to try to get my skin to absorb this product but every morning I woke up with it all over my pillow and not sunk into my skin. By the end of the week my skin was red and sensitised, with some whiteheads to boot. This was a miss for me, but the product reviews on sephora attest to many success stories.

Thankfully, I had a different experience with their moisturizer. Irritatingly named High Five, (pretty sure a high five to the face means getting smacked, but okay), this moisturizer retails for $40, is comprised of 20% cannabis sativa seed oil, and mostly worked for my skin. I was delighted to find the first ingredient is aloe juice. I am always impressed when a brand finds an opportunity to use a more active filler than plain water. This moisturizer has a similar mix of bioflavonoids and potent plant oils to its sister serum, but coconut oil is much farther down the ingredient list and I didn't have the same sensitising issues I had with the serum. A little goes a long way, if I used too much my makeup would pill on top of it. It sinks in easily when I use the correct amount, smells lovely (bright, green, maybe cactus like?), and texture-wise feels like a thick cream with a slight gel undertone (if that makes sense). After two weeks, the redness on the apples of my cheeks has all but disappeared. My skin hardly feels dry at all, which is lovely and rare during Chicago winters. However since using this product the pores on and around my t-zone have been more clogged than ever. I have always had this issue with products wherein shea butter and coconut oil both appear on the ingredient list, which is this case here. I can't say this is a product I'd re-purchase as my clogged pores are annoying enough that I've started to reach for other moisturizers over this one, but the redness relief and hydration are seriously impressive. I'm also a sucker for the packaging and green and pink color scheme, which are important to a content creator (as silly as it may be).

High Beauty graciously gifted me both of their products to test and my opinions are my own. In all honesty I am still conflicted with how I feel about liking their product given their marketing of it. The same can be said for others – Herbivore Botanicals is finally launching a CBD version of their Emerald facial oil and I'm embarrassed to admit I want to try it (not only for the same problematic cannabis marketing but also for their shit handling of some moldy PR products). Should I be boycotting these brands? Can I like a product but not the brand? I don't have a good answer. I can say I sincerely hope High Beauty, as well as all the other brands with cringe-worthy names, consider renaming their products. I would have significantly less of an issue with this brand and others if they were called something else. It is the casual use of terms like "high", "dope" (Josie Maran), and "kush" (Milk Makeup) which mislead consumers into believing they are buying a different cannabis product than they are, and it's simply not right. Something needs to change and nothing will happen unless we speak up.

This concludes the longest blog I've written to date. If you read this far, bravo, gold star. and high five (but not to your face).

New beauty products’ secret ingredient? Marijuana

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Photo illustration: John Kuczala

How do you know weed is firmly out of Cheech & Chong territory? When it’s the subject of a serious “Luxury Meets Cannabis” conference at Manhattan’s tony NeueHouse. “The folks in attendance were really engaged,” panelist Andrew Goetz recalls of the June event. “Or maybe they were just really stoned.”

The Malin + Goetz co-founder is joking, of course. As a pioneer in the buzzy beauty category (his brand launched its scented “Cannabis” candle in 2007), Goetz says he was honored to sit alongside fellow upscale, pot-inspired product purveyors. Those included Cindy Capobianco — co-founder of the celeb-darling cannabis line Lord Jones — and hemp savant Megan Villa, creative and content director for Svn Space, considered the Net-A-Porter of the weed world.

Now that marijuana use has been decriminalized in nine states and the US Senate has voted to legalize hemp, it’s open season for weed-themed products crafted from hemp seed oil (a great moisturizer) and CBD oil. (The cannabidiol compound from the hemp plant is said to confer therapeutic benefits.) Just don’t expect to get high; those ingredients don’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), the chief “psychoactive” element of marijuana.

Your skin, however, may still experience euphoria. Both hemp and CBD oils have a reputation for improving complexions, from blotting up excess oil to softening lines and wrinkles. And dozens of products are vying to be the next, ahem, hit.

Cannabliss Organic offers a four-item skin care range that marries hemp oil with Korean herbs. Hora Skin Care Super Serum relies on vitamins and fatty acids alongside CBD to restore radiance. High Five Cannabis Facial Moisturizer and High Expectations Cannabis Facial Oil, meanwhile, contain heavy doses of cannabis sativa seed oil for repair and protection. And Milk Makeup is expanding its line of Kush eye-enhancers, which are laced with CBD oil for hydration, with two brow gels. (Memo to beauty nerds who don’t get buzzed: “Kush” is slang for pot.)

“Cannabis [CBD] oil is hot right now, because it’s new and becoming more widely accepted,” says Milk Makeup co-founder Dianna Ruth. “But I think it will have staying power, and will turn into a classic oil, like argan or marula.”

Stoked by the success of its CBD-spiked Pain & Wellness Body Lotion (everyone from Jessica Seinfeld and Busy Philipps to Sarah Paulson sings its praises), Lord Jones is cooking up an anti-aging brew and “a super-nourishing face oil.”

But does CBD, arguably the most popular of the stoner ingredients, really do anything for the skin? “It’s been proven to be helpful with inflammation and pain,” says skin doc Shereene Idriss, of Union Square Dermatology. “It can also help reduce oil production, and it’s been shown to have some anti-oxidant effect.”

Hydrated brows and lashes? Fewer lines and wrinkles? Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or, rather, slather it on.