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It’s 4/20 and high time for cannabis-infused beauty. According to a recent WWD report Google searches for cannabidiol (CBD) reached an all-time high in March; the most asked question: what is CBD? 

This lack of general consumer awareness, coupled with lax regulations, leaves the door wide open for industry schemes and scams. So let’s get the first part out of the way:

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol and it’s a type of cannabinoid.

Cannabinoids are diverse chemical compounds found in hemp plants. There are over 80 cannabinoids found in hemp plants, and each has a slightly different purpose and effect on the body. CBD is a really popular cannabinoid, and so is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the cannabinoid famous for getting people high. CBD is not THC. They are two different compounds with different effects on the body and harvested from different parts of the cannabis plant. THC is found primarily in the mature flowers of marijuana, while CBD is extracted from the hemp leaves, stalks, and stems. (Fun fact: not all hemp plants produce marijuana buds. Only female plants bud flowers which is where THC is concentrated). CBD, when isolated as a compound, will not produce any type of high for its user.

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Photo: Neydtstock/ iStock

Why is CBD in so many Beauty Products Now?

CBD gives therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant without the psychoactive effects of THC. So if slathering on CBD lotion won’t get you stoned, then what does CBD do? Well, according to multiple studies, it does a lot. CBD oil has tons of omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids which provide anti-oxidants and moisture to the skin. CBD oil is also known to protect against sun damage, and psoriasis symptoms . Because it’s rich in fatty and amino acids, there are benefits to your hair and nails, too.

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“It’s rich in vitamins A, C and E,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman tells DermStore. “Vitamin A stimulates the cells responsible for producing the tissue that keeps skin firm and healthy; vitamin C stimulates collagen production, and it helps to reduce signs of aging; [and] vitamin E blocks free radicals from the body [which] helps slow down the aging process,”

WWD states that beauty influencers increased their mentions of cannabis by a whopping 61% over the past year. The newfound interest in cannabis comes with good reason: studies have shown evidence of CBD’s ability to also reduce inflammation when topically applied, which is great for general health as well as beauty. Inflammation is our body’s healthy way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury . However, inflammation becomes a bad thing when we’re always inflamed. Poor diet, high levels of prolonged stress, and other health factors can lead to chronic inflammation. Constant inflammation can lead to hormonal imbalances, dermatitis, and yes, acne breakouts for even grown people well past the age of puberty. So CBD beauty products, coupled with proper diet and wellness practices, can be a major step in reducing inflammation, clearing up various skin problems, and getting your Glow Up on!

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What Should I be warned about?

CBD is safe, and you can use it without any disorientation of feeling “high,” making it useful for all ages. It’s also versatile, helping with a range of health, wellness, and beauty purposes. Sounds like a winner, hands down — but there are still many questions surrounding this booming trend.

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Because this is a new industry, all of the necessary regulations aren’t in place yet to make sure that we’re getting what we pay for. CBD is primarily marketed and sold as a supplement, not a medication. The FDA does not regulate the safety or purity of dietary supplements. So it’s hard to know for sure if our CBD products have enough active ingredients.

As reported by Ali Oshinsky at Into The Gloss:

Most products boasting CBD properties only list cannabis sativa oil (another name—confusingly!—for hemp seed oil) as an active ingredient. Hemp seed oil actually contains no CBD. That’s right—you heard me. For a little clarity, I called up my old team at Knox Medical and spoke to their Manufacturing and Controls Director, Nikolas. “If you do the correct collection method from pure hemp seeds, it actually has no CBD. Or, if it does it’s below the detectable level—it’s very, very low.” Pure hemp seed oil is still a nice, light, non-comedogenic oil—but not much else.

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An appropriate regulatory system would give consumers the power to choose products that are genuinely worthy of their labels and claims of health benefits. Consumers need to know if our cannabis products have CBD or simply “cannabis oil”. We also need to know if our products have passed tests for mold (a common problem in cannabis farming), toxins, heavy metals, and/or inorganic fertilizers.

And of course, any conversation on cannabis would be remiss to not mention problems within the legal system too. Prisons are overflowing with People of Color for petty drug charges, while the legal marijuana industry is almost entirely wealthy, white, and male. To keep your cannabis consumerism ethical, consider buying Black-owned products, and specifically source from companies looking to help communities of color and those affected by the War on Drugs. Check out these Black-owned cannabis companies leading efforts for ownership and empowerment during this post-prohibition boom.

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Iyana, creator of Kush and Cute@KushandCute
Iyana (who chooses not to disclose her last name publicly) started her cannabis skincare product company in November 2017, and has been working in the cannabis industry since 2016. “There are more and more people of color rising to notoriety in the [cannabis] space, she told Vice Impact last year, “But a lot of work needs to be done for it to be considered diverse and inclusive. But we are optimistic that it can be done.”

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Cat, Owner of Blissful Stoner Body Essentials

“Funding is a very hard task, especially being black — people are taking that risk on you,” Cat detailed to Bustle earlier this week. The New Orleans based entrepreneur sells everything from bath salts to body oils.

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Dorian Morris, Founder, Undefined Beauty Co.

Dorian Morris is a beauty industry veteran who has worked with Coty, Sundial Brands and Kendo Brands. “You have these ingredients that work well individually, but, when you pair them with CBD, you get pretty powerful results,” she tells Beauty Independent, “I feel very strongly about the democratization of beauty...Although CBD as an ingredient is extremely expensive, I wanted to make sure from a price point standpoint is very accessible, so everyone has access to super efficacious formulas that don’t cost an arm and a leg.”

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Tsion Sunshine Lencho, co-founder of Supernova Women

Lencho is a Stanford educated attorney and the co-founder of Supernova Women. Supernova Women is an organization that offers networking for women of color interested in entering the cannabis industry. Lencho also offers legal services to cannabis businesses.