This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Continue if you are OK with this or find out more in our Privacy Policy.


How cannabis is becoming skincare's hottest new ingredient

February 14th 2018 / Susannah Taylor / 0 comment


Getty Images

As more countries legalise cannabis for medicinal use, it's also becoming big news for the beauty industry with cannabis compound cannabidiol or CBD said to be a powerful soother for problem skin. Susannah Taylor investigates

If you hadn’t heard, cannabis is big news in the world of health and as more and more countries legalise its use, it’s fast becoming big business too. Many companies that have legalised it have reported a 'gold rush' on cannabis-derived products. Australia, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and Switzerland (among many others) have all legalised cannabis for medicinal usage, whilst in America, 21 states including New York, Arizona and Florida, have done the same.

Putting aside images of Camberwell Carrots and Bob Marley for a minute - we have long known that there are also highly therapeutic elements to the cannabis plant. As more research is carried out, it's proving to have wide-ranging and powerful medicinal and health benefits, from halting seizures and epilepsy to reducing tumours in cancer patients, stopping migraines and numerous analgesic and neuro-protective effects. Later this year, a £10 million study into the effects of cannabis on our health at Oxford University will be released.

Beauty companies are also getting in on the act with many using it in skincare products. One company about to make big waves in this sector is MGC Derma, which launched this week on Cult Beauty. The skincare arm of a bigger, Australian pharmaceutical company, MGC Pharma (which stands for Medical Grade Cannabis), this veteran cannabis research brand works with hospitals in Australia (where cannabis is legal for medical use) to treat patients and conducts many clinical studies on the plant. As a result, they have plenty of case studies on which to base their skincare line.

Alexia Inge, CEO and Co-Founder of Cult Beauty says, “One of the reasons the cannabis plant has featured throughout human history is that our bodies have native receptors of cannabinoids (what experts call the endocannabinoid system), especially on the surface of the skin. This makes hemp extracts incredibly bioavailable and instantly absorbed by your skin to start working straight away. Cannabinoids are great for helping heal overly sensitive or inflamed conditions such as eczema, flaking, dry skin or acne,” she says, “But they also make incredible moisturisers for all those with ‘normal’ skin types."

The extensive MGC Derma range consists of products for acne prone skin, sensitive skin and for anti-ageing. Products range from a CBD Brightening Facial Cream, £75 to CBD Stem Cells and Peptides Eye Cream, £65.


CBD is the buzzword in cannabis skincare and is short for cannabidiol - a compound taken from the hemp or cannabis plant. Roby Zoma, CEO of MGC Derma says, “There are about 450 different compounds in a cannabis plant, but the active ingredient we use is CBD which has been proven to be anti-inflammatory, have a relaxing effect on the skin and is an antioxidant.”

Pedro Catala is a pharmacist, cosmetologist and the man behind a range of products that contain the most powerful natural ingredients he has studied over his career. His products don’t contain CBD, however - Pedro says he prefers to use ingredients that have been studied for decades, however, he believes CBD is promising.

CBD has a non-psychoactive effect, so you don’t need to worry about getting high once you apply

“CBD is a great ingredient supported by recent studies, which show promising results in reducing inflammation and decreasing itching” he says. "Studies on the endocannabioid system (ECS) suggest that it plays an important role in skin health. However, there are many outstanding questions on how we believe the skin works."

Another highly respected company currently using CBD in their products is Perricone MD’s CB x range for men. Known for its groundbreaking and highly effective, clinically-tested skincare systems, Perricone MD have used phytocannabinoids (naturally-occurring cannabinoids in the cannabis plant) said to have anti-inflammatory effect, to improve stressed and oil-prone skin. Founder Dr Nicholas Perricone says, "We are particularly excited because cannabis extracts have a long history of counteracting inflammatory conditions and inflammation is the hallmark of the ageing process."


CBD has a non-psychoactive effect, so you don’t need to worry about getting high once you apply. There is another, sister-ingredient from the cannabis plant that pharmaceutical companies are also very interested in, which is called THC. This is very effective medically at stopping seizures but does have a psychoactive effect and is not being used in skincare.

Hemp (the name for the cannabis plant) is nothing new in skincare - Anita Roddick, creator of the Body Shop first introduced a skincare range of products using industrial-strength hemp back in 1998. Today the hemp range now consists of quite heavy duty moisturising products such as the Heavy Duty Face Protector, £8.50, which focuses on deep hydration.

Most products that contain hemp don't use the whole plant, but rather the oil taken from hemp seeds, explains Roby Zoma of MGC Derma, which is highly moisturising.

There are many brands using this deeply nourishing plant oil. Votary, for example, uses it in some of its products and Earth Tu in their Face Wash, £43.


While hemp appears to be an excellent hydrator, Pedro Catala explains that it may not be any more effective than other natural plant-based oils. Dr Perricone says, "While many companies may use hemp seed oil or hemp butter in their products, these materials contain little if any of the desirable [anti-inflammatory] phytocannabinoids. The process by which our phytocannabinoids are isolated, purified, and concentrated is highly specialised and optimised to yield over 95% active phytocannabinoids."

If you are looking for an effective anti-inflammatory product that suits sensitive skin, then a product that contains CBD looks to be highly effective. If you just need moisturisation, then look out for hemp seed extract on product labels.

MORE GLOSS: Best hemp skincare products

CBD skincare products to try

Hemptouch Nurturing Face Cream 50ml, £24.95

MGC Derma CBD Hyaluronic & Peptides Day Cream 50ml, £80

Love Hemp Body Salve 50ml, £29.99

Perricone MD CBx For Men Travel Starter Kit, £36

Follow Susannah on Instagram here

Join the conversation

Agile web development by Byte9