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Traditionally most people have chosen to ingest CBD oil, either sublingually under the tongue (53% of users) or in some other digestible form such as a drink, gummies, or capsules (22%). But more people are moving towards topical CBD for two important reasons. First, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of CBD when applied topically, and second, there are a number of new legislative requirements on the horizon in the UK, which has necessitated a shift of focus away from consuming CBD orally.

With Novel Food Regulations on the horizon in the UK, topical CBD oil gives CBD producers and companies a viable method of selling CBD. Because the CBD is used as a topical ointment, it is not digested and is, therefore, not a food. In addition to this, it can be mixed with other ingredients that have been proven to help skin conditions and health ailments, meaning that medical claims are easier to make, as they are not related to the CBD Oil specifically.

It’s also an exciting growth area as CBD-infused topicals are currently niche items with only 6% of European consumers using massage oil, 5% using body moisturisers and 4% using bath products.

Using CBD Creams and Balms

Whether CBD is included in a cream, a balm, a lotion, or an ointment, it is still able to deliver natural wellness and health benefits without being ingested. When CBD oil is applied directly to the skin, it won’t reach the bloodstream but can be absorbed by the skin, where it interacts with the endocannabinoid system’s receptors.

This means that, unlike other pain medications, high-quality topical CBD products don’t just mask conditions such as pain and inflammation, instead they can resolve the pain. This is because your skin has a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors, which form part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. This impacts many of your body’s important functions, such as pain sensation, immune function, and more.

The CBD product is applied to the area of concern, often the neck and shoulders, joints (wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles), or extremities (hands and feet). The one caution is that if the product is infused with essential oils, it shouldn’t be used on the face or eye area, unless specifically directed.

The benefits of topicals with CBD Oil

Pain Relief

There are a number of studies that point to topical CBD’s ability to fight pain. Whatever the source of the pain, whether its arthritis or general inflammation, research has linked the application of topical oil to effective pain management. A 2019 report from the Arthritis Foundation found that nearly 80% of the 2600 patients surveyed were considered using CBD or had already used it. 29% of the respondents were currently using CBD to manage arthritis symptoms, and 55% of those already using CBD was using a topical that they applied to their joints.

Research by Halpert with Medterra CBD showed that CBD is able to reduce the production of inflammatory markers associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, in another study, treatment with CBD reduced pain in rats with osteoarthritis.

Other studies have shown that CBD applied topical can relieve pain associated with conditions such as multiple sclerosis as well as other, more minor, conditions such as headaches and cramps. To date, most of these studies have been performed on animals, so further research is needed to confirm CBD’s ability to help humans manage chronic pain conditions.

Eczema, Psoriasis & CBD

Some topical CBD products are specifically designed to help with eczema and psoriasis conditions. In 2019, Clinical Therapeutics published a small study with 20 patients that used CBD ointment for a three-month period for conditions including atopic dermatitis, scars, and psoriasis. The findings showed significant improvements in both the signs and symptoms of these skin disorders.


While much more research is needed on the ability of CBD to combat the signs of ageing, there is evidence to support the inclusion of CBD in skin products that contain other anti-ageing ingredients.

Combining CBD Oil with Other Ingredients

As the popularity of topical CBD products grows, so too does the range and variety of products available, which gives users the opportunity to choose products based on the outcomes they are looking for. Combining CBD with essential oils is often an ideal way to target specific conditions.

CBD’s entourage effect is an important part of how CBD interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system, drawing on the health benefits of terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals to improve the efficacy of the product. This can be further enhanced through the terpenes contained in essential oils that work in synergy to offer further support.

For Inflammation

Copaiba essential oils, along with basil, lavender, cinnamon, and other essential oils, are high in Beta-Caryophyllene, a terpene that is known to interact directly with the Endocannabinoid system and is associated with reducing inflammation and easing muscle pain.

For Energy

CBD topicals infused with peppermint essential oil can help to boost energy levels. Research into peppermint essential oil has found that it is effective in preventing fatigue as well as improving exercise performance. Lemon essential oil is also effective for improving energy as it promotes a positive mood. Sweet orange, spearmint, and rosemary are also effective for increasing energy.

For Sleep

Lavender essential oil, high in 1,8-Cineole, Linalool and Linalyl Acetate, has long been used for its relaxation and sleep-enhancing benefits. It may also aid with circulation, calming muscles, and reducing anxiety.

For Relaxation

Lemongrass essential oil is high in Neral, a terpene that, in addition to reducing inflammation and pain, also has sedative properties. Lemongrass also contains Geranial, which is calming and adds to physical and mental well-being. Terpinene-rich Sweet Marjoram essential oil also offers calming and soothing benefits.

The Importance of Carrier Oils and Butters

Just as important as the CBD and other wellness-enhancing benefits of CBD-infused topicals is the carrier oil or butter used in creating the topical’s base. This base also contains health-giving properties that complement those offered by CBD.

Popular bases for topicals include:

  • Jojoba oil, in addition to being deeply nourishing and moisturising, this stable non-greasy oil is also an antioxidant that has antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and wound healing properties.
  • Beeswax, beeswax has anti-inflammatory properties, promotes wound-healing, and helps to protect the skin’s barrier without clogging pores.
  • Shea butter, shea butter contains fatty acids and vitamins ideal for moisturising the skin, as well as offering anti-inflammatory and healing benefits.
  • Cocoa butter, rich in phytochemicals, cocoa butter may help to improve blood flow to the skin, slow the aging process and improve skin tone and texture.

With so much scope for producing topicals to target a broad range of skin and health concerns, the future looks bright for CBD skin products. The two key areas to focus on are still product quality, as customers are increasingly discerning and product range (incorporating essential oils and other natural health-promoting ingredients).