More brands have started to add CBD in skincare products, such as soaps, lotions, salves, and balms, for its skin benefits. CBD skincare products are claimed to help with chronic pain, inflammation, acne, psoriasis, cancer treatment, anti-aging, and so many more. But what is the difference between CBD balm and CBD lotion?
For general health and well-being most tend to use CBD oil which is ingested directly into the mouth via droplets or sprays. This method is easily absorbed into our system and results are usually pretty quick. However for certain skin conditions many users have reported better results by combining the oil with a topical product such as a lotion or balm.
For external only conditions some will opt only for the skincare product and still report amazing results. We would advise that if you are new to CBD and only want to try using it for a skin condition then maybe start with a lotion or balm and add the oil later if you wish to do so.
The only real difference between CBD balms (also known as salves) and CBD lotion (also known as cream) is that creams and lotions use a bit of water and moisturizing agents in their bases, while salves and balms only use fatty oils and wax as a base, with no water.
This results in the balms having a firmer waxy texture which sits on the skin surface for longer whereas the lotions are softer, creamier and absorb quicker into the skin.
How are they made?
Salves are actually super-simple concoctions that can be made in a number of different ways, with literally dozens of various recipes out there to choose from. All of them, though, are similar in that they include the following two ingredients:
- A natural wax (most commonly beeswax)
- A fatty oil base (this is the “vehicle” responsible for carrying the medicine)
- A medicinal or therapeutic compound
For the wax portion of the base, natural (non-enriched) beeswax is by far the most common choice. If you’ve never handled beeswax before, it’s a sticky, dense, hard material that has to be melted down to garner any sort of fluidity.
Vegetable waxes like Candelilla wax (which comes from the leaves of the Mexico-native Candelilla plant) also work well, but are mostly only used in products that are meant to be 100% vegan. In most instances, pure beeswax is generally the better option.
The oil portion of the base is the part that’s responsible for “carrying” the medicine in the salve. While a number of different oils can (and are) used to make CBD salves, coconut oil has thus far proven to be the best option, mainly because of its high content of fatty acids (which are the molecular devices responsible for carrying the active CBD).
Generally speaking, the more fatty acids an oil has, the more CBD it will potentially be able to carry.
To infuse the oil with active CBD, the cannabis plant is ground up into fine bits (although not quite to a powder), and then “steeped” for several hours at 200+ degrees Fahrenheit in the oil. The heat decarboxylates the cannabidiol into its active molecular form, at which point the fatty acids in the oil are able to latch onto it.
Once the oil is infused with active CBD, it’s then simply mixed in (usually along with some other essential oils like Vitamin E) with the melted-down wax to create the salve.
CBD creams and lotions are produced similarly with the extracted oils from cannabis or hemp infused into a topical base. The main difference being instead of using fatty oils and waxes to form the base they use a bit of water and moisturizing agents instead.
All CBD salves and lotions should have the broken down list of ingredients on the tub that they come in, so when browsing around for options, keep an eye out for what wax was used, what oil base, etc.
How should I use CBD on my skin?
The first thing you want to do is start with a high-quality, premium CBD lotion. A good CBD lotion should be THC free (the bit that gets you high) and made with a high quality CBD solution. This is to ensure you enjoy all the benefits of the CBD, without worrying about THC.
Always consult with a doctor before using CBD, especially if you already take other medications. Although it is highly unlikely that CBD will cause any drug interactions, your own doctor will know your history better and will advise accordingly.
CBD and cannabis skin products are generally safe to apply liberally to the skin and are not likely to cause side effects and neither are they psychoactive, so won’t get you high.
However it is very important you test a small amount on your skin first before applying liberally to the affected area. Allergic reactions can occur and you need to test yourself to see if you are allergic. It’s also not recommended to use CBD skin products which contain alcohol as this could make some skin conditions worse.
If you do have an allergic reaction, it may not necessarily be an allergic reaction to CBD or one of the cannabinoids. Instead, you may be having an allergic response to an additive in the product you are using. Check product labels and try to find products which only contain CBD, cannabinoids, and the base that acts as the carrier – i.e. coconut oil or hempseed oil.
Before you begin using any CBD skincare product, think about whether you want to use the lotion or balm. As balm sits on the surface of the skin for longer it may be wiser to use this at night and use the easier to absorb lotion during the day. A bit of trial and error will soon decide which product is better for your individual condition.
If you have a headache or pain, is it because of pain in the neck or lower back? Try to apply the CBD product to the area causing the problem. As we age, back, neck, and joint pain becomes more of a problem. Try to isolate the area which is giving you the most trouble or causing you the most pain.
This isn’t a must, but many people recommend that you should give the area you plan on applying CBD lotion to a quick clean. You don’t need to scrub yourself raw, just a quick wash to remove any excess grit and grime, and let it dry. It’s always better to start applying the lotion or balm to an area which is already clean. Make sure that your clothes aren’t going to get in the way of applying the lotion and you can reach all the areas you’re trying to treat.
Don’t be scared to apply a liberal amount of CBD lotion or balm. It’s not uncommon for people to apply CBD to areas more than once or twice. If you find that one application didn’t have the desired effect, wait a little while for the CBD to fully absorb and then give the affected area another application.
After you have finished applying the CBD, clean your hands and also try to remember that CBD skincare products, while great, aren’t going to instantly cure a lifetime of aches, pains and sin disorders.
People with arthritis pain have reported fast relief by applying cannabinoid rich skincare products directly to an inflamed and painful joint as have sufferers of various skin conditions.
How do they Work? (the technical bit!)
It’s easy to imagine how something that’s ingested or injected into the body might get absorbed, either via the bloodstream or the digestive system, but it can be harder to visualize how putting something onto your skin would eventually translate at the functional, cellular level.
In reality, the skin is an incredibly active and functional organ – the largest organ in the human body, to be exact. And while it does of course act as a barrier to potentially harmful, foreign substances, it also acts as a useful molecular passageway and is quick to absorb lipid-based oils, such as the ones that are used in CBD salves.
When you apply a CBD balm or lotion, the cannabinoid-carrying lipids in the oil base are transported across skin cell membranes, at which point the CBD begins its healing mechanisms on surrounding cell and tissue layers. (This is also why CBD skincare products are a good choice for things like joint pain and skin-specific conditions like eczema and psoriasis – you can “target” the CBD activity directly onto a desired area and initiate therapy right at the source of the pain or discomfort).
On a more physiological level, CBD (which is a cannabinoid of course) functions by interacting with the body’s own endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
The ECS was discovered in the early 1990’s, and consists of a network of naturally-occurring cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that are believed to help regulate and maintain things like:
- Skin sensitivity
- Immune response
When CBD interacts with natural receptors in the ECS (which have been found to exist in virtually every cell type in the human body), it allows the body to function more efficiently and better control all sorts of internal processes relating to homeostasis.
And regarding the specific presence of the ECS in skin cells, Dr. Tamas Biro, the director of immunology at the University of Debrecen in Hungary, claims that the skin is “[indeed] capable of producing endocannabinoids,” and points out the likelihood that:
“…most, if not all, skin functions are controlled to a certain extent by the local skin endocannabinoid system.”
What are the common uses of CBD Balm & CBD lotion?
CBD skincare products are on the increase and have also become part of a daily beauty regime for a growing number of users. Some of the more common uses that have been stated are:
- Joint pain
- Arthritic pain
- Muscle pain
- Inflammatory skin conditions
- Itchy Rashes
- Bacterial infections (MRSA)
- Neck and back pain
- Contact dermatitis
- Nerve pain