Keeping up with what's what in the world of skincare can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to ingredients. Sure, the likes of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid have been tried and tested and have proven their worth to take up space in our bathroom cabinets, but what about those buzzy ingredients that come out of nowhere and disappear just as fast? When basically everyone started raving about CBD a couple of years ago, I was certain that it would fall into the latter category: a trending beauty fad that wouldn't last. Pretty much all of the press releases that landed in my inbox were focused on CBD oils and their magical abilities to ease stress, calm anxiety, and reduce pain, and I wrote it off as a bit of a placebo to well-being. If it works for you, great. But I wasn't buying into it.
Fast-forward to now, however, and there is no sign that CBD is going anywhere. In fact, its popularity as a scientific skincare ingredient—not just as a stress reliever—is growing fast. So when Paula's Choice, one of my favourite skincare brands of all time, launched a CBD collection last month, my interest was finally piqued. And when I learnt at the launch event that CBD could actually be beneficial for acne-prone skin, well, I was sold.
Before I give you the full low-down on my new favourite CBD skincare product, let's delve a little deeper into what CBD actually is. Cannabidiol—CBD for short—is an active compound, also known as a cannabinoid, naturally found in the cannabis plant. "What makes CBD and cannabinoids so fascinating is the human body also has a complex endocannabinoid system that is found extensively in skin," explains Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice. It can be consumed, which is where we see the mood-calming, pain-relieving, and well-being benefits mentioned earlier, but it can also be used topically to treat an array of skin conditions including eczema, rosacea, and acne.
Despite my initial scepticism, I've been using the Paula's Choice CBD Skin Transformative Treatment Milk (£43) for the past few weeks, and I'm genuinely impressed. While it isn't the only thing that I've recently changed in my skincare routine, I have had a particularly rough few months of dealing with painful breakouts, and since I started using this product, my skin has felt and looked so much calmer. It has a really lightweight consistency that sinks in quickly and feels instantly soothing on the skin, especially on areas with angry, active blemishes, and it immediately brings down redness in those spots. With frequent use, my breakouts have reduced, and overall, my skin feels calmer and looks more even in tone.
All sounds pretty impressive, right? Well, yes. But how does CBD actually work within skincare products to give such impressive results? I caught up with Begoun to find out.
What are the benefits of using CBD skincare products?
"Research has shown that topical application of cannabidiol (aka CBD) reduces inflammation in skin, and because acne is an inflammatory disorder, anything you can do to reduce that inflammation will help diminish breakouts, acne-triggered redness, and help to speed healing time," explains Begoun. "For oily skin, CBD has been shown to decrease oil-producing cells known as sebocytes. CBD can do this because it is a cell-communicating ingredient and can actually 'talk' to these cells that cause too much sebum to be produced and tell the cells to normalise oil production, and the cells listen."
Pretty clever stuff, but it isn't just spot-prone skin that will benefit from CBD skincare. CBD is an anti-inflammatory, and Begoun tells me that all skin types will reap the rewards of this. "Reducing inflammation helps improve every aspect of skin health, including signs of ageing, environmental damage, acne, rosacea, and on and on," says Begoun. "Fighting inflammation is a crucial part of great skincare."
Who should incorporate CBD into their skincare routines?
My prior misconceptions about CBD had me writing it off as an ingredient aimed at young people or those seeking a more natural approach to skincare—I was wrong. Turns out, CBD makes a valuable addition to the skincare routines of all ages.
"When it comes to taking great care of your skin, the earlier you start the better," explains Begoun. "This includes never using products that irritate skin, wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater every day of your life, and making sure your products are loaded with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients. When it comes to CBD, because the body has its own cannabinoid system, applying CBD to reduce inflammation is incredibly helpful at any age."
It's clear that it's CBD's unique targeting of inflammation that makes it such a game-changing ingredient for all of us. "Research over the past 10 years has made it very clear that inflammation is a major problem for almost every skincare concern we have: Acne is an inflammatory disorder, rosacea is an inflammatory disorder, oily skin can be made worse by inflammation, and inflammation is behind most signs of ageing." says Begoun. "Anything you can do to interrupt inflammation is incredibly important. At Paula’s Choice, I’ve been formulating products with anti-inflammatories ingredients for years. Information about inflammation is not new. What is new is the detailed research on just how damaging unchecked inflammation within skin and the body can be and the new ingredients [like CBD] that can provide such impressive results."
What should we look out for when buying CBD skincare products?
While I've definitely had my head turned to the benefits of CBD after trying out the new Paula's Choice range, I'm keen to know if all CBD skincare products are created equal and what we should be checking for when choosing CBD products to add to our routines.
"It’s important to know that it isn’t easy to tell what a CBD product contains," warns Begoun. "Many products list hempseed oil, but unless the hempseed oil has CBD added to it, which is often stated on the label, it doesn’t contain CBD. Hempseed oil is a great ingredient for skin but only contains trace amounts of cannabidiol, if any. To really know that the product you’re buying contains CBD, I think it’s best when the ingredient label states 'cannabidiol' since this is the correct regulatory-compliant name for CBD."
As for choosing the correct dosage? "Many brands selling CBD skin products list the total cannabidiol content in milligrams," explains Begoun. "However, there is no consensus on how much CBD skin needs per application." The amount of CBD used in the Paula's Choice products corresponds to the amount that research shows can reduce inflammation. However, Begoun stresses the importance of choosing a well-rounded skincare product for the best results. "No single ingredient can do it all, [so] both of our CBD products are packed with other skin-beneficial ingredients, including replenishing hempseed oil, emollient squalane, and barrier-replenishing glycerin," she adds.
Begoun also mentioned the importance of choosing CBD skincare products in stable packaging—that means "no jars, clear bottles, or any component that exposes this delicate plant ingredient to a lot of light or air"—to preserve the product's potency and efficacy.
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