Benefits of CBD with our Botanicals.

What does the CBD in all these beauty products actually do?

Topical CBD’s most enticing attributes are its anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killing) properties. Scientists are finding more evidence that it can treat skin disorders like dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema, which is why the ingredient is popping up in so many face creams, serums, and body lotions. “Inflammation is the root of all evil, whether that’s acne or the signs of aging,” says New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman, who notes that while acne rates are increasing, there aren’t many new treatment options coming down the pike. (“Most often, they’re reformulating benzoyl peroxide, or a retinoid, or some kind of acid,” she says.) As it turns out, CBD might be the ticket to clear skin, too.

Acne is a pain in the ass to treat because of its many components: blocked pores, excess sebum, inflammation, and proliferation of bacteria. A 2014 study found that CBD helps suppress breakouts by regulating oil production by sebaceous glands. That could be good news if you’ve got acne and want to avoid drugs like Accutane and spironolactone. There’s more research to be done, of course, but skin doctors are intrigued by the potential of a new non-steroidal tool in their arsenal. If CBD can control inflammation and oil production, it would treat two parts of acne lesion formation. That’s a big deal because “currently, we’ve been doing that with retinoids,” says Engelman, which actually makes skin worse before it gets better. (As skin acclimates to the treatment, a process called retinization initially causes more inflammation in the form of redness, dryness, and peeling.)

Also, for people who can’t — or don’t want to — pop pain pills, topical CBD takes down the ouch level and reduces swelling. That’s why we’re seeing it in so many rubs and balms, used for achy joints or sore muscles before and after workouts, as a chicer alternative to Bengay. The same properties make CBD oil a heck of a massage lotion, too.

What’s the difference between CBD isolate and “whole-plant” or “full-spectrum” CBD?

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like — CBD with nada. Some users prefer it, feeling secure knowing that it won’t be affected by any other cannabis compounds. Conversely, some users believe in “the entourage effect” — that the myriad compounds in whole-plant cannabis work better together than alone. (A recent study from Israel showed that CBD isolate didn’t work as well for pain as whole plant extract). Vertly’s Mata likens using whole-plant CBD to eating a whole-foods diet. Lord Jones experimented with CBD isolate for a while, but it didn’t stick: “We found a whole plant hemp extract with a full cannabinoid profile — not only CBD, but CBN, and many of the other compounds working in concert — to be the most effective, and we never looked back,” says Capobianco. Cannuka, a CBD-and-manuka-honey product line, however, is Team Isolate. “Using the isolate allows us to deliver the most effective ingredient consistently,” says founder Michael Bumgarner. Plus, it’s never skunky. “Our customers want the transformative benefits of cannabis, but not necessarily the strong odor,” he says. Touché.

Wait. Is CBD even legal?

Yes, if it’s extracted from industrial hemp. (Kind of.)

Remember how we said CBD comes from the cannabis sativa plant? If the plant has less than 0.3% THC content — in accordance with the Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, aka the Farm Bill — it’s considered hemp. If it’s got more THC, it’s considered cannabis, not hemp, which makes it illegal in states that don’t allow medical or recreational marijuana.

Confusing? Not to attorney Garrett Graff of Hoban Law Group, who specializes in cannabis law and is part of the group that brought the appeal against the DEA. “It’s our understanding that cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp so long as below the 0.3 percent THC threshold are in fact lawful pursuant to the farm bill under federal law,” Graff says. The FDA, however, hasn’t approved any CBD products at all, no matter what you call the plant it came from. “At this point, we simply agree to disagree, and those products remain on the marketplace,” he says.

Is the farm bill blanket coverage for every CBD-infused lotion and gummy sold in all 50 states? For now, people are going with it until someone lays the smackdown. It probably won’t be the DEA, because budget restrictions prevent them from spending money to mess with the farm bill.

TL;DR: You’re not going to buy a CBD skin cream and get taken down by a SWAT team.

So, what’s next in the world of cannabeauty?

Terpenes! Terpenes are the part of cannabis that makes it stink (though there are some very pleasant ones like limonene, which smells citrusy, and pinene, which smells like Christmas). In a nutshell, they’re kind of like the essential oils of weed. Research suggests that the terpenes in cannabis may work synergistically with cannabinoids to enhance medicinal effects. “I think they’re the red-headed stepchild of cannabis and hemp plants,” says Capobianco. They might reek, but they’re “super important in opening the pain receptors and making all the cannabinoids much more bioavailable, efficient, and effective.” So, who’s ready for cannaromatherapy?