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How Does CBD Topical Work?

December 17, 2022 4 min read

How Does CBD Topical Work?

How Does CBD Topical Work?

CBD topicals activate the cannabinoid receptors to tackle dry and itchy skin. This article discusses how CBD topicals work, their health and therapeutic benefits, and proposes a guide on buying them. 

CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is a chemical compound in the hemp plant. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it does not produce mind-altering and psychoactive effects. Cannabidiol products are available in multiple formulations, including salves, lotions, and topicals. CBD topicals benefit the skin in multiple ways, including; relieving muscle pain, hydrating the skin, and dealing with numerous skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The body consists of a complex signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for key bodily functions such as memory, pain, sleep, and appetite. Additionally, it comprises two cannabinoids, CB1 and CB2. CBD indirectly binds to these receptors, exerting its benefits to the skin.

Basics of CBD topicals

CBD topicals include CBD-infused creams, salves, lotions, and balms. These products contain CBD oil as their main active ingredient and are mixed with another carrier oil to enhance its effects. CBD topicals boast various qualities, including but not limited to analgesic, anti-inflammation, anti-fungal, and anti-oxidation. They tackle conditions such as dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis and relieve pain when applied to the affected area. 

Types of CBD Topicals

Full spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD topicals feature all the chemical compounds and phytochemicals in the hemp plant, including Cannabigerol, CBD, flavonoids, terpenes, and THC. A point worth noting is; its THC levels are less than 0.2%, making them safe and legal. The full-spectrum topicals are the most effective; the cannabis derivatives work in synergy to provide a wide range of benefits called the entourage effect. It is a process whereby all the cannabis derivatives in a product work with CBD to boost its therapeutic benefits. This topical is an excellent option for individuals who want to benefit from the effects of other chemical compounds, including THC. 

Broad Spectrum

Broad-spectrum CBD topicals consist of every other chemical compound in the hemp plant, excluding THC. They offer an ideal choice for users who want to benefit from the effects of cannabis compounds, excluding THC. 


The isolate topicals only Cannabidiol and other chemical compounds. They are perfect for users who want to benefit from CBD's effects.

How Do CBD Topicals Work?

CBD topicals alleviate pain, inflammation, acne, eczema, and other skin conditions. Upon application, the topicals penetrate the dermal and sub-dermal layers, reaching the deeper parts of the skin. It binds with the peripheral receptors from the complex signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system. The system comprises endocannabinoids, enzymes, and cannabinoid receptors. Apart from maintaining homeostasis in the body, it is also responsible for various key functions such as pain sensation, appetite, mood, and memory. CBD activates the ECS system to restore irregular body functions like pain and inflammation in the skin. Cannabis derivatives on the skin do not reach the bloodstream. Therefore, CBD lotion or other topicals do not cause psychoactive effects even with higher levels of THC; the user will not feel psychoactive effects since it does not enter the bloodstream. 

Benefits of CBD Topicals

Regulates Sebum Production

Sebum is a waxy and oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. When produced in moderate amounts, it is beneficial to the skin. However, overproduced or under-production of sebum causes skin conditions such as acne and dryness. According to Ring et al. (2022), CBD inhibits the amount of sebum oil production. As a result, it tackles skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and dryness.

Reduces Wrinkles and Fine Lines

One of the major causes of aging signs is oxidative stress caused by the presence of free radicals. Combined with various environmental pollutants, oxidative stress leads to aging conditions such as pigmentations and wrinkles. Fernando et al. (2016) observed that CBD has anti-aging qualities, making it an excellent addition to topical products. Its antioxidative qualities protect the skin from environmental stress, such as sun damage. As a result, it counteracts skin dullness, wrinkles, and fine lines. The cannabis-infused topicals also improve the skin's general appearance by reducing the appearance of aging signs. 

Relives Pain

Wang et al. (2020) noted that CBD contains anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that reduce pain and inflammation. The cannabis derivative interacts with the cannabinoid receptors to block pain signals from reaching the brain neurons. The topicals are applied in the targeted area to provide immediate relief. 

Treats Eczema and Psoriasis

Psoriasis and eczema are immune conditions caused by skin propagation. They are characterized by skin patches, itching, and cracking. CBD's potent anti-inflammatory agent reduces the patches of eczema. Gegotek et al. (2021) suggested that Cannabidiol topicals reduce psoriasis and eczema symptoms by alleviating plaque accumulation and keratocyte production. 

The Buying Guide on CBD Topicals

Below are various factors to consider before buying CBD topicals:

  • CBD source: Ensure that the product is labelled hemp-extracted rather than marijuana-extracted.
  • Lab reports: They provide the quality and safety of a product. Additionally, they state its contents levels and whether it contains toxic substances such as pesticides.
  • The brand selling the product: Ensure to purchase your product from a credible and trustworthy brand; a brand's credibility is verifiable through positive customer reviews. 


CBD topicals are a great choice for individuals who want to experience instant relief for localized skin conditions. The cannabis derivatives in the topicals indirectly bind to the CB2 receptors, providing immediate relief. The topicals do not reach the bloodstream; if the product contains THC, it does not lead to any psychoactive effects. They provide pain and inflammation relief and numerous benefits; including balancing oil production and treating various skin conditions such as dry skin and eczema. Before using any CBD product to replace regular medication, seek medical assistance. 


Fernando, Piao, Kang, Ryu, Hewage, Chae, & Hyun, (2016). Rosmarinic Acid Attenuates Cell Damage Against UVB Radiation-Induced Oxidative Stress Via Enhancing Antioxidant Effects In Human Hacat Cells. Biomolecules & Therapeutics, 24(1), 75.

Gęgotek, A., Atalay, S., Wroński, A., Markowska, A., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2021). angiogenesis factor expression in UVB-irradiated keratinocytes from psoriatic

Ring, J., Alomar, A., Bieber, T., Deleuran, M., Fink‐Wagner, A., Gelmetti, C., ... & Darsow, U. (2012). Guidelines For Treatment Of Atopic Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) Part I. Journal Of The European Academy Of Dermatology And Venereology, 26(8), 1045-1060.

Wang, B., Kovalchuk, A., Li, D., Ilnytskyy, Y., Kovalchuk, I., & Kovalchuk, O. (2020). In search of preventative strategies: novel anti-inflammatory high-CBD cannabis sativa extracts modulate ACE2 expression in COVID-19 gateway tissues.