Plant extracts

Cannabidiol description

One of the components of the _Cannabis sativa_ and _Cannabis indica_ plants. Although listed on a cosmetic product by the approved name of cannabidiol, this ingredient is commonly referred to as CBD. Cannabidiol is one of numerous cannabinoids found primarily in the _Cannabis_ species of plants. It occurs naturally in the flowering tops of the hemp plant (_Cannabis sativa_) but not in hemp seeds. Products that contain hemp seed oil that tout it as the source of cannabidiol most likely do not contain this substance (especially if you don’t see it listed among the product’s ingredients); however, it is possible to grow CBD-enriched hemp, where meaningful amounts of the cannabidiol is found in multiple parts of the plant. Confusing? Absolutely, which is why it’s important to only purchase CBD skin care from a trusted brand. Cannabidiol has been shown to offer numerous benefits related to calming skin. Skin has specific receptor sites for cannabinoids (referred to as its endocannabinoid system). It seems CBD can “talk” to these receptor sites on skin, sending unique signals to stop firing the wrong messages, which in turn leads to healthier, better-looking skin. This benefit makes cannabidiol an intriguing ingredient for interrupting the progression of damage within skin’s uppermost layers that can lead to visible problems; however, more research needs to be done to gain a greater understanding of how CBD works on skin. Research has also shown, though isn’t entirely clear on how this works, that CBD seems to visibly reduce oily skin. It’s also a very good antioxidant, on par with vitamins C and E. A quick note on the other compound in _Cannabis_ that’s often mentioned, and that’s THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is the cannabinoid in marijuana (_Cannabis indica_) that has psychoactive effects (gets you high). The cannabidiol in skin care products must be THC-free, which means it contains 0.3% or less of this chemical, an amount lawmakers have deemed safe and unable to produce any sort of “high.” Last, the legal status of CBD in skin care (meaning for topical use only, not ingestion) appears to be on solid footing for now, but it’s a changing landscape that is being examined with an aim on clarifying its usage for consumers.

Cannabidiol references

  • Biochemical Pharmacology, November 2018, pages 122-133
  • Dermatology Online Journal, June 2018, pages 1-17
  • Journal of Investigate Dermatology, May 2018, page S173
  • Dermatoendocrinology, January 2018, ePublication
  • Cannabis and Cannabinoid Reserarch, June 2017, ePublication
  • Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 2017, pages 188-190

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.