Topical CBD Products: Do they work?

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Many CBD products (including our own) can be applied as a topical lotion to affected areas. Do they work, and if so, how do they? The skin is a very effective barrier to microbes and chemicals: it’s not easy to penetrate. However, if enough material is applied multiple times a day, then yes, skin penetration will take place. Just look at the recently published data about sunscreen which showed systemic exposure (meaning significant blood levels) of the sunscreen chemicals following a typical application. Folks don’t realize the quantities of sunscreen ingredients that end up in their blood (I could go on about the unknown effects of systemic sunscreen, a huge knowledge gap with potentially large public health issues, but this is about CBD after all).

Other types of skin penetrating chemicals are found in transdermal patches. Fentanyl and nicotine patches are familiar examples. These patches often contain a complex formulation to aid in carrying the medication thought the skin barrier. Some skin penetration enhancers found in these patches are fatty acid esters such as isopropylmyristate or ethylene glycol derivatives such as Transcutol HP®.

Generally, cannabinoids can be absorbed through the skin, especially when formulated properly. One needs a relatively concentrated oil or lotion which increases the dose absorbed, along with a penetration enhancer. Our 50 mg/ml solution in MCT is the perfect Organic Certified CBD for topical use. Organic MCT oil (which is a relatively small fatty molecule) acts as the permeation enhancer and is totally natural, unlike the synthetic materials mentioned above.

Now cannabinoids are fat soluble, so if you apply the ointment to a skin area that has a fair amount of subcutaneous fat (upper arm/shoulder/back), we can expect the CBD to accumulate in the fatty layer. The cannabinoids will then slowly release into the blood stream once the subcutaneous fat is saturated. This is a good method for obtaining steady state blood levels, so you have continuous coverage for systemic issues.

For focal issues such as joint pain, topical application of a suitably concentrated oil or lotion can provide direct effect on the tissues involved. Concentration is key: high concentrations of active ingredient are absorbed better. The effects can thus be localized to a large degree to the body part in need. Typically, skin areas around joints have less subcutaneous fat, so the cannabinoids can penetrate directly to the painful area.

Thus, if you want to try a topical lotion, we recommend first trying our concentrated MCT solution. The MCT is a decent carrier, and is totally natural. The 50 mg/ml strength is generally much higher than can be found in typical CBD products, especially topical products. To insure you are applying only natural ingredients, insist on USDA Certified Organic CBD. Otherwise, who knows what your rubbing on your body.