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CBD balms offer localized pain relief and can cool and calm skin. See our vetted picks and choose the very best for your needs.

Healthline has sole editorial control over this article. Potential uses for the products listed here are not health claims made by the manufacturers. The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. It’s not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.

Cannabidiol (CBD) comes in many different types of products these days — including topical balms.

CBD balms are often thick, almost solid, and waxy. They’re different from CBD salves, which tend to be a bit softer than balms.

Both salves and balms typically use fatty oils and waxes as base ingredients, while creams and lotions typically use water. Balms are a concentrated product, making them a great go-to choice for pain relief. Compared with ingestible CBD products, topical CBD is not absorbed into the bloodstream (so long as you avoid open cuts and wounds).

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Each product in this article:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made by a company that discloses the source of their hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes testing for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:
    • customer reviews
    • whether the company has been subject to an FDA warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

CBD balms, like other CBD topicals, are intended to be used directly on your skin. They’re designed to be applied to a specific area to help provide relief.

One thing to keep in mind is that skin absorbency is pretty weak compared with other mucous membranes. That means when applying a topical product, it’s best to select one with a high level of CBD and apply it liberally.

You can try CBD balms for a variety of uses.

Pain relief

Applying CBD products that offer extra pain-relieving ingredients like menthol, camphor, and capsaicin may deliver even more therapeutic effects to the applied areas.

Skin conditions

In addition to helping with physical pain, CBD balms may be beneficial for certain skin conditions.

In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology mentions that topical CBD products have shown potential for lowering inflammation that can contribute to acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Other uses

There’s mounting evidence that suggests topical CBD products, like balms, can help with a range of pain issues like:

  • Arthritis-related pain: A 2015 study performed on rats discovered that CBD gel applied to the skin significantly lowered joint swelling.
  • Nerve pain: A small 2020 study examined topical CBD oil’s impact on pain. In the study, people with nerve damage all reported lower levels of pain, noticing a drop in sharp, severe, cold, and itchy feelings of pain.
  • Jaw pain: A 2019 study explored how topical CBD may help with a certain type of facial pain that largely involves the jaw. Researchers discovered that those who used topical CBD around twice daily experienced reduced pain after 2 weeks.

It’s important to keep in mind that research is limited. More research needs to be done on CBD before researchers can say for sure that it can help with any of these conditions.

When it comes to CBD, not all products are created equal. Since the FDA hasn’t approved any over-the-counter CBD products, it’s very important to look into what you’re buying before you make a purchase. Here’s what to look for:

  • Testing: It’s best to look for a product that comes with an up-to-date, comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab. The COA will verify how much CBD and THC are in the product. It’ll also tell you whether the product has been tested for contaminants like mold, pesticides, and heavy metals.
  • Transparency: The best brands will be transparent about where they grow their hemp and how they make their products.
  • Ingredients: Check ingredients before you make a purchase. Look for anything you may be allergic to. You can also scope out products with added pain-relieving ingredients, if needed.
  • Reputation: Some CBD brands have pending lawsuits or have received warning letters from the FDA. Research each potential brand before you buy their product.

Balms are usually intended to be applied as you would a typical moisturizer — by gently massaging it into the area you’re treating and adding more as needed. However, be sure to read the label for specifics before you apply a balm.

You can find CBD balms in a variety of strengths. Topicals like balms can be a little hard to dose since they’re not as straightforward as, say, a CBD gummy.

But in general, dosage depends on a number of factors, including:

  • your experience with CBD products
  • your body weight
  • the potency of the product
  • the condition you’re treating

If you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with the lowest possible dose and see how your body responds. You can up the dose from there if necessary.

Though the World Health Organization says CBD is largely believed to be safe, some people may experience side effects, including:

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

It’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional before trying CBD, especially if you’re taking any medications. CBD may interact with some medications, including those that carry a grapefruit warning.

It’s also important to be careful with any new-to-you topical products. Topical CBD products are unlikely to cause any of the side effects mentioned above, but it’s best to check the ingredients first to make sure you don’t have any allergies to them.

Don’t use topicals on broken skin. Perform a patch test to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions before using the product on larger areas of your skin.

To do a patch test, you’ll simply place a little bit of the balm on the inside of your wrist. Wait 24 hours to see how your skin responds. If you notice any signs of irritation, such as redness or itchiness, discontinue use of the product.

CBD affects people differently, but growing research suggests it can help with pain management.

For example, research from 2020 found that regular use of THC or CBD via topical application improved pain for some people in specialized medical care.

In addition, anecdotal reports from CBD users suggest that CBD topicals like balms significantly improve muscle and joint pain.

The CBDistillery Relief Stick 0% THC is an excellent choice for people who want to avoid THC and take their CBD balm on the go. This stick also offers a no-mess application.

The Aspen Green Pain Relief Body Balm is a good pick for those who prefer full-spectrum CBD to benefit from the entourage effect. It’s also USDA certified organic and uses 100% natural food-grade ingredients.

You can apply CBD balm directly to the area you want to treat, like a sore, stiff muscle or joint.

For topically treating a skin condition like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, consider other types of CBD topicals like lotions or creams. Balms have a thick, heavy consistency that may not work as well for skin conditions.

Although CBD should not appear on a drug test, many CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC. Some may also be mislabeled.

If the product contains enough THC, it can result in a positive test result. For the best chance at avoiding THC altogether, buy CBD isolate from a reputable brand.

Full-spectrum CBD has all the beneficial compounds from the cannabis plant including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. This means it can include up to 0.3% THC. Broad-spectrum CBD contains all the same compounds as full-spectrum CBD except for THC.

It may take as long as 1–2 hours to notice results from applying CBD topically. This will vary depending on the type of CBD you’re using, your body composition, and your dosage.

Effects from topical CBD products like CBD balm can take longer to notice compared with those of oral CBD (for example, products like CBD oil that you place under your tongue).

You may notice the effects of additional ingredients like camphor more immediately.

Research on CBD is still in its infancy. However, growing evidence and consumer reports suggest that CBD topicals may help with a number of ailments, including pain and skin conditions like acne and eczema.

Always be careful when using a new-to-you product. Talk with a qualified healthcare professional first about any potential interactions with your current medications and perform a small patch test on your skin before applying it to a larger area.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.