In 2018, a farm bill passed making industrial hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) legal nationwide. Because of this, there’s been a “green rush” of cannabis-inspired products flooding the market — including beauty products.

While CBD is a new ingredient to many consumers (since it’s now more readily available), hempseed oil has been around for decades and sold at health food stores for both cooking and skincare. However, when CBD and hempseed oil are put side by side, a lot of misleading labeling happens.

First, a Cannabis species (Cannabaceae) breakdown

To filter through the CBD marketing, here’s a cannabis breakdown: Cannabis (often referred to as marijuana) and hemp are two varieties of the same plant species, cannabis sativa.

Since they share the same species name, they’re often lumped into one big family and there seems to be a lot of confusion around their differences.

MarijuanaHemp Hemp seeds (cannabis sativa seed oil)
produces tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at 20%+ levels (the psychoactive compound that makes a person feel “high.”) has to be less than 0.3% THC to be sold legally 0% THC, trace amounts of CBD
produces CBD at 10%+ levelsproduces CBD at 20%+used as food such as hempseed milk, granola, and more
medicinal and therapeutic uses for chronic pain, mental health, and illnessesstalks of the hemp plant can produce clothing, rope, paper, fuel, home insulation... (the list goes on and on)cold-pressed for oil production that can be used in cooking, beauty products, and even in paint
 

Why this matters in the beauty world

Hempseed oil and CBD oil are both trendy ingredients used topically in skincare products.

Hempseed oil, in particular, is known to not clog pores, be anti-inflammatory, and provide superior moisturization to keep the skin looking and feeling supple. It can be used within a product or even just on the skin as a face oil.

New research is coming out all the time about the skin benefits of CBD. What we know so far is like it’s cousin, hempseed oil, it’s been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory which helps in healing acne, sensitive skin, rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. It also packs a ton of antioxidants.

But is CBD beauty actually more effective or worth paying more for?

It’s still too early to tell, and results can vary depending on the person. If there’s a beauty brand making such claims, you may want to do extra consumer research as brands aren’t obligated to tell you how much CBD is in a product.

The tricky marketing tactic behind hempseed oil

With the green rush, some brands are jumping on cannabis-infused beauty products but mixing the terms up — intentionally or not. Since CBD and hempseed oil are in the same cannabis family, they’re often incorrectly marketed as the same thing.

Why would a brand do this? Simply put, consumers are willing to pay more for CBD oil, which is a pretty expensive ingredient compared to hempseed oil.

It’s easy for a brand to add hempseed oil to a product, adorn it with marijuana leaves, and highlight the word cannabis to make consumers think they’re receiving a CBD product that contains no actual CBD at all.

And paying a premium I might add!

So how can you tell what you’re purchasing? It’s pretty simple actually, check the ingredient list...

Hemp seed oil will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil. CBD will be listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid rich) or PCR hemp extracts.

While it’s not required to see the milligrams listed on the bottle, it has become a common practice to do so. If it’s not, you should wonder what’s in that bottle you’re paying for.

It’s so important to be an educated, savvy consumer. Don’t fall into the trap of weed washing (hemp-based product hype)!


Dana Murray is a licensed aesthetician from Southern California with a passion for skin care science. She’s worked in skin education, from helping others with their skin to developing products for beauty brands. Her experience extends over 15 years and an estimated 10,000 facials. She’s been using her knowledge to blog about skin and bust skin myths on her Instagram since 2016.