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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.

There are lots of ways to use cannabidiol (CBD). But if you’re looking for relief from aches and pains or help with skin conditions, a topical might be your best bet.

A CBD topical is any cream, lotion, balm, or salve that’s infused with CBD and can be applied directly to the skin.

Read on for what you need to know about this type of product, as well as some of the best options to try.

While research on CBD is still in its early stages, the little we do know about CBD topicals is promising in some areas.

Pain and inflammation

A 2016 study done on rats discovered that topical applications of CBD could help manage pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

Skin disorders

Some preliminary research suggests that CBD may help for certain skin conditions.

A 2020 review of CBD research indicates the application of topical CBD products could be therapeutic for acne and eczema. A 2021 review of human clinical studies also supports this. However, it notes that topical CBD can sometimes cause mild side effects like stinging and burning.

Additionally, a small 2021 study of 20 people with eczema found that topical CBD gel decreased itchiness in 67 percent of participants.

Still, more research is needed to confirm CBD’s effect on skin conditions.

Quality matters

It’s important to keep in mind that not all CBD products are created equally. CBD’s effectiveness varies depending on a variety of factors, like the:

So how can you discern the real-deal CBD products from the fakes? We’ve gone ahead and done all the heavy lifting for you, listing 10 great options below.

We chose these products based on criteria we think are good indicators of safety, quality, and transparency. Every product and brand featured has been vetted by our team for medical and business standards. 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 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

As a part of our selection process, we also considered:

  • the company’s 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 a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter
    • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Where available, we’ve included special discount codes for our readers.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$75
  • $$$ = over $75

To get a full picture of the price of a product, it’s important to read labels for:

  • serving sizes
  • amounts
  • strengths
  • other ingredients
CBD glossary

You’ll see the following terms mentioned in the products below. Here’s what they mean:

  • CBD isolate. This is pure CBD, with no other cannabis compounds. That makes it as close to THC-free as you can get.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD. This type of CBD contains most cannabinoids, but it generally doesn’t include THC. You’ll also find some flavonoids and terpenes.
  • Full-spectrum CBD. This type of CBD contains all cannabis compounds and cannabinoids, including THC. However, federally legal products will only contain 0.3 percent THC at most.

Best CBD salve

Joy Organics CBD Salve

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 milligrams (mg) per 1-ounce (oz.) jar
  • COA: available on product page

This broad-spectrum CBD salve from Joy Organics is formulated to address muscle and joint pain without THC. It’s made without water, so it’s a thicker consistency than a lotion or cream.

It contains organic medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, beeswax, and lavender and eucalyptus essential oils for added skin-soothing and relaxation benefits.

Use code “healthcbd” for 20% off.

Best CBD balms

CBDistillery CBDol CBD Balm

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per 1-oz. container
  • COA: available on product page in image slideshow

Full-spectrum and full of calming and moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, almond oil, and aloe, this balm can help aid your aches.

You’ll get 500 mg of CBD in each 1-oz. jar. Like all CBDistillery products, this one is made using U.S. Hemp Authority certified hemp grown in the United States without genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Use code “healthline” for 20% off sitewide or choose the subscription option for 20% off the first 2 subscription orders and 25% off the 3rd order.

Lazarus Naturals Relief + Recovery Full Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 3,000 mg per 2.1-oz. package
  • COA: available online

In addition to full-spectrum CBD, this Lazarus Naturals balm contains other ingredients like organic mango butter and organic beeswax, adding to the soothe factor. It comes in mint, cedar citrus, lavender, Portland rose, and unscented varieties.

Use code “Healthline10” for 10% off your first order. One-time use only.

Best CBD body oils

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Oil

Sleek, stylish, and available online or at Sephora stores nationwide, each 1-oz. bottle of Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Oil contains 100 mg of broad-spectrum CBD.

Skin-friendly ingredients include organic safflower oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil.

The roller ball applicator is designed to help target pressure points and allow easy application on the go. Store at room temperature for best results.

Juna Ease Functional Body Oil

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 400 mg per 1.7-oz. bottle
  • COA: available online

This velvety body oil is designed to relieve physical tension and cramps.

It’s made with full-spectrum CBD, organic grapeseed and jojoba oils, and organic botanicals, like lavender, geranium, and bergamot. According to the brand, these ingredients were chosen for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Best CBD balm stick

GoGreen Hemp CBD Relief Stick

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: broad-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 2.2-oz. stick
  • COA: available on product page

GoGreen limits their ingredient lists to the essentials to avoid any allergens or skin interactions. It’s just beeswax, MCT oil, and broad-spectrum CBD.

The stick design allows for easy application to specific areas that need relief. Be sure to follow the application instructions on the package.

Best CBD lotions

Empower Bodycare CBD-Infused Lotion

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 175 mg per 1.7-oz. bottle
  • COA: available online

Empower Bodycare uses CBD isolate from organically grown hemp in their infused lotions. It’s lightly scented with essential oils for a fragrance that’s somewhere between floral and citrus.

The lotion is designed to absorb quickly and soothe discomfort wherever it’s applied.

Vertly Relief Lotion

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 500 mg per bottle
  • COA: available on product page

This full-spectrum lotion contains arnica for added pain relief. Reviewers are mostly satisfied, saying it works well and smells great.

One thing to note about Vertly is that while they test their raw CBD for contaminants, their end products are tested for potency only.

Best CBD cream

R+R Medicinals Hemp Extract Infused Cream

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 2.5-oz. tube
  • COA: available online

This infused cream is fully vegan. It’s made with arnica, calendula flower, and jojoba, with no artificial fragrances, dyes, or menthol.

A quarter-size amount of R+R’s full-spectrum cream delivers roughly 33.33 mg of CBD.

Extract Labs Muscle Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,500 mg per 2.95-oz. tin
  • COA: available on product page

This muscle cream is designed to relieve tension and soreness in the muscles and joints. Full-spectrum CBD from Colorado is blended with cooling menthol and arnica for reliable relief.

Apply as needed to any spots that need a little TLC.

As evidenced by the products above, there are many different types of CBD topicals. Here’s what to consider when choosing among them.

Benefits

When you’re trying to choose the right topical product for your needs, think about your motivation for buying. Are you hoping to benefit from a hydrating boost of CBD for your face or body in general? Are you treating tenderness somewhere specific? Being clear about the result you want can help you zero in on a product that will best suit your needs.

Product type

Pay attention to the name of the product as well. Lotions will generally be lighter in texture, while ointments, salves, and creams tend to be thicker. Oils will be, well, oilier, and best suited to body-wide use.

Product form

Also, consider the ease of application. Some products are available in stick form, while others are packaged in tubes and tins.

Ingredients

Finally, check out the ingredients list. If you have allergies or sensitivities to botanical ingredients, you’ll want to avoid those.

There’s a lot of information to keep in mind when shopping for a CBD topical. Let’s go over the basics.

Potency

The first thing to look for is potency. CBD doesn’t pass through skin easily, so it’s important to use a potent product for best results.

When it comes to CBD topicals like lotions and creams, average potency products contain between 3 and 8 mg per recommended application. High potency products contain at least 8 mg per recommended application.

CBD source

Chances are, you may have seen the terms isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum before. These terms refer to the ways in which CBD is extracted.

While isolates are great for consumers who want to be sure there’s no THC in their products, this extraction method strips away other cannabinoids and compounds like terpenes. This can reduce the overall therapeutic benefits of CBD.

Broad-spectrum products contain most cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but they don’t contain THC.

Full-spectrum products preserve all cannabinoids and terpenes in the final product, including THC. This is important because CBD and THC may work better together than they do alone, thanks to the entourage effect.

Note that any full-spectrum products made from hemp will still only contain 0.3 percent THC or less, so it’s still a relatively small amount.

Has it been third-party tested?

Currently, the FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter CBD products. However, in order to protect public health, they can take action against CBD companies that make unfounded health claims.

Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products in the same way they regulate drugs or dietary supplements, companies sometimes mislabel or misrepresent their products.

That means it’s especially important to do your own research and find a quality product. The product’s COA should confirm that it passes tests for contaminants and that the product contains the amount of CBD and THC it claims.

If a product doesn’t work for you, you may consider trying another with different ingredients or a different amount of CBD.

Ingredients

Opt for all-natural, organic, U.S.-grown ingredients whenever available — you’ll get all the benefits of the ingredients without the chemicals and pesticides.

When looking at facial products, look out for ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin.

Price

Most CBD topicals fall in the $30 to $60 range.

Pay close attention to products priced at over $100. You may decide they’re worth it, but do a little digging to be sure before you shell out the extra cash.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they contain full-spectrum CBD?
  • How potent are they?
  • Do they contain other beneficial herbs or oils?

What to consider while shopping

  • potency
  • source
  • quality control
  • ingredients
  • price

Topicals are meant to be massaged into the skin, so you’ll apply them directly to the affected area. However, always read the package directions before applying. Stay away from broken skin and sensitive areas.

Depending on other ingredients in the product, you might feel tingling, warming, or cooling sensations.

If you’re using the product for pain, you should start to feel the effects relatively quickly. If you’re using it for a skin condition, like acne or eczema, you may have to apply it a few times to see results.

Always refer to the packaging for specific directions and recommendations from the manufacturer.

Most topicals are safe to reapply as needed. Pay special attention to the type of carrier oil your product is made with, since products based in coconut oil may melt when exposed to heat. These products should be kept in a cool, dark place.

Be sure to read the packaging. Most topicals are only meant for external use, and many are not meant to be used on broken skin.

CBD is nonintoxicating, meaning it won’t get you high. It’s generally recognized as safe, and there are few side effects, though they do occur occasionally.

Possible side effects

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

CBD doesn’t typically enter the bloodstream through topical application. But according to a 2017 review, it’s possible CBD may interact with some medications, including those with a grapefruit warning.

Some animal research suggests that CBD may interact with liver enzymes and temporarily stop the liver from metabolizing other drugs or breaking down toxins.

Always consult a healthcare professional before using products with CBD, even topicals.

Do not use CBD if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can CBD be absorbed through the skin?

Yes. Topical use is one of several methods of consuming CBD. But it works a little differently than, say, taking it sublingually, or under the tongue. Instead of entering the bloodstream, topical CBD reaches endocannabinoid receptors through the skin. That’s why you experience localized effects.

Does CBD cream show up in a drug test?

Since they don’t enter the bloodstream, even full-spectrum topical CBD products shouldn’t show up on a drug test.

Does CBD cream work for pain?

It might. Some 2016 animal research shows that topical CBD has a positive effect on pain. However, more research — including human studies — is needed to confirm the effects of topical CBD.

Do CBD lotions do anything?

CBD lotions may help reduce pain and inflammation, as well as have a positive effect on various skin conditions, like acne and eczema. However, more research is needed.

Are CBD lotions legal?

CBD lotions made from hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC are federally legal in the United States. However, they are still illegal under some state laws.

Though there’s little information currently available about CBD’s effectiveness as a topical, many consumers report successfully using topicals to relieve a wide variety of ailments.

CBD topicals have the potential to help manage pain and skin conditions like eczema and acne. If you’re seeking the greatest therapeutic benefit, opt for potent, full-spectrum, organic ingredients whenever possible.

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 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. 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.


Janelle Lassalle is a writer and content creator who specializes in all things cannabis. She’s also insanely passionate about CBD and has been featured in HuffPost for baking with CBD. You can find her work featured in a variety of publications such as Leafly, Forbes, and High Times. Check out her portfolio here or follow her on Instagram @jenkhari.