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, or salve that’s infused with CBD and can be applied directly to the skin.

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

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

The American Academy of Dermatology even suggested using topical CBD products as an adjunct measure for acne, eczema, and psoriasis at their annual meeting in 2018.

CBD’s effectiveness, however, varies depending on a variety of factors, like the:

So, how can you discern the CBD products that are the real deal 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. 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 with U.S.-grown hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent 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

  • $ = 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: pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids or THC
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: contains most cannabinoids, but it generally doesn’t include THC
  • Full-spectrum CBD: contains all of the plant’s cannabinoids, including THC

CBD topical brands selected:

  • Lazarus Naturals
  • Joy Organics
  • Vertly
  • CBDistillery
  • Lord Jones
  • GoGreen
  • Envy
  • Imbue Botanicals
  • Saint Jane

Best for pain

Joy Organics CBD Salve

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

Price point: $$-$$$

This broad-spectrum CBD salve is formulated specifically 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 MCT oil, beeswax, and lavender and eucalyptus essential oils for added skin-soothing and relaxation benefits.

This salve comes in 1-ounce (500 mg of CBD) or 2-ounce (1,000 mg of CBD) packages depending on how much you want on hand.

The COA is available on each product page.

CBDistillery CBDol CBD Balm

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide.

Price point: $$

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-ounce jar. Their products are made using U.S. Hemp Authority-certified non-GMO hemp grown in the USA.

To find the COA, Scan the QR code on their website or contact them.

Use code “BESTFORPAIN” for 20% off (one time use per user)

Lazarus Naturals Full Spectrum CBD Balm, Soothing Mint

Price point: $

This full-spectrum balm contains 400 mg of CBD in 0.67 ounces or 1,200 mg of CBD in 2 ounces of product.

Other ingredients like organic mango butter and organic beeswax add to the soothe factor. It comes in mint, cedar citrus, lavender, Portland rose, and unscented varieties.

The COA is available on each product page.

Vertly Hemp CBD-Infused Relief Lotion

Price point: $

Vertly’s CBD lotion contains 150 mg of full-spectrum CBD in each 2.9-ounce jar.

Other ingredients include anti-inflammatory lavender oil, magnesium for muscle recovery, and arnica flower for muscle tightness. The end result is a nongreasy lotion that keeps skin nourished all day long.

Because of the potent ingredients, this is another product that shouldn’t be used on broken skin.

The COA is available on each product page.

Best for facial skin

Vertly Soothing Florals Hydrating Face Mist

Price point: $

This facial mist is a refreshing way to snag CBD along with calendula flower, aloe, lavender, and jasmine oil.

Each 2-ounce package contains 100 mg of full-spectrum CBD.

Be aware that it also contains witch hazel and rose water which could be drying or irritating for sensitive skin.

The COA is available on each product page.

Envy CBD Face Mask

Price point: $$$

If you love the self-care of a face mask, this may be your preferred way to get the effects of CBD.

Each mask contains 10 mg of full-spectrum CBD per sheet along with licorice root extract, rosemary flower extract, and green tea leaf extract for their antioxidant and hydrating properties.

Apply it to a clean face for about 30 minutes for maximum benefit. Note that since you only get three sheets per container, it may be slightly pricier than other topicals.

The COA is available on each product page.

Imbue Botanicals em.body premium CBD Lip Balm

Price point: $

If you’re already slathering on lip balm, this will make applying CBD super easy.

With 25 mg of full-spectrum CBD and grape seed oil, beeswax, and natural flavorings, this lip balm is the most portable way to go.

im-bue lip balms come in peppermint and strawberry flavors.

COA test results by batch are available online.

Saint Jane Luxury CBD Serum

Price point: $$$

Another Sephora favorite, this serum contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD in each 1-ounce bottle, making it one of the most potent on this list.

Designed to treat dull, uneven skin, it contains a mixture of 20 different botanicals to reduce redness and even skin tone.

It’s also made with cold-pressed grapeseed oil, a powerful antioxidant that’s rich in healthy omega fats and vitamin E.

It’s cruelty-free, and fans rave about its light, nongreasy feel and ability to combat blemishes.

The COA is available on each product page.

Best all-purpose

Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Oil

Price point: $$

Sleek, stylish, and available online or at Sephora stores nationwide, each 1-ounce bottle 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 allows easy application on the go. Store at room temperature for best results.

COA test results by batch are available online.

GoGreen Hemp CBD Relief Stick

Price point: $$

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

It has 1,000 mg of CBD in each 2.2-ounce stick. The stick design allows for easy application to specific areas that need relief.

The COA is available on each product page.

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

Potency

The No. 1 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 ideal for consumers who want to be sure there’s no THC in their product, this extraction method strips away other cannabinoids and volatile organic compounds like terpenes, reducing the overall therapeutic benefits of the 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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter (OTC) 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’s free of 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–$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 healing herbs or oils?

What to consider while shopping

  • potency
  • CBD source
  • quality control
  • ingredients
  • price
Healthline

Topicals are meant to be massaged into the skin, so you’ll apply them directly to the affected area. 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 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, as 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
Healthline

While CBD doesn’t typically enter the bloodstream through topical application, it’s possible it may interact with some medications.

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

Always consult your doctor before using products with CBD, even topicals.

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. Those seeking the greatest therapeutic benefit possible should opt for potent, full-spectrum, organic ingredients whenever possible.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

  • Iffland K, et al. (2017). An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: A review of clinical data and relevant animal studies. DOI: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  • Russo EB. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2503660/

  • 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 The Huffington Post 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.