What Are CBD Topicals? + How To Pick A High-Quality Product

CBD topicals are some of the most popular and best-selling products in the CBD market. But buying them can be overwhelming, with so many brands and types out there. So we’ve compiled the most essential information about CBD topicals, including how they work, why to use them and how to pick the best ones for you.

What are CBD Topicals?

CBD topicals are skin and hair products infused with CBD, usually derived from hemp. Products include lotions, balms, salves, cleansers and more that can be directly applied to the skin for surface or tissue relief.

Emma Chasen, founder of a cannabis education firm, told Weedmaps that CBD topicals “may contain the isolated compound CBD; a distillate that contains CBD as well as some other minor cannabinoids; or a broad spectrum oil that contains CBD, minor cannabinoids and terpenes.” 

Differences in topicals lie in the consistency and thickness of the product. It’s up to the consumer to experiment and decide what kind of topical would work best for his or her needs. 

How Do CBD Topicals Work?

CBD activates our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our ECS is an important regulator in brain, endocrine and immune function. Cannabinoid receptors in CBD bind to cell receptors in the skin, muscle tissues and nerves. 

Unlike ingestible CBD products, topicals soak into the skin, but don’t get into the bloodstream or affect the entire body. Because of this, topicals are a great doorway for curious consumers who are new to CBD. The relief is faster and more focused as the topical is applied directly to the area of discomfort. 

Many topicals contain other ingredients to enhance their relieving effects. Common additives include menthol, camphor or essential oils. Some topicals may have bases such as shea butter or various oils, like coconut, avocado or jojoba. For example, CAASI’s CBD Body Lotion is 700mg of full-spectrum CBD infused with aromatic oils such as frankincense and juniper berry.

woman getting a back massage with body lotion

Why Use CBD Topicals?

CBD topicals have a large diversity of uses including:

  • Joint & muscle pain 

  • Skin conditions (eczema, dermatitis, etc.)

  • Headaches 

  • Arthritis

  • Inflammation 

  • Cramps

All of these uses are in line with CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that CBD reduces inflammation through multiple pathways in the body. CBD also inhibits an enzyme that medications such as Advil and Aspirin target in their method of action, contributing to a more natural approach to treating inflammatory pain.

How to Pick a High Quality Topical

When choosing a topical, pay attention to the type of product you’re choosing. Water-based lotions absorb quicker in the skin, while oil-based topicals absorb deeper. Gels are useful for thicker application. If you’re unsure where to start, pick your favorite skin care product and find something similar, just with CBD. 

Whether you’re shopping for topicals or another form of CBD, you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting a product that produces real results. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What type of CBD extract does it contain? (isolate, broad-spectrum, full-spectrum)

  • Where is the raw material sourced from?

  • Is it produced sustainably and organically?

  • Does the supplier have a Certificate of Analysis with test results for cleanliness and quality?

Pay attention to the dosages (mg) in your topical. Generally with CBD, higher is usually better. Most studies show that there are essentially zero side effects of high dose CBD (especially when applied topically.) And if you want more than just pure CBD, feel free to experiment with different ratios of CBD to THC, such as 1:1 or 1:3, and see how it affects you.


Have more questions about CBD topicals, or other CBD related questions? Leave a comment below!

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