3 Types of Chemicals to Avoid When Buying Cannabis Topicals

3 bad chemicals in cannabis topicals.

When shopping for cannabis skin care products there are a few chemicals you should avoid. Image Credit: By totojang1977 on shutterstock.

Ten years ago, it was hard to find cannabis topicals of any kind. Today, we have more choice than ever before — which means we can be more discerning, as well. It’s become easier than ever to find high-quality products that are made with natural ingredients instead of harsh chemicals, and when it comes to cannabis topicals, it’s worth being choosy.

Many of us have become accustomed to reading labels on the food we eat. This shift in awareness is now moving into body care products. In the past, if a bottle of lotion or face cream had an informative, visually appealing label, then chances were good that you, the customer, would have no intention of checking the ingredients list. That’s starting to change, and since our skin is our largest organ (and capable of absorbing whatever we apply to it) it’s important that ingredients be pure, chemical- and cruelty-free, and as organic as they can possibly be.

It is important to remember that there are varying stages of “organic.” Items can be anywhere from 70-95 percent organic when they are certified. The certification is costly and small batch manufacturers often choose not to receive certification. You will note when purchasing organic products the price is generally higher. This is because organic ingredients cost more to produce, whether in terms of human labor, raw materials, or otherwise. On the bright side, you are supporting organic farmers and the environment with every purchase you make.

Organic Alternatives to Artificial Chemicals in Cannabis Topicals

When shopping for cannabis topicals and skin care products there are a few ingredients you should do your best to avoid. Whether you’re looking to treat arthritis symptoms, reduce neuropathic pain, or just to relax and indulge your skin a bit, it’s better to seek more natural options. Check out this list below for the top three ingredients to avoid, along with their organic alternatives.

Fragrance/Perfume vs. Essential Oils

Artificial fragrances and perfumes can be used in any and all body care and skin care products. Also known as fragrance oils, these are engineered ingredients that can come from more than 3,000 types of chemicals, including ones that can disrupt your hormones and trigger allergies. The most worrisome part is that there is no regulation to their formulations, and since the scents are protected by trade law, they can remain undisclosed. Artificial fragrances can also be drying and irritating to the skin.

Organic essential oils and cannabis topicals make a great combination, and they offer a fantastic alternative to artificial scents. They are steam distilled using pure plant extracts rather than synthetic compounds. Essential oils offer scent satisfaction on a deeper level, according to many people. Most even contain additional medicinal benefits including anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties.

Artificial Colors vs. Dye-Free

Artificial colors and dyes can be found in just about any cannabis topical. In the early 1900’s there were over 80 dyes listed with the US government. By 1940, only 15 of these dyes were still approved due to their side effects (some were even found to be carcinogenic). Today, only seven colors remain approved — even though some studies now associate the use of these dyes with the increase of ADHD. The United States in particular seems to be behind the times with banning dyes completely. In the European Union, regulations are much stronger and dyes are not recommended for usage in products (in fact, most have been banned). The E.U. has only six permitted dyes on their list, known as the “Southampton Six,” and each are required to come with warning labels. But due to the fact that U.S. corporations have made millions of dollars on everything from brightly-colored cereals to soap, the fear of items lacking visual appeal is greater than the desire to prevent the damage caused by dyes.

There is an alternative, though. “No artificial colors” is a term now being seen on products including cannabis topicals, which finally provides American consumers with an option to be dye-free. The body processes enough free radicals in the course of daily life, and by going dye-free you are helping not just your skin, but the environment as well. Artificial dyes are made with petrochemicals and are obtained from sources like petroleum and coal tar. Natural colors can be found in nature, often in the roots and berries of plants. So, if color is still something you crave, natural alternatives are easy to spot on a label. Look for organic ingredients like: turmeric, elderberry, beetroot, paprika, carrot, purple carrot, annatto, butterfly pea, and calendula.

Parabens vs. Oils and Vitamins

Commonly found in cannabis balms and lotions, parabens preserve the shelf life of a product. But they can mimic estrogen in the body and throw off its hormonal balance, without you even realizing it’s coming from what you applied from head to toe after a shower. Parabens have also been linked to breast cancer.

A great way to avoid cannabis topicals with parabens is to look for products made in small batches versus products made commercially. Although the shelf life may be shorter than a product containing a chemical preservative, it is much safer for the skin. Utilizing products low in moisture content also avoids the need for extra preservatives. Oil-based products generally have a longer shelf life naturally. Vitamin E, vitamin C, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil have all been used as natural anti-oxidizers and can all be found in organic versions. These vitamins and oils are natural antioxidants, meaning they prevent the oxidation of the carrier oils and herbs, thereby preserving them.

The Bottom Line

If you have made the choice to use cannabis plant topicals, you are generally seeking an improved quality of life from whatever ails you. As human beings, we live in environments increasingly surrounded by toxins, and there are countless pollutants that we have no control over. But our skin care and the cannabis topicals we choose to apply is something we can control. Although it may be hard to believe, these products can be a huge contributor to our daily intake of toxicity. By seeking ones that are organic, you are seeking a level of purity that will have great benefits for your body and mind.

Jordan Person, LMT, LPN
Jordan Person, LMT, LPN
Jordan Person is a licensed nurse and massage therapist. She is the founder of two wellness based companies, Primal Therapeutics and Primal Healing. An outspoken advocate for cannabis education and activism, she focuses specifically on the research and development of organic skincare. Person has worked in the medical field for nearly 20 years, and is currently studying herbalism.

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