Walk into any beauty store, and it won’t take you too long to find a CBD-infused body lotion or facial oil that claims to be made with pure hemp seed oil. They might even be made from organic hemp seeds, with all the lovely natural health benefits you’d expect from such a wholesome sounding ingredient (plus the magical powers of CBD oil, of course).
There’s just one problem: There’s no CBD in hemp seeds.
Unscrupulous brands have been preying on the public confusion around cannabidiol (CBD) ever since it came on the beauty scene. A staggering array of
Sometimes the problem is with the dosage level: 500 mg of CBD in a bottle of CBD coconut oil might sound like a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean each usage will deliver enough CBD to have any effect. Other times the problem is with the oil’s quality: all CBD oils are not the same, and a “pure CBD oil” is often less effective because the “purification” process removes helpful compounds that enhance CBD’s effects. The biggest problem, though, is when the CBD simply isn’t there at all.
CBD oil is extracted from the cannabis sativa genus of plants, which includes both hemp and marijuana. There are lots of differences between the two, but the most important one concerns their chemical makeup — by definition, hemp contains a maximum of just 0.3 percent of the psychoactive compound THC, while marijuana can much, much more.
If marijuana contains more THC (the stuff that gets you high), then it would make sense if hemp contained more CBD (the stuff that Martha Stewart is now selling to your pets). Except … it doesn’t. Hemp contains far less CBD than marijuana, and the discrepancy is exacerbated because of the way it’s extracted — or rather, where it’s extracted from.
Hemp isn’t particularly rich in CBD to start with, but the parts of the plant that do contain a decent amount of CBD are its flowers and leaves. Unfortunately, these parts of the plant are off-limits to most CBD producers. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp across the United States, it also mandated that products can only be derived from the stalks and seeds.
Extracting CBD from the stalks of hemp plants is an arduous and wasteful process, like using an entire bag of oranges to make a single glass of juice. Extracting CBD from the seeds of hemp plants, on the other hand, is like trying to make that juice from a bag of rocks. There’s just nothing there to squeeze.
Hemp seed oil, cannabis oil, CBD oil … these names are often used interchangeably (and erroneously) by brands and consumers alike. In the consumers’ case, the mistake is understandable: these products are new and unfamiliar, and they all kind of sound the same.
For brands, however, the confusion is intentional. By conflating the well-known health benefits of hemp seed oil (such as its high content of fatty acids) with the dazzling hype of CBD oil, they’re able to put a fresh new shine on boring old products. Skin care products like hemp seed-infused shea butter might draw a yawn from shoppers, but CBD hemp seed-infused shea butter? That could be a new bestseller — CBD is revolutionizing skin care, after all.
Blurring the line between CBD oil and hemp seed oil doesn’t just make hemp seed-based products look better, it also lets brands attribute dubious qualities to CBD oil itself. For example, hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be a godsend for people with dry skin. CBD oil, on the other hand, doesn’t contain a drop of fatty acids, but by drawing a false equivalency between “CBD” and “hemp seeds,” brands get the best of both worlds.
Unfortunately, regular people like you do not. A coconut oil that’s marketed as CBD-infused may actually include hemp seeds and nothing more, or it might claim to be rich in fatty acids when in fact it has none to speak of. Brand marketers do nothing all day but think of ways to sell you products, and they can be quite clever. When you stop by the beauty store after work, you might have a minute or two to make your decision — a decision that is purposefully being complicated by a confusing stream of names, claims, and cannabis-themed imagery.
So what’s a CBD-curious beauty aficionado to do? Does this mean you can’t trust a single thing on the shelves at the Body Shop or Lord Jones? Not exactly. There are plenty of trustworthy CBD products out there, and if you do your research — i.e. read the label carefully, ask questions of the staff when possible, and keep your BS-detector turned up to 11 — you’ll be enjoying both the benefits of CBD and the peace of mind that comes from not getting scammed.