CBD may be revolutionizing skin care, but this non-psychoactive compound isn’t the only cannabis derivative that has beauty brands excited. A growing body of research shows that THC could also be a boon for your skin — the question is, will it get you high in the process?
It won’t, but that hasn’t stopped some people from worrying about it. Lots of myths about THC have been circulating for decades, in large part due to its psychoactive effects. And despite the newfound acceptance of CBD among Baby Boomers, and the ever-broadening definition of what a typical cannabis user looks like, much of the media coverage around cannabis is still based on the false dichotomy of “CBD good, THC bad.” The general idea seems to be that CBD is what you take for acne breakouts or muscle relief, while THC is what you take when you just want to zone out.
This is both oversimplified and incorrect. Studies show that the therapeutic effects of THC are far greater than once thought, with significant antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which make it a perfect fit for many skin care products.
Even still, misconceptions remain rife and many people are fearful that using cannabis topicals that contain THC will instantly induce the psychoactive properties for which it’s known.
The fact of the matter is that it’s extremely unlikely that the presence of THC in your face cream is going to cause any kind of noticeable high. There are two main reasons for this.
Skin care products contain so little THC that any single use of the product isn’t going to be enough to cause psychoactive effects. THC oil is often used experimentally to reduce pain or nausea, and in cases like this it’s common for patients to report feelings of euphoria, lowered inhibitions, and so on. However, dosage-wise there’s no comparison: a tiny drop of THC in your cannabis-infused skin cream is a far cry from the powerful tinctures given to cancer patients for pain relief.
High quality skin creams tend to be based heavily on products like shea butter and coconut oil. These carrier ingredients form the stable base of the product, and active ingredients are then added in much smaller amounts. Depending on what the specific aim of the product is, this can include retinols, hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and A, or any of a dozen others. In the case of THC creams, cannabis oil is also added.
The amount of cannabis oil in a specific product depends on many factors, but no matter what, it’s highly unlikely to be significant enough to cause any effect other than happier, healthier skin.
Despite the growing research that shows THC to be a great skin care ingredient, the vast majority of THC products also contain CBD. Researchers think that CBD can counteract the effects of THC (i.e. it “cancels out” the psychoactive effects) due to its interaction with something called the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS.
The ECS is a vast network of receptors that controls many important bodily functions like mood, appetite, and skin health. These receptors are activated by chemicals produced in the body called endocannabinoids, which are nearly identical to chemicals produced by the cannabis plant called endocannabinoids (of which CBD and THC are the most prominent).
THC activates the receptors known as CB1, which produces the psychoactive effects associated with it. However, CBD blocks the activity of these receptors, essentially “jamming the signal” that THC is trying to send.
Since THC face creams contain so little of the cannabinoid to start with, this means that there’s little risk of feeling funny if you apply a quick dab before running into work — or even if you slather up your face with the whole bottle.