Those big into skincare will know that the most important step to maintaining youthful skin health is protecting their skin from the harmful sun's UV rays that speed up the cell aging process. Broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen is a must in all morning skincare routines.
One of the fasting trending ingredients in skincare is CBD, which stands for cannabidiol harvested from hemp plants. CBD is THC's non-psychotropic cousin that has been extensively studied for its wide range of potential health benefits when applied to the skin and ingested internally.
We know that the skincare industry is quick to jump into "the next best skincare ingredient," but this time, we think they may be onto something by combining CBD with sun protection.
You can expect a deep dive into how CBD benefits the skin and why CBD and SPF are perfect together.
The Importance Of Sunscreen
There's more to wearing sunscreen than preventing painful burns. There are two main reasons you should consider sun protection as part of your daily routine:
- Maintains the healthy look of your skin
- Prevents burns and risk for skin cancer
- Provides comfort and moisturizes the skin
The sun emits powerful light wavelengths called ultraviolet light (UV) invisible to the human eye but has a drastic impact on our cells.
There are three main types of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVB.
These are classified by the length of their waves. Ultraviolet C is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere and doesn't reach our skin, but UVA and UVB are the light waves we need to worry about.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) is associated with aging skin because its longer wavelengths penetrate deeper into the skin layers, causing direct damage to the cell's DNA. UVA exposure has been linked to pre-mature wrinkles and some forms of skin cancer .
UVB or ultraviolet B doesn't reach as deep into the skin but can cause serious damage to the top layer of skin, resulting in burns and, in severe cases, blistering. Overexposure to UVB radiation can also result in DNA damage, increased risk for skin cancer.
Applying sunscreen to your skin adds a very thin layer of protection that effectively stops UV photons from penetrating the skin to cause damage. Sunscreens can contain ingredients that absorb, scatter, and reflect UV to reduce their potential to damage delicate skin cells.
How Does CBD-Infused Sunscreen Work On the Skin?
With CBD sunscreen you get two active ingredients working to protect your skin from the sun and support your overall skin health and comfort.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS manages homeostasis, which is a fancy word for the automation of maintaining balance. When we're in a Goldilocks state of balance, our organs can function optimally.
The skin is our largest organ designed with sensors to help us adapt to changes in our environment by regulating temperature, hormones, and the immune response. When CBD sunscreen is applied to the skin, it doesn't enter the bloodstream. Instead, it interacts with ECS receptors (CB1 and CB2) found throughout skin cells to support its role as our barrier and maintaining homeostasis .
CBD Shows Potential To Have Antioxidant Properties
Antioxidants are active ingredients that support skin cells' ability to combat oxidative damage that leads to aging skin. Exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun can increase free radicals or oxidative stress in the skin cells, weakening collagen and exaggerating dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines.
CBD has exhibited antioxidant properties that protect cells from free radical damage in clinical studies . The marketing around CBD sunscreen highlights its anti-oxidant effects that help to protect your skin from further damage. However, the FDA has not approved these statements in products available on the market.
CBD May Support Healthy Inflammation Regulation In The Skin
Many people reach for topical CBD to support muscle, joint, and skin inflammation and pain. In clinical studies, CBD shows promising anti-inflammatory properties to support the skin's immune response that triggers inflammation and mitigates pain perception through unique interactions at vanilloid pain-receptors that transmit external information to the brain .
Incorporating active ingredients that support healthy inflammation levels is best for sensitive skin that becomes irritated with sun exposure. It can help combat some of the uncomfortable experiences of sun exposure.
CBD May Support Clearer Looking Skin
Applied topically, CBD may support healthy levels of sebum production on the skin . Excess oil production on the face combined with inflammation is the leading cause of acne, affecting many people's self-confidence.
Because acne is such a prevalent condition, there is much interest in the endocannabinoid system's role in skin cell regulation and sebum production.
More time and research are still needed in this area, but many skin experts and skincare enthusiasts enjoy CBD products as an active ingredient to address oily skin.
How To Shop For CBD Sunscreen
Oily, dry, sensitive, combination—there are many different skin types, and some sunscreen formulations will be better than others, depending on which category you fall into.
When it comes to CBD as one of the main active ingredients in the skincare product, we've outlined some tips to help you navigate what constitutes a "good" CBD sunscreen for most people. However, depending on your skin concerns, you may need to read into the whole ingredient list to find out what's best suited for you.
Broad-Spectrum SPF Sun Protection 30+
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreen to ensure that customers get effective sun protection from their products. The FDA definition of "broad-spectrum sunscreen" must protect from both UVA and UVB rays.
SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it will indicate a number that indicates its protection level. Dermatologists recommend using an SPF of 30 or higher, especially if you plan on being in the sun all day.
When used as directed, most sunscreens will last up to 2 hours, but sweat and water can wash off your protection. If you want a sunscreen with staying power for those sweltering summer days, outdoor exercising, or time in the water, look for water-resistant CBD sunscreens.
Water-resistant sunscreens have ingredients that form a hydrophobic barrier on the skin so that it doesn't wash off as easily. You will still need to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially if you're sweaty or playing in the water.
Reef Safe With Zinc Oxide & Mineral Sunscreens
Reef-safe sunscreen is recommended if you plan on swimming in the ocean as they're free from common sunscreen ingredients like parabens and oxybenzone that damages coral reefs' DNA leading to coral bleaching.
Zinc oxide and most mineral-based sunscreens are considered safe for coral reef environments and are still effective at blocking UVA and UVB rays, but you may need to reapply them more frequently.
Nano-sized zinc oxide sunscreens, however, may pose a threat to wildlife. These are sold to reduce the white cast of sunscreen, but they also are more soluble in water, making the water toxic to marine life.
CBD Potency & Quality
CBD sunscreen will cost more than your regular zinc oxide SPF because quality hemp extracts are expensive to produce, but not all CBD sunscreens will be worth your money.
Read the entire label, including the ingredient list. The product should list the amount of CBD in mg. Look for products that contain at least 8 mg of CBD per mL of product.
Studies conducted on the effectiveness of CBD when applied to the skin have higher strengths. This means a dash of CBD isn't going to cut it, but a lot of low-integrity brands will add just enough CBD to include it in their ingredient list and marketing, but it may not add any extra benefits to the formula.
Shop with brands that indicate how much CBD is in the formula by reading the Certificate of Analysis (COA) provided on the website that proves how much CBD the sunscreen contains and to ensure it's free from potential contaminants from hemp farming and extract manufacturing.
Choose Broad-Spectrum Or Full-Spectrum CBD
CBD comes from hemp, but it's only one of many organic compounds with potential wellness benefits in the hemp plant. Pure CBD extracts are called CBD isolate, and these only contain CBD—while products made with CBD isolate may be cheaper and come in higher strengths, it doesn't always mean it's better.
Hemp oil derived from the flowers can come as broad-spectrum and full-spectrum hemp extracts which contain other cannabinoids and terpenes that work together with CBD to amplify its effects in the endocannabinoid system.
The difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum is that the latter does not contain any traces of THC.
As long as the CBD extract comes from hemp, it shouldn't contain more than the federal threshold of 0.3% THC. However, some states have strict regulations surrounding THC, so broad-spectrum is the best way to leverage the whole benefits of hemp in those states.
CBD After Sun Care
CBD also makes for a stellar ingredient in after-sun products too. After sun moisturizing lotions and CBD body oils made with hemp seed oil can help to nourish and rehydrate your skin after prolonged sun exposure, which can leave it feeling very dry and flaky, especially if you're sensitive to the sun and your skin feels hot to the touch.
After a full day in the sun, make sure you drink plenty of water to replenish the moisture lost in your skin. If you have sunburn, keep moisturizing and protect damaged skin from further UV exposure for the next few days.
The Takeaway: CBD and Sunscreen Are Your New Skincare BFF
The biggest benefit of CBD sunscreen over regular sunscreen is that you're adding another active ingredient to support your skin health. People with sensitive skin types and who are much more susceptible to the sun's UV rays find that CBD sunscreen provides them with more comfort in the sun.
While CBD is an excellent compound that is being further investigated to support skin health, it's not going to provide you with all the protection your skin may need, so make sure your mineral sunscreen has an adequate amount of broad-spectrum SPF protection and has ingredients you feel good about.
There is no CBD product you can buy over-the-counter or online that will treat, cure, or prevent any skin disease, so if you have a condition, we recommend you speak with your doctor for medical advice before reaching for CBD.
- Marionnet, C., Pierrard, C., Golebiewski, C., & Bernerd, F. (2014). Diversity of biological effects induced by longwave UVA rays (UVA1) in reconstructed skin. PloS one, 9(8), e105263.
- Baswan, S. M., Klosner, A. E., Glynn, K., Rajgopal, A., Malik, K., Yim, S., & Stern, N. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 13, 927–942.
- Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2020). Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants, 9(1), 21.
- Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., ... & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713-3724.
The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the statements made regarding these products. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant to substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.