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CBD-infused topicals include lotions, salves, and creams that are applied on the skin for relief on the surface or a bit deeper in muscle tissue. CBD cream, as the name implies, is a cream-based topical that contains CBD. Most beauty creams are generally made up of about half oil and half water.

“CBD cream is a topical cream infused with the phytocannabinoid CBD,” said Emma Chasen, co-founder of Eminent Consulting, a cannabis education and consultancy firm. “It 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. It can be used to reduce pain and inflammation and/or help in the management of skin disorders when applied topically.”

The difference among CBD topicals such as creams, salves, and lotions really lies in the consistency of the product. As in non-CBD infused products, it’s really up to consumer preference.

Since creams are thicker, they may be more beneficial for very dry skin. Salves, on the other hand, are made with oil and wax, and without water. Creams may absorb faster than salves, so they may be preferable for muscle pain.

Some might consider CBD transdermal patches a topical application as well. But since patches have ingredients and technology designed to propel the CBD beyond the skin and into the bloodstream, we haven’t included them here.

What is CBD cream used for?

When topicals are applied to the skin, they can potentially benefit not only the surface of the skin, but also below. When CBD is applied topically to the skin, it penetrates both the dermal and subdermal layers of the skin.

The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates appetite, mood, and pain and pleasure sensations. Cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD can activate our body’s ECS by binding to cell receptors in the skin, muscle tissues, and nerves. This interaction explains why the most common uses for CBD cream are chronic pain and inflammation.

“There is research to support that phytocannabinoids, like CBD, interact with receptors and other enzymatic factors within our skin that modulate pain and inflammation,” Chasen said. “Because the skin is actually quite thick, when you apply CBD cream, the CBD soaks into the skin but does not make it to the bloodstream.”

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