When CAP Beauty launched their new dietary supplement in August 2017, the retailer didn’t send beauty magazine editors any promotional cupcakes or cookies. Instead, they sent brownies.
The desserts were non-psychoactive and made with CAP’s The Daily Hit, which is an oil-based supplement made with the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has been shown in pre-clinical studies to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and, unlike other popular cannabinoids (like tetrahydrocannabinol, which is psychoactive), it’s legal in all 50 US states.
As medical and recreational use becomes increasingly legalized in the United States, companies are beginning to experiment with the cannabis plant in the same way they would with other botanicals. Among beauty brands, CBD is becoming the next “IT” ingredient that is being incorporated into buzzy new products that hydrate skin, clean blemishes, relieve swollen spots, and reduce under-eye bags.
Experts say it works. Robert Dellavalle, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (marijuana is legal both recreationally and medically in Colorado), points to pioneering studies out of Israel, which is currently leading the world in cannabis research. Tel Aviv-based One Cannabis World, for example, makes a part-THC and part-CBD cream that is effective for treating psoriasis. You can buy it online because the active ingredient is palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), which binds to cannabinoid receptors but “technically isn’t a cannabinoid,” Dellavalle explains.
In the US, however, cannabis research in dermatology is still in its pre-clinical stage. Although the skin has at least two receptors for cannabinoids (and the body even makes its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids), cannabinoids just haven’t been clinically tested enough. “But they are safe,” Dellavalle says. “Your skin is a pretty great barrier, just in case.”
Consumers hoping to add a cannabinoid skincare product to their beauty routine now can check out the new luxury topical brands being sold both online (for CBD) and in posh dispensaries (for THC), such as The Apothecarium in California and Las Vegas. One standout brand, recently featured on Vogue.com, was Vertly, which was co-founded in August by former W magazine accessories and jewelry director Claudia Mata and her husband Zander Gladish. Vertly sells CBD-based lip balms in peppermint and rose scents, plus a THC counterpart called Vertly Green that is only available in medical dispensaries. Mata says she hadn’t been interested in cannabis as a New Yorker—state law still prohibits any market for luxury cannabis products—but that her perception changed after she moved to San Francisco.
“There are creative people in fashion, and creative people in cannabis,” she says, “and they have more in common than they may think.”
A trained herbalist, Mata attended California’s Oaksterdam University, the first university dedicated to cannabis education.
She characterizes Vertly as a “wellness product with beauty-product instincts” (an Instagrammable pink tint, for example), that is aimed at, ironically, her trend-conscious fashion-industry colleagues back in New York. “Ever since I moved to California and had a slower pace of life, I’ve realized that wellness is a luxury,” she says. “Everyone should have a little bit of that.”