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  • August 23, 2022 5 min read


    What is topical CBD, and how is it used? Can topical CBD be absorbed through the skin? This article has detailed information on how to use topical CBD and its absorption on the skin.

    Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It constantly works to keep you safe and protected from foreign substances, toxins, UV rays, and germs. CBD can be absorbed through the skin in two ways: topically or trans-dermally. According to Sallaberry & Astern. (2018), the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for maintaining balance within the body by responding to external stimuli.

    The ECS triggers the release of hormones that determine many of your day-to-day functions. However, more research is needed before people fully understand how it works. Nevertheless, Kaas (2004) stated that people have many receptors scattered throughout the muscles, nervous system, and skin. According to Jarvis, Rassmussen & Winters (2017), the body produces chemicals referred to as endocannabinoids, which react with the receptors to activate or deactivate them, triggering immune responses and determining your appetite, sleep cycles, or even your mood.

    Can Topical CBD Be Absorbed Through the Skin?

    Topical CBD can be absorbed through the skin since it has cannabinoid receptors. CBD-infused balms are absorbed through the opening of the hair follicles. Therefore, applying CBD-infused creams and balms to your skin will have some localized effects. Research done by McEwen explained that many CBD-infused balms act as a natural form of pain relief, offering some soothing relief for sore muscles. Once you absorb the molecules into your skin, they interact with the cannabinoid receptors nearby. As a result, they provide soothing relief in that particular area. According to Julia, CBD interacts with the ECS so that it may influence one's pain perception and immune responses like inflammation. Therefore, you can use topical balms to reduce pain, discomfort, and swelling in particular areas. Furthermore, it can be used in tackling period cramps, as Evans (2020) explained.

    Most infused balms and creams do not have transdermal qualities, which means the skin absorbs CBD molecules, and they reach the sebaceous glands and cannabinoid receptors in the local area. However, they don't reach the bloodstream. Thus, you will only experience effects when you apply the topical CBD.

    Can CBD be Absorbed Through Skin Transdermally?

    CBD can be absorbed through the skin when using specific transdermal products. Patches and gels have specific amounts of CBD alongside permeation enhancers. These chemicals help CBD absorb through the skin's barrier, through the lower levels of the skin, and into the bloodstream. Once CBD reaches the bloodstream, it is transported throughout the body, where it reaches more receptors.

    You can use patches the same way as topical balms by applying them to a targeted area. Moreover, Spinella et al. (2021) stated that CBD could be used to reduce stress and support good sleep habits or health and wellness. Transdermal patches slowly release CBD into the bloodstream over a long period. You can wear most patches for 12-18 hours, with some remaining effective for up to 24 hours. You can also wear them anywhere on the body, but it's advisable to place them on venous areas like wrists or ankles.

    CBD-Infused Skincare, Does CBD Improve Skin?

    CBD skincare products contain CBD molecules that absorb through the skin's pores to the receptors in the local area. CBD works alongside the ECS, influencing immune responses like redness and swelling. This means cannabidiol-infused skincare products are ideal for irritated or sensitive skin. Cream (2020) explained that CBD-infused skincare products are ideal for acne-prone skin as it helps reduce pain and discomfort associated with breakouts. Oleinik(2020) explained that CBD skincare products are also perfect for people with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, as they can soothe the skin without triggering further irritation.

    Does Ingesting CBD Provide the Same Results as Using Topical CBD?

    There are several ways in which CBD can be ingested. For instance, placing a small amount of CBD under the tongue offers high bioavailability. This means the body can quickly absorb it into the bloodstream. When taking products sublingually, you absorb CBD molecules with mucous membranes in your mouth directly into your bloodstream. A similar exchange occurs when you inhale CBD vapor through smoking or vaping.

    Taking CBD-infused edibles or capsules will deliver CBD to the bloodstream much slower. This is because the compound must go through the digestive system first. Whether you inhale, ingest or take CBD sublingually, it will always end up in your bloodstream. Thus, the compound will move around your body, interacting with any receptors it comes in contact with.

    On the other hand, opting for CBD topical creams and balms won't offer the same results. When you're using a topical CBD, t won't enter your bloodstream unless it's specifically designed to have transdermal qualities. Thus, effects will be localized to the skin area that has been in contact with the cream.

    In contrast, transdermal patches and gels offer the same benefits as ingesting CBD. This is because permeation enhancers in the patches and gels help CBD molecules penetrate the skin, working their way into the bloodstream. Transdermal options are often more effective than other edible options since they deliver CBD directly to the bloodstream.

    Transdermal CBD products offer a slow release of CBD. However, you should consider tinctures if you want a faster release. You can place a few drops under the tongue, hold it in place for a minute, then swallow it.


    Topical CBD is absorbed through the skin. It interacts with the endocannabinoid receptors in your skin. This means using infused balms and skincare can offer CBD benefits to localized areas of your skin. They are ideal for specific skin concerns or aching muscles. However, topical CBD does not absorb through the skin to the point where they enter the bloodstream unless designed with transdermal qualities. To help CBD penetrate the skin, manufacturers formulate CBD gels with permeation enhancers. This means that CBD molecules penetrate even the lower layers of the skin, entering the bloodstream. Hence, offering a different range of benefits. When choosing a product, make sure you do a little research to ensure you get exactly what you need. You should only purchase products from reputable companies to ensure you get the best experience possible.


    Cream, L. S. (2020). Where Nature & Science Meet Skincare, Haircare, Beauty & Wellness Clean and Green Beauty Clean & Green Beauty. Aging22.

    Evans, J. (2020). The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol. Fair Winds Press.

    Jarvis, S., Rassmussen, S., & Winters, B. (2017). Role of the endocannabinoid system and medical cannabis. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners13(8), 525-531.

    Julia, N. CBD For Thyroid Health: Can It Help As Alternative Medication?.

    Kaas, J. H. (2004). Somatosensory system. The human nervous system, 1059-1092.

    McEwen, L. CBD as a Topical Treatment.

    Oleinik, G. Best CBD Creams & Topicals for Eczema: Reviews & Guide (Mar. 2022).

    Sallaberry, C. A., & Astern, L. (2018). The endocannabinoid system, our universal regulator. Journal of Young Investigators34(6).

    Spinella, T. C., Stewart, S. H., Naugler, J., Yakovenko, I., & Barrett, S. P. (2021). Evaluating cannabidiol (CBD) expectancy effects on acute stress and anxiety in healthy adults: a randomized crossover study. Psychopharmacology238(7), 1965-1977.