The rise in hemp’s popularity goes hand-in-hand with the cannabidiol (CBD) boom both the wellness and beauty industries have recently experienced on the heels of its scattered legalization throughout the United States. “I believe both the legalization of hemp and the public’s increased knowledge about potential harmful ingredients in personal care products can be contributed to the rise in popularity of cannabis products,” says Kelcie Harris, N.D. “It seems that consumers are searching for safer, more natural products that are free from harmful chemicals such as fragrance and parabens,” she adds.
Although both ingredients come from the same place, hemp and CBD are more like distant cousins, rather than siblings. Found in a variety of formulas, including creams, serums, and facial oils, hemp oil boasts an array of benefits to improve skin health with every drop, dollop, squeeze and pump.
What is hemp?
“Hemp is a variety of Cannabis Sativa grown specifically for its seeds, fiber, and hurd [aka, its wood-like core],” explains Harris. While it is technically part of the marijuana plant, it is hardly a drug. “Hemp has very low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — and is not used for its mind-altering effects,” notes Harris.
Hemp vs. CBD
Hemp isn’t the only popular ingredient extracted from cannabis. CBD has also made a name for itself in the skincare and wellness worlds. But, despite hailing from the same plant species, the two are quite different. “Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant, [while] CBD oil is obtained from the leaves, stalks, and buds, and come from hemp plants, as well as other plants in the cannabis family,” notes Harris. “Hemp oil has very low levels of THC — no more than 0.3 percent — while CBD can have higher levels, depending on the plant it came from,” she adds.
Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids, the active components in the cannabis plant, and are often extracted individually for a more potent ingredient. Whereas hemp oil has very low cannabinoid levels (to extract them, you need a lot of hemp!), which means it does not have the same “high” effects as THC on the body when ingested or used topically.
The skincare benefits of hemp
Incorporating skincare products formulated with hemp seed oil can up the ante on your regimen, as the all-natural oil has impressive beauty benefits. Here are some of its most outstanding abilities.
Natural humectant: Like other skincare oils, hemp seed oil has ultra-nourishing capabilities. But what really sets this ingredient apart is its ability to lock in moisture. “Hemp seed oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E and amino acids,” explains Harris. “When applied topically, these components moisturize the skin and help it to retain moisture”.
Rich in antioxidants: Hemp seed has an impressive antioxidant makeup and is particularly rich in vitamin E. “Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it is a scavenger of tissue-destroying compounds known as free radicals,” says Harris. Free radicals are often found in environmental aggressors such as pollution and the sun’s UV rays and can accelerate premature signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and more.” Vitamin E used topically may reduce previous UV damage in the skin and help to protect it from further damage,” she notes.
Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant, while CBD oil is obtained from the leaves, stalks, and buds
Improved collagen production: Another way hemp seed oil helps protect against environmental damage? Through its ability to improve collagen production. “Hemp seed oil contains vitamin C which is important in collagen synthesis,” explains Harris, noting that the vitamin C helps support function of Hydroxylase enzymes, which “work to add a hydrogen and oxygen molecule to amino acids, proline and lysine.” These amino acids then “allow procollagen to be formed, [which is] a precursor to collagen.
“Without vitamin C, these steps in collagen formation are interrupted or inhibited. Increased collagen results in increased skin elasticity and decreased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Harris confirms.
Promotes clearer skin: If acne is a concern, incorporating a skincare product enhanced with hemp oil could mean the difference between pimple-ridden skin and a clearer complexion. “Hemp seed has been shown to decrease sebum production and redness of the skin associated with acne,” explains Harris. “Too much sebum or sebum of poor quality (often due to diet) is associated with clogged pores and breakouts,” she adds. On top of that, hemp products — including oil — are non-comedogenic, which means they will not clog your pores.
Tincture vs. Topical products
With its impressive skincare benefits and popularity, finding products formulated with hemp is quite easy. However, there are two routes to take: tincture and topical. In the case of skincare, it is possible to reap the benefits of hemp by applying a product both topically and internally. “Hemp tincture contains the optimal 3:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids,” notes Harris. “These fatty acids help to keep the skin moisturized and decrease inflammation,” she adds.
On top of that, ingesting hemp can help target breakouts from the inside out, as it is rich in linoleic acid, as essential omega-6 fatty acids that “helps to improve the quality of sebum and decrease breakouts.” Hemp is also rich in magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and potassium — all of which can benefit the diet and promote healthier skin from the inside out.
If you would rather try hemp topically, you can still see results. “When used topically on the skin, [hemp’s] cannabinoids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties,” notes Harris. In addition, its omega-3 and omega-6 properties make it extremely nourishing and leave the skin feeling soft and supple.
Harris says hemp is safe to use on both the body and the face but recommends “first using your chosen hemp product on a small patch of skin as a test area to ensure you do not have a reaction to the product.” In addition, she says to pay close attention when shopping for hemp tinctures and topical products, and always buy organic. “Organic hemp typically contains a higher amount of nutrients, including the plant’s beneficial vitamins and minerals,” she notes. “Non-organic products can contain synthetic fragrances, colors, and preservatives in order to prolong shelf life. These compounds can be irritating to the skin,” she adds.
If you wish to purchase hemp seed oil on its own, she suggests “a non-refined oil, as it will contain a more concentrated amount of nutrients than refined or processed oil.”
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