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5 THC Topicals Putting Cannabis Skin Care on the Map

Published on April 21, 2017 · Last updated November 10, 2022

A few months ago at a dinner party in Brooklyn (yes, how cliché of me), a beauty editor colleague of mine brought along a weed lip balm in a little pot, made with sativa strains. “It’s Goodwitch,” she told me. “It’s an underground cosmetics company.” The lip balm, manufactured in Bed-Stuy with THC extracted from weed purchased locally or from California, also contains Dr. Bronner’s Organic Coconut Oil and other herbs for flavoring, like peppermint and lavender. It leaves no coloring on your lips—just a slight gloss—and costs about one-eighth the cost of a bud in New York City. It’s also very easy to share with friends at an intimate dinner party where everyone is carrying a designer bag. And yes, it gets you high. Can your Chapstick do that?

Every few months, beauty editors are inundated with a new hot ingredient that’s supposed to solve our beauty woes: hyaluronic acid to retain moisture, probiotics to fight inflammation, manuka honey to fight bacteria, caviar (yes, fish eggs) extract to simulate collagen production, and so much more. Some of these ingredients work noticeably well, and some of these ingredients are just packaged up nicely and look so pretty on your bathroom counter that you don’t care if they don’t work. Now, as a beauty editor, all the beauty samples I receive at my New York office have been THC-free, of course. It’s just hemp oil, sometimes cold-pressed, but always non-intoxicating.

What are cannabis topicals and how do they work?

But one potent ingredient that has not made it onto your local Sephora beauty counter is THC or cannabis oil. When used topically, the same cannabinoids that you ingest when you smoke or vaporize cannabis bind to different receptors on the body and stay local to the region where they were applied, offering unique benefits—including potential anti-aging effects. “Topical application can also help with skin hydration,” dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, told Leafly. “Cannabis seed oil is rich in fatty acids and can help with hydration when used in topical skin products, and some studies have shown that cannabis can help reduce the sebaceous gland activity, which in turn can help with acne … While traces of CBD and THC may get into your bloodstream, it would be in such small doses that [any psychoactive effects would be] undetectable,” she explained.

“I think ingesting cannabinoids can improve dull skin and acne and other common skin problems like eczema, dandruff, and psoriasis,” dermatologist Jeanette Jacknin, MD, adds, citing medical studies demonstrating the positive effects of topical CBD on the skin. Right now, the skincare effects of THC and other cannabinoids are not as well studied—but that’s not stopping cannabis brands from thinking about the future of beauty products.

Companies like Colorado-based Dixie Elixirs would love to eventually manufacture anti-aging eye creams or skin creams with the benefits of cannabinoids—after all, the beauty industry is estimated to be worth $121 billion globally billion as of 2016, none of which is coming from cannabis brands (yet). “Topicals tend to sell better with women,” Lindsay Topping, former Director of Marketing at Dixie Elixirs (whose background is in luxury beauty), told Leafly. “We think there is a lot of opportunity in the anti-inflammatory benefits, so we are really excited to pursue those further down the line.”

Currently, THC beauty topicals are only legally available in a few select states. The Goodwitch lip balm I mentioned, for example, is only available in New York City if you know a friend. But while people are expecting their beauty products to smell good, taste good, feel good, and look good—why not buzz good, too? If you’re able to procure any of the current THC-infused beauty topicals on the market, here are five to look out for. If not, consider these hemp-based alternatives instead.

Goodwitch Lip Balm ($60)


(Courtesy of Goodwitch)

Where: New York City, but only if you know someone (probably working in media or fashion)

This glossy colorless lip balm is derived from THC and CBD extracted from sativa strains procured from New York and California. It comes in a cute, innocuous little pot, so you can easily pass it around in public areas. It also has some standard beauty ingredients like coconut oil and chamomile, which are hydrating and soothing for chapped lips. It tastes like flowers and weed. A friend tells me that the balm is energizing and mentally clarifying—she uses at the office when she needs an afternoon pick-me-up and doesn’t want to wait in line at Starbucks.

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Will I get high? Yes.

Dixie Bath Soak ($36)

(Courtesy of Dixie Elixirs)

(Courtesy of Dixie Elixirs)

Where: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada

Professional athletes and marathoners regularly give Dixie Elixirs a call when they need muscle relief. If regular Epsom salts aren’t doing the job for you, this bath soak infused with pure CO2-extracted THC (10mg of THC per serving, FYI) can help. Same as any decent bath soak, it’s fragranced with a soothing combination of rosemary, lavender, and cedar wood. “It has a really earthy smell—it’s not sweet and floral,” Topping explains. “You do get the earthy cannabis in there, which you smell, and the cedar really complements it.” Just don’t add too much—you may feel a little jello-y, according to Topping.

Will I get high? Probably not, but some are more susceptible to psychoactive effects in the bath.

Dixie Synergy Relief Balm ($36)

(Courtesy of Dixie Elixirs)

(Courtesy of Dixie Elixirs)

Where: California, Colorado, Nevada

Like any skin balm, this one has a nice blend of olive oil, beeswax, castor oil, and cocoa butter. But it also has a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD (50 mg each) for maximum pain relief and inflammation reduction. As with other THC topicals, the balm does not cross the blood-brain barrier (i.e., you won’t feel psychoactive effects).

Will I get high? No, but don’t use this before taking a drug test (just in case).

Mary’s Medicinals Topical Compound ($50)

(Courtesy of Mary's Medicinals)

(Courtesy of Mary’s Medicinals)

Where: Arizona, Colorado, California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington

Formulated with THCa and CBDa, this topical balm is made to help with muscle soreness and inflammation. The Colorado-based company is pretty secretive about the rest of the ingredients, but rest assured that it works like any other beeswax-based balm you’ve ever used, and stays solid until it warms slightly in your fingers. Use as a relief balm or as a heavy-duty winter moisturizer—even for chapped lips.

Will I get high? No.

Whoopi & Maya Medical Cannabis Rub ($25)

(Courtesy of Whoopi and Maya)

(Courtesy of Whoopi and Maya)

Where: California

Yes, the Whoopi Goldberg has a line of cannabis products—designed especially for women! The Medical Cannabis Rub, which contains both CBD and THC, is made for menstrual cramp relief. Its topical beeswax formula also contains white willow bark (the active ingredient in aspirin), ginger (which increases blood flow and circulation to the abdominal area), and St. John’s wort (which is supposed to improve the mood). It smells great—like a floral body oil. No perfume needed.

Will I get high? No.

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Noël Duan
Noël Duan
Noël Duan (@noelduan) is a New York- and San Francisco-based writer, editor, and researcher. She is writing a novel about adolescence in pre-2008 recession Silicon Valley.
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