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Hemp Seed Oil Is Amazing for Your Skin—Here's Why

It won't clog pores, according to dermatologists.

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Liz deSousa for BYRDIE

In This Article

By now, we’ve all learned that essential oils are a necessary part of our routine if we want to keep our skin in tip-top shape. Clear skin, a brighter complexion, evened-out discoloration—there are a lot of purported benefits to incorporating an oil or two into our everyday skincare. From coconut to Moroccan oil, it seems that we’ve heard ad nauseum about every oil we need—until now. Allow us to introduce you to the next “It” oil in skincare: hemp seed oil. We spoke with several experts and asked them to break down the benefits of hemp seed oil, from how great it is for dry skin to why we should mix it into a salad.

Keep reading for all you need to know about this multi-use ingredient.

Type of ingredient: Hydrator

Main benefits: Reduces inflammation, hydrates, regulates oil production.

Who should use it: In general, people with acneic or combination skin.

How often can you use it: As often as you would use any oil—roughly twice a day.

Works well with: Acids and retinoids as it may mitigate the irritation they cause.

Don't use with: Hemp seed oil can be used universally.

What is Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp seed oil—not to be confused with hemp oil, which is a blanket term for all oils that come from hemp and can include cannabidiol (CBD) oil—is made out of purely hemp seeds. CBD oil, in turn, is made from leaves, stalks, and flowers of hemp (and sometimes seeds as well). “Hempseed Oil is the oil derived from the seeds of the hemp plant which is a cannabis plant cultivated for non-drug use. The oil is legal and used in large quantities for cosmetics, nutritional supplementation, and skin oils. It can be legally used when it has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of less than 0.3 percent,” says Raymond Schep, the Chief Chemist of Colonial Dames Co. and a Member of the CA Association of Toxicologists.

“It can be marketed on its own or as an ingredient in moisturizing topicals,” says Jennifer L. MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology. “Make sure you know the difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. The latter absorbs into the skin and binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It can have effects that are only beginning to be understood on anxiety, mood, sleep, and many other conditions. CBD can also have low levels of THC which has obvious psychoactive effects.”

While other kinds of hemp oil are rich in cannabinoids as mentioned, hemp seed oil typically has no-to-few cannabinoids and contains mostly omega fatty acids. So, if you were worried about getting high off of hemp seed oil, you won't. You can already find it in a variety of skincare products, and you can even eat it.

Benefits of Hemp Seed Oil for Skin

  • Locks in hydration: According to Amity Spiegel, an esthetician at CAP Beauty in Manhattan’s West Village, hemp seed oil is high in omega acids 3, 6, and 9, all of which help repair the skin barrier and form a seal over the skin to keep moisture trapped inside.
  • Attracts moisture: “It is also a humectant, so it draws moisture to the skin,” she says.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Those same omega acids in hemp seed oil also help lower inflammation in the skin.
  • Soothes skin: “Hemp seed oil is rich in fatty acids, which help hydrate and soothe inflamed skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD a dermatologist and Associate Professor of Dermatology and the Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
  • Anti-acneic: Zeichner also says it “may even modulate skin oil production,” which is huge for people with acneic or overly oily skin.
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How to Use It

Naturally, hemp seed oil is being integrated into plenty of beauty products as a hydrator and anti-inflammatory. In particular, we love to use it with retinoids or after acids because it's so effective at staving off inflammation. It works wonders for redness and acne, too. It's pretty easy to know how much to apply—just use as much as you would any other oil.

Tammy Fender, an esthetician and founder of her eponymous beauty line, is also a huge fan of incorporating hemp seed oil into your diet because its nutrients are so good for your body. "I especially like to use raw hemp seeds in cooking, because they are in their natural state, so the body can absorb all the nutrients they offer most easily," she says. "Hemp seeds are great in salads, granolas, smoothies, and mixed in with grains, deliciously delivering vitamins A and E, but also essential trace minerals and a wealth of antioxidants."

"It has a crispy, nutty taste and can be used on salads as a replacement for olive oil," adds Spiegel. "It is high in omegas and full of essential amino acids that help make younger, smoother-looking skin and reduce inflammation in the body." Because it is a highly volatile oil, she does say it must be kept refrigerated and not heated.

The Best Products with Hemp Seed Oil

This product from Herbivore comes in both CBD-free and CBD-inclusive versions, and which one you use is up to you. While the CBD-inclusive iteration is great for inflammation, the mixture of hemp seed oil, adaptogens, and squalane will likely be good for you regardless of which one you buy.

When Milk Makeup came out with a full line of hemp oil-based products, we were a little skeptical. It's the perfect marketing gimmick. But we soon fell in love with the nourishment the Kush line provides—in particular, this lip balm, which comes in four shades as well as clear and leaves your lips hydrated.

Everyone loves a good retinol, but we don't feel as positively about the irritation that comes along with them. MARA uses hemp-derived CBD and cannabis sativa seed oil meant to mitigate the inflammation you may experience, as well as fermented green tea, so you can get your antioxidant fix, too.

Kiehl's was one of the first brands to get on the hemp seed oil train, which is why their oil is now a crowd favorite. It also includes oregano oil, something else we don't see advertised much in skincare, for purification and elimination of bacteria.

Dr. Bronner's very well may have been your first foray into the world of natural beauty—it was for plenty of us, although we didn't know it at the time. But what you probably didn't realize is that hemp oil is one of the primary ingredients of the basic multi-use soap, and yes, it's been that way forever.

Cannabis sativa seed oil is particularly great in masks, this one from Origins being one of the most popular items to utilize it as an ingredient. This mask promises anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties that make quick work of plumping your skin and getting rid of any redness. It's perfect for a night out.

For those who want CBD in their products, you can't beat CBD- and manuka-honey-based brand Cannuka. Their skin balm is wonderful for any kind of skin irritation or even soreness.

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Topical hemp seed oil has no known side effects.

Consult with your doctor before ingesting hemp seed oil. When taken orally, hemp seed oil can have the same skin benefits.

CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know

CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio.

It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products.

But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know.

What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp?

Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.

The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC.

Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?

Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer.

What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment?

It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized.

There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.

Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?

Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?

Yes. Epidiolex. It was originally approved in 2018 for the treatment of two conditions, both related to epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But aside from Epidiolex, no CBD product has been approved by the FDA for any other medical purpose.

What are the dangers of using CBD oil?

Quality, cleanliness and regulation are the biggest concerns.

All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.

In terms of purity, THC and CBD are both extracted from hemp and marijuana using essentially similar processes. But trace amounts of THC could still end up in CBD oil. And if the THC is at a high enough concentration, it could produce the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.

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Second, if a lab produces both CBD and THC products, there can be cross-contamination — whether it’s through extraction, handling or packaging.

Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.

Finally, there have been some reports of people getting infections after using CBD and cannabis products. This is especially concerning for immunocompromised patients, who are already susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.

Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.

Does CBD oil have any side effects?

CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.

And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.

This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.

Is CBD oil even legal?

CBD has a very complex legal status right now.

At the national level, any product of marijuana — including CBD — is still technically illegal when used medically. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationally, that’s only permitted if it’s not marketed for medical use or as a dietary supplement. CBD products intended for medical use should undergo an FDA review process.

State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.

What’s the most important thing cancer patients should know about CBD oil?

There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.

Also, avoid products with health-related claims on their labels. The only product approved by the FDA for its medical value is Epidiolex.