The CBD beauty blaze: Disruption has been ‘nothing short of remarkable’

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

'Cannabis is becoming one of the most disruptive forces in the beauty and personal care industry in the last two decades' (Getty Images)
'Cannabis is becoming one of the most disruptive forces in the beauty and personal care industry in the last two decades' (Getty Images)

Related tags Cannabis CBD Hemp cannabidiol Beauty Skin care

The tremendous rise of CBD beauty is continuing to fire up, fuelled by indie and skin care innovation, but weed washing and big brand resistance remain key hurdles to growth, according to Prohibition Partners.

The global cannabidiol (CBD) skin care market totted up a net worth of €644.4m ($710m) in 2018 and is projected to surge to €870.5m (U$959m) by 2024 to represent 10% of the total global skin care market, according to a report from Prohibition Partners. The Disrupting Beauty​ report from the cannabis market intelligence and consultancy firm showed smaller indie brands had largely driven recently developments in CBD beauty and most innovation had been seen in skin care.

“Thus far, the disruption we’ve seen in the beauty industry is nothing short of remarkable, attracting attention from high-street retailers, global brands and indie entrepreneurs,” ​said Stephen Murphy, managing director at Prohibition Partners.

Consumers are looking for new and exciting products derived from natural and sustainable sources and cannabis continues to fit this mould, driving product demand through the roof. There are constant questions on the longevity of this trend, but with the ability to act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent and an antioxidant, cannabis is becoming one of the most disruptive forces in the beauty and personal care industry in the last two decades,”​ Murphy said.

CBD is exciting, and not just because of its ‘illicit past’…

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Alexandra Curley, head of insights at Prohibition Partners, described the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) as the “ultimate disruptor” ​in beauty.

“It’s hardly surprising that the beauty industry has found so many uses for [CBD], including it in everything from face creams to mascaras, lipsticks and lip balms. CBD is exciting, not just because of its illicit past, but because it ticks so many boxes when it comes to health and naturalness and healing,”​ Curley said.

Touted for its anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties, along with trendy and ethical credentials, CBD appealed “to all ages”,​ she said.

Hemp – a variety of the cannabis plant particularly rich in CBD but low in the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – had also proven popular given its environmental credentials as it was able to store carbon, she said.

CBD appeal? ‘It’s essentially just a spa day in a bottle’

'CBD in a bottle' - touted for a range of health and wellness benefits (Getty Images)
'CBD in a bottle' - touted for a range of health and wellness benefits (Getty Images)

Curley said CBD represented the start of a wider movement in beauty. “CBD really is just the beginning of the cannabis story. For so long, we’ve known almost nothing about the potential of the cannabis plant because of the legal restrictions on research but all that is starting to change.”

CBD was just one of the 100+ distinct cannabinoids identified within cannabis, she said, and there was more and more research being done into these compounds. Research into cannabigerol (CBG), for example, was looking at its antibacterial, vasodilation and neuroprotective effects, she said, which could prove interesting for the aesthetics industry moving forward.

“This really is just the beginning for cannabis as a consumer product, and time and research will hopefully unlock its full potential.”

But for beauty, Curley said there were some clear areas driving interest.

“Anti-ageing is the holy grail for beauty – everybody gets old and everybody wants to look younger. CBD is so popular because it spans both beauty and wellness. It is being touted as anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, and with healing and regenerative properties. Its apparent ability to deliver emotional wellness and sleep are also massively attractive propositions, given the challenge that we face as a society with mental health and stress issues. This makes CBD an all-rounder for delivering on the whole package of physical and emotional well-being. It’s essentially a spa day in a bottle.”

‘Weed washing’ – a true skin care problem?

Some parts of industry are using low-CBD oils and playing on consumer confusion (Getty Images)
Some parts of industry are using low-CBD oils and playing on consumer confusion (Getty Images)

For the time being though, Curley said current EU regulations on use of cannabidiol in beauty​ meant there were strict restrictions on what could and could not be said about the benefits of CBD on-pack.

“The authorities – both the FDA and EU – aren’t willing to allow any therapeutic claims to be made on CBD products, whether beauty or otherwise. And this, combined with some consumer scepticism means that trust and credibility is another issue that beauty manufacturers will have to grapple with,”​ she said.

In its report, Prohibition Partners said that along with the wave of cannabis beauty innovation, there had been some exploitation, with select brands accused of “weed washing”​ or using low-CBD hemp seed oil instead of concentrated CBD oil.

Asked how much of a problem this was across beauty, Curley said: “Weed washing is unfortunately rife across all of the sectors that CBD has been incorporated into.”

For beauty, she said lab testing in the UK had showed several beauty brands contained less CBD than advertised or claimed on the bottle and elsewhere other manufacturers were simply playing on lack of consumer knowledge.

“There is a lot of confusion about the difference between hemp and CBD and some beauty merchants or manufacturers are deliberately keeping the waters muddy in order to align their products with the buzz around CBD, even when their products only contain hemp seed oil, a much cheaper and widely available product with no CBD content.”

Hemp oil Vs. CBD oil

While the hemp plant itself is a cannabis variant particularly rich in CBD, hemp seed oil contained trace to no levels of CBD because most of the CBD content in hemp was found in the flowers or buds. EU researchers have looked into the potential of hemp flower oil, comparing it to CBD, and found hemp flower oil held particular promise for wound healing and skin inflammation​.

CBD beauty future? Lack of big brand presence could be a barrier

Consumer knowledge and regulation will play a big part in defining the future of CBD beauty (Getty Images)
Consumer knowledge and regulation will play a big part in defining the future of CBD beauty (Getty Images)

Curley said that with time consumers would become “more au fait with CBD”,​ learning to recognise marketing and packaging claims, and tighter regulations would ensure manufacturers adhered to stricter guidelines. Industry certifications to prove quality would also likely emerge, similar to that of the Soil Association or Red Tractor, she said.

However, for the time being CBD beauty continued to be “dominated by indie brands”​ because larger multinationals were “hesitant to enter into an industry that is fraught with so many regulatory hurdles”, ​she said.​ And this could block future growth potential, she noted.

“Consumers typically look for brand names that they can trust when making big outlays on premium products, and this could be a barrier for greater uptake until such a time that the larger names are willing to put their name behind the product.”

Interested in what the future holds for CBD beauty? CosmeticsDesign-Europe is co-hosting its inaugural CBD Summit in London on March 16-17​, alongside sister brands The Grocer, FoodNavigator and NutraIngredients. The full programme can now be downloaded​, and tickets can be purchased​ for this two-day exclusive B2B event.

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