Throughout my life, I have tended to subscribe to the view that everything "bad" could somehow be good for you. I was thoroughly vindicated in this with the discovery that red wine prevents cancer, heart disease, and wrinkles. Now, between Colorado opening the country's first legal pot shops and a company called Medical Marijuana Inc. launching a new anti-aging skin care line starring super-concentrated, cannabis-enriched hemp oil, it seems marijuana may be at the vanguard of the latest bad-is-good trend.
But before you get too high on the idea that marijuana is The Next Big Thing in skin care, it is worth remembering that cannabis, coyly called “hemp,” has long been a beauty product ingredient.
Hemp seed oil has been blithely used in cosmetics and anti aging skin care throughout the war on drugs. This is because it contains only trace elements of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp is particularly ubiquitous in shampoos and conditioners as it is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and as such a great emollient for hair.
What makes Medical Marijuana, Inc's approach different is that it is going for the hard stuff. Cannabis Beauty Defined (the name of the actual cosmetic line) uses cannabidiol-rich hemp oil in its exfoliant, cleanser, eye cream, gel masque, moisturizer and serum.
Apparently, the medical marijuana business in the US is worth some $2bn annually (source), whereas the anti-aging cosmetic business is many times that size. So I can see why Medical Marijuana Inc would be tempted to diversify. The question, though, is whether cannabis in skincare just smoke and mirrors.
It turns out that it is the real deal – at least for dry skin. There is clinical research that cannabinoids have anti-aging – antioxidant – properties. Published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (source), there are findings confirming that cannabinoids are responsible for lipid production and, therefore, for regulating conditions such as dry skin or acne. "Our preclinical data encourage one to explore whether endocannabinoid system-acting agents can be exploited in the management of common skin disorders," said Tamás Biró, a scientist on the team. "It is also suggested that these agents can be efficiently applied locally to the skin in the form of a cream."
Another study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that cannabidiol has the potential for helping (unspecified) skin diseases.
Seems convincing enough to approach Cannabis Beauty Defined with an open mind. Still, it’s kind of ironic that the wrinkled legacy of my years of smoking could be undone by a topical dab of weed.