CBD in Topical Formulations

A guide to help the cosmetic chemist develop cannabidiol-based personal care formulas.

Cannabidiol (CBD) shows plenty of promise in topical skin care formulas. CBD is a natural, highly-effective anti-inflammatory as well as an emollient. It is said to be particularly useful for consumers with sensitive skin, inflammation, redness and dehydration. Experts say CBD provides the strongest anti-inflammatory protection, while fighting irritation and minimizing redness.

Formulators know there are plenty of benefits to adding CBD to a personal care formula. At the same time, there are plenty of potential pitfalls. CBD can be difficult to work with due to its strong odor and off-color. At the same time, formulators must thoroughly test the material for traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

A new book, Cannabis in Beauty & Drug Preparations, aims to help cosmetic chemists overcome these obstacles. In a unique style, it asks questions, provides answers and includes concise chapters on cannabinoids and the application of CBD in cosmeceuticals, edibles and allied products.

“Every once in a while, as we continue to search nature for molecules that we can utilize for our wellbeing, we stumble on an item that we never expected nor imagined the scope nor the extent of its use,” explained author Esam Morsy, PhD, and head chemist at Cita International LLC, Glendale, AZ. “This is how we discovered penicillin, nylon and cannabis. In the case of cannabis, we found a plant that, not only we could derive fiber from for the making of nets, sporting goods and clothing material, but also an edible oil, leaves to smoke for recreation and chewing along with a myriad of therapeutic agents and flavors.”

According to Morsy, during the past few decades, studies on the use of cannabinoids, and CBD in particular, have demonstrated and confirmed agreeable results in the treatment of several psychological diseases, topical and systemic body ailments. Topical studies have proven efficacy of CBD and other THC-free cannabinoid extracts in their treatment of skin disorders.

Preparations in various forms and modes of administration are now available with CBD, individually and in combination with other cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenoid synergists for the treatment of many topical and systemic conditions.

“Topical cannabis preparations do not contain any psychoactivity because they utilize CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids and other naturally-occurring cannabis terpenes, flavones synergists; the normal constituents of cannabis extracts,” he explained.

Broad-spectrum types, with their rich content of CBD and synergists, are effective in sport lotions and creams, gels and serums for soothing skin and improving dermal and cosmetic conditions, alleviate pain and enhancing micro-treatment of several skin disorders.

Skin Care Applications

As antioxidants, CBD and other cannabinoids and synergists act topically to improve the appearance of aging skin. At the same time, study results suggest that CBD has applications in the treatment of acne and other skin disorders. Morsy insists cannabinoids can play a promising role in the development of cosmetics and OTC products. He pointed to studies showing the use of cannabinoids and cannabis extracts in topical applications are on the rise. Cannabinoids such as THC may be useful for psoriasis. CBD, cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) have been found to inhibit keratinocyte proliferation in hyper-proliferating human keratinocyte cell lines (Wilkinson et al., 2007). Cannabinoid activity in the potential treatment for the early inflammatory stages of scleroderma and systemic sclerosis was also discovered.

Furthermore, comparative studies determined that the use of a cream containing 3% cannabis seed extract applied topically in conditions of acne and seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, skin cancer and control of pain was promising (Sheriff et al, 2020). Treated patients had lower levels of skin sebum and erythema.

The book contains more than 100 formulations for topical use which demonstrate how certain cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients can synergize the functionality of the formulation. Several formulations are found throughout the pages of this book for the topical treatment of eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis and pruritus.

In oral applications, CBD has demonstrated efficacy in toothpastes and buccal hygiene products. Ingredients such as palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), tea tree oil of Melaleuca alternifolia, sulfur and allantoin have been shown to improve results when used with CBD in topical applications. Many formulations with other active ingredients also exist in this compendium, which enhance the activity and healing potential of cannabinoids.

Here are some formulas to consider; note that all cannabis or derivatives described here are THC-free.

Massage Oil with CBD

Ingredient: %Wt.
Water q.s. to 100
Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides 10.0
Petrolatum 5.0
CBD qs to 25mg/oz
Sepigel 105 (Polyacrylamide (and) C13-14 Isoparaffin (and) Laureth-7) 2.5
Preservative q.s.

Procedure: Melt petrolatum in CCT. Mix Sepigel in water until smooth slurry is obtained. Add CCT with agitation. Add CBD, preservative and fragrance (if desired). This is a cold process lotion containing petrolatum to prolong the lubricating, massaging action on the skin before the lotion is completely absorbed. CBD is added as 100% pale white crystalline isolate, or as a yellow semi-viscous resin or as a greenish brown alcohol liquid extract or as a brownish yellow thick resinous paste, or as a greenish paste of mixed cannabinoids found in the CO2 or alcohol extract of the industrial hemp plant.

CBD Sports Lotion

Ingredient: %Wt.
Deionized water q.s. to 100.0
Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides 10.0
Camphor 1.0
Menthol 1.0
Methylsulfonyl Methane (MSM) 2.5
Eucalyptus 5.0
CBD q.s. to 75mg/oz
Sepigel 105 (Polyacrylamide (and) C13-14 Isoparaffin (and) Laureth-7) 2.5
Preservative q.s.

Procedure: Mix all oil-soluble ingredients (Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Camphor, Menthol, Eucalyptus and CBD). Mix MSM in water, add Sepigel and mix in water until smooth slurry is obtained. Add oil phase with agitation. Add preservative. Add fragrance/essential oil, if desired, while emulsion is at final mixing phase. This is a cold process lotion containing a variety of skin-caring ingredients; i.e., camphor, menthol, MSM, CBD and eucalyptus. CBD is added as 100% pale white crystalline isolate. Other CBD-containing extracts may be used in quantities sufficient to produce the level of CBD claimed on the product’s label.

Sebum Balancing Oil

Ingredient: %Wt.
Isopropyl Myristate 40.0
Hemp Seed Oil 25.0
Jojoba Oil 25.0
Grapeseed Oil 5.0
PEG-60 Almond Triglycerides 3.0
Vitamin E Nicotinate 1.0
CBD resin 0.5
Mixed Tocopherols 0.5

Note: This formulation is prepared with a family of super refined oils including hemp seed, jojoba, grapeseed and CBD. All ingredients are oil soluble. The IPM is a light, non-greasy, low viscosity ester with a liquid wax of Jojoba oil with the nourishing, anti-inflammatory omega-rich hempseed oil. The purpose of the ethoxylated almond is to enhance the dispersion of the oils on the skin. The formula blends with the sebum and excessive oils, making it possible to remove from the skin by wiping with towels or washing with water or mild cleanser. The residual film left on the skin surface, nourishes, compensates for lost natural lipids and restores a natural glow to the face. 

Morsy describes Cannabis in Beauty & Drug Preparations as instructional material for chemists and scientists who are new to the science and art of formulation and manufacturing of topical cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. According to the author, the novice enthusiast will find entries and concise articles on all subjects necessary to establish a strong background of understanding the science and art of cosmetic preparations and formulations. From entries 12 to 96, the reader will find foundational subjects related to testing and evaluating skin care and hair care products.

“I know, the style of my book is not traditional, but I opted for this style to pioneer a new mode of teaching that is as effective and as interactive as possible,” he told CBD Inside & Out. “I have noticed throughout my university studies and years of teaching that information delivered through questions are more likely to stay in memory longer than when delivered in the usual verbal classroom manner. Readers study the questions, think about the answers before they look them up. This will help the readers retain and comprehend knowledge much longer quantitatively and qualitatively.”

Cannabis in Beauty & Drug Preparations is divided in three sections. Section I details cannabis and CBD. Morsy reviews cannabis’ chemical composition and properties and its application in pharmaceuticals and edibles. Section I details all the therapeutic properties of CBD. It describes the chemistry of all cannabinoids components with properties and how to incorporate in emulsions, solutions, suspensions, etc. The section includes formulations for chemist and scientist for training, practice and production.

Section II provides in more detail the cosmetics and pharmaceutical ingredients to be used with cannabis components in the preparation of creams, lotions, ointments, gels, and even dough for the making of cookies and certain exotic dishes, formulations for chemist and scientist for training, practice and production.

Finally, section III includes quizzes and examinations with answers and references. This section covers all aspects of cannabis in health and beauty. Formulations offer chemist and scientist training, practice and production. A comprehensive index includes all alphabetized key words.

The book contains more than 400 references which can be used for further studies.

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