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Can a Marijuana-Infused Skincare Routine Make Me Both Smooth and Chill?

All I have to say is: 420 cream it

It feels like I aged 69 long years in 2020. The constant barrage of bad news added lines to my forehead. The wooden armchair I live in demolished my spine. I vaguely remember the sun.

Dilapidated and sad, my soul demands self-care. One million self-cares. A self-care miracle. But what can possibly alleviate my endless list of 2020 woes? If skincare is one side of the self-care coin and getting astronomically stoned is another, why not a collection of weed skincare products?

Tag along and toke the bong as I attempt to release my 2020 demons by slapping on some weed creams.

The Problem: 2020 turned me into a dead cactus.

The Potential Solution: A suite of THC skincare products from California cannabis brand Papa & Barkley.

My Moist Plan of Attack: I have a total of four Papa & Barkley products at my disposal, and they each guarantee something similar but different. Here’s how I plan on using them:

  1. The THC Releaf Body Lotion, which is said to be good for skin conditions, pain, inflammation, redness and discomfort, will take the place of a full-body moisturizer.
  2. The THC Releaf Body Oil, which allegedly helps with whole body aches, acute discomfort and normal inflammation, will be slathered on my lower back and neck in an attempt to ease the harm done by living from a wooden armchair.
  3. The THC Releaf Repair Cream, which claims to tackle problem or irritated skin, normal inflammation, sunburn and minor aches, will be applied to extra dry areas, like my face and elbows, only worsened by dry winter weather.
  4. The THC Releaf Balm, which is supposedly “powerful on pain,” will be spread across my carpal tunnel hands, hopefully helping to reverse the damage done by years of relentless typing.

This will be my daily routine for a week.

The Price: That depends on your location. For the time being, states treat and tax THC products differently. In many states, products containing THC are still illegal, and in states where products containing THC are legal, different dispensaries can have wildly different prices — I found one dispensary selling the Releaf Balm for $85 and another for only $15. But just to give you an idea, where I am in Southern California, I can easily get my hands on all of these products for between $150 and $200. If you go for the purely CBD — and federally legal — versions, your total will be $189.96, plus tax. 

So yeah, pretty pricey.

The Science: I should note that while these products are marketed largely for their THC content, they also contain CBD, which has a lot more research behind its credibility as a skincare ingredient. Esthetician Gregory Dylan says science shows that CBD has anti-inflammatory benefits, soothing sore muscles and troubled skin, and acts as an antioxidant, helping relieve symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. One study also suggests that CBD can reduce acne by preventing skin cells from pumping out too much oily sebum. Dermatologist Rajani Katta mentions a study that found CBD may reduce itchiness, too.

“However, we have limited information on CBD with THC,” Katta stresses. “While a product that contains only CBD shouldn’t cause any systemic effects, I’d be concerned about putting products with THC on the skin. Since THC is the component that causes psychoactive effects, it’s possible that applying it to the skin might cause some of those same psychoactive effects.” I personally wouldn’t mind some psychoactive effects, but note that, as one study points out, “Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine.” That means creams with THC are unlikely to make it into your bloodstream, and therefore should theoretically have no real psychoactive influence, at least when you put them on your skin. (I won’t eat these weed creams, I swear.)

But — and this is a big but — everything I just said is based on a minute amount of research and should be taken with a grain of kush. In a statement regarding CBD in skincare products, the American Academy of Dermatology says, “None of the claims that CBD can treat conditions such as acne, rosacea or psoriasis have been proven. Research on using CBD is still in the early stages. Until there is enough research to support these health claims, making such claims is considered misleading. In the United States, such claims are also illegal. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent warning letters to companies making such claims. This may seem like a hard stance for the FDA to take. It’s doing this to protect people’s health. More research is needed to know whether CBD can treat these conditions. More research is needed to know whether CBD is safe.”

“Overall, more work needs to be done to show the effects of CBD on skin cells,” confirms dermatologist Anthony Rossi. “Commercial topical preparations may also be different from what’s studied in a lab, so that’s always important to consider.” And remember, we know much more about CBD than THC.

Moving on from cannabinoids, one other thing I should note about these Papa & Barkley products is that they contain normal moisturizing ingredients, like jojoba oil and shea butter, but also essential oils like peppermint, which carry their own pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Peppermint in particular contains menthol, which has a cooling effect that could potentially be confused for any localized tingly impact of THC. The Papa & Barkley packaging also suggests massaging their products into your skin thoroughly, and the act of kneading the skin has been shown to increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone known to induce feelings of contentment and alleviate those of stress and anxiety — similar to what we know about cannabis.

None of this is to suggest that cannabis-infused topicals are a sham (although the CBD industry has been plagued by widespread mislabeling in the past, which you should watch out for). Many people swear by them, including professionals in the skincare field, but you should be aware that there are multiple ingredients in these creams that can contribute to feelings of wellness and relief, and that includes the application process itself.

The Experience: After a week of creaming, my skin looks and feels softer, at the very least — and I was using regular moisturizers before this, so something in these Papa & Barkley creams has been doing a better job. As far as pain relief, I did notice a soothing warmness — almost like I could feel the blood rushing through my veins — in the minutes after applying all of my lotions, though again, that could have been because of the peppermint, and it only lasts for a short while.

Perhaps more than anything, the process of layering on all those creams — and anticipating a result — forces a nice mindful moment. I started looking forward to my daily moisturizing sessions, because they allowed me to spend some time noticing and tending to my sore areas, rather than just ignoring them. That alone probably contributes to a sort of wellness placebo effect.

One thing of note: The bottles are a decent size, but if you’re using them for full-body relief, you should expect to run out quickly. And at nearly $200 pre-tax for the whole bunch, you could end up spending a lot of money.

So, are weed creams the cure to all my 2020 woes? No. But they’re a small start, they smell good and I’ll definitely continue this routine — at least until I run out.