Can we get high on beauty products?

This blog post is an answer for @_jess_stranger_ ‘s question regarding the use CBD (Cannaboidol) oil in cosmetic industry, which is a big boom in USA, since nine states and Washington legalised the use of recreational marijuana. Jess is worried that the industry pulls our leg advertising the amazing effects of CBD-based oils creams or lotions, while in reality chopping the plants off for no reason. This is a very important and valid question, thus I decided to do a little research to answer this question from a scientist’s point of view.


By the way –  Jess is a documentarian with an amazing writing style and great photography skills. She presents interesting places and people showing their stories and what can we learn from them. There is many bloggers out there, but only a few great content creators and Jess is definitely one of them. Check out her blog and get immersed into her world. Learn from strangers!


This post may not apply to all readers since most of the European countries ban the use of marijuana. Nevertheless, its legalisation is probably going to be an inevitable process in future, so don’t worry – I will remind you about this post when this time comes!

CBD what’s that?

CBD is one of maaaany (113) ingrediencies of cannabis which binds to cannabinoid receptors in our brain affecting the neurotransmitter release. It does not have psychoactive effects like THC [=does not get you high], but may have an impact in relieving stress and anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, however research has not proven any significant positive influence yet. Last year’s review (1) shows, that CBD also affects hormones but not enough clinical trials have been conducted to asses the effective does, it’s administration and possible toxicological side effects. It appears that the chemical is much more potent in mice than humans too. It’s difficult to find the right drug concentration, since CBD may bind to other receptors in our brain showing completely different psychological outcomes, thus generally it is not a well-researched medical substance to date.


New celebs trick

Scientists are still checking drug-like abilities of cannabidiol when beauty industry already jumped on this topic calling CBD a miracle ingredient! They advertise CBD oil as a painkiller, mood improver, anti-inflammatory and anti-acne substance. They are sold as oral tablets – for indigestions or stomach aches or topical creams and lotions – for skin problems and inflammation. Obviously, celebrities have been hooked already and swear by it as much as by vitamin IV drips (which also should be taken with a pinch of salt). Should we follow new trends, or shall we look at dry facts? Let’s look at the facts first.


Apparently, CBD oil is brilliant for the red-carpet events because it relieves the pain from wearing high heels. People also use it for sore muscles after gym workouts or chronic joint pains. That could be true, nevertheless isolated CBD was shown to be a weak pain-reliever and the amount of the active ingredient needed for it to work exceeds what you could find in a CBD lotion. The anti-acne properties were studied only in cannabis as a whole, so it may be that many cannabis ingredients combined reduce sebum production making our skin less inflamed. Nobody knows and it hasn’t been studied whether CBD itself is going to do anything.



Cannabis mainly consists of CBD and THC and those two substances combined are potentially a very good psychotherapeutic drug and a pain killer. The downside is THC makes you get high which is not what you want from a lotion, thus beauty industry is limited to CBD oil usage only. CBD itself may not give you any skin care or fitness soreness benefits because most likely it needs a company of THC to be fully activated. There are studies showing uselessness pure CBD (2) and most importantly there are no studies testing the effects in beauty industry [check THIS out], thus nothing that the companies are promising is backed up by scientific experiments. They can only rely on theory and medical research, which is also not detailed enough to form any meaningful conclusions.

What if…

If you look at the main advertised effects of CBD – helps indigestion, inflammation, anxiety, pain and soreness – these all effects are very often correlated with a placebo effect. Human brain is a very complicated machinery and placebo is still a big question mark in many drug development processes, because it’s extremely difficult to differentiate the effects of a drug from placebo in digestive or anxiety problems and pain management. Cannabis has been a hot topic for years, some communities stigmatise it, other worship, so we were exposed to the magic word “cannabis” many times in the past. Sorry for bursting the bubble, but it may well be that the socio-political tension and semi-legal status of cannabis adds to the placebo effect of CBD oil. Our perception of hardly attainable product unconsciously primes us to believe in its sophisticated properties it may never even have.  (If you want to learn more about placebo effect, I recommend this book.)


Final conclusion

In order to asses efficacy of CBD in medical treatment and beauty products we need more clinical trials and more research showing measurable evidence. The current status is vague, pointing out on potential uses but no dosage and side or long-term effects. Let’s wait few more years before buying things which may not work. There are many beauty products which have been proven effective already.  If you want to find out more about skin care products, read my post on anti-ageing creams.


If you found this post interesting, hit like button and share it with your friends. By doing so you will help to promote my blog and allow me to reach wider audience. Thank you!



P.S.  For more on this topic and many more – visit Seeking Science blog created by passionate scientists like me 🙂

Do anti-ageing creams work?




There is no ready recipe for a magic anti-ageing potion but researchers know quite a lot about ageing processes already. Let’s dive in and find out what’s out there!


do anti-ageing creams work

Skin – the largest organ of our body has a total area of 20ft2 playing central role in protecting our bodies from outside environment. Ageing is a natural process caused by extrinsic (pollution, UV radiation, exposure to toxic chemicals) and intrinsic (genetics, hormone levels, metabolism) factors. Collectively all of these influence skin physically and physiologically changing its appearance, especially affecting the most visible outer layer (layers of skin are explained here) .


Market is oversaturated with the cosmetics which meant to make your face look like a 18-year old overnight. Unfortunately, most of them don’t work. If you intend to spend your money on a product which works, see what science says about:


1) Collagen.

It is a protein which makes up about 30% of our body with most of it being in our skin. The collagen content in our skin decreases on average by 1% per year, what causes wrinkles and overall ‘dryness’ of a skin. If you plan to battle your wrinkles with a cream containing collagen – you are looking in a wrong direction. Collagen applied directly on your skin is too large to be absorbed into further skin layers. A cream which has collagen fibres in it may make your skin look nice and soft for the time when its applied, while it won’t fill you wrinkles. Take a step back. What you need is a cream which will encourage your skin to produce collagen itself! It will contain growth factors and cytokines promoting elastin and collagen synthesis. If you read the labels, the creams containing a lot of confusing words ended with “peptide”, TGF-β1, IL-6/8 or matrikines will be definitely a better choice than the ones with “glycerine, silk extract and collagen-alpha”.

2) Stem cells.

There is absolutely tons of creams with stem cells which promise you instant skin restoration after first application. It is all a massive marketing lie. Stem cells enclosed in the jars are simply dead plant-based cells which while placed on your skin will have the same effect as if you put a wooden chopping board or a spoon on your chick and keep it overnight. Plant stem cells wouldn’t work on human skin even if they were alive. I promise you nothing is going to happen. Medical stem cell therapy works because a nurse is taking your blood, filtrating everything but plasma and stem cells and injecting them back in you precisely where the inflammation or other problems arose. These were your own stem cells, still alive and administered in a careful, antiseptic way. What in turn creams have to offer are floating dead cells in a white jelly-like liquid applied on the surface of your skin.

Don’t waste your money.

3) Vitamin C.

It is a very powerful antioxidant (a substance which fights ageing and cancer by mopping up reactive oxygen species) and the most abundant one in our skin. It works synergistically with vitamin E and both are often combined in facial creams. It is protective against photo-ageing caused by UV radiation and is essential for collagen biosynthesis. Taking vitamin C orally allows only a small fraction of it to reach the skin, so it sounds perfect to use it in a from of a cream. However, there is not enough research on vit. C formulations for its topical application. We know it works but we have little knowledge how to enclose vitamin C in a cream formula, so it gets absorbed well (rather than simply dry out on the surface on our skin overnight).

do anti-ageing creams work

4) Hyaluronic acid (HA).

One of the features of ageing is loss of moisture. HA is a molecule which is brilliant in retaining water. It is a component of extracellular matrix (a scaffold for the cells) resulting in a soft, elastic skin. Studies show that HA is involved in a number of important cellular processes and its lack leads to carcinogenesis and immune system malfunction. Skin HA is quickly degraded (with half-life of about 2 weeks) and accounts for 50% of total body HA. Studies on 4 widely known brands of creams with HA show that the depth of wrinkles is significantly decreased after 3 months of daily use. That’s a good sign, nevertheless we need more detailed studies on the concentration of HA and its efficacy in order to find the best cream.

5) Coenzyme Q10.

It is another antioxidant which production decreases with age. It is the only anti-aging ingredient (from the ones presented in this post) which has been proven to improve skin condition when administered topically and orally. Nevertheless, there is one study from 2009 showing that long-term oral intake of Q10 impairs cognitive function in mice. Remember about it when balancing your dietary supplements.

do anti-ageing creams work

I encourage you to read the labels of the cosmetic products so you know what you are paying for.



The best you can do to look young is to eat heathy diet- rich in vitamins A, E, C and other antioxidants and microelements. Stay away from highly-processed foods, thus these have no nutritional value but a lot of calories and trans-fats. Most importantly – DRINK A LOT OF WATER. It’s free and doesn’t have any side effects! It’s best to ensure you are drinking enough before spending money on night creams!


Learn and share knowledge with others! Please share this post if you found it useful 🙂

If you are interested in cosmetics and skincare products, I recommend reading The Little Book of Skin Care by Charlotte Cho explaining South Korean skin care routines, which applied to our western world works wonders! The Little Book of Skin Care By Charlotte Cho 9780062416384 (Hardback)(click)

For more sources, click here:

Anti-aging: 123

Collagen: 1

Vitamin C: 1, 2

HA: 1, 2

Q10: 1, 2, 3, 4

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