In 2018, a farm bill passed that made the production of industrial hemp legal in the United States. This has opened doors for the legalization of the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) — although you still need to check your local laws for legality in your area.

There’s been a “green rush” of cannabis-inspired products flooding the market, including beauty products. While CBD is a new ingredient to many consumers, hempseed oil has around for decades. It’s sold at health food stores and is used in both cooking and skincare.

When CBD oil and hempseed oil are put side by side, a lot of misleading labeling happens.

First, a Cannabis species (Cannabaceae) breakdown

To filter out the CBD marketing, here’s a cannabis breakdown: Cannabis (often referred to as marijuana) and hemp are two varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa.

Since they share the same species name, they’re often lumped into one big family, and there seems to be a lot of confusion around their differences.

Cannabis Hemp plant Hemp seeds
Averaged about 17% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that makes a person feel “high,” in 2017 Has to contain less than 0.3% THC to be sold legally 0% THC
Averaged less than 0.15% CBD in 2014 Averages at least 12%–18% CBD Have no more than trace amounts of CBD
Cannabis has medicinal and therapeutic uses for chronic pain, mental health, and illnesses Stalks of the hemp plant can produce clothing, rope, paper, fuel, home insulation, and much more Seeds are cold-pressed for oil production; the oil can be used in cooking (as in hempseed milk and granola), beauty products, and even paint
 

Why this matters in the beauty world

CBD oil and hempseed oil are both trendy ingredients used in topical skincare products.

Hempseed oil, in particular, is known for not clogging pores, having anti-inflammatory properties, and providing superior moisturization to keep the skin looking and feeling supple. It can be added to a product or just used on its own as a face oil.

New research is coming out all the time about the skin-related benefits of CBD. What we know so far is it’s been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, like its cousin hempseed oil. It reportedly helps in healing:

CBD also has a ton of antioxidants. But are CBD beauty products actually more effective or worth paying more for?

It’s still too early to tell, and results can vary depending on the person. If there’s a beauty brand making major claims, you may want to do extra consumer research. Brands aren’t obligated to tell you how much CBD is in a product.

The tricky marketing tactics behind hempseed oil

With the “green rush,” some brands are jumping on the chance to sell their cannabis-infused beauty products but mixing the terms CBD and hemp seed up — intentionally or not.

Since CBD and hempseed oil are in the same cannabis family, they’re often incorrectly marketed as the same thing. Why would a brand do this?

One reason is that consumers are willing to pay more for CBD oil, which is a pretty expensive ingredient compared to hempseed oil.

It’s easy for a brand to add hempseed oil to a product, adorn it with marijuana leaves, and highlight the word cannabis to make consumers think they’re purchasing a CBD product when it contains no actual CBD at all. And paying a premium!

Some brands may also market their products as hempseed-based to avoid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on cannabis- or marijuana-derived products.

So how can you tell what you’re purchasing? It’s pretty simple, actually. Check the ingredient list...

Hempseed oil will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil. CBD will usually be listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid-rich) or PCR hemp extracts.

Know what you’re paying for

While companies aren’t required to list the milligrams of CBD or hemp on the bottle, it’s become a common practice to do so. If they’re not listed, you should wonder what’s in that bottle you’re paying for.

The FDA has sent warning letters to some companies for illegally selling CBD products and falsely advertising them as safe or as effective medical treatments. That’s another reason why doing your own consumer research is vital.

It’s so important to be an educated, savvy consumer. Don’t fall into the trap of weedwashing (hemp-based product hype)!

Is CBD Legal?Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

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Dana Murray is a licensed aesthetician from Southern California with a passion for skin care science. She’s worked in skin education, from helping others with their skin to developing products for beauty brands. Her experience extends over 15 years and an estimated 10,000 facials. She’s been using her knowledge to blog about skin and bust skin myths on her Instagram since 2016.