Actress Olivia Wilde (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

What to Know When Marketing CBD Beauty Products

CBD is the fastest growing trend in beauty and wellness. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in cannabis. Celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Wilde and Kim Kardashian are among the famous names touting the benefits of CBD oil, including anxiety and pain relief. Brands and retailers are hurrying to meet demand and national retailers such as Sephora and CVS now carry CBD products. But the use of CBD in consumer products is under increasing scrutiny from federal regulators.

What is CBD?

The cannabis plant family includes many species, but the two most widely known are marijuana and hemp. Marijuana has high levels (up to 40%) of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the chemical compound in cannabis that is psychoactive and gives you a sense of euphoria (i.e., it gets you high). Hemp only contains trace levels (.3%) of THC, but is rich in CBD, a compound that has the benefits of THC without the high.

When the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act. This allows for the commercial production of hemp as long as it contains less than .3% of THC. The Farm Bill and the fact that an increasing number of states have approved the use of marijuana seemed to indicate an ease on the restriction of marijuana products.

However, despite the fact that CBD-infused cocktails, coffee and treats are appearing on menus across the country, using CBD in prepared foods is prohibited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In June of 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug containing CBD, to treat severe forms of epilepsy. Because CBD is the primary ingredient in the drug, and the FDA prohibits adding ingredients that are “drug products” into food and drinks, CBD is technically not a legal food additive.

CBD in Beauty Products

The beauty industry is far less regulated, but that doesn’t mean that manufacturing, selling and shipping products containing CBD is without risk.

“There are so many new companies trying to enter the CBD beauty space. They need to be aware that the rules are not the same in every state, and the rules that do exist are gray and evolving,” says Amber Warrington, founder of Beauty Staircase, a product development, creative branding and business strategy agency specializing in beauty.

“Making a product with CBD has a chance to be extremely profitable, but it also comes with huge risk,” says Warrington. “Working with CBD can cause solubility issues during formula development, so you need to find a lab that is experienced with CBD. Once you have the finished product, trust issues can come up over purity claims and statements given the differing levels of testing labs & analytics available. For a small company, that is a lot to take on and navigate.”

For beauty products containing CBD, the marketing language needs to be clear. If a brand markets a product as a “treatment” or “cure” for a disease or ailment, that product would then fall into the drug category and be subject to federal approval. The FDA has already issued warning letters to three companies that made medical claims regarding their CBD products.

The Future of CBD

CBD products generated $390 million in 2018 and that number is expected to grow to $1.3 billion by 2022, according to New Frontier Data. The potential for future growth is astronomical, but for the beauty, wellness and food industries, there is a palpable need for clarity regarding the legality of CBD.

On Friday, May 31, 2019 the FDA will hold a public hearing in Washington D.C. on the safety, manufacturing, marketing and sales of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds like CBD.