Life & Style

Why beauty products are turning to hemp

Cannabis herb and leaves for treatment broth, tincture, extract, oil. Selective focus.

Cannabis herb and leaves for treatment broth, tincture, extract, oil. Selective focus.

Meet the latest beauty stars on the block: oils from the cannabis plant, hempseed and Cannabidiol, or as it’s popularly known — CBD. They’ve found their way into everything, from your night cream to your lip balm, even to your mascara. So are they just a marketing gimmick or do they work? And are they even legal? For the way the picture’s developing, read on.

Hempseed oil and CBD oil are different

The former is extracted from the seed of the hemp plant; the latter, from the flower and leaf. Hempseed oil is cold-pressed, comparable to oils such as groundnut and coconut, whereas CBD is an essential oil. “CBD is a concentrated solvent extract,” says Dr Simi Sugathan, risk assessment scientist and Founder, Safety Monitor Research Foundation, Bengaluru. In layperson speak, this means that it needs another substance to dissolve in, so it can be extracted. Solvents should ideally be an edible oil like sunflower or even hemp, or something innocuous like ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. Dr Sugathan warns against harmful solvents like petroleum-ether and naphtha, and “super-critical solvents” like butane and carbon dioxide. “The quality and quantity of CBD oil is directly dependent on the variety and age of the hemp plant, and on the solvent used,” she says.

They are not psychoactive

The seed of the industrial hemp plant, or cannabis sativa , from which the oil is extracted, has no tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive substance. “Industrial hemp is specifically bred to have controlled THC levels, depending on the regulatory requirements of a country: 0.2% in Europe and Canada, 0.3% in USA, 0.5-1.0% in Australia, 1.5% in India (only legalised in Uttarakhand),” explains Dr Sugathan. “Moreover, the THC is found in the leaf of the plant and not in the seed,” elaborates Yash P Kotak, Co-Founder and Director, Bombay Hemp Company (Boheco) that has engaged with the medical and research community and recently organised a conference in tandem with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, as well as the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine.

Should you buy?  Oil extracted from hempseed (above) is legal and not intoxicating

Should you buy? Oil extracted from hempseed (above) is legal and not intoxicating

Hemp is legal

Industrial hemp cultivation for certain commercial purposes (to make fabric, for instance) and research purposes is allowed in India. “Medicinal cannabis has very high THC levels, and is, therefore, subject to very strict regulations across the world — in India, the stipulations allow for cultivation of medicinal cannabis only for R&D purposes, but industrial cannabis is legal, although it falls on the concurrent list, so the centre says you can grow it, but it really depends on each state, whether they want to allow it or not,” explains Kotak, whose company works with hemp cultivators and also supplies hempseed oil (along with other hemp-based products, including clothes) for research as well as for commercial use. “Commercial use of CBD oil, in any form, hasn’t yet been legalised in India, but hempseed oil is legal and can be produced, bought, and sold for application purposes only.” In fact, it is also legal to import it, reveals Pritesh Asher, whose beauty brand Juicy Chemistry retails pure hempseed oil, and also uses it extensively in their anti-acne range. “We procure our hempseed oil from Germany,” he tells us. But inspite of what Instagram or Google or Hollywood may suggest, you can’t yet ingest CBD oil or hempseed oil in India.

Research is ongoing

It’s important to know that while brands may use it, customers in India (and in most other countries) cannot simply buy CBD over the counter, unlike hempseed oil. CBD is an essential oil, which needs a carrier. So, you will need to use it either as part of a formulation or mixed with another oil. But we still don’t know what the optimal amounts in a carrier oil should be.

“CBD is an antioxidant, anti-seborrhoeic (prevents over-activity of the sebaceous glands), a skin-conditioning and skin-protecting compound,” says Dr Sugathan. “But what’s a huge breakthrough, in my view, is its interaction with the endocannabinoid system — the network of skin neurotransmitters all along your body. Studies show this interaction provides the same effect as anandamide, which is a fatty acid neurotransmitter that is naturally produced by our bodies, and is said to have a calming effect on our skin.” What that essentially means is, CBD oil, even when topically applied, won’t be working just on your skin’s surface, but deeper, at the root of the problem.

Unlike other products, which will either infuse extra moisture or lock in the moisture, CBD will coax your skin into producing enough moisture of its own, so you won’t feel stretchy once the effect of it has worn out, neither will your sebaceous glands go into overdrive. “CBD’s calming, anti-inflammatory nature makes it especially fantastic for more persistent issues like eczema and psoriasis,” says Dr Kiran Kaur Sethi, a dermatologist and founder, Isya Aesthetics, Delhi.

Why hempseed oil is good

A perfect balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids. “Hempseed oil contains linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA), as its major Omega 6 and Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, respectively, in a ratio of 3:1. A host of studies claim this to be the optimal LA:LNA ratio,” says Dr Sugathan. According to Kotak, hempseed oil is the only oil with this ratio, a fact that gives it unmatched moisturising powers. The Body Shop was one of the first major players to recognise this, bringing their hemp range to the market, as early as 1998. According to the EU cosmetic ingredient database, hempseed oil also acts as a cleanser, surfactant, emollient and skin conditioner. Hemp molecules are very small, allowing it to effectively penetrate the skin and provide optimum results. In terms of ingesting it, FSSAI has not given the go-ahead.

Non-comedogenic and safe. Hempseed oil is one of only three oils (the other two being Argan and Safflower) to have a rating of zero, on the Comedogenic Scale, where other popular oils like Almond, Coconut and Olive come in at 2, 4 and 2 (the highest being 5), respectively. What that means is, the possibility of hempseed oil blocking your pores, on application, is nil, making it an excellent base for night creams and even makeup. It is also one of the few oils that is safe for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin.

Great for your hair. “Hempseed oil is rich in vitamins, making it excellent for not just your skin, but also your hair,” says Dr Kiran. So while Juicy Chemistry is using it in their beard oil, US-based Milk Makeup is using it in their mascara and brow gel.

What’s on that label?

“There are no guidelines or standards available for cosmetic products,” says Dr Sugathan. “The number of products that claim to contain CBD is overwhelming, but on closer examination, I found terms like ‘cannabinoid extract’, which may not, necessarily, be CBD, but could well be another poorer cannabinoid of hemp (Cannabidiol — CBD — is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the plant.)” In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association , only 31 of 84 tested hemp-derived CBD products actually contained the amount of CBD mentioned on the label. Moreover, most of the CBD on the market was said to be extracted using toxic chemicals like butane and hexane. Dr Sugathan also warns against CBD’s highly oxidative nature and possible toxicity effects that haven’t been studied enough.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 11:53:04 pm |