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High hopes: The rise of CBD beauty

Gaelle Walker
07 October 2021

From vaping to soft drinks, edibles and oils, CBD has taken the UK’s FMCG market by storm - with the category now firmly embedded within mainstream retail.

In fact, the UK now spends more on cannabis extracts than Vitamin B and C combined, a report by the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry recently revealed.

And, thanks to an ever-growing cache of evidence of CBD’s power to slow the signs of skin ageing (due to its strong hydrating and antioxidant properties) the category is now making increasingly big waves within beauty - and in particular skincare.

The shift has been quick, just three years ago the UK’s CBD beauty market was like many new categories in their infancy – fresh and intriguing but not understood in any great depth by the majority of consumers and still dogged by a vast array of misconceptions and prejudices due to its relationship with the cannabis plant.

For the uninitiated, CBD (short for Cannabidiol) is an active ingredient extracted from the stalks and leaves of the hemp plant – whose purported treasure-trove of potential wellness and beauty benefits continues to grow.

Contrary to the common misconception - the absence, or extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in legal UK CBD products renders it non-intoxicating, non-addictive, non-psychoactive and therefore totally legal.

As the UK’s beauty market continues to evolve post lockdown and we enter the tail end of 2021 the potted CBD beauty landscape referred to earlier, now looks very different.


Formerly characterised by a large number of small independent companies, recent months have seen larger mainstream beauty brands begin to dip their toes in the CBD market.

Retailers are also devoting a growing amount of space to the increasingly-promising sunrise category - both on and offline.

In addition to a wide range of drops and capsules, Boots' CBD offer currently includes a range of beauty products including CBD face oils, body balms, bath melts and pamper packs, from brands including Ambiance CBD Apothecary, and Kloris.

John Lewis meanwhile, which entered the CBD space in late 2020, also now offers a wide range of products from sleep drops to hard-working face creams and serums.

Cult Beauty also offers a large and growing range of ‘Cannabis and CBD Beauty’ products via a dedicated section of its website.

The collection features brands such as Disciple Skincare, Herbivore, Milk Makeup and Paula’s Choice - which offers a CBD facial oil enriched with retinol to fortify skin and support its reparative processes.

According to Cult Beauty: “The benefits of CBD and ‘cannabinoids’ are staking their claim to the wellness and beauty realms thanks to unparalleled calming, healing and anti-inflammatory properties.

“With inflammation at the root of almost everything – from chronic pain to ageing – CBD extracts and hemp-derived oils work to ease aches, soothe stress and prolong skin's health.”

High-street beauty brand Revolution Beauty also recently launched its own CBD skincare range of tonics serums and facial oils. The affordably priced range even includes a Revolution Skincare CBD Oil & Spritz Set for just £12.

This growing show of confidence in the sector’s power and potential from UK retailers and etailers is in-turn helping to boost consumer confidence and understanding of the sector – although as we’ll come on to later – there’s still a lot of ground to cover here.

Recent months have also seen a continuing evolution within the products themselves. The new era of CBD beauty products increasingly wending their way into UK beauty routines are increasingly being combined with other powerful and proven skincare heroes to offer solutions to specific skin needs.


This growing confidence in CBD beauty is expected to lead to a $1.64 billion hike in the global CBD skincare market between 2020 and 2024 according to London-based CBD marketplace Alphagreen.

The company, which specialises in the supply and sale of legal cannabis-derived products, currently estimates that in the UK, the CBD skincare market alone currently has a value of £7.6m – accounting for just under 2% of the total UK skincare market.

However, that figure looks set to boom over the coming years as the category continues to evolve and CBD’s value as a trusted and beneficial ingredient within mainstream beauty flourishes.

In fact, data from fast-growing premium UK CBD skincare brand J’Tanicals predicts that CBD skincare will account for 10% of the UK’s total skincare market by 2024.

J’tanical’s Founder Julia Wilde elaborates: “A recent survey by Alphagreen found that over eight million Brits had purchased CBD products in 2020, and of those eight million, it is believed that over one million included CBD beauty in their baskets.

“UK consumers are responding to CBD beauty with increasing enthusiasm and in growing numbers. In particular, it is interest in the health and wellbeing potential of CBD that is now driving consumer curiosity across all age-groups and societal groups in the UK.

“Alongside growing enthusiasm for CBD beauty staples like moisturisers and balms and new products like cleansers and face oils, the rise in ‘searches’ for specific CBD beauty brands suggests that brand-loyalty and trust in the category is also increasing,” she adds.

High-profile celebrity endorsements, such as the agreement announced between CBD brand Love Hemp and two-time Heavyweight Champion of the World and Olympic gold medallist, Anthony Joshua OBE, are no doubt playing a role here.

In addition to becoming a high-profile ambassador for the Love Hemp brand, the endorsement agreement will see Joshua collaborate with Love Hemp on the creation of his own range of CBD brand for athletes as it seek to deliver the “important message” about the benefits of CBD “to the highest levels of UK and international sport.”

And Joshua’s endorsement of CBD has certainly not been the sector’s only recent celebrity love-in.

The first half of 2021 alone has seen a host of big-name celebrities launch their own CBD beauty brands, from music mogul DJ Khaled’s Blesswell male grooming line, to Kristen Bell’s Happy Dance - which expanded into facial skincare in July following an initial launch with bodycare in 2020.

Containing 300mg CBD, Khaled’s eco-friendly line of beard oils, shaving creams, face cleansers, scrubs, moisturisers and washes is designed to introduce men to a “whole body, holistic form of self-care.

Bell’s Happy Dance brand meanwhile, is seeking to normalise CBD beauty to millennial mothers with its colourful happy packaging and effective skincare products.

Its new Look Alive whipped face moisturiser contains 150 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD, plus a powerful combination of the super-skincare ingredients bisabolol, four different hyaluronic acids, squalene and avocado oil.

With its potent formulation designed to revive dull, tired and stressed skin, Bell’s Happy Dance brand (which is made in partnership with premium global CBD supplier Lord Jones) is a good example of the new generation of CBD beauty products expected to continue leading the category’s charge.


J’Tanical’s Wilde elaborates: “CBD is known for its’ natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and that has made it especially prevalent in face creams and body lotions for calming and soothing skin.

“However, as CBD is combined with other super-botanicals, expect to see a growth in anti-aging and sensitive skin products over the next 12 months.”

The growing body of evidence into CBD’s effectiveness at also helping with a variety of other skin conditions such as acne is also likely to lead to a boom in new products, Alphagreen predicts.

“CBD is believed to help modulate the production of sebum, helping to reduce further breakouts and potentially having an anti-inflamatory effect on the sebaceous glands, making it an effective tool to prevent and help treat the symptoms of acne and inflammation,” Alphagreen chief executive officer Alexej Pikovsky said.

CBD’s calming and soothing credentials could also see it become more widely used in skincare products that target specific conditions such as eczema, rosacia and psoriasis.

However, products claiming specific medical benefits would of course need to be licenced as Medicines by The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK.

And, as the recent launch of Fewe - the new "whole cycle" beauty brand demonstates, CBD could also be set to take hold within the female wellness and growing menstrual cycle-care movement.

Launched on 6 September, the brand offers a range of CBD-infused skincare products and oral sprays to support the five key areas of the monthly cycle: pain, sleep, skin care, mood and vulva care.

The brand’s ‘Get Up & Glow’ serum for example (rrp:£20) offers a brightening formula infused with CBD and Vitamin C, which has been designed to help boost natural radiance as the body prepares to release an egg in the second week of the cycle.

By pairing intuitive, holistic ingredients with CBD, which is purported to play a “vital part” in the development of cycle solutions, Fewe is seeking to help “take CBD “out of its current hype ingredient status and make it an everyday staple in products,” Fewe's brand director Fran Pearce says.

Outside of skincare, Alphagreen says that there is a growing consumer interest in CBD as an edible supplement for beauty from within. However, growth in this space could be tempered for a little while yet, as all products would need to comply with the UK Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) newly enforced Novel Food Regulations which came into force on 21 March.

The new law, which requires all businesses wishing to sell CBD products in Britain to submit novel food applications to the FSA, only applies to edible CBD products such as gummies, drinks and drops – and not cosmetics.

The months ahead are however also likely to see CBD break more heavily into haircare, as Jess Armentano founder of the recently launched CBD-infused Candor haircare brand explains.

“CBD nourishes the scalp, strengthens hair follicles, encourages hair growth and thickens hair. It contains omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9, which improve the quality of scalp tissue. This causes the hair follicles to expand and hair to grow – fast.”

Candor’s clean CBD infused shampoos and conditioners are also free of sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.


However, as Armentano explains, despite all the hype and growing levels of trust, confidence and understanding, CBD beauty as a category still has many misconceptions to overcome before it can hit its true potential.

“It’s very important to keep a continuous conversation around CBD as there is still a stigma that it will get you high. This just comes from a general lack of knowledge that still exists about cannabidiol,” she says.

She’s not wrong, in fact, while 15% of Brits are thought to have used CBD in the first four months of 2020, a recent survey by Alphagreen also revealed that 55% still believed that there was a “lack of reliable information on CBD,” – a challenge which highlights just how important it is for brands and retailers to continue developing better educational content and improving the ways in which they deliver that content to consumers.

“The more we talk about CBD and all the incredible benefits it has for many aspects of health, the more the everyday consumer will be comfortable using it,” Candor’s Armentano adds.

Product labelling certainly has a role to play here – with real transparency about true CBD content key to on-boarding consumer trust.

Back in 2019 a third-party testing exercise commissioned by the UK Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) found that only 38% of products tested were within 10% of their advertised CBD content, while 38% actually had less than 50%.

Stats like that are clearly no help when it comes to building category confidence.

Fortunately, the intervening years have seen a growth in the number of responsible CBD brands and suppliers working hard to push the transparency needle and educate consumers at the same time.

Alphagreen is certainly doing its bit to help here with the creation of the health and wellness journal Alphagreen Academy, designed to educate and empower shoppers before purchasing its products.

Online beauty salon supplier Shop Beautiful is also hoping to boost education and understanding of CBD beauty via independent beauty salons and therapists.

The company, which has recently started working with UK CBD beauty brand Nutra 7, has just launched its first free webinar and online training module as part of a support package for its customers interested in introducing CBD to their offers.

Shop Beautiful marketing manager Lucy Barnard said: “There is a lot of hype around CBD as a wellness product at the moment.  But many of us are still in the dark about its true value and place in our salons.  At Shop Beautiful we have started our journey with a product range that will offer a good level of training and support.

We work with Nutra7, because they are a UK leading supplier, with over 60 years in the industry and are happy to work with salons and support them.

We want to demystify CBD making choices clear to the customer on how this line of products that is becoming increasingly popular can complement the offerings in salons.

“The explosion in popularity of CBD comes from media coverage and positive anecdotal experiences from people trying it for themselves and then recommending it to friends so we can a place for these products in the beauty space and our product portfolio at Shop Beautiful.”

The UK’s retailing community will also play a significant role here over the coming months – with new ranges backed by informative yet easy to understand online and social content. In-store, accessible, engaging point of sale displays will also play a role.

In fact, with the post-Brexit fog, which initially presented the wider CBD sector with a number of new legislative challenges and shipping delays, continuing to clear, J’tanicals’ now expects UK beauty retailers to start driving the category forward, “in much the same way that their US counterparts have done.”

“For both consumers and brands, that will mean more space in-store, a greater presence online and a much higher profile in the beauty press,” she said.

And it’s this shift, this sudden swell in understanding and acceptance of CBD beauty from mainstream beauty shoppers, and not just those who had awoken to the benefits of CBD in its other forms, that will tip the balance.

Smoke Wallin, Chief Executive Officer of Vertical Wellness – the global consumer focused health and wellness brand company which includes major beauty players such as Kathy Ireland and Halogenix, says: “The massive growth of CBD in the market - and perhaps especially in regards to the beauty category - is yet to come, as most brands are targeting consumers that already exist in the CBD space.

"The much larger mainstream audience is just getting familiar with what CBD is and how to incorporate it into their daily wellness regimens. As they do so, skincare will lead the way.”


The coming months are also likely to witness a continuing fusion between wellness and skincare as consumers increasingly turn to the category for effective products which can also offer a positive impact on mental wellness and wellbeing.

CBD’s purported ability to regulate the body's serotonin levels whilst simultaneously lowering levels of the body's stress hormone, cortisol saw a growing number of UK consumers turn to CBD oil in a bit to quiet anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In-fact according to the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, this trend saw overall sales of CBD products boom in 2020/2021 with sales for 2021 now set to be valued at £690m - almost a third higher than were originally projected in 2019.

Vertical Wellness’s Wallen explains: “Because CBD is uniquely known to offer the benefits of achieving healthy skin while also promoting overall wellness, CBD Skincare brands are in the powerful position of truly promoting Beauty and Wellness, Inside and Out.

“For our leading CBD Skincare brand, Halogenix, we call this unique synchronicity between Beauty and Wellness ‘The HALO Effect’ and consumers are already reacting extremely positively to it,” he said.

J’Tanicals’ Wilde agrees: “The future is likely to see a CBD product offer in nearly every beauty category you can imagine and CBD coupled with other super-power botanicals in ingredients.

“But perhaps the most exciting development will be a further blurring of the lines between beauty and wellness, as we embrace the mindfulness that a CBD beauty regime can offer.”

The coming months are also likely to see the emergence of CBD beauty products made from ingredients other than the hemp plant.

Earlier this year NFL veteran Chris Hetherington launched Peels CBD – a new CBD brand made not from hemp, but from the terpenes (the stuff that makes oranges smell nice) naturally present in citrus peels – an innovation which could open the door to a whole world of new CBD possibilities.

While many parts of daily life continue to look a little shady, one thing seems certain: when it comes to CBD and CBD Beauty in particular, the future certainly looks bright.

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