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CBD Is Still Going, But Its Future in Beauty Remains Uncertain

Recent scrutiny from the FDA calls the hyped ingredient into question.

CBD exploded in 2019, moving quickly from fringe health stores and dispensaries into mainstream retail. In 2020, a slew of launches seem to indicate its influence on beauty is not going away. It is yet to be seen if the ingredient is a passing fad or an emerging key category for beauty in the U.S. market.

The beauty industry is quick to latch onto wellness trends, and CBD was no exception. Retailers from Ulta Beauty to Nordstrom have recruited brands touting CBD as an ingredient, and new retailers offering curated CBD selections in upscale environments, including Fleur Marché and Standard Dose, launched.

At Cosmoprof in Las Vegas in July, CBD was a recurring theme. Among attendees and exhibitors, there were private-label manufacturers prowling for clients, ingredient suppliers, brands devoted to CBD products and brands that were launching CBD products and buyers hot on the CBD trail.

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Brands were grappling with CBD as an ingredient trend, especially with how to use it and market it in topical skin-care products.

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“CBD is known for reducing inflammation — it’s great for skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and puffiness,” said Stephanie Wissink, managing director at Jefferies, who was at Cosmoprof and forecasted the use of CBD in skin care. “[The question for beauty] is how do you position it in the market? How do you educate? Most CBD products today are gummies, lotions or drops.”

While much of the CBD talk in 2019 was geared toward emotional health and sleep, beauty brands are increasingly marketing it as an efficacious anti-inflammatory ingredient for topical skin care.

Sagely Naturals launched a CBD skin-care line. Luxury hair brand Raincry launched CBD hair products aimed at hair repair. Other new brands using the ingredient include Vertly, Outré, Mowellens, Beboe Therapies and Empower, which all sell on Nordstrom’s CBD skin-care platform.

Still, there remain regulatory constraints and a lack of clinical evidence supporting CBD as an efficacious ingredient in topical skin care. And with a number of new brands launching, at least one retailer told WWD that the category has very quickly become oversaturated. “You have to find a way of editing,” the retailer said.

While its future in beauty is still unsorted, CBD is still a big thing in wellness. Equinox is rolling out CBD recover massages using CBD brand Papa & Barkley’s topical skin-care line to 25 EQX Body Lab locations. Holistic health brand Naturopathica now offers CBD massage and facials using its own CBD line at its three locations in New York. The ingredient is increasingly being seen in sexual wellness products as well, particularly in lubricants.

Still, the space lacks clear regulation. In November, the FDA warned 15 companies for illegally selling various products containing cannabidiol, and said it was investigating various concerns around the ingredient’s safety. In light of this, some brands are stepping away from CBD altogether. Solviva, a new line of tinctures launching in February, formulates using rare cannabinoids such as CBN, CBC and CBG.