As CBD continues its march into mainstream beauty, a new slew of cannabinoids are starting to come to market.
Although they sound like an alphabet soup of ingredients, with names like CBC, CBN, CBG and THC-V, their rising prominence speaks to the continued growth of the CBD category. But the expansion of cannabinoids as an ingredient is creating more confusion around what each extract does and the regulatory issues surrounding the use of cannabinoids overall.
“CBC, CBN, THC-V and CBG are less abundant than THC and CBD, but more abundant than these other really rare cannabinoids because we can extract them,” said Dr. Alex Capano, chief science officer at Ecofibre Ltd., who has the first doctorate in comprehensive cannabinoid science in the U.S.. “They’re the next frontier.”
Already, a handful of brands are starting to formulate with them — and consumers are responding. “It’s not necessarily that these next-generation cannabinoids are better than CBD, but what people are looking into and are excited by is that they can have hyper-targeted effects,” said Verena von Pfetten, cofounder of Gossamer, which started as a biannual magazine covering cannabis culture and launched its first product in early 2019. “CBD is a little bit like a jack of all trades in that it enhances these specific effects of the full spectrum of cannabinoids.”
CBD is quickly becoming part of mainstream beauty. Euromonitor reports that cannabis is poised to disrupt virtually every consumer industry, estimating that the global market for legal cannabis-related products will grow 77 percent to $166 billion in 2025. In terms of beauty and personal care, sales of cannabis-derived products reached $12 billion globally in 2018, the most recent year for which numbers are available, said Euromonitor.
In the U.S., CBD skin-care sales in the prestige market reached about $33 million from January to November 2019 — almost double the size that it was two years ago, according to The NPD Group. Low sales compared to other categories in skin care, a function of CBD’s newness in the marketplace, rather than its acceptance.
“The number is very small. However, it’s growing rapidly,” said Larissa Jensen, executive director and industry analyst at NPD. “In 2019, growth rates of CBD products were 54 percent.”
Helping to drive that increase is the sheer proliferation of products and brands. Euromonitor reported that the number of beauty and personal-care sku’s featuring cannabis-related attributes (CBD or hemp oil) increased 161 percent across 40 markets last year.
As the number of brands has increased, so has the complexity in terms of formulations. While CBD and THC are the best-known cannabinoids, there are a slew of others (113 in the entire plant to be exact) coming onto the scene and gaining attention from early adopters, namely CBN, CBG, CBC and THC-V.
Capano identifies CBD, CBC, CBN, CBG, THC, and THC-V as the “big 6” of cannabinoids and notes that while there is an overlap in benefits, each has specific properties.
• THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high. It is illegal in many states.
• CBD, or cannabidiol, is effective in modulating pain and decreasing anxiety. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory and can be used topically or ingested.
• CBG, or cannabigerol, is a bone stimulant and good for workout recovery. Also, it’s antibacterial. It, too, can be formulated for topical use or ingested.
• CBC, or cannabichromene, works on human sebocytes. It secretes sebum, so it’s ideal for acne. It’s anti-inflammatory and an analgesic and is considered to have largely topical applications.
• CBN, or cannabinol, has sedative properties and is anti-inflammatory. CBN happens when THC oxidizes, and is used primarily in an ingestible format like a tincture.
• And THC-V, or tetrahydrocannabivarin, is energizing. Despite its name, it is not psychoactive. It is taken orally, via tincture.
“THC-V can be considered a brain-stimulant,” said Capano. “It also has been shown in a few small human trials to decrease blood glucose when it’s elevated and to decrease appetite. So if THC is going to give you the munchies, then THC-V is going to do the opposite.”
Some of the so-called rare cannabinoids are present in product formulations, albeit in trace amounts rather than being extracted and formulated at higher levels. Full-spectrum CBD oil doesn’t have any cannabinoids removed, including the psychoactive THC (it can be sold in legal amounts under 0.3 percent), while broad spectrum contains many of the cannabinoids, but not THC. CBD isolate contains only CBD.
Increasingly, though, cutting-edge brands in the space are formulating next-generation products and putting the spotlight on these emerging cannabinoids. Mineral, for one, launched in 2016 and has been working with rare cannabinoids since conception. “We were aware of the necessity to bridge these next-generation cannabinoids in formulations for efficiency, efficacy, and bioavailability,” said Mills Miller, chief executive officer and founder.
Anthony Saniger, founder and ceo of Standard Dose, a curated CBD and plant-based e-commerce site with a physical location in Manhattan, has seen great success with Mineral; specifically, it’s Sleep tincture, which contains CBD and CBN and accounts for 28 percent of the brand’s overall sales.
Sleep is a bestseller at Standard Dose, which sells about 400 to 500 bottles a month and where Mineral overall accounts for about 25 percent of turnover. “Our brands already have products in the market or their pipeline coming out using these minor cannabinoids, specifically in ingestibles. We see it starting to happen a little bit in topicals, too,” notes Saniger. “It’s definitely where a lot of brands are going.”
On March 19, Miller will launch another full spectrum-hemp brand called M by Mineral, which he describes as turbo formulations containing rare cannabinoids for a more targeted experience.
The line will consist of three stockkeeping units: M Sleep, M Recovery and M Maison. Each exists in the Mineral range, but Miller has amped up the amount of hemp extract and rare cannabinoids. For example, in Mineral, the Sleep tincture contains 750 mg. of hemp oil and about 12 mg. of CBN. In M by Mineral, Sleep contains 2,500 mg. of whole-plant hemp extract and 25 mg. of CBN.
Another brand that is formulating with rare cannabinoids is Gossamer, whose first product, Dusk, infuses CBD with CBN and is said to aid in sleep. In March, cofounders Von Pfetten and David Weiner, are launching their second CBD tincture, this one with THC-V, called Dawn.
“THC-V is the answer to the question that people were asking us, which was, I want something for during the day or for my 3 p.m. slump,” said Von Pfetten. “THC-V in preliminary studies shows promise in energy. There is additional research emphasizing THC-V as a future replacement for attention and focus-based prescriptions.”
Whether a formulation calls for THC-V, CBN, CBG or CBC, all these rare cannabinoids need to be combined with CBD or THC, and need only a small amount to be effective. Cannabis laboratory Steep Hill reports that the consumption of 2.5 mg. to 5 mg. of CBN, for example, has the same level of sedation as a mild pharmaceutical sedative, with a relaxed body sensation similar to 5 mg. to 10 mg. of diazepam.
When it comes to regulatory issues, the rare cannabinoids fall under existing regulations for CBD in the beauty space. “Cannabinoids derived from legal hemp can be included as ingredients in foods, dietary supplements and cosmetics if compliant with applicable FDA regulation,” said Shawn Hauser, partner and chair, Hemp & Cannabinoids Practice Group at Vicente Sederberg LLP.
That said, both brands and retailers are dealing with regulatory issues from a back-end perspective, for CBD and all of its cousins. Many fulfillment centers and individual payment processors won’t deal with CBD products. “One of the major hurdles we are waiting to hear more on is the SAFE Banking Act, which passed Congress and is now in the Senate,” said Saniger. “This would open up common small business banking practices to companies that sell hemp CBD products.”
Overcoming consumer confusion is another major hurdle. “CBN has the most potential in terms of becoming a consumer favorite only because it has a very clear purpose,” said Ashley Lewis, cofounder of Fleur Marche, a CBD e-commerce boutique. “You still need a lot of research to support it. We’re still fighting so much skepticism even though CBD has been so huge this year, because there aren’t enough studies.”
Saniger echoes the sentiment that for these rare cannabinoids to be successful, the education has to be clear. “Part of why we opened brick and mortar right away was because we needed a place where our customers could come and learn,” he said. Currently, Standard Dose carries roughly 30 CBD brands, about 150 sku’s, with more than 20 containing CBN, CBG or CBC.
“It’s really about educating the consumer and ensuring that you’re using the ingredient not because it’s hot and sexy of the moment, but because it does amplify the benefits of your product,” said Jensen. “Look at ingredients like hyaluronic acid; it’s going to be around forever because there are benefits there and consumers know what those benefits are. Can CBD and these next-generation cannabinoids be one of those things? Eventually and potentially, yes.”
The Full Monty
Five brands formulating with full-spectrum cannabinoids.
M by Mineral: M by Mineral Sleep is an amped-up version of Mineral Sleep. The tincture, which launches March 1, contains 2,500 mg. of whole-plant hemp extract and 25 mg. of CBN. $240
Gossamer: Launching in March, Dawn is the first of its kind. The tincture is a blend of CBD and THC-V to deliver a dose of energy and help maintain focus during that midday slump. $65
Plant People: Drops + Relief is formulated with 720 mg. of full-spectrum hemp extract, CBG, black pepper, turmeric and ginger to reduce inflammation, pain, and muscle discomfort. $79
Vertly: Soothing Florals CBD Infused Face Mist contains a three-week slow-extraction process of fresh botanicals, 100 mg. of CBD, and trace amounts of rare cannabinoids. $59
Charlotte’s Web: The brand’s CBD gummies feature whole-plant hemp extract with an array of cannabinoids such as CBD, CBC, CBG and other beneficial phytocompounds — and innovative nutraceutical blends to support day and night. $54.99
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