The beauty industry loves an acronym. You’ve got AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, and plain old HA. Then there’s the OCM, BB creams, CC creams, and EOs. So when SPF and CBD — arguably, the industry’s most beloved abbreviations — first got together, the pair naturally made headlines. But is CBD sunscreen products are actually better for you than regular sunscreen? Dermatologists aren’t so sure.
Read more: 20 Sunscreens For Mature Skin That Derms Can’t Stop Recommending
“Much like pumpkin spice, CBD can now be found pretty much anywhere from dog treats to toothpaste, so it was only a matter of time before it came to sunscreen,” Dr. Aanand Geria, MD, a dermatologist with Geria Dermatology in New Jersey, tells The Zoe Report. As a refresher, CBD is short for cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. He says that CBD does have some purported skincare benefits… but UV protection isn’t necessarily one of them. “It is believed that CBD can block the absorption of UV rays by creating a ‘natural layer of SPF’ on the skin, but there is not enough research or evidence to support this,” Dr. Geria explains.
“I cannot find any studies showing that CBD has any action spectrum in the UV range, so it doesn’t seem to block or absorb UV,” Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, the founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare (and one of the first dermatologists to study the sun’s effects on the skin in the 1970s), agrees in an email to TZR. “My sense is that consumers are very curious to experience CBD products, and the sunscreen category is the latest to embrace CBD popularity.”
That being said, combining CBD with SPF isn’t a bad thing — both dermatologists agree that the substance can have other positive effects on your complexion. “The most obvious benefit may be that CBD is anti-inflammatory,” Dr. Loretta says. Since UV exposure does cause inflammation (in the form of redness and sunburn), this is a pretty strong case for adding cannabidiol to your sun-care lineup. “CBD is known to have some antioxidant properties,” Dr. Geria adds, meaning that CBD can help protect skin from environmental pollution, too. “CBD oil also contains essential fatty acids which help hydrate the skin.” Basically, you can consider CBD a little bonus: It’s not necessarily helping your SPF, but it’s nice to have.
While there haven’t been enough studies done on CBD-infused SPF to determine any major risks, Dr. Loretta notes that there’s some concern about chemical actives and topical CBD infiltrating the bloodstream. “Recent studies show that when a [chemical] SPF is applied according to label directions, there is some absorption of ingredients into bloodstream,” she says. “CBD can be a blood thinner, so I definitely would not recommend using a CBD sunscreen all over the body if you are on a blood thinner.”
“CBD would probably pair better with mineral sunscreen [actives],” Dr. Geria says (those would be zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). You don’t have to get too hung up on formulation, though — the most important thing is to use a sunscreen you actually like. “We dermatologists can recommend different SPF products, but if you don’t like the feel, smell, or way it absorbs onto your skin, you’re probably not going to use the product consistently,” Dr. Loretta tells TZR. And obviously, consistency is key when it comes to sunscreen.
Ahead, shop fall's hottest collab: SPF x CBD.