Note: This is a reworked and extended version of the piece I wrote for APLACE Spring/Summer 2019, which is available now. If you live in Sweden, you can find the magazine for free at these locations and at APLACE stores.
It would take some effort to be unaware of the weed trend. No matter what rock you may have elected to live under for the past few years, its fumes will have wafted in your general direction. I apologize for any puns or double entendres in advance: this topic is so rife with them, I fear I’ve been infected.
Cannabinoids are being touted as not only a panacea for whatever ails your frail little body when ingested, but as a skincare miracle ingredient. Products proclaiming these benefits abound in the form of CBD extracts and hemp oils, all claiming antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects to treat acne, rosacea and sun damage. Well, listen. I’m no fool. This happens just about every year. And don’t get me wrong – I’m sure cannabis-derived compounds can have a great effect on the skin, as many plant ingredients do – but let’s be real. If weed wasn’t suddenly the hottest thing in town, nobody would be putting it in skincare.
It’s like a superfood trend, but for your face – any ingredient health food stores are pushing, you’ll find in skincare soon enough to cash in on those flighty but oh-so-profitable wellness trends. It’s zeitgeist-y. And with the added benefit of vaguely illicit connotations, it’s appealing in a way that probiotics and ashwagandha just aren’t.
While the wellness industry has been pushing one exotic ingredient after the other for years, this recent foray into cannabinoids could be considered cool and anti-establishment. That is, if you squint and disengage your critical thinking skills.
CBD, being the reigning queen of mainstream cannabinoids at the moment, is most difficult to avoid – the compound is appearing in everything from ice cream sundaes to lattes and body lotion. Claiming an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiety-reducing and even sedative effect in some cases, CBD is pushed as a cure-all for every possible ailment, from generalized anxiety disorder to chronic pain and acne.
To be frank, it’s in poor taste, promising the world to the sick and disabled without the research to back it up. It’s an unregulated market sector in most parts of the world, being new and still somewhat illicit in places like the United States. This means you could be sold CBD products that contain very little or no CBD, or be promised results that have little to no basis in science. There’s been some research, but nowhere near enough, least of all as a skincare ingredient. To boot, the hemp ingredient in most skincare marketed as a cannabis or CBD product is hemp seed oil – which contains no CBD. If it did, you could just as well get a bottle of hemp seed cooking oil to drip in your coffee for anxiety relief. Go figure.
The lack of scientific evidence is one of several gripes I have with the weed boom. The other is the corny, cutesy, tongue-in-cheek marketing language and visuals that accompany it. In most cases, the components of cannabis that are widely sold and marketed are non-psychotropic, meaning they do not get you high – especially not in the case of skin care.
So why the stoner jokes? Why name a product “Skin Dope” or market your products with cute pot leaf designs and corny double entendres when it’s literally just a beauty product? It’s embarrassing, and the brands come off as sadly desperate to identify themselves as anti-establishment. These are corporations with boards of directors and marketing teams. This is the definition of establishment.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly is the gentrification of weed. When Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous GOOP Gift Guide includes a luxury pipe with a cute, punny tagline, you know something isn’t right. As recreational marijuana is legalized in more American states, white people are the ones profiting: they’re the ones going public with their dispensaries or selling luxury THC products.
Meanwhile, black and latinx citizens remain behind bars for possession. Are weed print socks and CBD lattes helping them? are cannabis-derived skincare products benefiting those whose partaking in pot has seen them persecuted and disenfranchised? The answer is no. Corporations have been quick to pick up the lifestyle, but they were never the ones paying the price. How’s that for counterculture.