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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more

You’ve likely heard of the magical, anxiety-vanquishing wonders of CBD (aka cannabidiol), but you may not know too much about it, or that it has a variety of uses. Besides calming an anxious mind, CBD is often used to help calm sore muscles, relieve pain, and improve skin quality.

CBD can be broken down into three categories:

  • CBD isolate. This is pure CBD that does not contain other cannabinoids or THC.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD. This one contains most cannabinoids, except (generally) THC.
  • Full-spectrum CBD. It contains all cannabinoids, which includes THC.

While many CBD products like gummies, oils, tinctures, and capsules are meant to be ingested, you may find yourself looking for a CBD product that can be applied directly to a specific area of your body. Enter topicals.

Want to manage a muscle ache? Soothe a skin condition? Calm a creaky joint? Then a topical may be the solution for you. CBD topicals are CBD-infused creams, lotions, balms, oils, salves, etc… basically, anything you can apply directly to your skin.

You should know: Research is still in early stages when it comes to the benefits of CBD, but so far, the outlook looks good.

Even the American Academy of Dermatology seems to be on board with CBD. At the org’s 2018 annual meeting, they suggested the use of topical CBD as a measure to help conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

And a study in 2016 uncovered pain and inflammation from arthritis can be managed with the use of topical CBD (though it should be noted this study was done on rats).

There are several things to consider when choosing an effective CBD treatment, and we know the world of CBD topicals can be rough waters to navigate. So we’ve made it easy by narrowing down our top picks.

There may not be a CBD topical to soothe what ails 2020 (if only!), but there is likely one (or several) to soothe whatever ails you.

Wait… is CBD legal?

While hemp-derived CBD products that contain less than 0.3 percent of THC are legal on the federal level, some state laws still classify them as illegal substances. On the flip side, marijuana-derived CBD products are legal under some state laws, but illegal on the federal level.

Check out your state’s laws for more info and be mindful of other state laws if you’re traveling.

FYI: CBD products are not FDA approved, so there’s a chance they might be inaccurately labeled. And, they could contain THC that would show up on a drug test.

So, what’d it take to make it on this list? All of our top choices below are made from U.S.-grown cannabis, are lab tested, and have been vetted by our awesome medical team.

Each product gets our stamp of approval by checking off the boxes of how to choose CBD topicals by checking their potency, quality, and source. They’ve also been carefully evaluated for quality ingredients, overall effectiveness, and positive consumer feedback.

Pricing guide

$ = under $50
$$ = $50–$75
$$$ = over $75

1. Best CBD topical cream

Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: full-spectrum CBD
  • THC amount: less than 0.3 percent

What’s cooler than being cool? Cooling cream! All jokes aside, Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream is at the top of our list for CBD topical creams.

Not only does this full-spectrum topical contain 600 milligrams of CBD per 2-ounce container, but it also boasts the soothing power of other organic ingredients, like menthol, tea tree oil, and arnica flower, to help ease aches, pains, and tension.

Many users tout its luxurious texture and ability to moisturize while calming pain. Others have shared that while it’s effective at soothing aches and pains, its cooling effect may be less icy than they desired.

Buy Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream (1,000 mg) online. Use code HEALTHLINE for 20% off.

2. Best CBD topical lotion

Vertly Relief Lotion

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: none

This CBD Infused Relief Lotion offers restorative relief for tight muscles, while also delivering a boost of calming relief from its lavender and citrus scent.

This nourishing lotion not only contains 150 milligrams of CBD in each jar, but also packs a punch with vitamins, botanical herbs, shea butter, plant oils, and magnesium (to help fight inflammation!).

Consumers say this non-greasy lotion offers fast relief and an enjoyable cooling sensation. It can be used all over the body, or as a spot treatment.

Buy Vertly Relief Lotion online.

3. Best CBD topical oil

Sagely Naturals Drift & Dream Body Oil

  • Price: $
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • THC amount: less than 0.0025 percent

Dreaming of a great CBD topical oil that will help you get a great night’s sleep? That dream may become a reality with Sagely Naturals Drift & Dream Body Oil.

Best for sleep and relaxation, this lightweight elixir contains 100 milligrams of CBD per 3.3 ounces, along with a calming proprietary blend of plant-based ingredients, like lavender, geranium, and clary sage.

It’s fast-absorbing, so that you can get to dreamland quick and wake up restored and refreshed.

Buy Sagely Naturals Drift & Dream Body Oil online.

4. Best CBD topical balm

Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: 1.09 mg per gram

This balm contains mango butter and beeswax along with full-spectrum CBD to help soothe aches and stiff muscles.

Customers love the balm’s minty-fresh scent and non-greasy feel, and they’ve found it to be fast-acting and effective on a variety of different areas, including shoulders, arms, legs, hands, and feet.

Note: the manufacturer does suggest talking to your doctor before using this product if you’re allergic to or have been advised against eating grapefruit.

Buy Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm online.

5. Best CBD topical stick

GoGreen Hemp CBD Relief Stick

  • Price: $$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • THC amount: none

With only three ingredients (CBD, beeswax, and MCT oil), GoGreen Hemp believes in producing a CBD topical that uses CBD oil in its most natural form. This broad-spectrum topical is THC-free and delivers 1,000 milligrams of CBD in every stick.

Its ease of use, portability, and lack of scent make this a popular choice among those looking for discreet and fast-acting pain relief that they can use on-the-go.

Buy CBD Relief Stick Broad-Spectrum Unscented (1,000 mg) online.

6. Best CBD topical for muscles

Naternal Full-Spectrum Rescue CBD Muscle Cream with Menthol & Arnica

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: less than 0.3 percent

Created to deliver daily preventative care and restore muscles to tip-top shape, this full-spectrum cream was designed to help your muscles max n’ relax all day long. With 1000 milligrams of CBD per bottle, coupled with menthol and arnica, this cream works fast to provide relief.

Users love its cooling sensation, icy scent, and smooth, non-greasy application.

Buy Naternal Full-Spectrum Rescue CBD Muscle Cream with Menthol & Arnica (1,000 mg) online.

7. Best CBD topical for relaxation

Papa & Barkley Releaf Body Oil

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: 11.52 milligrams per package

Whether you need full-body relief or want to target a particularly problematic muscle, this quick-absorbing massage oil is designed to help you relax. With 400 milligrams of CBD per bottle and a soothing blend of essential oils like peppermint and lavender, you’ll get your “om” on in no time.

It also contains jojoba and vitamin E, so your skin gets a little extra care and nourishment.

For all our friends with nut allergies, be warned: this product is manufactured in a facility that also processes nuts.

Buy Papa & Barkley Releaf Body Oil online.

8. Best CBD topical for facial skin

Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: 0.001 percent

A fave among those who worship at the temple of Sephora, Saint Jane’s Luxury Beauty Serum is one of the most potent (and priciest) products on this list.

The 500 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD in every 1-ounce bottle is mixed with Saint Jane’s blend of 20 ingredients, created to hydrate skin, calm redness, and provide pro-aging support for mature skin.

While it carries a hefty price tag, fans of this serum will tell you it’s worth every penny. They hail its beautiful scent and ability to provide bright, glowing, blemish-free skin.

Buy Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum online.

9. Best all-purpose topical CBD

Life Elements Skin Repair Stick

  • Price: $
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • THC amount: none

From bruises to blemishes, cracked heels to callouses, and rashes to wrinkles, this all-in-one repair stick claims to do it all and then some… and its users seem to agree.

This handmade super stick is fragrance- and cruelty-free and contains broad-spectrum CBD to help deliver quick relief.

Note: This product does contain nut oils, so it’s best avoided if you have a nut allergy. The manufacturer also warns to stop using if an allergy develops.

Buy Life Elements Skin Repair Stick online.

10. Best CBD topical for pain

Harmonious CBD Pain Salve

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • THC amount: less than 0.3 percent

When you want that pain to go away and never come back another day, Harmonious CBD Pain Salve may be able to help. With 500 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD per container, this vegan formula packs a one-two punch to aches and pains.

Users who swear to have been saved by this salve revel in its ability to relieve muscle pain, joint pain, back pain, hip pain, and even migraine pain. Basically, if you’ve got pain, then this may be a contender for your new go-to.

Buy Harmonious CBD Pain Salve – Full Spectrum (500mg) online.

11. Best CBD topical salve

Joy Organics CBD salve

  • Price: $$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • THC amount: none

This THC-free salve supports joints and muscles and promotes healthy skin, while flooding your senses with the calming scents of lavender and eucalyptus. It’s high-absorbing, rich formula contains 500 milligrams of CBD per jar as part of a balanced combo with organic beeswax and essential oils.

Fans of this salve love Joy Organics’ top-notch customer service, consistent products, and money-back guarantee.

Buy Joy Organics CBD salve online.

There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right CBD topical for you. If you’re left with your head spinning, wondering “But how do I choose?!” here are some key points to consider:

Potency

The more potent the product, the better the results, so the first thing you want to check for is the product’s potency.

Because CBD doesn’t absorb easily into the skin, you’ll want to ensure that the topical you choose is potent enough to give results. Potent topicals generally contain at least 200 milligrams of CBD per container, while others will contain as much as 1000 milligrams.

CBD source

Isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. While we’ve defined these terms, what do they actually refer to? Let’s break it down.

Essentially, these refer to the way the CBD is extracted, which affects which cannabinoids and other compounds it contains.

For isolates, for instance, the extraction process strips away all other cannabinoids, along with any volatile organic compounds. This provides a great option for those who want to ensure a THC-free product, but reduces CBD’s overall therapeutic benefits.

Extraction for broad-spectrum products allows most of the cannabinoids to stay, and kicks THC to the curb, while full-spectrum products contain the whole kit and caboodle, retaining all cannabinoids, including THC.

However, it’s important to note that the amount of THC in full-spectrum products is minuscule, at only 0.3 percent or less.

Quality control

Quality is key for any product, and CBD is no exception. Knowing where your product’s hemp was grown can give you assurance that your product is top notch. Products made from U.S.-grown, certified organic hemp are generally your best bet, as U.S. growers are subject to agricultural regulations.

Look for brands that are transparent about their products and processes. You should be able to easily find info on the product itself, the brand’s website, or by contacting them directly.

Many brands (including all we’ve listed here!) will even provide a certificate of analysis (COA), so you can see testing results firsthand. If a product provides limited info and you can’t get more from the company itself, steer clear.

Ingredients

When shopping for CBD topicals, you’ll want to check the ingredients. Look for products that contain all-natural, organic ingredients. This way, you can reap all of the benefits without any harsh chemicals!

Using CBD topicals is easy. Simply apply the product to the affected area and… voila!

You should begin to feel its effects within a few moments or a few days, depending on what you’re using it for. You’ll likely notice results pretty quickly if you’re using the product for pain, while it may take a few applications to see results for skin conditions.

Upon application, you may also notice a tingling sensation, or the area may feel warm or cool. This is due to the other ingredients in the product and isn’t cause for concern.

Be sure to carefully read the packaging for any specific instructions or recommendations on using the product

Just like you’ll want to read your topical’s packaging for any special instructions, you’ll also want to check for any warnings. While most topicals are safe to reapply as often as needed, avoid ingesting them or using them on broken skin. Stop using if your condition becomes worse or you notice any pain or burning.

Look at your product’s storage instructions as well. Depending on the other ingredients or type of carrier oil used, you’ll want to store it in the proper conditions to prevent the product from going bad or being ineffective.

CBD isn’t likely to enter your bloodstream when using topically, but it’s good practice to talk your doctor before using any CBD products. Research suggests that topical CBD may interact with certain meds. It can also impact your liver enzymes, preventing your liver from breaking down toxins or metabolizing drugs.

CBD is typically safe to use, but there are possible side effects to look out for, which may include:

  • weight changes
  • appetite changes
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea

One thing you won’t have to worry about? Getting high, as CBD is not considered intoxicating.

CBD is a popular buzzword these days and for good reason. While there are still limited studies on the effects of CBD topicals, many people have found them to be useful in managing pain, soothing skin conditions, and providing relaxation.

There are many CBD topicals on the market today, and there’s a lot to consider when finding the best product for you. Be sure to do your research and read the instructions carefully.

Also, chat with your doctor before trying a CBD topical to ensure, as CBD can sometimes interfere with certain medications.