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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 can also be applied topically to get CBD benefits in a diff way.

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.

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 2021 (if only!), but there is likely one (or several) to soothe whatever ails you.

Cannabidiol, or CBD as it’s more commonly known, is found in the cannabis plant. It’s not the only cannabinoid found in the plant — there’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and over a hundred others. But it’s well-known for its ability to provide benefits without getting you high like THC.

CBD products can contain traces of THC, but no more than 0.3 percent, which typically isn’t enough to get you “high” — unless you take high enough doses of it.

CBD can be broken down into three categories:

  • Full-spectrum CBD. It contains all cannabinoids (including THC), flavonoids, and terpenes (both of which have therapeutic benefits of their own) naturally found in the cannabis plant.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD. This one contains all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes found naturally in the cannabis plant — except zero THC.
  • CBD isolate. This is pure CBD that does not contain other cannabinoids (including THC), flavonoids, or terpenes.

Research suggests that CBD and THC may work better together due to something called the entourage effect. Basically, each compound boosts the other, meaning full- and broad-spectrum products may have a leg up on isolates.

Studies also suggest that CBD may help with a bunch of ailments including pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

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.

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

  • It improves certain skin conditions. At the American Academy of Dermatology‘s 2018 annual meeting, they suggested the use of topical CBD as a measure to help conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
  • It helps manage arthritis pain and inflammation. A 2016 animal study uncovered pain and inflammation from arthritis can be managed with the use of topical CBD.
  • Improves pain associated with peripheral neuropathy. Research from 2020 suggests that topical CBD may help thwart sharp pain and uncomfy forms of pain associated with peripheral neuropathy, which is caused by nerve damage.

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.

What do we take into account? We look for products that:

  • go through third-party testing by ISO 17025-compliant labs
  • contain CBD made from high quality hemp grown in the US
  • only have trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3 percent) — and the certificate of analysis (COA) confirms this
  • contains passing levels of contaminants like pesticides, molds, or heavy metals

We also consider:

  • whether a company uses any special manufacturing processes or holds certifications
  • potency of a product
  • ingredients (are they organic? does the product contain additional moisturizers or pain-relief ingredients?)
  • whether a brand is trustworthy… things that may point to this include:

Each product gets our stamp of approval by ticking 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.

Best CBD topical cream

Aspen Green Muscle Relief Cooling Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: full-spectrum CBD
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: organic mango kernel butter, jojoba seed oil, organic evening primrose oil, organic arnica, organic calendula extract, organic menthol, organic tea tree oil

What’s cooler than being cool? Cooling cream! Hehe.

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 say that while it’s effective at soothing aches and pains, its cooling effect is less icy than they hoped.

Use code HEALTHLINE for 20% off.

Best full-spectrum CBD topical

Charlotte’s Web Hemp-Infused Cream with CBD

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: aloe vera, coconut oil, sea buckthorn oil, oat extract

This CBD Infused cream offers restorative relief for parched skin, while also being vegan and gluten-free. The formula is also free of major allergens, making it a solid pick for people with sensitive skin.

This nourishing lotion not only contains 750 milligrams of CBD in each tube but also contains soothing ingredients like aloe vera and nourishing plant oils.

Consumers say this pleasant-smelling lotion offers fast relief. It can be used all over the body, or as a spot treatment. One person says they wish it was a bit cheaper considering how little product is in the container.

Best CBD topical for sensitive skin

Medterra Manuka Honey Healing Cream

  • Price: $
  • Type: isolate
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: manuka honey 12+, beeswax, arnica, aloe leaf juice, carrot, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, cacao seed butter, grapefruit seed extract, jojoba seed oil, mango seed butter, sea buckthorn oil, avocado oil

Looking for a CBD topical that won’t mess with your already not-so-happy skin? This just might be it. The fancy formula contains healing honey hailing directly from New Zealand.

Best for treating angry, irritated, and inflamed skin, it contains up to 250 milligrams of CBD per jar, along with a calming blend of 20 botanicals, like arnica, aloe leaf juice, sunflower seed oil, and jojoba oil.

Users say it works equally well as a moisturizer and a soothing cream for aches and pains. It’s also gentle enough to use on your face, but powerful enough to help with skin conditions like eczema. Though some reviewers complain that it’s too greasy.

Best CBD topical balm

Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Price: $
  • Type: full-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: organic beeswax, organic jojoba seed oil, organic sunflower seed oil, organic mango seed butter, lanolin, menthol, camphor, sweet basil oil, wintergreen leaf oil, capsicum

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 nongreasy 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 with your doctor before using this product if you’re allergic to or have been advised against eating grapefruit.

Best CBD topical stick

GoGreen Hemp CBD Relief Stick

  • Price: $$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: beeswax, MCT oil

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.

Best CBD topical for sore muscles

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

  • Price: $
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: menthol, eucalyptus leaf oil, camphor, organic aloe leaf juice, organic rosemary leaf extract, organic arnica extract

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, camphor, and arnica, this cream works FAST to provide relief.

Users love its cooling sensation, icy scent, and smooth, nongreasy application.

Best CBD topical for anxiety

Calm by Wellness CBD Lavender Lotion

  • Price: $
  • Type: broad-spectrum CBD
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: aloe leaf juice, organic coconut oil, organic jojoba seed oil, vitamin E, witch hazel, sunflower seed oil, rose flower water, organic lavender flower water, organic white willow bark extract

The Calm by Wellness lavender-scented CBD lotion is at the top of our list for CBD topical creams.

The broad-spectrum topical contains 200 milligrams of CBD per bottle, and boasts the soothing power of organic ingredients, like lavender, to help you relax and kick off your shoes. Bonus: the skin-friendly ingredients also nourish your skin!

Users like its watery consistency and love that it goes on smooth and absorbs quickly. One person wishes the lotion was a little thicker but says the smell is great.

Best THC-free CBD topical

CBDMD CBD Recover

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: arnica, menthol, shea butter, coconut oil, argan oil

This topical is one of the most potent (and priciest) products on this list. But it also happens to be THC-free! But because it’s broad-spectrum, you’ll still get the benefits of multiple cannabinoids along with terpenes and flavonoids.

The 3,000 milligrams of CBD in every bottle is mixed with arnica, aloe, and a variety of essential oils to help moisturize and relieve pain.

While it carries a hefty price tag, fans of this pump-action topical will tell you it’s worth every penny. They hail its fast-acting formula and like the easy-to-use dispenser.

Best CBD topical roll-on

Unoia Muscle Roll-On

  • Price: $
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: aloe vera, menthol, camphor, tea tree oil, vitamin E, arnica

From joint pain to lower back pain, this super cooling roll-on claims to provide deeply penetrating muscle relief. And its users seem to agree.

This Biofreeze product contains menthol, organic aloe, tea tree oil, and broad-spectrum CBD to help deliver quick relief. It also has vitamin E to help soothe your skin.

Currently, it only has two customer reviews but both are positive and say that the product works fast and has a great texture that absorbs quickly.

Best CBD topical for pain

CBDfx Cream For Muscle & Joint Cooling Formula

  • Price: $$$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • COA: available online
  • Other ingredients: menthol, white willow bark extract

When you want that pain to go away and never come back another day, this CBDfx Cream may be able to help. With 1,000 milligrams of broad-spectrum CBD per container, this cruelty-free formula KOs aches and pains.

Users who swear to have been saved by this salve revel in its ability to relieve muscle pain, joint pain, and back pain. Basically, if you’ve got pain, then this may be a contender for your new go-to. Just skip using it for groin pain, the menthol might make things a little bit uncomfortable!

Use code HEALTHLINE for 15% off

Best CBD topical salve

Joy Organics CBD salve

  • Price: $$
  • Type: broad-spectrum
  • THC amount: none
  • COA: results on product page
  • Other ingredients: organic beeswax, organic lavender oil, organic eucalyptus leaf oil

This THC-free salve supports joints and muscles and promotes healthy skin while flooding your senses with the calming scents of lavender and eucalyptus. Its quick 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.

CBD might be a good option for you if you want to soothe mild aches and pains. If you’re dealing with severe joint or muscle pain, though, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor before trying CBD.

Same goes if you want to try CBD to heal specific skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

While CBD might help, it won’t work for everyone. And your doctor can let you know if a particular product is safe to use for your condition.

Also, don’t stop your usual treatment or medications without first talking with a doctor!

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

Type of topical

Say that three times fast!

Topicals come in many forms including creams, lotions, salves, balms, and oils. Some companies even sell CBD massage oils, scrubs, and lip balms.

The type you choose depends on your personal preference. But here are some basics to help guide you:

  • Oils. These little multitaskers can either be taken orally or added to food, drinks, or regular lotions. It’s a good route to go if you already have a fave moisturizer and want to give it a CBD boost.
  • Salves and balms. These are a thicker consistency (often made using ingredients like beeswax). They usually don’t rub in all the way and leave a sort of protective layer on your skin.
  • Creams and lotions. These are exactly what you’re picturing, but the key callout is that they usually rub alll the way in.

Some people prefer a more viscous product like oil, while others like a looser consistency. If you want something that’s easy to apply on the go, opt for a stick or roll-on.

CBD type

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 could potentially reduce 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.

Other ingredients

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

Common added ingredients in CBD topicals include:

  • Menthol or other cooling substances. These provide a nice icy sensation and provide additional pain relief.
  • Red pepper extract. Capsaicin, which comes from spicy hot red peppers delivers a warming sensation that can help reduce pain levels.
  • Arnica. This is another well-known pain-relieving ingredient.
  • Plant and essential oils. Many oils — like coconut oil and aloe — are added to boost the moisturizing abilities of CBD products. Some plant oils also smell nice!

Potency

Generally, you’ll see the greatest results from higher potency products, 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 1,000 milligrams.

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 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.

Topicals are great for providing targeted relief and moisturizing the skin, but they don’t provide full-body effects in the same way ingestible CBD products do.

If you’re looking for CBD to help with sleep or chronic pain, edibles like capsules, tinctures, gummies, or oral sprays may be a better option.

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 usually isn’t a 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 with 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.

How do CBD creams work?

Your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) includes receptors called endocannabinoid receptors. They’re found all over your body. Naturally produced endocannabinoids work on these receptors to produce effects like pain relief.

CBD is a cannabinoid similar to naturally-produced endocannabinoids and may produce similar bodily effects.

Your skin also contains receptors, so when you apply CBD to the skin, boom — instant interaction!

Can CBD topicals help with pain?

General CBD research shows that it may help lower pain and inflammation. But topicals also have pain-relieving qualities, too! Recent studies show that topicals specifically can help with certain types of pain.

What’s better: CBD oil or CBD cream?

If you’re applying them topically, there’s not much of a difference. The choice comes down to what kind of consistency you prefer.

Can I use CBD for arthritis?

Possibly. A 2016 animal study found that CBD applied topically helped lower pain levels in rats with arthritis. There are also a ton of anecdotal reports about CBD helping with joint pain.

Can I use CBD for neuropathy?

There’s limited research on CBD for neuropathy but one small study suggests that topical CBD may help.

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.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.