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What Are Cannabis Topicals?

You can smoke cannabis, vape cannabis, eat cannabis—and now you can also apply cannabis to your skin. Whether it’s a lotion, balm or oil, cannabis topicals have become yet another popular product canna-connoisseurs can’t get enough of—especially if psychoactive effects aren’t your thing. In this guide, we’re going to talk all about THC topicals and answer the questions:

  • What is Topical THC? 
  • What Are The Different Types Of Marijuana Topicals?
  • How Are Cannabis Topicals Made?
  • How Are Thc Topicals Different From Cannabis Transdermals?
  • How Do THC & CBD Topicals Work?
  • Answering Cannabis Topical FAQs

What is Topical THC?

THC topicals, and cannabis topicals in general, are cannabis products infused in things like gels, balms, and lotions and then applied to our skin. The idea behind them is that they may be able to treat acute symptoms, including pain or inflammation, by interacting with cannabinoid receptors in the skin. Because the THC doesn’t actually make it through the skin into the bloodstream, THC topical enthusiasts don’t have to worry about getting intoxicated when they use a cannabis topical.

What Are the Different Types of Cannabis Topicals?

The thing about cannabis topicals is that they’re only limited by the imagination. They can be body washes and lip balms, skincare serums and salves, and while more and more products come to market, these are some of the top sellers in our dispensaries across the country:

THC Lotions & Creams: Cannabis creams and lotions are versatile and available in everything from beauty products to body butters. Usually water-based, marijuana creams are thinner than other topicals to allow for faster absorption.

THC Ointments: Marijuana ointments contain more oil than creams and lotions, which means they’re thicker, stickier and ultimately take longer to be absorbed by the skin.

Cannabis Balms: Marijuana balms or salves contain base ingredients like waxes or fatty oils, making these products extremely thick. They create a barrier for the skin rather than being absorbed immediately, keeping nutrients and cannabinoids against the skin for longer. This is why balms are often used on lips.

THC Lubricants: Marijuana lubricants are similar to conventional lubricants in that they are designed to be used before sex. Cannabis lubricants are applied to the genitals, which has a thin barrier to the bloodstream. This means it’s possible a small amount of THC can enter the bloodstream.  

How are Cannabis Topicals Made?

Cannabis topicals are simply cannabis that’s been infused into another product, like a salve, ointment, marijuana cream, or even body butter. Because it’s that easy to create a cannabis topical, you can even make them at home.

To start, make a simple cannabis oil. The ground cannabis flower is decarboxylated and then added to coconut oil, avocado oil, or olive oil. After just a couple of hours, the mixture can be strained through a cheesecloth and added to a bottle or container. This mixture can then be used as a cannabis topical by itself, or it can also be added to a recipe to make an edible, or treated like a tincture.

If you prefer a balm, the cannabis oil can be added to hot water with beeswax, along with essential oils if you prefer a particular scent, melted down and then cooled. It will create a solid block you can use as a cannabis balm. Want something softer like a lotion or THC cream? It’s even easier. Take a few drops of cannaoil and add it to your favorite lotion. If you don’t like the feeling of oil on your skin, you can also use cannabis tinctures in your lotion.

How are THC Topicals Different from Cannabis Transdermals?

One of the key reasons why THC topicals are popular among all kinds of people—not just cannabis consumers—is that the cannabinoids cannot enter the bloodstream and create intoxicating effects. Cannabis transdermals are different. Similar to medical patches, a THC patch is loaded with cannabinoids, a permeation enhancer, and a carrier. The blend of all three helps cannabinoids pass through the skin and into the bloodstream. This means that you likely will be able to feel the psychoactive effects of a transdermal product.

How Do THC and CBD Topicals Work?

If you’ve read our guide on the endocannabinoid system, you know that it’s a network of receptors (among other things) that spans our entire body—including our skin. The thing is, our skin is designed to protect our bodies from things like environmental toxins and bacteria, so it’s not always easy for cannabinoids to sink through into the bloodstream. But sometimes, you don’t need cannabinoids to hit your bloodstream. This is where THC and CBD topicals shine.

Cannabis topicals, including CBD topicals, work by interacting with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our skin. This allows people to experience localized relief for certain conditions, including acne and eczema. Even the American Academy of Dermatology is keeping its eye on topicals, stating that they show “promise for skin diseases.” While we are still researching the ways canna-topicals can be used, some people suggest they can help with anything from localized nerve pain and arthritis to migraine relief.

Answering Cannabis Topical FAQs

There are many different types of cannabis topicals, and not all products contain THC (e.g. CBD creams). If you are using a topical THC, you will likely not experience psychoactive effects. This is because most topicals don’t enter the bloodstream, so they are limited to a small, localized area of the body. However, even if the topical does pass through the skin barrier, the impact of the THC will likely be minimal.

Do THC topicals get you “high”?
It is very difficult for THC to pass from the topical and into the skin. Because of this, you are unlikely to experience any psychoactive effects due to cannabis topicals. That being said, there is always an exception to the rule, and that exception is cannabis lubricant. Because of the thin skin of the genitals, it is possible for THC to pass into the bloodstream in small amounts.

How do you dose cannabis topicals?
Whenever it comes to dosing and cannabis, it’s important to read the label. This will help you understand the ingredients in your topical and how long they may be effective. In general, topicals can last anywhere from four to six hours on the skin (depending on a variety of factors). Fortunately, using too much topical is likely not going to be as uncomfortable as smoking too much marijuana would be. Still, start with a small amount. If you don’t feel the effects within an hour, apply more.

How long does it take THC topicals to work?
The time it takes for a topical THC to work depends on the topical. For instance, some products, with all natural ingredients, could take up to an hour to become effective. Other topicals, particularly those that are designed for quick absorption, can be felt almost immediately. As always, to know how long it takes your topical to work, check the label.

Exploring THC Lotions & Topicals

While we don’t have all the research we’d like to in order to say definitively that THC topicals and CBD topicals can treat certain conditions, the studies we do have show some promise. If you think that cannabis topicals could be right for you, head down to your local dispensary. Not only do we carry cannabis topicals in our dispensaries across the country, we also can help you purchase the ingredients you need to make your own. Just ask a budtender for help when you stop by.  

Recreational cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Ohio and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and certified patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.