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What is CBD Sunscreen and Does It Work?

  • CBD has shown some effectiveness as a UV radiation barrier in a few early studies—and many patients anecdotally report positive results.
  • However, since skin cancer risk is generally high in the US, patients should probably use CBD sunscreen in combination with other formulas that have been shown to be highly effective: mineral and chemical sunscreens.

Can doctors prescribe CBD for anxiety? In some states, yes—and since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, CBD has been showing up in a wide variety of products, from dog treats to skincare formulas.

In this guide, we’re exploring CBD sunscreen. Does it work? Should you use it instead of traditional sunscreen?

CBD has shown promise as a UV radiation blocker in a few early studies, and many anecdotal reports suggest that it does, in fact, work to prevent sunburn. But should you ditch your traditional sunscreen in favor of a CBD-forward formula?

Below, we’ll break down CBD, sunscreen, the efficacy of CBD as a UV blocker, and some considerations to make before switching products. If you’re not sure where to start with CBD sun protection, this is the guide for you.

CBD Sunscreen: Breaking Down the Basics

To describe how CBD sunscreen works, let’s define CBD and sunscreen individually before touching on the combination.

What Is CBD?

Cosmetics with cannabis extract on a wet background. Selective focus.CBD is one of two major cannabinoids found in various strains of the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike its major cannabinoid counterpart, THC, CBD:

  • Isn’t intoxicating – Even if you ingest or inhale CBD, you won’t get high—it’s one of the most appealing features of the cannabinoid for people looking to avoid intoxication.
  • Is federally legal – The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growth, processing, sale, possession, and use of CBD for anyone over the age of 18. After the bill passed, manufacturers inundated the market with CBD products; many of these have been beneficial for users looking to reap its healing benefits.
  • Is already a favorite in the beauty industry – While CBD pain relief topical products are a hit for people struggling with chronic or acute pain, CBD beauty products are only growing in popularity among cosmetic aficionados. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are just one reason why it’s showing up in more and more beauty products.

What Is Sunscreen?

Sunscreen describes a wide variety of formulas designed to shield the skin from harmful UV radiation: the sun’s rays.

The compounds in sunscreen either physically block UV rays or chemically absorb them.

orange sunscreen lotion on green palm leaves on sand

This blocking mechanism protects skin cells from damage, aging, and even the development of cancer cells.

Not all sunscreens are created equal, though, and there are two key characteristics to look for when choosing a sunscreen product:

  • SPF rating – Sun Protection Rating, or SPF, describes how many different types of UV rays (specifically UVB rays) a sunscreen product blocks. Generally, higher is better; but to optimize both the physical properties of a sunscreen formula and sun protection, cancer experts recommend SPF 30 products.
  • Mechanism of action – Exactly how a sunscreen blocks UV rays depends on its active ingredients—sunscreens contain either chemical blockers, physical blockers, or both.

Let’s dive into the two general categories of sunscreens.

Mineral Sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens (sometimes called “physical sunscreens”) create a barrier around your skin to protect it from UV rays. At present, there are only two mineral sunscreen active ingredients approved for UV protection in the US:

  • Zinc oxide
  • Titanium dioxide

Mineral sunscreens absorb UV rays to keep these rays from penetrating into (and damaging) your skin.

As you may have guessed from their active ingredients, mineral sunscreens can leave a white cast: a pale sheen on your skin. But in today’s beauty industry, skin tint products and other technologies can keep this white cast at bay.

Chemical Sunscreens

Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, cause a chemical reaction: active ingredients in chemical sunscreens convert UV rays into heat to prevent skin damage.

There are multiple active ingredients currently approved as chemical sunscreens in the US:

  • Aminobenzoic acid
  • Avobenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Meradimate
  • Octocrylene
  • Octinoxate
  • Octisalate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Padimate O
  • Ensulizole
  • Silisobenzone
  • Trolamine salicylate

So, which is better—a mineral or chemical sunscreen?

  • Cancer experts believe they’re both effective. Both mineral and chemical sunscreens have shown clinical effectiveness for UV protection. So, skin cancer experts recommend using whichever sunscreen type you prefer; more importantly, they recommend consistent and thorough application.
  • Most widely available sunscreens feature a combination of both mineral and chemical UV blockers. While purely mineral or chemical sunscreens certainly exist, they’re not as prevalent on drugstore shelves.
  • Both have been proven in countless clinical trials to prevent UV exposure that can lead to skin cancer—and skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US.

What Is CBD Sunscreen?

Since the advent of widespread CBD access, many manufacturers have begun adding it to sunscreen formulas. Most of the products available on the market contain a few key components:

  • Narrow-, broad-, or full-spectrum CBD isolate
  • A physical or mineral UV blocker (or multiple kinds of each)
  • Moisturizing ingredients (i.e., a lotion, cream, or ointment base)

It’s important to note that most CBD sunscreens contain both CBD and traditional UV blocking ingredients; so, CBD sunscreens are still either physical, chemical, or hybrid sunscreens with CBD added.

While these products aren’t widely available on drugstore shelves yet, you can find them online or in specialty beauty stores.

Does CBD Sunscreen Work?

So, does CBD sunscreen actually work for UV ray protection? Yes, for two reasons:

  • CBD sunscreens contain traditional sunscreen ingredients – Many of the CBD sunscreens available on the market today still feature mineral and/or physical UV blockers: zinc oxide, oxybenzone, and other compounds. Since these ingredients have been shown time and time again to block UV rays from penetrating the skin (which decreases your risk of developing skin cancer), any CBD sunscreen containing these ingredients is likely to be effective.
  • CBD has shown early promise for UV blocking on its own – While there are only a few studies documenting CBD’s effectiveness as a UV blocker, these studies show promising results. CBD can block UV rays, but scientists aren’t sure exactly how or how effectively yet.

While we need more research on CBD’s specific mechanism of UV protection, early studies and anecdotal reports suggest that CBD is an effective, safe addition to traditional sunscreens.

CBD Sunscreen Considerations

If you’re considering using CBD sunscreen, you may be looking for an “all-natural” solution for sun protection. Right now, you’re unlikely to find a CBD-only sunscreen product simply because the FDA doesn’t have enough data about CBD’s UV-blocking mechanisms—these will come with more research.

In the meantime, let’s review some key facts:

  • UV exposure can cause skin cancer – There’s a well-documented connection between sun exposure and skin cancer—that’s not up for debate. Thus, UV protection and skin cancer prevention go hand-in-hand.
  • Sunscreens are generally considered safe – A few studies have determined that some chemical sunscreens (like oxybenzone) can reach the bloodstream—but this doesn’t necessarily mean that these compounds are unsafe. That said, more research is definitely needed.
  • There are ways to avoid chemical sunscreens without increasing cancer risk – If you’re worried about chemical sunscreens, you can avoid them: mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide have long been considered safe and effective. Luckily, there are a number of CBD sunscreens that only feature mineral formulas.
  • The benefits of sunscreen outweigh the risks – There’s an undeniable connection between UV radiation exposure and skin cancer; there’s currently not a clear connection between sunscreen use and health risks. Skin cancer experts, therefore, recommend wearing a sunscreen product every day to decrease your risk.
  • CBD could be a useful ingredient in your sunscreen – At TeleLeaf, we’re committed to demystifying medical cannabis and exploring the possibilities of alternative medicine. But it would be highly irresponsible to recommend ditching your traditional sunscreen for CBD-only products until we know that CBD can truly decrease the risk of skin cancer. That said, mineral sunscreens with CBD offer the best of both worlds: guaranteed UV protection and additional therapeutic benefits of CBD.

TeleLeaf: Connecting Medical Cannabis Patients to Quality Care

CBD sunscreen could be the latest and greatest in UV protection technology. But, for now, it’s safest to use CBD in combination with traditional sunscreen formulas for guaranteed effectiveness.

TeleLeaf is proud to be a resource for the canna-curious—especially patients looking to reap the health rewards of medical marijuana. If you’re ready to get your medical card, our network of providers can offer the recommendation you need to access your state’s cannabis program.

Ready to unlock the all-natural treatment you’re looking for? Make an appointment now.


Sources:

The Brookings Institution. The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization, and the Status of CBD: An Explainer.
https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/

MD Anderson Cancer Center. How Does Sunscreen Work?.
https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/how-sunscreen-works.h27Z1590624.html

MD Anderson Cancer Center. Should You Use Very High SPF Sunscreen?.
https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/should-you-use-very-high-spf-sunscreen.h00-159460845.html

Healthline. Every Sunscreen Question You Have, Answered.
https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/sunscreen-guide#physical-vs-chemical-sunscreen

US Food and Drug Administration. Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun.
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skin Cancer.
https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/index.htm

Canadian Medical Association Journal. The Effectiveness and Safety of Sunscreen Use for the Prevention of Skin Cancer.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7759112/

The International Journal of Molecular Sciences. The Effect of Cannabidiol on UV-Induced Changes in Intracellular Signaling of 3D-Cultured Skin Keratinocytes.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7867360/

Time. How Sunscreen Became Controversial.
https://time.com/6290923/is-sunscreen-safe/

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