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How Cannabis Beauty Got Chic

Cannabis is the latest cult beauty craze, but is it a gimmick or a game-changer?

Sherine Youssef

Let me make one thing crystal clear: I have never tried drugs. Ever. I don’t smoke, I am not much of a drinker, and I was quite comfortable with the “straighty 180” label my friends gave me during our maybe-not-quite-as-wild-as-they-could-have-been 20s. 

But lately I’ve been thinking about experimenting with pot. (Are the kids still calling it pot?) No, this isn’t some kind of premature midlife-crisis; I’ve just decided to dabble in the latest beauty trend: cannabis-infused products.

Over the past few months, there’s been a noticeable uptick in pot-laced skincare pots arriving across my desk. From Ella Bache to Eve Lom, countless beauty brands are jumping on the weed wagon.

But… why?

Alternative health advocates have long praised the medicinal benefits of cannabis, claiming that it eases everything from anxiety to the side-effects of chemotherapy. 

However, cannabis is fast moving from crunchy lifestyle fringe to high fashion, thanks in part to a rapidly shifting regulatory landscape. In the US it’s now legal to use marijuana in 10 states, and medical marijuana in 28 states.

Case in point: this month, exclusive New York department store Barneys – purveyor of fashion brands such as Dior and Dolce & Gabbana – announced plans to launch a new “luxury cannabis concept store”. At the appropriately named The High End, shoppers can peruse limited edition vape pens and luxury joint clips (whatever they are). Cannabis products sold alongside high heels and handbags? It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that.

In the beauty industry, where the line between wellness and beauty is increasingly blurred (Gwyneth’s Goop gets some credit here), cannabis-infused products have exploded. In fact, the market is so huge that two Goop alumni have launched Fleur Marche, an online “cannabis apothecary” or beauty store, that’s been dubbed “The Sephora of cannabis beauty products” to help curate top products.

But does it work?

It turns out that your stoner high school boyfriend may have known more about beauty and personal grooming than you gave him credit for, because there’s evidence to suggest that cannabis may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

First it’s important to understand that cannabis, marijuana and hemp are not the same thing; marijuana and hemp are part of the cannabis sativa family.

Marijuana contains several chemical compounds, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for those ‘high’ feelings, and cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects but does have the beauty industry rushing to add it into serums and moisturisers.

That’s because CBD is loaded with essential fatty acids, and research suggests it might behave more like an active ingredient that can soothe skin and help regulate sebaceous gland production (promising news for acne-prone skin). 

The bad news? CBD products are not available in Australia. “Cannabis, including CBD, is strictly regulated and used [only] for medicinal purposes,” says Ella Baché national training manager Gina Cook.

However, the cannabis phenomenon has seen renewed interest in hemp, specifically hemp seed oil, which – while not new on the beauty scene (remember The Body Shop’s hemp line in the ‘90s?) – is actually legal in Australia. 

Hemp (which is often marketed as cannabis sativa seed oil) has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that can help calm skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, rosacea and psoriasis “likely due to the oil’s perfect balance of omega 3 and fatty acids” says Cook.

Ready to jump on the weed wagon?

Try Votary Super Seed Nutrient Cream, $130; Sukin Super Greens Cleansing Oil, $13.95; Eve Lom Radiance Transforming Mask, $128; Ella Baché Botanical Skin Treatment Oil, $69; Murad Revitalixir Recovery Serum, $140.




BY Sherine Youssef

Sherine Youssef is a Sydney-based beauty editor devoted to retinol, SPF and vitamin C. And George Clooney.

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