Is the Beauty Industry ‘Weed-Washing’ to Sell More Products?

24th January 2020

The ever-increasing popularity of CBD is undeniable. The Cannabis derivative has been popping up in all sorts of products over the last few years. Customers can now easily get hold of CBD-infused chocolates, coffee, soft drink, and face cream, to name a few. However, some have big brands, especially beauty brands, of ‘weed-washing’.

‘Weed-washing’ is a take on the term ‘greenwashing’, which was coined to refer to brands that are not as sustainable or natural as they claim to be.

In terms of ‘weed’, the term refers to brands that attempt to cash in on the CBD craze, without actually using, or using very small amounts of the ingredient. A brand may use hemp seed oil – yes, a Cannabis product, but one that contains little to no CBD.

Hemp seed oil has been used in cosmetic products for decades. One of the most notable brands to have maintained their relationship with the Cannabis plant is The Body Shop, which has stocked their hemp range since the early 90s. However, many brands are now aiming to cash in on the growing familiarity and popularity of CBD, by utilising hemp seed oil.

According to Dorian Morris, founder of Undefined Beauty:

“[Some brands are] basically assuming that consumers are going to see ‘cannabis’ or ‘cannabis skincare’ and automatically assume it’s CBD.”

Hemp seed oil has been shown to have various qualities that make it a sound ingredient for use in skincare and beauty products. It contains fatty acids and amino acids which can help to contribute to healthy skin.

Cannabis oil – either hemp seed or flower – can also be used as a vegan alternative to beeswax. As Milk makeup, who makes the only hemp mascara on the market, has demonstrated. The oil can be used as an emulsifier to whip the formulation into the desired creamy texture which sticks effectively to lashes.

However, it usually contains none of the hyped-up ingredient – CBD. This is because the cannabinoid is concentrated most highly in the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. In comparison, the seeds contain very little.

Currently, the CBD beauty space is almost exclusively occupied by ‘indie’ brands that have less to lose. Ironically, it may be the larger, more trusted beauty brands that are at risk of being accused of ‘weed-washing’.

CBD is known to have various properties that could benefit skin health. For example, the cannabinoid is an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-sebum. However, it is unclear how effective the product may be in the concentrations that are currently available on the market.


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