It hasn’t been long since we first witnessed CBD springing up unexpectedly on a growing list of consumer goods. Short for cannabidiol, CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana and hemp plants, was hardly on the radar of the average consumer just a couple of years ago, but it’s quickly become a buzz-worthy ingredient—and a salient business opportunity. What started in health food aisles and among niche beauty brands has now exploded into a multi-million dollar industry that’s infiltrated big-box retailers, hotel room service, your local coffee shop and grandma’s medicine cabinet.
CBD Hits the Market
This year, the CBD industry is already on track to hit $591 million, and there are no signs of it slowing. A new estimate from cannabis industry analysts Brightfield Group projects that the hemp-CBD market alone could reach $22 billion by 2022. This breakneck growth is evidenced by the innumerable ways CBD is popping up in the commercial space—and carving out new fans among unexpected demographics. Most impressive might be how CBD has been hastily appropriated by companies selling a lifestyle rather than a product, branding the trendy “superfood” as an elevated conduit to wellness, equal parts progressive and chic. The stigma that has long shrouded cannabis use hasn’t smirched the acceptance of CBD by the masses. On the contrary, this happening ingredient is converting individuals who otherwise might be averse to anything cannabis-related to instead “add to cart.”
As compared to its cousin, cannabis, CBD is in a unique position in the market to see unbridled growth in all 50 states and reach greater acceptance by the mainstream. This can be attributed to the legal gray area in which it operates. While THC has remained contentious because of its intoxicating effects, CBD’s lack of psycho-activity — meaning it won’t get you high — has been key to it slipping through the cracks of government regulations. To make waters murkier, CBD does not clearly fit under one category of product, but rather across a broad and diverse range of retail channels that seem to be expanding every day. Removed enough from cannabis’s ever-changing legal landscape, CBD has been able to cultivate a new consumer base that breaks down barriers to purchase. From the start, the conversation around CBD has been steeped in curiosity and imbued with a certain cachet — minus the tinge of taboo that still exists when discussing cannabis.
Beauty and Wellness Industries Embrace CBD
Back in the spring of 2016, Vogue published its first article on CBD, asking the hard-hitting question, “Can Marijuana Save Your Skin—And Your Sex Life?” The fashion bible delved into CBD, dubbed the “new topical cannabis phenomenon,” describing cannabinoids (via body creams) as “a natural high for your bum knee, or that pesky patch of irritated skin.” While CBD busted its way into the beauty industry by way of muscle-relief creams and skin care, promising to relieve aches and clear acne, it wasn’t long before cannabis-infused product roundups became a requisite of every consumer-centric media outlet. CBD’s potential in the sector expanded into a laundry list of beauty buys: eye serums, hair pomade and even mascara.
As the beauty industry intersects more and more with the wellness space, CBD becomes an increasingly fashionable element working its way into the self-care conversation, onto the ingredient lists of an increasing number of products, and into the beauty cabinets of countless celebrities. Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Dakota Johnson, and Kate Hudson are just a handful of the A-listers who’ve confessed their love of CBD products. Lord Jones High CBD Pain & Wellness Formula Body Lotion, in which each pump of one milliliter of lotion contains two milligrams of CBD, has become a cult favorite. Celebrity stylist Karla Welch, who works with Olivia Wilde, Ruth Negga, and Justin Bieber, uses the cooling lotion on her client’s feet for added resilience when they walk the red carpet. “It’s perfect for long nights in high heels,” Welch has explained to The New York Times. “All my girls love it, and bottles live in my styling kit.”
CBD Infiltrates Grocery Aisles and Swanky Dinner Tables
It isn’t just the beauty industry that’s capitalizing on the CBD craze. Beverage behemoth Coca-Cola is reportedly in talks with Aurora Cannabis to launch a line of CBD-infused drinks. The CBD food and drink space goes beyond obvious edibles. For a cool 18 dollars, you can really take the edge off and sip a CBD-infused mojito at the Hollywood Roosevelt, something they recently introduced to their menu along with three new desserts—a lemon bar, a green apple Bavarian cream, and a yogurt panna cotta—all boasting a common denominator: CBD. On the opposite coast, CBD-laced room service is available to make your stay even more relaxing at the NoMad location of the James Hotel in New York. Detox beverage company Dirty Lemon introduced a CBD-infused bottle that has made an appearance in every Instagram, from fashion designer Pia Arrobio to actresses Alison Brie and Minka Kelly. Chillhouse, the uber-hip café meets nail salon in Manhattan’s Lower East Side is giving avocado toast a run for its money by adding an equally Instagrammable CBD toast to its menu.
Unleashing CBD’s Health Benefits
Regardless of the retail channel, the fountainhead of the fanfare that surrounds CBD is its bevy of health benefits. While some of the claims emblazoned on beauty bottles are still only substantiated anecdotally, many doctors agree that CBD has real medicinal value. Especially as consumers are turning away from pharmaceuticals to look for a natural remedy, CBD presents itself as a promising alternative. Most turn to CBD to promote a sense of calm while remaining clear-headed, and to help treat their anxiety, pain and even arthritis, and sleep disorders. There has also been scientific evidence for CBD’s effectiveness in treating some childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications, according to Peter Grinspoon, M.D. who teaches medicine at Harvard Medical School. As of now, CBD has not been approved by the FDA to treat anything, but that hasn’t stopped brands across industries from capitalizing on the ingredient—or consumers from buying up product and subscribing to the CBD-infused lifestyle.