August 15, 2022 7 min read

CBD topicals are becoming much more commonplace, and you're right to wonder how they interact with your body and a drug test result. Whether you're considering tossing it in your gym bag for post workout recovery or getting a professional massage with CBD massage oil, you'll find that there are a wide variety of CBD formulas available, each containing a colorful array of different cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant derived compounds.

It boils down to this–CBD itself will not cause a failed drug test, but the THC content of some CBD products is much more controversial. Here, we’ll explore how CBD topicals work and whether CBD, or the trace amount of THC found in some CBD topicals, can penetrate the vascular system and make it into the bloodstream.

Let’s start with the basics:

Table of Contents
What is CBD?
What are CBD Topicals?
How CBD Topicals Work
Benefits of CBD Topicals
Types of CBD Topicals
Where to Buy Topical CBD

Key Takeaways

  • CBD topicals do not reach the bloodstream, but still interact with the Endocannabinoid System to provide therapeutic benefits.
  • Drug tests don’t look for CBD, so CBD itself will not interfere with a drug test result.
  • Some people worry about the trace amounts of THC in some topicals, but research shows that topical THC also does not reach the bloodstream.
  • The benefits of CBD topicals may far outweigh the risks for most people looking to soothe topical aches, pains, and skin concerns.

What Is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the primary cannabinoid found in hemp, as opposed to THC, the primary cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, but it still interacts with the Endocannabinoid System in a meaningful way.

CBD is potentially therapeutic, both when taken by mouth when used topically. As a topical, CBD is widely believed to help reduce inflammation, soothe muscle pain, promote athletic recovery, and address an array of skin concerns. Evidence exists to help support these benefits, which we will discuss in greater detail below.

CBD's ability to offer these therapeutic benefits without causing a head high is its greatest appeal. Still, some people have run into drug testing issues due to the trace amounts of THC found in full spectrum CBD oil products designed to be taken by mouth. Thankfully, this is much less of a worry for CBD topicals because of the way they interact with the body, meaning you may be able to use full spectrum topicals with far less risk.

What are CBD Topicals?

A person rubbing CBD cream onto their hands to sooth dry skin

CBD topicals are exactly as they sound–CBD in topical form. This can mean CBD oil meant to be rubbed on the skin, CBD salves meant to target certain skin conditions, or CBD muscle rubs meant to penetrate deep and help to alleviate pain.

The type of CBD topical that you choose is totally based on preference, but it usually depends on how you intend to use it. All in all, though, they'll each be pretty similar. As a rule, CBD topicals contain a base, usually an oil or butter of some form that's meant to carry CBD and help it absorb into the skin. CBD is fat soluble, so it needs to be carried by an oil in order to effectively penetrate the skin.

Some topical CBD products also contain other hemp derivatives, like other cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as other botanicals, like camphor, menthol, or other essential oils chosen to boost the product's therapeutic effects.

You'll also have multiple formula options to choose from, but there are three basic options. Let's break them down:

Full Spectrum

Full Spectrum refers to a CBD formula that contains a wide array of the cannabinoids found in cannabis, including trace amounts of THC, but also usually CBN, CBG, CBC, and more.

Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum CBD products typically contain a large concentration of CBD alongside other trace cannabinoids, but they do not contain THC.

CBD Isolate

CBD Isolate simply refers to a formula that contains only isolated CBD molecules. It will not contain any other cannabinoids, though some CBD isolate products do have added terpenes and botanicals.

The difference in these two formulas is up for debate, but many people believe that Full Spectrum CBD formulas are more effective for most therapeutic purposes because they provide the added benefit of the entourage effect, a phenomenon where hemp cannabinoids work synergistically to boost each other's effects. This of course is why CBD drug testing comes into question. Full Spectrum products contain at least trace amounts of Delta-9-THC, an illicit cannabinoid that will register on a drug test report.

Luckily, you probably don't need to be concerned about the THC in topical CBD products. Here's why:

How CBD Topicals Work (and Why They Won't Make You Fail a Drug Test)

CBD, like other cannabinoids, interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, a regulatory system responsible for carrying out crucial bodily processes. The Endocannabinoid System wears lots of hats, but the most significant to CBD topicals is its ability to regulate pain signaling and the inflammatory response.

Research shows that CBD may help to reduce inflammation and pain across several applications, and CBD topicals do this by penetrating the deeper layers of the skin and interacting with CB2 receptors in the tissues below the surface.

In other words, CBD may penetrate all layers of the skin, all the way down to joints and ligaments, but it does not need to crossover into the vascular system to reach the Endocannabinoid System. That means that CBD (or THC) that's applied topically doesn't reach the bloodstream or have any systemic effect on the body.

Because CBD Topicals Don't Reach the Bloodstream, They Have Virtually No Effect on Drug Tests

First and foremost, it's important to note that drug tests don't test for CBD. The risk of failing a drug test after using CBD involves only the trace amount of THC in Full Spectrum CBD products. The risk is already very small (and there's no THC risks associated with Broad Spectrum or CBD Isolate).

Evidence suggests that THC, when applied topically to the skin, also doesn't reach the bloodstream. That brings the already small risk down to zero. That means you should be safe to use full spectrum CBD topicals, even if you're subject to drug testing.

Benefits of CBD Topicals

We lightly touched on how topicals work and the benefits that topicals may provide, but let’s dig deeper into the research available to support the use of topical CBD for inflammation and pain.

As we noted above, CBD can penetrate deep into the skin to interact with CB2 receptors, where it may have an impact on the body’s pain and inflammation response. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), CBD may be useful for managing certain inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Research has also found that its anti-inflammatory effects may help to provide pain relief when used topically. One 2016 study, for instance, found that CBD, when applied topically to mice, may have long lasting benefits for reducing inflammation and pain-related behaviors caused by arthritis.

Furthermore, CBD may be useful for managing certain pain conditions that are difficult to treat. A 2020 study found that topical CBD oil may help to reduce pain related to neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage that causes numbness and weakness in the hands and feet.

More research is needed to understand the full potential of CBD topicals for managing different types of pain and discomfort, and to compare the benefits of full spectrum and CBD isolate formulas. For now, we know that CBD topicals potentially offer a wide range of benefits with very little risk, so they may be worth a shot for anyone looking to manage topical skin conditions or muscle pains.

Types of CBD Topicals

We briefly covered the different types of CBD topical formulas above, but let’s touch on the two most common product types you’ll find in today’s hemp market–salves and muscle rubs.

Vida Optima CBD Skin Balm

CBD Skin Salves

A salve is a thick, buttery application that offers moisturizing properties. When infused with CBD, as well as other cannabinoids and botanicals, it can potentially be used to address topical skin concerns, like redness, irritation, itching, wounds, dry skin, blemishes, and more. Most skin soothing salves won’t contain menthol or other ingredients that will potentially irritate a rash or blemish, so this is the best option for skin care purposes.

Our CBD Skin Balm is designed to soothe topical scrapes, cuts, burns, and more. The functional formula combines nourishing rosehip oil and shea nut butter with rejuvenating essential oils to help support optimal skin health and healing.

CBD Muscle Rub

Vida Optima CBD Muscle Rub

Muscle creams, on the other hand, can come in many forms. These may be creams, lotions, roll-ons, or a solid stick that can be applied to a targeted location. Usually, these will contain a higher potency of CBD alongside fast-acting botanicals, like camphor, menthol, and other plant-based analgesics.

Our CBD Muscle Rub, for instance, combines a potent CBD extract with hand selected botanicals, including cooling menthol, soothing arnica, and a powerful dose of turmeric oil. The combination is designed to support blood flow, lower inflammation, and offer a synergy that helps to calm pain and discomfort in the joints and muscles.

Where to Buy Topical CBD

Although CBD has not yet been approved by the FDA as a topical treatment for any condition, many people are eager to give it a shot for managing arthritis. Luckily, because it’s derived from hemp, it’s much more accessible than other cannabis products. In fact, you can order federally legal hemp products online and have them shipped right to your door from almost anywhere in the country.

There’s one drawback–the hemp industry is still poorly regulated, so you’ll need to take care to choose a high-quality, well-formulated CBD cream. At Vida Optima, we follow the same stringent quality standards for all of our CBD products, whether they are meant to be ingested or applied topically.

Our VidaDerm CBD Skin Care line is carefully formulated with premium CBD extract, hand chosen botanicals, and nourishing plant oils to offer a gentle and effective option for combating skin concerns at the surface and aches and pains deep in the joints. Pair it with a systemic CBD dose from our Vitality Collection for a full-coverage CBD wellness routine.

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