Can CBD Be Absorbed Through Skin: 5 Truths

CBD oil is a majorly popular relaxant. It’s legal, safe, and available in a wide range of products, including drinks, oils, and edibles. But can CBD be absorbed through skin? Today, let’s take a look at how CBD oil works, whether it can be absorbed through the skin, and what you can expect if you use a CBD-infused oil, lotion, or balm on your skin.

Truth #1: CBD Does Work Through the Skin

Firstly, CBD can be absorbed through the skin, plain and simple. But how does this really work? In fact, your skin absorbs CBD in the same way your body absorbs CBD when it’s ingested, like when you take a CBD edible or swallow CBD oil. In a nutshell, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The endocannabinoid system helps maintain hormonal balance within the body and is partially responsible for triggering natural physiological reactions.

For example, say that you stub your toe while doing household chores. Aside from the pain, you’ll also notice that your toe swells up a little bit. That’s partially due to the endocannabinoid system. However, the endocannabinoid system also affects our peripheral nervous system. CBD, as an endocannabinoid, directly affects the ECS and related bodily tissues and functions. So, what happens when CBD touches your skin? CBD stimulates cannabinoid receptors called CB2 receptors. These, in turn, connect to the peripheral nervous system, which affects the skin and plenty of other organs. Since CBD on the skin can’t penetrate straight through the skin or the brain-blood barrier, it only affects the CB2 receptors found on your skin. Therefore, topical CBD’s effects are localized rather than generalized. You won’t feel any non-skin-based effects when you try topical CBD!

Truth #2: CBD Doesn’t Make You High

Just like other CBD products, topical CBD oils and lotions do not make you high or produce any psychoactive effects. That’s because CBD, though it is extracted from the hemp plant like marijuana, has very little THC: the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Legal CBD products have less than 0.3% THC. As a result, any CBD product you rub on your skin won’t inebriate you or cause any noticeable high effect. This is even truer for high-quality, purified CBD products. Purified products are often extracted via pressing methods, which get as much oil as possible for distillation, mixing, and other products. That’s why you can buy CBD products at the store but can’t buy THC products similarly. 

Truth #3: Topical CBD Affects Only the Skin

As noted above, CBD only affects the skin if you apply it topically. Topical CBD is not transdermal.

Transdermal products can penetrate through the skin and enter your body. This is beneficial in some cases and not desirable in others. For example, some topical creams contain ingredients meant to be absorbed by the bloodstream. However, topical CBD is not transdermal. It does not penetrate through the epidermis, so your bloodstream and other organs don’t absorb its molecules throughout the body. If you want some of the well-known beneficial effects of CBD oil, like relaxation or assistance sleeping, you’ll need to take CBD in another way, such as through an edible oil or a CBD-infused snack. 

Truth #4: Topical CBD Helps with Muscle Soreness

So, why take topical CBD in the first place? Many prefer rubbing CBD oil on their skin because it can significantly help with muscle soreness. Take delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, for example. Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts experience this effect after working out or playing hard on the field. Their muscles become sore, and their joints may become stiff. When you apply a bit of topical CBD oil to the affected area, the CB2 receptors inside and underneath the skin receive the cannabinoids inside the oil. Then they feel soothed and may experience reduced inflammation. This, in turn, could help to minimize the joint stiffness or muscle soreness experienced.

Truth #5: Topical CBD Helps with Swelling

That’s not the only potential benefit of topical CBD oil. Some studies have indicated that topical CBD products can also help soothe symptoms of certain skin conditions. While CBD oil doesn’t treat the root cause of these conditions, it may help ease irritation using the same ECS system effect described above. CBD oil can calm the skin and reduce some of the more dramatic reactions skin cells have to environmental allergens, toxins, and stimulants. Note that CBD should not be used in place of what your doctor tells you to use if they recommend a different solution!

Does CBD Penetrate Through the Skin?

No. Only certain products and molecules can penetrate the skin barrier. This is a good thing; after all, your skin wouldn’t do a very good job if it couldn’t keep germs and other harmful materials out of your bloodstream! The only way for your body to absorb CBD overall is to ingest it. For example, you can try a CBD oil tincture, in which you place a tincture beneath your tongue and swallow CBD oil. Topically applied CBD oil only affects the skin and surrounding tissues. You might experience some beneficial effects with your muscles or joints, but those are localized, not a result of your bloodstream absorbing CBD molecules.

What’s the Best Way To Enjoy CBD Oil?

That depends on your preferences and goals! CBD oil can provide several science-backed benefits depending on how you ingest it. These benefits include:

  • Support for emotional wellness. Some individuals find that CBD can significantly reduce feelings of tension when ingested orally and regularly over several days or weeks.
  • Discomfort management and relief. This is, by far, the number one reason why people use CBD oil in the first place. Since CBD oil affects your endocannabinoid system, it can also affect pain levels throughout the body. If you’re sore after coming home from work or after a workout, CBD oil can help you manage that discomfort. 

CBD oil is available in gummies for other edible products, like snacks. This is the most common way to ingest CBD oil overall. Other people prefer CBD capsules, oils, or tinctures. These provide more direct concentrations of CBD oil to the bloodstream than edible products, but they aren’t as tasty.

Then there are lotions, topical products and serums, and CBD vapes. The latter is less recommended, as it may include certain health applications that haven’t been fully studied yet. This is the main thing to remember: if you want to feel the positive effects of CBD throughout your body, you need to ingest it. That means taking something edible, whether it’s a snack or gummy, ingesting a bit of oil from a tincture, or taking a capsule in the morning or the evening after work. If you want to try out a CBD lotion for skincare benefits, a lotion or topical product will suit you just fine. 


As you can see, you can absorb CBD through the skin, and you might see some positive skincare benefits if you choose to do so! Many of the best CBD products are available as lotions or balms. In fact, CBD is arguably one of the best wellness solutions you can use to get and feel 1% better every single day. Learn more about why CBD is so beneficial – plus plenty of other tips about how you can maximize your wellness – with 1AND1 today! 


Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol – PMC | NCBI

Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know | NCCIH

The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious | Harvard Health