Beauty Report: Can Cannabis Really Do Wonders For Our Skin?

Beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti delves deep to find answers to some of the burning questions around cannabis-infused skincare

Cannabis has been used by different cultures for health, beauty and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Photo / Babiche Martens.

If you're not already familiar with CBD, you're about to be — it's fast becoming the most popular three-letter acronym associated with cannabis (goodbye THC).

Cannabis and its derivatives are hot topics in New Zealand, given there's not long to go until the outcome of this year’s cannabis referendum is announced and it is revealed which way the country has voted — to legalise cannabis use in New Zealand (where the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill will come into play), or for the current law to remain.

If you're yet to vote and would like to discover more about whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal, visit for more information.

The trend towards cannabis regulation has blown up overseas, with countries such as Canada, Georgia, South Africa and Uruguay, along with 11 states, two territories and the District of Columbia in the United States having legalised recreational cannabis use (age and consumption regulations apply).

READ: Freshly Squeezed: How To Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Skincare Regimen

It's in countries like these that the increasing use of CBD (also known as cannabidiol) in a range of medicinal and over-the-counter products first emerged a couple of years ago.

Today the myriad benefits of CBD oil are well-documented, making it one of the most readily sought-after ingredients in skincare for its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties.

The use of CBD oil without prescription is currently illegal in New Zealand, although legal forms like hemp have been readily available over the counter since 2005.

Could your skincare regime take a hit? Viva asks four experts for the inside scoop on cannabis-infused skincare.

Medicinal cannabis was legalised in New Zealand in 2018, which saw companies like Organic Genetics begin formulating tinctures available by prescription only. Photos / Organic Genetics.

What's the buzz about CBD?

Literally speaking, there is no buzz. Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive — it's a natural derivative of the cannabis plant and doesn't contain traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or the chemical (cannabinoid) responsible for getting you "high".

In spite of this, it's still classed as an illegal substance in New Zealand. But that hasn't slowed its popularity overseas.

According to Aesthetikonzept publicity and communications manager Julia Schenz, the growth of cannabis-infused skincare is paralleled by the rising consumer preference for greater transparency when it comes to a product's ingredients list.

"Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what they are putting in (and on) their bodies, and are more clued up and curious about the benefits of naturally derived, active ingredients, as opposed to ingredients which are synthetically produced," she says.

Julia says though hemp has been used for clothing, food and textiles, it's the "forbidden" recreational history of cannabis that makes these ingredients more enticing to consumers.

"Especially with the upcoming referendum; even more Kiwis will have heard of these ingredients, done their research, and be curious to test them," Julia says.

This canna-curiosity is building, and Holly Wright, co-founder and director of New Zealand medicinal cannabis company Organic Genetics, says the popularity of this "cool, new, edgy ingredient" is down to a few factors.

This includes the: "positive health outcomes from legislation changes in several countries, conversations being ignited around the benefits of CBD and medicinal cannabis, and the work companies and media are doing around removing the stigma surrounding cannabis and bringing it to the forefront of the wellness industry", she says.

The New Zealand Government legalised medicinal cannabis in December 2018, and since then licensed companies like Organic Genetics have been able to grow and sell medicinal cannabis products to people who have been prescribed it by their doctor.

"Cannabis contains many incredible medicinal properties… It's already been used by different cultures for various health, beauty and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It really is a super plant, and so far we've only touched the surface of its true potential," Holly says.

Swisse New Zealand marketing manager Tineke Madgwick says the use of hemp in the health, beauty and wellness industries is growing rapidly across the globe, with a compound annual growth rate expected to reach $80 million by 2026.

"Growth is attributed to rising demand for [hemp] oil across various segments, including food, beverage and nutraceutical items," she says.

Why are cannabis derivatives good for your skin?

Hemp seed oil and CBD oil offer a plethora of skincare benefits, especially in the realm of anti-ageing.

Antioxidant-rich CBD oil combats the effects of free radical damage that can cause premature ageing, while its anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce redness. Holly says it can also be used to help treat a range of topical skin conditions including acne, dandruff, eczema and psoriasis.

READ: Why Hemp-Based Food Is On The Rise In New Zealand

On the flip side, hemp is rich in essential fatty acids Omega-3, 6 and 9, which Marzena BodyCare brand manager Emma Clarke says helps to lock in hydration, repair the skin's barrier function and soothe inflammation.

She speaks to hemp seed oil's benefits for those with dry skin as it helps to eliminate the visible signs of flaky, dehydrated skin by forming a seal over the skin to keep moisture trapped inside.

Hemp seed oil is also non-comedogenic and is rich in vitamins E and C to protect the skin against signs of environmental damage, which Emma says is especially important for those with ageing skin.

Topical skincare aside, Tineke says the wellness benefits of taking a hemp supplement go far deeper than the dermis.

"Hemp seed oil contains a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats and provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body partially converts to essential fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)," she says.

"Cannabis really is a super plant." - Holly Wright. Photo / Supplied.

What's the difference between CBD and hemp?

The cannabis Sativa plant family includes a number of different species of cannabis plant — two of which are hemp and marijuana.

While the physical differences between the two species of cannabis plant are almost indistinguishable, they each have very different properties.

"The most important difference being the THC content found in each plant," Holly explains.

"The hemp plant generally produces less than 0.3 per cent THC, unlike marijuana which can contain between 10 to 20 per cent THC."

Where CBD is concerned, the difference between the two lies in the extraction process.

Hemp is derived from hemp seeds and contains no phytocannabinoids (the active ingredients only found in cannabis plants), but Holly explains CBD oil is extracted from the whole hemp plant, the stalks and its flowers, and is rich is phytocannabinoids, terpenes (hydrocarbon compounds that emit a strong odour) and fatty acids.

So, what's in a name?

Julia says hemp seed oil is also known as "cannabis Sativa seed oil", while CBD also goes by "cannabidiol", "PCR hemp extracts", "PCR", or "full-spectrum hemp".


What will the referendum result mean for the sale of products containing CBD oil in New Zealand?

No one can say for certain what will happen if the cannabis referendum passes on October 17, but if it does Holly believes it could mean that non-medicinal CBD products might become more readily available over the counter.

"If the referendum does pass and certain CBD products fall under the Recreational Cannabis Scheme, I'm sure we will see a rise of companies offering a range of non-medicinal CBD products, including skincare and haircare products — but this is all speculation at this point," Holly says.

A yes vote would mean the cannabis industry is fast-forwarded as a whole, Holly says, and could lead to new opportunities and product suites for Organic Genetics.

The industry would not be without regulation, however.

"Once CBD beauty products do hit the market, they will be very well regulated and of the highest quality. New Zealand has positioned itself globally as having some of the strictest quality regulations in the world," Holly says.

"It's still a new industry and there's a lot more to learn, but we believe as the CBD products become more available and consumers increase their knowledge of this groundbreaking ingredient, it will become a very exciting market for wellness and beauty enthusiasts," she says.

It won't just be local producers impacted, either, and Julia explains that international manufacturers will be ready and waiting to ship CBD products into the New Zealand market.


For now, we'll be getting our fix from hemp-based products that are legal for sale in New Zealand. Here's our pick of the crop:

Marzena Natural Body Wax Strips 20pk, $17, uses hemp seed oil in its wax formula to soothe the skin during the waxing process. Each wax strip is crafted from certified 100 per cent bio-compostable clear cellophane. Also available in a pack of 40 for $27, or as Natural Facial Wax Strips 20pk, $14, from selected supermarkets and pharmacies, or visit

Kiehl's Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, $65, is specially formulated with stressed or acne-prone skin in mind, and helps to soothe the redness and discomfort associated with blemishes, while strengthening the skin's barrier.

Swisse Hemp Seed Enriching Face Oil, $29, contains raw, cold-pressed hemp seed oil and enriching plant oils for intense hydration to improve the appearance of thirsty skin. Available from Chemist Warehouse and selected pharmacies.

Biotulin EyeMatrix Eye Cream, $79, uses hemp seed oil to soothe and refresh puffy eyes.

The Body Shop Hemp Heavy Duty Body Moisture Protector, $49, is a solid cream that melts upon contact to deliver essential fatty acids and 96 hours of hydration to ultra-dry skin.

Murad Revitalixir Recovery Serum, $179, looks to cannabis Sativa seed oil to address stress lines, reduce under-eye puffiness and dark circles, and boost hydration. Available from Caci clinics or online at

Malin + Goetz Cannabis 100ml eau de parfum, $291. We cheated a bit with this one, it doesn’t actually contain CBD oil, rather it's a bold scent that juxtaposes spicy herbaceous notes with a subtle, lingering smokiness.

Photography / Babiche Martens. Model / Matilda Foley from N Model Management. Hair and make-up / Carolyn Haslett. Stylist / Dan Ahwa.

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