Cannabis Topicals: All You Need to Know

Cannabis topicals are marijuana infused products used topically on skin, hair or nails.

On today’s weed market, there are many forms of cannabis topicals for those who want to use weed infused products locally, without experiencing the usual high. These include balms, sprays, oils, gels, and lotions, among others.

Before we dive into different types of marijuana topicals, first we’ll explain what they contain and the way they work.

What’s In Cannabis Topicals?

Cannabis topicals come in many different forms, with various ingredients. The three main types of cannabis topicals are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.

Full-spectrum cannabis topicals include both THC, CBD (the two main compounds in weed), and terpenes. Broad-spectrum topicals are similar, with one exception, they contain no THC content. CBD isolates, on the other hand, include only CBD, also known as cannabidiol, without any other cannabinoid.

Apart from that, full-spectrum cannabis topicals can be THC dominant, CBD dominant, or a combination of both.

As with other cannabis products, the THC and CBD content can vary from product to product, and a terpene profile can also play a significant role in the effects produced. Therefore, it’s important to get informed before buying and applying the product, especially if you are a newbie.

THC and CBD content can vary from product to product.

Apart from cannabinoids, topicals can also include different oils, such as lavender and tea tree oil, as well as herbs and other ingredients.

Canada imposes regulations for cannabis topicals — specifically on THC amount, labeling and packaging. 

This includes a rule that a cannabis topical can’t exceed 1000mg of THC per product. 

The product also can’t contain any alcohol or nicotine, and shouldn’t be used on eyes and damaged skin. 

As proposed, the topicals can be only used on skin, hair and nails. 

The packaging must be plain and child-resistant, and the label must include information about CBD/THC content, ingredients, as well as the intended use.

How Do Cannabis Topicals Work?

Cannabis topicals produce desired effects when the active compounds from cannabis get absorbed through the skin.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive substance responsible for the plant’s intoxicating effects. Although THC is psychoactive, when applied topically, it does not induce mind-altering effects.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is also a non-psychoactive compound, albeit a one that promotes homeostasis, or an equilibrium of many systems in the body. 

So, what happens when these two are applied on the skin?

First, we should mention that the skin is our largest organ, and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) affects all of its aspects. ECS is a naturally occurring system in the human body, and it is composed of cannabinoid receptors.

THC and CBD activate cannabinoid receptors in skin.

The skin contains many cannabinoid receptors. The most abundant ECS receptor is CB1, however CB2 can also be engaged by cannabinoids. THC and CBD can activate the endocannabinoid system through these receptors.

Since topicals are applied through the skin, cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream at a much slower rate than other ways of consumption. This is due to the fact that cannabinoids are hydrophobic, which means that they are not water soluble, but rather fat and alcohol soluble.

All of this makes it hard for cannabinoids to break through the water-based layer of the skin and make their way through the bloodstream.

So, the main benefits of cannabis topicals come from the fact that the effects are produced locally and quickly. 

Cannabis Topicals Effects

Cannabis topicals are a great choice for targeted relief of certain conditions. 

Depending on the ingredients and active compound content, the effects of some topicals can be felt almost instantly, while others may take hours. It’s important to be patient, especially when trying out a new product, since the onset time can widely differ.

Cannabis topicals effects are produced locally.

To put it simply, cannabis topicals are perfect for those who want to seize the benefits of cannabis without experiencing the psychoactive effects associated with other methods. 

However, it’s important to mention that transdermal patches can induce psychoactive effects, because they allow THC to go deeper into the skin layers and enter the bloodstream.

Types of Cannabis Topicals

Cannabis topicals come in many different forms, and the most common ones are:

  1. Creams

Cannabis infused creams are a combination of water and oil with different consistencies, depending on the method of preparation. Water in oil preparations lead to more thick creams which stay longer on the skin, while oil in water preparation creates non-greasy creams. 

  1. Lotions

Lotions are easy to apply to large areas of skin, but at the same time, they can evaporate quickly. They are moisturizing, smooth, and more suitable for oily skin.

  1. Oils

Cannabis infused oils are usually a combination of oil and other active ingredients. They are thicker than lotions, and more suitable for dry skin.

  1. Salves, Balms & Ointments

Salves are usually softer than balms, but harder than ointments. They are all semisolid, thick and greasy. They are usually made with oil, paraffin, or petrolatum. Their consistency is more suitable for dry skin.

  1. Pastes

Pastes are made with powder and ointment. They are more suitable for dry skin, and their consistency enables them to stay longer on the skin, at the same time allowing it to breathe.

  1. Gels

Cannabis infused gels are transparent, rather liquidy topicals. They are made without the use of oil. Instead, they have an alcohol base, and therefore can dry out the skin, so they should be used in moderation.

  1. Sprays

Cannabis infused sprays are convenient and easy to use. They can be infused with essential oils for additional effects, such as cooling, or heating. They are applied directly to the skin, and can be used on the go.

  1. Bath Bombs

Bath bombs are a compact mixture of dry and wet ingredients which dissolve in contact with water, creating fizz and foam. Cannabis infused bath bombs can be used regardless of your skin type. However, as with any other cannabis topical, make sure not to use it if you have damaged skin, since some ingredients can irritate furthermore.

When choosing the right type of topical for your needs, you should consider your skin type and the area where you will apply the product. Gels and sprays are more suitable for hairy areas, rather than oily topicals. However, if you have dry skin, you should avoid products that could dry it out even more, and opt out for oily, and moisturizing products. The already moisturized skin, on the other hand, prefers topicals with smoother texture.

The Pros & Cons of Cannabis Topicals

The main advantages of using cannabis topicals are:

    1. Effective local treatment
    2. Minimal side effects
    3. No limitations in dosage
    4. Can be applied multiple times throughout the day
    5. No systematic effect (the high)

The disadvantages of using weed topicals:

    1. The effects are only local
    2. May require multiple applications throughout the day
    3. Can be pricey


Cannabis topicals come in many different forms, and there are numerous options on the market which you can try out. Some trial and error might be needed to find out what exactly works for you.

In order to get the most out of cannabis topicals, keep in mind that consistent application usually brings better results.

Always make sure to check the ingredient list, and when trying out a new product, always start with a small dose, and work your way up gradually.



We offer quality cannabis experiences through education, curated selection, elevated environments and inspiring stories.


It all started in 1979 on a small Hawaiian island, with a group of promising students and athletes that would hang out after school, riding in a Volkswagen van.

This group of friends loved to indulge in Pakalolo (noun: the Hawaiian word for cannabis) – or as locals called it: Choom. They named themselves the “Choom Gang” and would go on to influence our world as successful lawyers, entrepreneurs, and even the 44th president of the United States.

But back then, it was never about the future, it was about good people sparking ideas, sharing adventures, and cultivating good times.


1. Please consume responsibly.
2. When canning any food at home (e.g. cannabutter or canna-oil) you should be very careful since there can be a risk of the appearance of toxin that can lead to botulism, a very serious illness. This happens when food is canned, processed, stored or handled. Bacteria that cause botulism can very quickly grow in cannabis edibles that are made at home. Bacteria can cause botulism poisoning which is a very serious illness that affects the body’s nerves and produces serious health consequences.

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