How to Use CBD to Make Your Own Awesome Topicals

January 20, 2021

jen keehn

Written by Jen Keehn

Dr. El-Hajj

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sandra El-Hajj

As times have changed, so have solutions. CBD cream and topicals such as CBD lotion, salves and balms have become one of the most popular ways to incorporate CBD into your lifestyle. They are fast-acting and provide targeted relief when you need it most.

If you suffer from chronic pain and inflammation, various skin conditions, sensitive skin, or want something completely natural to add to your daily skincare routine, then CBD cream and other topicals might be the next best thing for you.

We live in an age where making things yourself is sometimes better. Whether you want to make your own CBD creams tailored to your needs, such as an anti-aging CBD cream with soothing anti-inflammatory properties, or something a little more substantial for pain relief, we will cover them all in this article.

dose of topical CBD

Before we dive into how to make your own CBD lotion and topicals, which is easy and a lot of fun, let’s talk about why you’d ever want to do this in the first place. 

Why Make Your Own CBD Topicals?

CBD topical creams and balms work quickly and effectively, offering almost immediate relief from various conditions ranging from muscle aches and pains to inflammation and joint pain associated with arthritis. Here are some of the most common issues treated with CBD cream.

  • Acne – CBD is well known for its relief from troubling skin conditions like acne and eczema. Both anecdotal and peer-reviewed pieces of research show the beneficial effect of CBD on acne1. Studies have linked CBD to a reduction in the appearance of blemishes and red, inflamed skin. If you’ve got troubled skin and haven’t tried a CBD topical for acne, well, it’s an option to consider.
  • Beauty Aid – Some even say that CBD has an anti-aging effect due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been shown to help slow down the aging process by reducing free radical damage to skin cells and increasing oil production that slows down with age 2.
  • Reduce Stress and Tension – CBD balm is an excellent massage base, offering relief to sore, overworked, or tense muscles. A CBD-infused massage lotion can offer an added sense of relaxation to an already fantastic way to de-stress.
  • Relieve Joint and Muscle Pain – Applied topically, CBD can work wonders to relieve joint and muscle pain. Whether associated with arthritis or something else, rubbing a CBD topical onto troubled areas may offer quick, localized relief wherever and whenever you need it most.  

best cbd topicals

How Do CBD Topicals Work?

It all comes down to the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) and how CBD works in natural harmony with it. Located in various cells throughout the body, the ECS is an important modulatory system that research3 shows responsible for the brain, endocrine, and immune tissue function. 

It’s known to play a significant role in the secretion of hormones involved in our stress response and various reproductive functions. Aside from being found throughout the brain and nervous system, studies 4 also indicate the presence of a functional endocannabinoid system in the skin that is associated with several biological processes, including the reproduction, growth, differentiation, and death of various skin cell types and appendages.

The primary physiological function of the skin’s endocannabinoid system is believed to control the proper and well-balanced reproduction, variation, survival, and immune competence of the skin cells. 

endocannabinoid system

Disrupting The Natural Balance

Disruption of the natural balance of skin cells leads to several different skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, allergic dermatitis, itchiness, pain, psoriasis, seborrhea, and others.

When you apply CBD topically directly to the skin, it works in harmony with the endocannabinoid system in the skin. Ultimately, this brings balance back to any disruption within the skin’s ECS.

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CBD cream and other topicals also provide localized relief that can do wonders for managing pain. While CBD topically prevents it from reaching the bloodstream, it is a known TRPV-1 receptor agonist, which helps modulate feelings of pain. CBD’s affinity for the TRPV-1 receptor is also why applying CBD topically helps control itchy skin and heat.

Making Your Own Topicals: CBD Tincture or CBD Isolate

Choosing the right kind of CBD for your topical body creams is essential. You will need to choose between CBD tincture or CBD isolate. Here’s a bit about each, so you understand why.

CBD Tincture

A CBD tincture is one of the most popular ways to administer CBD. CBD tinctures are made by extracting CBD oil from the hemp plant, where it is then mixed with a carrier oil such as MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil, coconut oil, or hemp seed oil.

holding CBD tincture

Tinctures are mostly taken orally or added to food. CBD tinctures are a great option to look into when starting your topical CBD journey.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is a pure, crystalline powder that contains 99% pure CBD. CBD isolate is made with a more detailed extraction process than a CBD tincture. The concentrated CBD extract is removed from the hemp plant; it goes through an additional multi-step process to remove all traces of plant material, waxes, and all components left behind during the initial purification process. 

cbd isolate

The result is a fine, white powder that’s 99% CBD. CBD isolate has no odor and can be taken in various ways.

Different Types of CBD Topicals: Salves, Lotions, Balms, and Creams

When it comes to making your own CBD topicals, you've got a few options to choose from. The good news is, they're all pretty simple to make at home. 

3 Common CBD Topicals

Here, we’ll look at a few different topical options and what makes each unique. While they are all pretty dang similar, it is still important to understand the minor differences before buying CBD creams or other other forms of topicals.

Salves / Balms

CBD Product

Salves are one of the easiest topicals to make at home. They are thicker than lotions and creams and typically “greasy” when applied to the skin. CBD salves are a combination of oil (usually coconut oil or olive oil), beeswax, and CBD oil or isolate.

Ever run into a CBD balm? Well, its essentially the same thing.

Lotions

Lotions take salves a step further by adding water into the mix. CBD lotions combine oil (almond, jojoba, or other liquid oil), water, emulsifying agent (usually beeswax or an alternative like soy wax or candelilla wax), and CBD oil or isolate.

lotion in a jar

The main ingredient of lotion is water (70-80 percent). The type of oil you use will largely determine the texture of your lotion. Lighter oils like sweet almond, apricot, or sunflower will give you a more lightweight lotion, while shea butter or cocoa butter will produce a much thicker consistency.

Creams

Creams are thicker than lotion but not as thick as salves. Creams are more viscous than lotions because they contain more oil than water. CBD creams combine oil, water, an emulsifying agent, and CBD oil or isolate. 

The percentage of oil to water is much higher (roughly 75 percent oil/25 percent water), which offers a thicker consistency best used for dehydrated skin or very dry skin. Creams are great in the winter months as they provide serious moisture where you need it most. 

Enjoying your read? Sign up to be a part of the CBD School community, and we’ll send you a free eBook called The Beginner’s Guide to CBD. It will get you caught up in all things CBD. Additionally, you’ll get updates on the best CBD products and discounts in the industry.

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So you see, the vast difference in various CBD topicals is the oil/water ratio that’s used to make them. CBD salves have the thickest consistency of all topicals because they don’t contain any water, while a CBD lotion will have the smoothest consistency because of its high water content.

Making Your Own CBD Topicals

Now that you know what CBD topicals are made of, it’s time to learn how to make your own. Making topicals is a fun and relatively simple process. 

Not only do they give you a way to customize your blend of a highly beneficial way to get your CBD on, but CBD topicals also make great gifts! 

Keep that in mind during the holidays, on birthdays, or any other occasion that calls for a fantastic DIY gift for someone special.

Sidenote On Beeswax

Most recipes call for beeswax, but you can use soy wax, candelilla wax, or another alternative. Remember that you may need to adjust the wax level in the recipes below if you use an alternative.

Also, keep in mind that if you use a CBD tincture (as opposed to an isolate), you will be adding the carrier oil of the tincture along with the CBD contained within. Just be aware of these small details as they may change the consistency of your final product.

When possible, use a CBD tincture containing a carrier oil that matches an ingredient you are already adding to your recipe. This will ensure a consistent mixture.

 

How to Make CBD Salve

CBD Salves

Ingredients:

  • ¾ Cup Distilled Water
  • ¼ Cup Oil of Your Choice
  • 0.5-1 oz. beeswax (or soy wax or candelilla wax if you prefer)
  • 3000mg CBD Oil or 3 grams CBD Isolate
  • Essential Oils (EO) of Your Choice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and beeswax in a double boiler until wax melts, stirring well.
  2. Add CBD oil or isolate and simmer over low heat until fully incorporated, ensuring no overheating.
  3. Allow to cool slightly and add EO of your choice.
  4. Before the mixture cools completely, slowly add water until your lotion is of the desired consistency.
  5. Remember that this lotion won’t “pump” well out of a dispenser. Pour into a container. Again, a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid is best.
  6. You can add shea butter or cocoa butter to your lotion recipes for a more luxurious lotion.

How to Make CBD Lotion

Ingredients:

  • ¾ Cup Distilled Water
  • ¼ Cup Oil of Your Choice
  • 0.5-1 oz. Beeswax (or soy wax or candelilla wax if you prefer)
  • 3000mg CBD Oil or 3 grams CBD Isolate
  • Essential Oils of Your Choice (optional)

Directions:

  • Heat oil and beeswax in a double boiler (or alternative) until wax melts, stirring well.
  • Add CBD oil or isolate and simmer over low heat until fully incorporated, ensuring not to overheat.
  • Allow to cool slightly and add essential oils of your choice.
  • Before the mixture cools completely, slowly add water until your lotion is of the desired consistency.
  • Pour into a storage container. Again, a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid is best. Keep in mind that this lotion won’t “pump” well out of a dispenser.

How to Make CBD Cream

home made CBD cream

(Remember, cream is very similar to lotion. The big difference is the amount of water that’s used.)

Ingredients:

  • ¾ Cup Oil of Your Choice
  • ¼ Cup Distilled Water
  • 0.5-1 oz. beeswax (or soy wax or candelilla wax if you prefer)
  • 3000mg CBD Oil or 3 grams CBD Isolate
  • Essential Oils (EO) of Your Choice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil and beeswax in a double boiler (or alternative) until wax melts, stirring well.
  2. Add CBD oil or isolate and stir well over low heat until fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and cool slightly before you add essential oils.
  4. Slowly add water until your cream is of desired consistency. The less water you use, the thicker it will turn out (more like a salve). The more water you use, the more it will be like lotion. Go slow until you reach the consistency you want.

As you can see, using CBD to make your topicals is easy. 

If it seems a bit intimidating, remember everything gets easier with time. 

Before long, you’ll be whipping up a whole range of different topicals for your skin.

Essential Oils for CBD Topicals

Bottles Of Essential Oils

We talked about adding your essential oil blends (EO). 

While this is entirely optional, EOs can offer added benefits of their own. When combined with the healing benefits of CBD, they can make a seriously good topical that offers your skin the nutrients and healing it needs.

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Some popular oils (and their benefits) that you might want to consider adding to your own soothing CBD creams and balms include:

  • Lavender: Lavender not only smells fantastic but is one of the most beneficial EO’s that exist. Lavender is great for reducing stress and anxiety, healing wounds, clearing up acne, relieving pain, alleviating headaches, and more.

  • Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus is a known anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal. It’s also beneficial for alleviating itchy scalp, relieving joint pain, reducing muscle pain, and clearing up acne and skin inflammation.

  • Tea Tree: Tea tree oil is one of the most popular EO’s used to treat acne. When combined with CBD, you’ve got a powerful natural remedy that can help reduce acne and clear up any complexion issues you might have.

  • Ylang-Ylang: If you’re looking for a unique floral scent in your homemade CBD topicals, ylang-ylang is your go-to. Aside from smelling amazing, this EO oil can help control oil production in the skin and reduce breakouts. Ylang-ylang also helps the regeneration of skin cells, improves skin elasticity, and smooths out fine lines and wrinkles, making it an excellent ingredient for anyone concerned with aging skin.

  • Peppermint: A great choice when making CBD topicals for holiday gifts because of its scent, peppermint EO is also known to be excellent for relieving pain and inflammation associated with arthritis pain 5. CBD is also known to alleviate arthritis pain, making a peppermint CBD topical a superb gift for yourself or anyone you know that may be who has arthritis.

  • Frankincense: Frankincense has been used for thousands of years and is a known anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial 6. It reduces the appearance of stretch marks and has a sweet and slightly earthy woody scent that many find extremely pleasant to the senses. It also helps relieve stress, enhance immune function, improve memory, and reduce the signs of aging.

A note on EO’s:

Make sure you research your EO’s before adding them to your salves. Some are not always safe during specific stages in life. This is particularly important if you are gifting it to someone you love.

Here are a few times where you need to be careful with the kind of EO you choose to use:

Pregnancy – As pregnancy often comes with a range of aches and pains, CBD balms often come in handy. If you are making a topical for a pregnant lady, avoid using these EO’s: camphor, parsley seed, hyssop, pennyroyal, tarragon, wintergreen, wormwood.

Children – CBD cream for children are a great way to soothe growing pains, there are a few EO’s that should be avoided; bay, cinnamon bark or leaf, clove bud or leaf, lemongrass, peppermint, thyme, verbena, rosemary, fennel. Children’s safe EO’s include cedarwood, fir, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, spearmint, tangerine.

Underlying health conditions – there are a few conditions that might require a little research on your behalf before adding them to your CBD creams and balms as they might interfere with medications. Always check before adding just to be safe!

Final Thoughts

Topical CBD lotion, balms, and salves are a massive benefit for several different skin conditions. They help provide quick, localized relief to painful areas of the body (sore back, stiff joints, muscle aches, etc.).

Making your own CBD cream, lotion, or any other kind of buttery good balm isn’t just effortless but a fun process that allows you to customize your very own topical solutions that suit your skin and your needs.

The recipes we provided are general guidelines for making your CBD-infused topicals.

You can use as little or as much CBD tincture or isolate as you desire to make your lotions, salves, and creams. Your recipes are just a guideline to give you a starting point of reference.

Adding a few drops of vitamin E will extend the shelf-life of your topicals. While optional, it’s something to keep in mind if you won’t use the entire jar within weeks. 

One of the best things about making your own CBD-infused topicals is experimenting until you find the perfect blend. 

Let us know about your experiments and creations in the comments below! 

Share Your Experiences in the DIY Forum

Interested in trying to make your own CBD topicals? Maybe you've already tried? Share your ideas, recipes, and experiences with other CBD School members in the CBD DIY Discussion Forum.

References

1Oláh, A., Tóth, B., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A., Czifra, G., . . . Bíró, T. (2014, July 25). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.jci.org/articles/view/64628 

2Eren, B., Tuncay Tanrıverdi, S., Aydın Köse, F., & Özer, Ö. (2019). Antioxidant properties evaluation of topical astaxanthin formulations as anti-aging products. Journal of cosmetic dermatology18(1), 242–250. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12665

 
3Komorowski, J., & Stepień, H. (2007). Rola układu endokannabinoidowego w regulacji czynności dokrewnej i kontroli równowagi energetycznej człowieka [The role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of endocrine function and in the control of energy balance in humans]. Postepy higieny i medycyny doswiadczalnej (Online)61, 99–105.
 

4Bíró, T., Tóth, B. I., Haskó, G., Paus, R., & Pacher, P. (2009, July 15). The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: Novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tips.2009.05.004

5Davies, S. J., Harding, L. M., & Baranowski, A. P. (2002). A novel treatment of postherpetic neuralgia using peppermint oil. The Clinical journal of pain18(3), 200–202. https://doi.org/10.1097/00002508-200205000-00011
 
6Han, X., Rodriguez, D., & Parker, T. L. (2017). Biological activities of frankincense essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts. Biochimie open4, 31–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopen.2017.01.003




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