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We can use CBD products in different ways to get their wholesome benefits into our bodies. While sublingual and inhalation are the two main ways to consume CBD, applying the product to the skin can also give equal effects. So, how is CBD absorbed through the skin?

CBD And The Skin

Skin is undoubtedly is the largest organ in the body whose main purpose is to protect the internal organs from infections and physical threats. However, the confusion pops in when trying to understand how CBD penetrates the skin to reach the bloodstream. Therefore, to answer the question, we focus on two primary ways that CBD works with the skin. These are topical and transdermal CBD.

Topical CBD

CBD topicals such as lotions, creams, and balms are applied directly to the skin to offer localized relief from mild physical discomfort and soreness. For example, they are used to ease the discomfort resulting from strenuous exercise or injury. When applied to the skin, the topical molecules react with the skin cells called sebocytes that make up the sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands then produce sebum, an oily secretion that makes the skin flexible and resilient.

On absorption, the CBD from the topical activates the cannabinoid receptors to boost their soothing effect on the skin. However, the CBD molecules from the topicals do not penetrate beyond the sebaceous glands. Therefore, you may need to use a higher amount of topical for the CBD to penetrate further to reach the bloodstream and give the desired effect.

Transdermal CBD

The only difference between transdermal and topical CBD is that transdermal is skin-permeable. This means it can penetrate the skin easily to enter the bloodstream. Transdermal CBD works similar to topical application, though it comes with active ingredients that penetrate the lower skin layers beneath the epidermis. Therefore, besides giving quicker relief from mild physical discomfort and soreness, the ingredients also penetrate the skin to the bloodstream to give general benefits such as calmness and comfortability. They work by binding with CB2 receptors in the body.


Most skincare products are currently including CBD in their formulation due to their vital ingredients that protect, repair, and moisturize the skin, and reduce blemishes. However, these products are mostly topical CBD, designed for external use and not beyond the epidermis. Therefore, to get the CBD absorbed beyond the epidermis, you should consider using transdermal CBD products since they contain active ingredients that can penetrate the skin to reach the bloodstream.

Barbara Santini

Barbara is a freelance writer and a sex and relationships adviser at Dimepiece LA and Peaches and Screams. Barbara is involved in various educational initiatives aimed at making sex advice more accessible to everyone and breaking stigmas around sex across various cultural communities. In her spare time, Barbara enjoys trawling through vintage markets in Brick Lane, exploring new places, painting and reading.

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