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These days, there is no shortage of ways you can introduce CBD into your routine. With ingestible options ranging from CBD oils to gummies to teas, and topical options such as gels, lotions, and creams — figuring out where to start can be overwhelming.

But, not to fear! 

Each choice has its own set of benefits, and we are here to help break them down for you. And today, we are diving right into topicals with The Brothers Apothecary.

What Exactly Is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of the main nourishing compounds of the cannabis plant. Like THC, CBD is a cannabinoid that can spark the endocannabinoid system (ECS). 

ECS is a complex networking system within the body that uses cannabinoids to help send signals throughout the body to help regulate mood, discomfort, and more. Unlike THC, however, CBD does not cause any of the psychoactive effects that can make you feel high. 

Instead, CBD binds with cannabinoid receptors in our organs, nerves, and immune cells to help the body respond to stress, tension, and discomfort. 

Can CBD Be Absorbed Through the Skin?

Believe it or not, CBD can be absorbed through the skin. However, absorption levels will depend on the specific CBD product’s bioavailability (more on that coming up).

While transdermal and oral forms of CBD enter the bloodstream once they are absorbed, topical products like pain relief creams, balms, or salves work a little differently. Once the topical is rubbed into the skin, the cannabinoids are absorbed through the skin pores but don’t go deep enough to enter the bloodstream. Instead, they bind with the cannabinoid receptors (also known as CB receptors) in the cells directly beneath the skin. 

This process allows the CBD to connect with the receptors closest to the area it is applied to, making it a great option for experiencing soreness or discomfort in a specific muscle or joint.

Now, a little more on bioavailability. A substance’s bioavailability basically defines how easily the substance is absorbed into the body. The better your body can absorb something, the higher its bioavailability is. 

An important factor here is the immune system: part of the immune system’s job is to protect our body from foreign objects. So when it comes to the skin, your immune system will work hard to keep unrecognized substances out, even useful ones like CBD. This means that when choosing a topical, you’ll want to ensure the CBD content is high enough to move past the immune system’s defenses. 

Using topicals that include other beneficial active ingredients can also help boost CBD’s bioavailability. For instance, CBD is fat-soluble, so a lotion or cream that includes coconut oil or essential oils can make it easier for your body to absorb the CBD and reap those fast-working benefits. 

In fact, essential oils go beyond the physical benefits of the body, such as calming the mind and directly elevating your mental and spiritual energy

How Long Does it Take for CBD to Absorb?

One of the main benefits of topicals is that it absorbs quickly, often in just five to ten minutes. Because the CBD binds to receptors directly under the area it is applied to rather than moving through the bloodstream to reach the receptors in need of support, and you can feel the relief even sooner than when you ingest CBD, which typically takes over 15 minutes.

What Are the Different Types of CBD Topicals?

The three main CBD topicals you’ll find are gels, creams and lotions. The consistency and other active ingredients are what sets these three apart from one another.

CBD Gels

Most CBD gels include menthol alongside full-spectrum hemp extract, which is known for its cooling properties. Menthol is a compound derived from mint leaves. When applied directly to the skin, menthol releases a cooling sensation that can shift the brain’s focus away from the feeling of discomfort. 

At the same time, the CBD gets to work binding to receptors and working within the ECS to bring added relief right to the source. So if you overdid it at the gym or sat too long at your desk and are feeling the effects the next day, the menthol and CBD pairing may make a gel the ideal choice for getting to those sore muscles and joints. 

CBD Lotions

CBD lotions are a lighter option that can feel great on your skin. Infused with nourishing cannabinoids and other healthy vitamin or antioxidant-rich plant compounds such aloe vera, CBD lotion can nurture the skin and help combat dry or irritated skin. 

Some studies show that CBD’s anti-swelling properties may also improve visible scarring signs by working with CB2 receptors in skin cells. Lotions usually contain more water than oil, and so if you typically prefer skincare products with less oil, a CBD lotion may be suitable for you.

CBD Creams

Like lotion, high-quality CBD topical creams can work wonders on your skin. Creams are typically thicker than lotion and have a higher oil content. 

CBD in creams is often paired with other hydrating and vitamin-rich ingredients such as rosehip oil or green tea extract. Because oils hold moisture longer and boost CBD’s bioavailability, creams can be the perfect option if you’re looking to hydrate and soothe skin.

What’s the Difference?

While gels, lotions, and CBD pain cream all have different consistencies and water-to-oil ratios, all three topicals are capable of binding with receptors beneath the skin and are meant to rejuvenate the skin, soothe tension, and aid with discomfort. 

Choosing the right one largely comes down to your own personal preference, whether you prefer natural ingredients, and whether a cooler, lighter, or thicker product feels better on your skin. 

Using CBD Topicals: What You Should Know

While the use of CBD topicals can be a gamechanger for your skin, muscles, and joints, you want to make sure you know what is going into your product.

Always look for products that use organic CBD and are third-party tested. You also want to ensure there is enough CBD in the product to be absorbed. A product with average potency will have three to eight milligrams of CBD per recommended application. 

In comparison, a high potency product will contain eight or more milligrams of CBD per recommended application. Typically, CBD topicals have 100-500 mg of CBD per ounce. 

You may also want to consider whether a product uses full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolated CBD. Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the nourishing cannabinoids of the hemp plant, including the federally-legal amount of THC, which is under 0.3%. 

While THC is not enough to experience psychoactive effects, it will help the CBD bind to cb1 receptors, which can work with the brain to help regulate mood. Topicals with full-spectrum CBD can therefore provide added relief when it comes to tension or stress. 

Broad-spectrum CBD contains all of the cannabinoids except THC, while CBD isolate contains only CBD. So if you are sensitive to THC, you may prefer to seek out topicals that only use broad-spectrum or isolated CBD.

Do CBD Topicals Have Side Effects?

CBD topicals are not currently associated with any side effects, but there are a few precautions you want to be mindful of when considering topicals.


Much like any skincare product, CBD topicals are only meant to be applied externally. Always read the directions for dosage info, including how often your specific product is meant to be applied. 

Also, be sure to check out the ingredients list for any product to ensure you aren’t allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients that may be included. It is also possible that CBD absorbed through the skin may still interact with other medications, so check with a doctor if you have any concerns or questions. 


While well-made, organic, and third-party tested CBD products can support your overall wellbeing, topicals may be your best bet for providing relief to localized sources of discomfort or stress.  

When it comes to supporting healthy skin or soothing tension in a specific area, a CBD-infused cooling gel, calming lotion, or hydrating cream may just be the solution you’ve been searching for with The Brothers Apothecary.



A Study Investigating the Bioavailability of CBD and THC in an Emulsion Product in a Healthy Population | ClinicalTrials.gov

A therapeutic effect of CBD-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars | National Library of Medicine 

FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) | FDA

Jesse Richardson, Health & Wellness Advocate
Ambassador of Teas, CEO

Jesse Richardson is the co-founder of The Brothers Apothecary. He's an avid tea drinker and the primary creator behind The Brothers' products. An undergraduate of UCLA for Political Science, Jesse currently studies Medicinal Plants at Cornell University and The International School of Herbal Arts & Sciences.

Meet the Brothers.

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