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CBD topicals offer a wide range of benefits, from pain management to improving skin health. Effectiveness varies according to their potency, overall quality of ingredients, and cannabinoid profile.

Many CBD products are now available online, including topicals such as body oils, balms, and salves. This article reviews the top CBD topicals and discusses how to choose, considerations, and more.

A quick look at the 8 best CBD topicals:

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound of the Cannabis sativa plant. CBD topicals are any CBD product that a person can rub directly into the skin.

Common types of CBD topicals include:

Individuals may choose to try CBD topicals to treat various conditions, such as acne, joint pain, and muscular soreness. Research into the effectiveness of CBD topicals is limited but ongoing.

Learn about the potential benefits of CBD here.

The following table contains some useful terms relating to CBD.

TermMeaning
CBDA compound within the C. sativa plant that does not create the high sensation individuals commonly associate with cannabis use.
THCA compound in the C. sativa plant. It is the psychoactive compound that creates the high sensation from cannabis use. Its full name is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Full-spectrumA full-spectrum product will contain all of the natural compounds in the cannabis plant, including THC. However, THC levels must be no more than 0.3% to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on full-spectrum CBD products.
Broad-spectrumBroad-spectrum products contain natural compounds of the cannabis plant. However, while manufacturers remove all or most of the THC in broad-spectrum CBD, it may still be present in trace amounts.
CBD isolateThis is the purest form of CBD and should contain 0% THC.
CannabinoidsThe compounds within the cannabis plant, of which there are over 120. CBD is the second richest compound in the plant after THC.
TerpenesAnother compound of the C. sativa plant, terpenes typically give plants their specific aromas. Some terpenes, such as limonene, may have specific health benefits.
Certificate of analysis (COA)Reputable manufacturers of CBD products should ensure a COA is available for inspection. A COA provides information on the third-party testing that independent labs conduct on a particular product. Sometimes, products will have a scannable smartphone code that directs people to the COA online.

According to a 2017 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD causes no dependency effects in humans.

However, to avoid unwanted drug interactions or side effects, a person should consult a doctor or healthcare professional before using CBD products.

For more information on CBD and how to shop for it, read our complete buyer’s guide to CBD here.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality ingredients that are clearly labeled. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the CBD dosage.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis:MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) following receipt of its third-party lab results.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best overall: Joy Organics CBD Salve

  • Cost: $54.95-79.95
  • Size: 1-2 oz
  • Strength: 500 or 1,000 mg
  • Active ingredients: beeswax, lavender essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil
  • Pros: organic, high CBD content
  • Cons: higher cost than other options, unsuitable for vegans

This broad-spectrum, THC-free, phytocannabinoid-rich CBD salve may promote skin health and relieve muscle pain.

This lab-tested CBD salve contains an estimated 80.7% CBD. Joy Organics provides publicly accessible lab reports on all its products.

Joy Organics has a 3.2-star rating out of a possible 5 on Trustpilot, based on two customer reviews.

The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an A+ rating.

Learn more about Joy Organics here.

Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.

Best salve: CBDistillery Topical Salve

This hemp-derived CBD salve may help relieve localized muscle pain.

Each jar of CBDol salve contains 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD extract alongside numerous essential oil extracts.

Learn about more of the best CBD salves here.

CBDistillery states that is sources non-GMO hemp through natural farming practices.

CBDistillary has a 3.9-star rating out of a possible 5 with Trustpilot and an A+ rating with the BBB.

Read our review of CBDistillery here.

Use code “MNT20” for 20% off.

Best oil: Papa and Barkley Releaf CBD Body Oil

  • Cost: $39.99
  • Size: 2 oz
  • Strength: 400 mg
  • Active ingredients: tea tree oil, lavender oil, peppermint oil, green tea extract, vitamin E
  • Pros: GMO-free
  • Cons: may stain clothing

Papa and Barkley claims this full-spectrum CBD oil can help relieve soreness, inflammation, and chronic pain.

Learn about the best CBD oils here.

The company has a 4.6-star rating out of a possible 5 with Trustpilot based on more than 2,000 reviews. It is not BBB-accredited, but it holds an A- rating with them.

Read our review of Papa and Barkley here.

Best roll-on: Green Roads Heat Relief CBD Roll-On

  • Cost: $34.99-39.99
  • Size: 3 oz
  • Strength: 350 or 750mg
  • Active ingredients: avocado oil, rosemary oil, vitamin E, cayenne extract, bentonite clay
  • Pros: vegan-friendly
  • Cons: higher cost than other options

This plant-based product contains broad-spectrum CBD.

It contains cayenne to provide heat action for pain relief. It also contains rosemary oil for fatigued muscles. The avocado oil and bentonite clay support the skin.

Learn about other CBD products for joint pain relief here.

Green Roads have a 2.8-star rating out of a possible 5 stars on Trustpilot based on three reviews. They do not have a BBB page.

Read our review of Green Roads here.

Use code MNT20 for 20% off your order

Best cream: Holmes Organics CBD Cream

  • Cost: $34.95
  • Size: 4 oz
  • Strength: 400mg
  • Active ingredients: menthol
  • Pros: convenient pump form
  • Cons: not suitable for sensitive skin

This broad-spectrum cream includes menthol to create a cooling effect. The company state that this cream soothes and supports sore muscles.

Learn about the best CBD creams here.

Holmes Organics has no reviews on reputable websites such as Trustpilot or BBB.

Best lotion: Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion

  • Cost: $49.99
  • Size: 2 oz
  • Strength: 500 mg
  • Active ingredients: hemp extract, olive oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, menthol, tea tree oil
  • Pros: organic, high CBD content
  • Cons: may irritate those with sensitive skin, contains THC

This product contains menthol and peppermint oil to relieve muscle pain alongside the CBD oil. It is paraben and GMO free.

It contains 20 mg of THC per product.

It has been third-party tested and the results are available here.

Learn about the best CBD lotions here.

Cornbread Hemp has 2 reviews on Trustpilot, where it is listed as ‘great’ with 3.8 stars. On the manufacturer’s website, customer reviews saying the lotion helped their rheumatic and arthritic pain.

Best gel: Ojai Sports Gel

  • Cost: $46.95
  • Size: 1 oz
  • Strength: 100 mg
  • Active ingredients: arnica, calendula, rosemary, ginger, mint, black pepper, wintergreen, eucalyptus
  • Pros: gluten- and soy-free organic
  • Cons: contains less CBD than other products in this article

This water-soluble gel contains full-spectrum CBD that the manufacturer says is absorbed once it touches the body.

It also contains other active ingredients known for their abilities to soothe aching muscles, such as arnica.

It is free from gluten, soy, synthetics, and GMOs.

Learn about other CBD topicals for athletes here.

At the time of writing this company has not been reviewed on Trustpilot.

Best balm: Aspen Green Pain Relief Body Balm

  • Cost: $90
  • Size: 2 oz
  • Strength: 1000 mg
  • Active ingredients: beeswax, hemp seed oil, jojoba seed oil
  • Pros: high amount of full spectrum CBD, gluten-free, organic
  • Cons: it is the most expensive option on the list, unsuitable for vegans

This balm does not contain toxins or gluten. Aspen Green claims it may help relieve pain.

Learn more about using CBD for pain management here.

It contains high levels of full-spectrum CBD from plants grown in the rocky mountains in California. The manufacturer claims the topography and climate help produce the finest quality hemp and cannabis plants.

Learn about the best CBD balms here.

Lab purity tests are available here.

A person should apply a pea-sized amount as and when pain relief is needed.

Read our review of Aspen Green here.

The below table compares all the CBD topicals in this article on key points:

PriceTypeSizeDosage
Joy Organics$54.9579.95Salve1-2 oz500-1,000mg
CBDistillery$55Salve1 oz500mg
Papa and Barkley$39.99Oil2 oz400mg
Green Roads$34.9939.99Roll-on3 oz350-750mg
Holmes Organics$34.95Cream4 oz400mg
Cornbread Hemp CBD Lotion$49.99Lotion2 oz500 mg
Ojai Sports Gel$46.95Gel1 oz100 mg
Aspen Green Pain Relief Body Balm$90Balm2 0z1000 mg

Humans have a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in their skin. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate several bodily functions. When a person applies CBD topically, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the epidermal and dermal skin, where it acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps relieve pain.

A 2015 study of rats with arthritis showed that CBD gel greatly reduced joint swelling and did not cause any behavioral changes.

However, there are limited studies on the use of topical cannabinoids.

CBD is only one of the 120 cannabinoids identified in cannabis. It does not produce the ‘high’ effects associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and recreational cannabis consumption. However, CBD and other cannabinoids may help treat epilepsy, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms.

Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD here.

CBD’s potent antioxidant properties may help prevent skin inflammation or damage due to ultraviolet (UV) rays and environmental pollutants.

Topical CBD offers a more targeted form of treatment that may address musculoskeletal and joint pain, as well as chronic skin conditions. According to the Arthritis Foundation, CBD can also effectively treat arthritic pain.

The authors of one 2017 review found evidence suggesting that CBD may have more powerful anti-acne and neuroprotective effects than vitamin C and E.

In a small 2019 study, researchers from Italy asked 20 patients living with chronic skin diseases to administer an ointment containing CBD twice a day for 3 months. At the end of the study period, all the participants showed significant improvements in skin hydration and elasticity.

In one 2016 animal study, researchers examined the effects of topical CBD gel in rats with arthritis symptoms. The researchers found that CBD concentrations of 6.2 and 62 mg effectively reduced inflammation and pain scores.

Scientific research into the effects and health benefits of CBD topicals is still at a relatively early stage. However, there is increasing evidence that it may have numerous medicinal properties. That said, people should not use CBD as an alternative to other treatment options without discussing it with a doctor or healthcare professional first.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.

A person should contact a doctor before using any CBD products, particularly if they have known preexisting medical conditions or are taking prescribed medications.

Individuals may also consider contacting a doctor or healthcare professional if they experience side effects from a CBD product. Though often well tolerated, side effects can include:

If side effects occur, a person should discontinue using the product immediately.

Below are some common questions relating to topical CBD:

What is the most potent CBD salve?

Within this article, the Joy Organics Salve contains the most CBD per product.

Can CBD be absorbed through the skin?

Yes. CBD absorbs into the skin through receptors and penetrates through the epidermal and dermal levels.

How do I choose a CBD topical?

CBD topicals come in a variety of fragrances, ingredients, and doses.

People can look for additional ingredients they enjoy using, such as lavender oil. They should also look out for ingredients to which they may have an allergy or sensitivity.

Individuals may also consider whether the product contains THC and how much CBD is in it.

A person should also choose a topical that is within their budget.

CBD topicals may help alleviate muscle soreness, joint inflammation, and chronic skin conditions.

CBD products can contain other cannabinoids and trace amounts of THC, depending on the extraction process.

High quality CBD products undergo third-party laboratory testing that checks for CBD concentration, product quality, and contaminants.