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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.

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.

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.
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) regulation 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.

Read more about terminology and other important CBD information here.

According to a 2018 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.

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

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 3.4-star rating out of a possible 5 on Trustpilot, based on four 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.


  • contains 100% organic hemp from U.S. farms
  • free from pesticides, waxes, fats, and other foreign compounds
  • offers a 90-day trial of all products
  • contains a high CBD content


  • not suitable for people with a sensitivity or allergy to essential oils
  • higher cost, which may not be suitable for people
  • not suitable for vegans as it contains beeswax
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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 it 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.


  • the product comes with a 60-day satisfaction guarantee
  • suitable for people who wish to purchase a full-spectrum CBD balm
  • the product comes in a small jar that fits easily into bags, making it ideal for on-the-go treatments
  • GMO-free
  • contains rosemary extract and botanical extracts for anti-inflammatory effects


  • not suitable for vegans as it contains beeswax
  • not suitable for people who wish to avoid products with THC
  • not suitable for people who wish to avoid essential oils
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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

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 say the lotion helped their rheumatic and arthritic pain.


  • contains naturally derived organic ingredients, with menthol as an additional pain reliever
  • clearly labels how much THC is in each bottle
  • available as a lotion, which may have a more lightweight feel than salves and creams
  • contains hemp flowers only so there are no stems, seeds, stalks, or leaves
  • paraben- and GMO-free


  • essential oils may irritate sensitive skin
  • not suitable for people with a soy allergy
  • not suitable for people who want to avoid THC
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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

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.

Ojai has an average customer rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, from eight reviews.


  • water-soluble, which may mean it has a lighter feel than creams and salves
  • gluten-, soy-, synthetics- and GMO-free
  • organic
  • contains arnica and calendula, which may help soothe pain


  • some reviewers state the gel leaves a sticky feeling
  • ingredients such as eucalyptus and black pepper may irritate sensitive skin
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Best balm: Aspen Green Full Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Cost: $89.99
  • Size: 2 oz
  • Strength: 1000 mg
  • Active ingredients: mango butter, beeswax, hemp seed oil, jojoba seed oil

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.

The company has a 3.9 out of 5-star rating on Trustpilot, from over 50 reviews.

Read our review of Aspen Green here.


  • people only need to use a small amount of product
  • USDA-certified organic ingredients
  • plasticizers-, synthetics-, gluten- and artificial preservatives-free


  • more expensive than many other options
  • unsuitable for people who wish to avoid THC
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Best high-potency cream: Extract Labs Muscle Cream

  • Cost: $89.99
  • Size: 2.95 oz
  • Strength: 2,000 mg
  • Active ingredients: shea butter, jojoba oil, menthol, beeswax, full-spectrum hemp oil, arnica, rosemary, lavender

This product contains menthol and arnica to provide relief and restoration. Additionally, it contains 2000 mg of full-spectrum CBD.

According to the manufacturer, this cream promotes recovery, alleviates soreness, and relieves stiffness.

This product is GMP compliant, certified Kosher and Halal, USDA-certified organic, Leaping Bunny-certified, and third-party lab tested.

People can view Extract Lab’s third-party lab testing results here.

Extract Labs recommends people try the product for 1–2 weeks and then assess if the amount needs to be decreased or increased.

The company offers a 50% discount through discount programs for certain people, including veterans and active military, teachers, healthcare workers, and low income households. People can find eligibility criteria here.

Extract Labs has a 3-star rating out of a possible 5 stars on Trustpilot based on 4 reviews. It has an F rating with the BBB. The organization warns about alerts relating to alleged misleading advertising.


  • high potency option
  • USDA-certified ingredients, including beeswax and rosemary
  • the company offers a 50% discount for qualifying customers
  • people may only need to apply a dime-size amount of the product to feel its effect


  • may not be a preferred choice for some people due to its higher cost
  • not suitable for people who prefer products without THC
  • might not be suitable for people with sensitive skin as it contains essential oils
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The below table compares all the CBD topicals in this article on key points:

Joy Organics$54.9579.95Salve1-2 oz500-1,000 mg
CBDistillery$60Salve1 oz500 mg
Cornbread Hemp$49.99Lotion2 oz500 mg
Ojai$46.95Gel1 oz100 mg
Aspen Green$90Balm2 oz1,000 mg
Extract Labs$89.99Cream 2.95 oz2,000 mg

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.
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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 2022 review that investigated the effects of CBD application on rheumatic conditions in dogs, concluded that CBD oil improved pain, activity scores, and improved the quality of life index in dogs with osteoarthritis.

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

CBD is only one of the 100 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 has been shown to also effectively treat arthritic pain.

A 2020 study found that CBD has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help prevent the overproduction of sebum, which is a factor in acne.

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 2022 review of the literature, researchers examined the effects of topical CBD oil in dogs with osteoarthritis. The researchers found that CBD concentrations of 2 mg/kg of oral CBD oil given twice a day improved the dogs’ pain and activity 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 another healthcare professional first.

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

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A person should contact a doctor before using any CBD products, particularly if they have known pre-existing 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 Extract Labs Muscle Cream 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.