The cosmetics sector is taking a long-term approach to assess what benefits cannabidiol (CBD) can provide to consumers, according to an industry leader in a recent interview.
“The interest for the industry is really a longer-term view of the benefits that this ingredient will provide,” said Sanjiv Mehra, chairman of the board of Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors (ICMAD), a nonprofit trade association in Addison, Texas. “At this point, what we see is interest from what I would call early adopter consumers. But when we actually surveyed the market, the majority of consumers are either still unaware of CBD or … they are confused and not clear what the benefits of CBD are.
“It’s like, ‘I heard of CBD, but I’m not really clear what exactly it does,’” Mehra said in a phone interview, explaining his trade organization collaborated with a member company to evaluate the market.
He said the industry will examine CBD’s benefits to consumers and how to educate them about products containing the ingredient.
“Because [it’s] one thing when we are … just creating niche products that pick on topical interests and quite another if this is going to be … a mainstay ingredient for the longer term,” Mehra added.
FDA has essentially distinguished CBD in cosmetics from CBD in conventional food and dietary supplements. Although FDA has opined the compound cannot be lawfully sold in the latter product categories, no regulation currently prohibits or restricts cannabis-derived ingredients in cosmetic products, according to a Q&A FDA recently updated.
Brand owners will research CBD’s purported benefits now that FDA has clarified the ingredient can be lawfully sold, said Mehra, the president of New York-based eos (evolution of smooth) Products LLC, which offers lip balms, lotions and other beauty products. “All we’re saying is this an ingredient and the consumer is saying, ‘OK, so why do I buy it? I get it that it’s new, it’s cool, it’s the in thing,’ but after you’ve got over that, they obviously want to know what it’s actually doing for them.”
Mehra said brands will examine CBD’s impact on such conditions as aging, dry skin and dark skin.
“Those will clearly be tested and validated against consumers, and there will be datasets developed to demonstrate that those claims are indeed viable and real,” he said.
One of the questions cosmetic brands will consider is whether to offer CBD as a single ingredient or in combination with other ingredients. For example, the benefits of a product with three ingredients—including CBD—may come entirely or predominantly from the other two ingredients, Mehra observed.
“But those also become claims that are relatively easy to make because the claims related to the other two ingredients are probably well known,” he said. “Then, you just have to show the marginal impact of CBD.”
However, marketers of CBD in cosmetics must be careful about their products’ claims. Scott Gottlieb, M.D., who recently left FDA after serving for two years as its commissioner, raised concerns in early April that retailers were making claims related to the treatment of pain. Industry lawyers stressed CBD-containing cosmetic products should not be promoted to treat a disease. FDA would consider such a promotion evidence that the product is intended to be used as an unapproved new drug.
The smaller cosmetic brands, Mehra suggested, will be the first to offer CBD and assess its benefits.
“Again, this is not one of those where it’s simple, which is why early on, you’re going to see the smaller … companies that have a little more to gain and a little less to lose being the first movers, and you’re going to see the larger brands being the last ones to move,” he said.
A different story has emerged in the retail market. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have announced plans to carry creams, lotions and other topical products containing CBD.
Mehra isn’t surprised the big retailers are embracing the compound.
“Nobody wants to be completely left out of the picture,” he said. “Part of it is they want to be there. They want the consumer to believe that they are still a destination for whatever the consumer wants.”
But he added other once-hot ingredients like arnica and lavender are no longer core ingredients in cosmetic products, so it remains to be seen how CBD will fare over the long term.
“A few years back, CVS was all over K-Beauty,” he said. “Korean beauty was it. They had aisles of it. Now, that seems to be less of a focus.”