Are Cannabis Topicals Right For You?

Wearing your weed has its benefits. Cannabis topicals can be a key part of managing pain, recovery after working out, and even a routine lotion. Get to know the what, why, and how of topical products with our guide.


What are cannabis topicals?

Cannabis topicals refer to any product that can be applied directly to your skin for targeted effects, including sports creams, gels, sprays, and patches. Topicals do not enter your bloodstream.

Sometimes, they contain terpenes to help with cannabinoid delivery (plus, they smell great), or other ingredients that may be helpful. Topicals generally offer fast-acting, localized relief or hydration much like other products applied to your skin. 


Can cannabis topicals get me high?

Most cannabis topicals will not get you high. There is one class of topical products that are an exception, though: transdermals. Transdermal cannabis topicals are designed to go through your skin and enter your bloodstream. As a result, transdermal products that contain delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis, will cause intoxication. However, non-transdermal cannabis topicals will never make you feel high, nor will transdermal topicals that don’t contain intoxicating cannabinoids like THC.


How do cannabis topicals work?

Cannabis topicals work by applying them directly to your skin wherever the effects are most needed. For example, if you have sore joints, you can gently rub a cream into the areas where you feel pain, and they will get to work within minutes. Similarly, if you’re an athlete looking to recover after a workout, you can apply topicals to sore muscles and rub in thoroughly for fast-acting pain relief. 

The reason topicals are so effective at providing quick, localized relief is thanks to something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the cannabinoid receptors that help make it up. The ECS is responsible for regulating a wide range of functions in the central nervous system and immune system, including pain perception. When you put a topical on your body, the cannabinoids bind to or interact with the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS, helping to reduce pain and inflammation. Your skin, muscles, and nerves contain lots of endocannabinoid receptors.

Since topicals are applied directly to the affected area, cannabinoids bind quickly to the ECS’s cannabinoid receptors and get to work right away, without the need to be metabolized first. However, because of this, most cannabis topicals only provide a localized effect, rather than a systemic one like you would expect when smoking, vaporizing, or orally ingesting cannabis products.

Additionally, many cannabis topicals are formulated with skincare in mind, including common ingredients in other lotions and ointments like Vitamin E or Aloe Vera, for example. So, in addition to the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, cannabis topicals can also moisturize, alleviating dry or itchy skin.


What are cannabis topicals used for?

Here’s a look at some of the most common ways you can try a topical.

  • Pain relief: Sore joints, bumps, and bruises can get quick relief with topicals. Since the ECS governs pain perception, topicals can help reduce feelings of discomfort due to injuries or a medical condition like neuropathy or multiple sclerosis (MS) that causes pain. And for conditions like these where a combination of factors cause pain, a combination of topicals and inhaled or ingested cannabis products can go quite a long way.
  • Workout recovery: Struggling to bounce back after straining muscles? Topicals may help ease your recovery. Much like managing joint pain, rub a cannabis-infused cream or gel into the muscles that are aching after your latest workout to help calm your body and get you back on your feet. Oftentimes, these products are formulated with other feel-good ingredients like cooling camphor.
  • Skincare: Not only are many cannabis topicals made with common skincare ingredients, there is research to suggest that cannabinoids like CBD could influence skin wellness, too! This makes cannabis topicals a great choice for improving the appearance of hydrated skin, leaving you looking and feeling refreshed and radiant.
  • Managing skin conditions: Topicals with CBD may play a role in calming irritated skin. So if you struggle with breakouts or other types of irritation, topicals may help.
  • Hair care: If you’ve seen a CBD haircare product, there’s science behind this formula!  The CB1 receptor of the ECS is thought to play a role in hair follicle growth, and there’s some research to suggest that cannabis topicals high in CBD could be effective for this purpose.

Depending on your intended use case, there may be products that are better suited for you. If you’re not sure what the best type of cannabis topicals for your needs are, ask one of our friendly and helpful budtenders at your local Iconic Wellness provisioning center.


How do you use cannabis topicals?

Using most cannabis topicals is as simple as applying them directly to clean skin and, in the case of creams, gels, and ointments, rubbing them in thoroughly. Always follow the directions on the packaging, but most cannabis topicals can be applied as needed throughout the day. 

For cannabis patches, clean and dry where you want to put the patch, peel off the back, and place it. Unlike creams and gels which will need to be reapplied regularly for lasting relief, patches release cannabinoids over time and allow a “set it and forget it” type approach to using topicals. Consider what’s hurting when placing your patch, and also how much movement that area gets throughout the day. For example, placing a patch on your elbow might not last long, as the repetitive motion of your arm will cause the patch to peel off faster.

Remember: Cannabis topicals can help you feel better in many ways, but they’re not a magic potion. They’re most effective when used as part of a regular routine that includes inhaling cannabis or taking an edible. 


Do cannabis topicals contain CBD or THC?

Cannabis topicals come in many formulations, some of which include THC, others that include CBD, and some that have both. Cannabis topicals may also include other compounds found in the plant, from other cannabinoids like Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabinol (CBN) to terpenes like limonene, beta-caryophyllene, and myrcene. Each of these compounds carries its own unique properties and may augment or enhance the effects of other compounds in the formulation in a process known as the entourage effect

If you’re not sure which is right for you, ask an Iconic Wellness budtender. They can recommend the best product available for your goals.


Are patches considered topicals?

Patches are considered topicals, as you apply them directly to the affected area for localized relief. Any product that can be applied in this way is considered a cannabis infused topical. 


Cannabis topical shopping options at Iconic Wellness

You may encounter a lot of different types of cannabis topicals, some of which may be better suited to your needs than others. Below are some of the common types of cannabis topicals you may find in an Iconic Wellness dispensary near you.

  • Creams: One of the most common types of cannabis topicals, creams are a familiar product much like the non-infused products you use every day. Apply the right amount, rub it in, and let it absorb.
  • Patches: Patches provide long-lasting relief and come in both transdermal and non-transdermal varieties. Transdermal patches cause systemic effects, including a high, while non-transdermal patches simply provide localized effects over time. The benefit is you can simply affix a patch and leave it on, so it works for hours at a time without reapplying.
  • Roll-ons: Roll-on cannabis topicals offer similar benefits as creams without the messy application. These products are great for quick, clean application, whether you’re at home or on the go. Uncap your roll-on and apply as needed to the affected areas.
  • Sprays: Thinner than creams, sprays absorb into the skin quickly and make reapplying a cinch. Sprays should still be thoroughly rubbed in to optimize their effects.
  • Lubricants: Personal lubricants and massage oils are another popular type of cannabis topical. These products reduce friction and provide a rush of cannabinoids, offering an enhanced experience over other lubricants on the market.

      When shopping for a specific type of cannabis topical, consider your use case and which might best serve you. And, of course, always read the label carefully to determine whether the compounds that will be effective for your needs are included. Just because a type of cannabis topical may be commonly used for certain purposes doesn’t mean the formulation will be optimal — always know which compounds are in a product before you buy it.


      Shop cannabis topicals at Iconic Wellness

      At Iconic Wellness, our goal is to support your cannabis shopping experience with outgoing and knowledgeable budtenders who can steer you toward the best products for your needs. When it comes to cannabis topicals, we carry a range of products that can be used for pain relief, skincare, athletic recovery, and more. To check out what we have in stock, simply stop in at one of our locations in Lowell, Gaylord, or Sturgis and talk to a budtender about what’s available. We’ll make sure you go home with a product that offers exactly what you’re looking for.

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