Topicals Guide: Cannabis Lotions

Cannabis lotions 11 - Topicals Guide: Cannabis Lotions

There are many benefits of CBD and it can be consumed in different ways, such as smoking or vaping, ingesting edibles, or using topicals.

CBD topicals can do more than just treating pain and inflammation, they also offer multiple benefits for your skin! You can even make your own CBD topical at home with this easy recipe.

This article provides step-by-step instructions for how to make several different types of medical topicals from the comfort of your home.

What Are CBD Topicals?

For those not familiar with CBD, it is helpful to understand the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD topical treatments and how they work.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Its potential for promoting health and wellness comes from its ability to interact with receptors in your endocannabinoid system. This system plays a role in nearly every function of your body by communicating between different messengers and receptors, such as how it affects pain perception or skin function.

Topical CBD oil is more effective than other CBD products because when you apply it to your skin, the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream. With tinctures, capsules, and other edibles, a significant amount of the plant-derived cannabinoids are metabolized by your liver before circulating through your bloodstream. This means that it can take hours to feel the effects of edible CBD products, and some could be lost to digestion along the way.

CBD products’ therapeutic potential comes from the cannabinoids working directly with your skin’s endocannabinoid system receptors. Topical CBD avoids going through your digestive system, so their effects can be felt for much longer than other ingestible products–ideal for long-term relief of localized symptoms.

Topicals Guide: Cannabis Lotions

CBD Lotion

Because water is the key ingredient in CBD lotions, making them is relatively simple. Water makes up 75% of the mixture and since it’s easy to absorb into skin, these lotions are ideal for those who don’t have dry skin and prefer not greasy topicals.

The type of oil and emulsifying agent you use will have an effect on the end product.

Lightweight oils have a smaller molecule structure than thicker oils. They’re able to absorb into the skin rather quickly, leaving no residue behind. If you use a heavier oil like coconut in your lotion, it will be correspondingly heavier. If you use a lighter oil such as sunflower or almond, the lotion will be light.

The most easily accessible and effective at-home emulsifying agent is wax. None of the choices below have as many health benefits or are as easy to find: beeswax, candelilla wax, rice bran wax. Other possible but less effective emulsifiers are honey, aloe vera, apple cider vinegar, gelatin, salt, or baking soda.

Try different measurements of ingredients if you’re not using beeswax in order to find the best combination.

You can also add essential oils to your lotion for a pleasant aroma or other benefits.



  • ¼ cup oil base of your choosing
  • Up to ¾ cup of water
  • ¾ oz of beeswax (emulsifier)
  • 1 fl oz (30ml) CBD oil (this can be adjusted for the strength of lotion you desire— however, you may wish to adjust the amount of oil base added accordingly to ensure a balanced product)
  • 1-3 drops of essential oil (optional)


  1. Use any of the following methods to slowly melt beeswax into your oil base on the stovetop, mixing well: a bain-marie, double boiler, or substitute by using a food-grade metal or glass bowl placed over a pot of water.
  2. Add CBD oil and stir.
  3. Remove from heat. If using an essential oil, stir in now.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool and, while stirring continuously, add water until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Store the lotion in an air-tight container and apply to desired areas of skin as often as needed.

This recipe uses store-bought CBD oil, but you could use hemp flower instead. If you go this route, either make your own CBD oil to add in as the recipe directs, or decarboxylate the flower and add it in place of the pre-made oil.

You will need to break your flower into pieces by hand or with a grinder, and then bake it on a baking sheet at 220 degrees Fahrenheit (104℃) for 30 minutes in order to decarboxylate it.

If you’re using your own oil or flower, you’ll need to cook your lotion for a bit longer than normal (30-40 minutes) before taking it off the heat.

CBD Cream

By changing the ratio of oil and water, CBD cream has a different texture than CBD lotion. This makes it ideal for those with dry skin, as the extra oil helps to moisturize the skin.

See the above recipe and adjust the ingredients as follows:

  • ¾ cup oil base of your choosing
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ¾ oz of beeswax (emulsifier)
  • 1 fl oz (30ml) CBD oil (this can be adjusted for the strength of lotion you desire, however you may wish to adjust the amount of oil base added accordingly to ensure a balanced product)
  • 1-3 drops of essential oil (optional)

CBD Salve

A salve is the easiest type of CBD topical to make. It only requires three ingredients, and it completely negates water. This makes the salve thicker and greasier than other options like lotions, which makes it more appropriate for smaller areas. All types of oil and emulsifiers discussed earlier can be used in this recipe. This particular recipe uses coconut oil, but you could also use decarboxylated hemp flower or homemade CBD-infused oil to get the same result.

Salve ingredients:

  • 1 cup oil base (coconut oil or likewise)
  • 1 oz wax emulsifier
  • 1 fl oz (30ml) CBD oil (pre-made or homemade)
  • 1-3 drops Essential Oil (optional)

The salve’s recipe is the same as the other two topicals, but we leave out step 4 since no water is required. It’s important to remember that your salve will get thick as it cools down, so make sure you transfer it to your desired container before it sets!

You can add other ingredients to these topical lotions in order to customize them. For instance, if you were to add frozen berries—such as raspberries—to your beeswax and oil as you melt it, you could create a tinted lip balm. On a similar note, adding a teaspoon of honey, vanilla, cocoa powder, or another natural flavoring to the balm will result in flavored lip balm.

CBD is a promising relief for arthritis, and adding cayenne pepper to your balm can increase this effect while also providing a warming sensation. However, be very careful not to get the balm near your eyes.

For these products to last up to a year, store them in a cool and dark place out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will break down the cannabinoids in the product.

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