CBD Craze Sparks 'Weed Washing' Trend

Remember the term ‘pinkwashing’? Where companies slapped a pink ribbon on just about anything and claimed to be donating lots of money to breast cancer research? It’s happening again, but this time it’s in the cannabis industry.

“Weed washing” is a disturbing trend that appears to be most dominant in the beauty industry and refers to the act of adding hemp oil that does not contain CBD or only contains a minuscule, non-therapeutic amount to a product in order to capitalize on CBD’s popularity and high price point. So what is the key difference between the properties of hemp seed oil and hemp oil that contains CBD? Hemp seed oil, which has been compared to jojoba or rosehip seed oil (known for their nourishing and anti-inflammatory properties), is derived from hemp seeds (which contain 0% THC), typically through cold-pressing. CBD oil is derived from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant and commonly derived through CO2 or ethanol extraction.

Claire McCormack, reporting for Beauty Independent, found that many beauty brands use the combination of incorporating hemp seed oil as an ingredient, cannabis leaf imagery on the label, and buzzwords like “calm”, “de-stress”, and “blissed out” to lure customers with the false promise of CBD. Weed washed products by such big-name brands as Sephora, Origins, and The Body Shop are all called out in McCormack’s piece for deliberately misrepresenting the CBD content (or lack thereof) in their new skincare lines.

Due to what health information site Healthline calls “the green rush” (referring to the entrepreneurial eagerness to jump on the CBD bandwagon), customers are more vulnerable to wasting their money on weed washed, non-therapeutic products than ever before. Teadora, a vendor of natural and organic skincare products using ingredients sustainably sourced from the Brazilian Amazon, offers a set of guidelines to avoid being “weed washed”. Their simple steps for knowing what to look for when scanning the labels of products that feature CBD as an ingredient include: ensuring that the ingredient is listed as “full-spectrum hemp”, “cannabinoid” or “cannabidiol” rather than simply “hemp oil”; looking for at least 50 mg of CBD in the product for anti-inflammatory properties, 100 mg for anti-aging properties, at least 200mg for pain relief; and knowing your source. 

These guidelines emphasize the larger point that even if beauty products do contain CBD, the concentration may not be high enough to provide any therapeutic effect. This could drive consumers away from CBD-enhanced products if they feel they are not seeing benefits that warrant the higher price tag, cutting this growing market short before it has a chance to fully mature.

While consumers and producers wait on more definitive federal guidelines regarding the manufacturing and marketing of beauty products that claim the healing benefits of CBD, weed washing remains rife within the industry and the need for comprehensive consumer education more pressing than ever. 

Julie Aitcheson

Julie Aitcheson is a freelance writer, author and educator. In addition to Green Market Report, her work has appeared in Vanguard Magazine, The Fresh Toast, Green Entrepreneur, Daily Press, The Baltimore Sun, LA Weekly and The Chicago Tribune. She received a full fellowship to the 2013 Stowe StoryLabs and won second place in the 2014 San Miguel Writers' Conference nonfiction writing competition. She has published two young adult novels and is currently at work on a piece of adult fiction.

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