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Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of more than 100 cannabinoids in the Cannabis sativa plant. A topical CBD lotion or cream may help relieve muscle aches, joint pain, and skin inflammation.

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.

Medical News Today’s methodology

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality, clearly labeled ingredients. The products 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 must 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) after receiving its third-party lab results.
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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.

The table below compares each of the CBD creams and lotions in this article:

Used forCBD typeCBD contentProduct sizePrice
Aspen Greenrelieving muscle painfull-spectrum1,000 mg2 oz/60 ml$84.99
Calm by Wellnessrelieving dry, itchy, and sore skinbroad-spectrum200 mg4 oz/120 mL$35.99
FABCBDcooling and warming effectsfull-spectrum1,000–3,000 mg1 fl oz/30 mL$79.99
Cornbreadorganic pain relieffull-spectrum375 mg2 oz/60 mL$49.99
Ojai Energeticsathletes, fast recovery full-spectrum100 mg1 oz/30 mL$46.95
Lazarus Naturalsfull-body moisturizingfull-spectrum1,500-5,000 mg2.5-8.5 oz/75–250 mL$25–$50
Level Selectathletes, sports recoverybroad-spectrum900,
1,800 mg
3 oz/85 g$29.99–$49.99
CBDfxrelieving muscle and joint painbroad-spectrum1,000-3,000 mg1.7 oz/50 mL$79.99–$129.99
Charlotte’s Websensitive skinfull-spectrum300-
750 mg
1–2.5 oz/28–71 g$19.99–$39.99

The following table indicates how MNT chooses to rank the products within this article:

Third-party testedCOA availableClear ingredientsCBD dosage clearly markedDosage suggestionScore
Aspen Green4.0
Calm by Wellness5.0
Ojai Energetics5.0
Lazarus Naturals4.0
Level Select4.0
Charlotte’s Web4.0

A person should consider the following factors when buying a CBD lotion:

  • Potency: Beginners to CBD may wish to start with a low-potency lotion. However, lower potencies may have weaker effects.
  • Ingredients: People may wish to prioritize products with organic, natural ingredients and USA-grown hemp. Buyers with allergies or sensitivities should check ingredient lists carefully.
  • Dosage: A person should follow the company’s dosage guidelines. However, measuring the dose for a topical CBD product might be problematic. People should start with a small amount, increase it slowly to get their desired effect, and reduce their dosage if they experience adverse effects.
  • Third-party testing: A person should ensure that the company they buy from puts its products through third-party testing and provides access to the lab test results. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products, so third-party testing is important to determine the quality and safety of CBD products.
  • CBD type: Those who want to avoid THC should purchase a CBD isolate or broad-spectrum products. However, full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products may provide more significant benefits.

Reading CBD labels

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products, a person needs to read the labels and be able to recognize the most important pieces of information when choosing a CBD product.

The table below provides some key terms and their definitions.

CBDThis is a compound present in the C. sativa plant. This compound does not create the “high” feeling that people associate with cannabis use.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)This is also a compound present in the C. sativa plant. This is the psychoactive compound that creates the “high” sensation linked with using cannabis.
Full-spectrumA full-spectrum product contains all of the natural compounds present in the cannabis plant, including THC. However, the products must not contain more than 0.3% THC to comply with FDA regulations.
Broad-spectrumBroad-spectrum products contain all natural compounds of the cannabis plant, but THC is only present in trace amounts.
CBD isolateThis is the purest form of CBD, and it should contain 0% THC.
CannabinoidsThese are compounds present within the cannabis plant. There are over 120 cannabinoids. CBD is the second richest compound in the plant after THC.
TerpenesThese are also compounds of the C. sativa plant. Terpenes typically give plants their unique aromas. Some terpenes, such as limonene, may have specific health benefits.
Certificate of analysis (COA)Reputable manufacturers of CBD products should ensure that a COA is available for inspection. A COA provides information on the third-party testing carried out by an independent laboratory that has no vested interest in the product. Sometimes, products have scannable smartphone codes that link directly to the COA.


The labels on most CBD products display the dosage information in milligrams (mg), but it is often difficult for a person to determine the correct amount to use. Currently, there are not enough studies to indicate appropriate dosages.

It is typically advisable to start with a low dosage, which a person can slowly increase over time if needed.

Learn more about CBD dosages.

Research regarding the effects of topical CBD is still limited. However, the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) states that some evidence suggests CBD can be helpful for chronic pain.

2020 research noted that topical CBD effectively managed chronic pain in people with peripheral neuropathy in the lower extremities.

There are few scientific reports on CBD side effects, but it is important to consider the potential risks of taking any supplement.

The FDA advises that some potential effects may include:

  • changes to alertness
  • drowsiness
  • mood changes
  • initially unnoticeable liver injury
  • drug interactions

If a person experiences side effects from a CBD product, they should stop using it and consult a doctor.

Using CBD lotions for pain involves rubbing the lotion into the painful area. Each product will have its own instructions on how to use it and how frequently. A person should follow this guidance closely.

People may also wish to do a patch test before applying the product to the painful area to ensure they are not sensitive to any of the ingredients.

Many people use CBD lotions and creams to relieve occasional muscle and joint pain.

However, people should contact a healthcare professional if they experience severe joint pain or swelling, or their pain does not improve with home remedies, such as rest and icing the affected areas, or if it interferes with their daily life.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, people should talk with a doctor if they experience:

  • pain that interferes with daily activities
  • joints that feel warm to the touch
  • problems with more than one joint
  • more than a few episodes of joint pain a month

Additionally, some CBD products contain ingredients that may interact with medication. Talking with a qualified health professional before using CBD products will help people understand which products will be safe for them.

If a person develops skin irritation or allergic reactions after using a CBD product, they should stop using it and seek medical advice.

Below are some frequently asked questions relating to CBD creams and lotions.

What are the benefits of CBD topicals?

CBD may benefit some skin conditions by reducing inflammation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, such conditions may include eczema, acne, and psoriasis.

Skin creams may also help with other conditions, including arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, and jaw pain.

How do I choose a CBD cream or lotion?

When choosing a CBD product, a person should consider the following:

  • dosage
  • whether or not it contains other organically grown ingredients
  • the extraction process, which may sometimes involve harsh chemicals
  • the possible interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements
  • cost

How do I use CBD creams and lotions?

Individuals can apply a CBD topical in the same way as any other skin product by massaging a small amount of product into the required area.

The more lotion a person applies, the higher the dosage of CBD they will receive. For this reason, it is important to start with less and build up the amount gradually.

A person should discuss ongoing pain or skin condition symptoms with a qualified healthcare professional.

Is CBD lotion good for skin?

2020 research notes that preclinical results suggest topical CBD products can be good for eczema, psoriasis, and pruritus. However, more research is needed to confirm these results.

The authors also write that CBD could benefit people with acne, seborrhea, and dermatitis. Research on the side effects topical CBD products may cause is limited, including hyperpigmentation and hair growth or loss.

A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using CBD lotions to treat or improve a skin condition.

CBD lotions and creams may help manage chronic pain, chronic inflammatory conditions, and some skin conditions.

In addition to lotions and creams, other topical CBD products are available, including salves and balms.

CBD products often contain other beneficial cannabinoids, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.

A person should consult a doctor before using any CBD product, particularly if they take prescription medications.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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