A Guide to CBD Topicals – Gels, Creams, Balms, Roll-ons

In 2019, U.S. sales on CBD topicals skyrocketed to $703 million. CBD topicals by 2025 are projected to reach $4.5 billion. What’s the driving force behind this?

Before grabbing one or two products off the shelves, there are few things to rehash. So we’re covering all the basic things you need to know about CBD topicals in this guide.

What are CBD topicals?

CBD topicals use CBD as their main active ingredient. CBD or cannabidiol, the main active ingredient in CBD topicals, is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis.

CBD topicals, often in forms of lotions, creams, roll-ons, and balms, are applied externally, specifically on the skin. CBD topicals elicit their effects without entering the bloodstream (in most cases), making it the perfect choice for anyone who wants to focus CBD’s relief on one specific area only. 

What are CBD topicals used for?

Unfortunately, CBD’s marketed benefits are solely based on encouraging scientific study results (mostly rat-based models) and anecdotal references. Therefore, you should take these findings with a grain of salt. 

Few studies focus on CBD topicals benefits alone, but there are several animal-modeled studies on the CBD-THC tandem’s effects. 


CBD gels are perceived to soothe, prompting manufacturers to create “cooling” formulations. They often come in tubes where you need to squeeze the contents. Upon application, you can massage CBD gel contents onto your skin in circular motions. 

It’s important to remember to always wash your hands after using CBD gels as some contents might get into the eye. Also, it’s not advisable to use the said product on open wounds. Finally, it’s best not to continue using the same product if irritations like rashes appear.


CBD creams are often fat or oil-based. They are slightly thicker versions of water-based CBD lotions. CBD creams are categorized into two – transdermal CBD and topical CBD cream. 

Transdermal CBD creams are specialized types of creams that push CBD beyond the epidermis barrier, giving the blood vessels access to the compound. So if you’re looking for a more holistic effect, transdermal CBD creams are the products to go. 

Topical CBD creams don’t reach the dermis skin layer. That’s why they’re ideal for localized surface-level symptoms. If you’re conscious of products reaching the bloodstream, topical CBD cream is for you. 

CBD Balms

CBD balm is the thickest among CBD lotions and creams. Mostly based on thick bases like beeswax, CBD balms are soothing and softening emollients. Aside from CBD, CBD balms are blends of skin-worthy ingredients of oils of coconut, argan and rosehip, essences of geranium, eucalyptus, lavender, and the like. 

CBD balms are designed to warm up upon contact with skin if CBD gels are formulated to cool. To make the most out of CBD balms, massage the area where the balm is applied.

CBD balm varieties like lip balms are also available in the market.


CBD roll-ons are for on-the-go individuals who want to discreetly use CBD because they’re packaged on travel-sized roll-on applicators. 

Like CBD gels, CBD roll-ons are also cooling agents. From herbs to aromatic ingredients, CBD roll-ons can be blended with yerba mate, frankincense, aloe arnica, calendula, and more. 

CBD roll-ons also best work with circular massages, which allows pores to absorb product components. 

The takeaway

You can buy CBD topicals in physical stores for states that allow their purchase. Usually found in designated CBD/cannabis stores, CBD topicals can sometimes be hard to find in mainstream grocery or shopping stores. 

Online stores also offer CBD topical products. The convenience of door to door delivery of purchasing online is a plus.

Purchasing CBD topicals is easy, but how do you distinguish quality from “snake oil” fads?

CBD topicals should have actual CBD in them. Unfortunately, the market is saturated with CBD topicals with no actual CBD in them. 

Companies who are brave enough to show what they put into their products publish their products’ COA (Certificate of Analysis) on the company’s website product page. 

Check their COA to confirm if there’s, indeed, CBD in the formulation. Some companies will fake their COAs, so research further on their COA’s legitimacy. 

To save time, try Hempcrate.co’s personalized subscription boxes of CBD products. From CBD topicals to CBD oils, get the best mix of quality CBD products in the market. Each month, you’ll receive a variety of CBD products. Because of the wide assortment of products, it’s a great way of knowing what CBD products work for you the best. It is simply the cheapest way to try and continue getting your CBD!

*Related article: Best CBD For Beginners

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are in no way intended to treat or diagnose any physical ailment or disease.

4 thoughts on “A Guide to CBD Topicals – Gels, Creams, Balms, Roll-ons

  1. we are Anseres Technologies LLC provides innovative formulation and product solutions to nutraceutical, cosmetic, and lifestyle industries. please check out our website and give us a call if you would like to add our products to your line for distribution.


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