CBD creams and other topical ointments are a great way to help treat pain and dry skin naturally. If you’ve been in the market for a CBD topical but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Read on to see which brands are our top picks for the best CBD creams, salves, and lotions.
Uses for CBD Creams and Topical Products
While oils, gummies, vapes, and other edible/inhalable options of CBD offer users a natural way to help manage chronic pain and various health conditions, a CBD topical cream is the best way to target specific areas of the body.
The best CBD topical creams bring CBD directly to any area of the body that is having tension, aches, and pains. Many people who deal with chronic muscle aches, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions often turn to CBD cream because it may offer fast, targeted, natural relief. CBD topicals may also be used for recovery after workouts or exercise to help reduce soreness and inflammation. Many of the best CBD salves and balms also include natural ingredients like shea butter, aloe, or essential oils that can help to nourish and moisturize your skin.
Best CBD Topicals: Top 3 of 2022
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Strongest CBD Cream – Spruce CBD Cream
- Best for Sprains and Bruises – Plant People CBD Balm
- Best Post-Workout Cream – CBDistillery CBD Balm
How We Chose the Our Favorite Creams and Salves
The CBD market is flooded with brands and products claiming to be the very best. But not all brands are the same, and not all products are created equally. We want to remove the frustration and confusion of finding the right CBD product so you can easily find the right CBD cream.
We evaluated each brand of CBD cream on the following key categories.
- Value — How much does the CBD cream cost?
- Strength — How many milligrams of CBD does the cream contain?
- Source — Where does the hemp used for CBD come from?
- Scent — Is the cream scented at all, and does it use natural ingredients?
- Transparency — Does the brand use third-party lab testing to ensure quality?
- Customer Experience — Do customer reviews show a positive experience overall?
Learn more about each of the CBD creams on our list below.
Strongest CBD Salve: Spruce CBD Salve
- CBD — Full Spectrum
- Strength — 1000 mg or 3000 mg CBD per container
- Hemp source — Kentucky and North Carolina
- Scent — None
Why buy: We love this product from Spruce because their CBD topical salve offers the highest concentration of CBD per ounce of any product on our list. Plus, it’s made with natural ingredients like olive oil, shea butter, and beeswax for a naturally nourishing cream. These ingredients combine with the full spectrum CBD to create a powerful CBD topical for potential pain relief.
Best for Sprains and Bruises: Plant People CBD Balm
- CBD — Full Spectrum
- Strength — 450 mg of CBD per 2oz. jar
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
Why buy: Plant People makes an outstanding CBD balm, which is formulated with full spectrum CBD to soothe aches and pains. It’s also also non-GMO, USDA organic, and gluten-free, and made to help with sore knuckles, muscles, and knees. Good for addressing stiffness and swelling, it can also be a good topical remedy for athletic sprains and bruises thanks to botanicals like peppermint, camphor, and California poppy.
Best Post-Workout Cream: CBDistillery CBD Balm
- CBD — Full Spectrum
- Strength — 500mg of CBD per 1oz. tub.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
Why buy — CBDistillery makes all of its products using natural, eco-friendly farming practices and American-grown hemp. This non-greasy CBD balm formula includes shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and natural botanicals to make it easy to apply and fast to absorb. We recommend this CBD balm for to help revive and soothe muscles after exercise or strenuous physical activity.
Using CBD Topicals: What the Research Says
Topical CBD creams and salves work because, once absorbed into the skin, the CBD goes to work with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is a highly intricate cell-signaling system that was first discovered in the 1990s by researchers who were exploring the cannabis compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
While doctors and researchers are still trying to completely comprehend the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, it may play a role in regulating various functions and processes in the body such as:
- Mood regulation
- Inflammation and immune responses
The body has two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors that are located in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors that are found in the peripheral nervous system. All of these functions help to keep the body in a state of homeostasis, or stability. Pain, chronic health conditions, or injury can throw these functions off. The ECS is thought to help the body return to normal functioning or balance.
Research also shows that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit the skin to help reduce oil production, relieve pain and itching, and moisturize. In fact, topical CBD cream may help to treat eczema, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin conditions.
How to Choose CBD Creams, Salves, & Lotions for You
When it comes to deciding on a CBD cream, there are a lot of varieties to choose from. It’s important to do your research to make an informed choice and select the best CBD topical for you. Here are a few important things to consider when comparing CBD lotions and salves.
What to Look For
Use these factors to help guide you when researching or shopping for CBD topical lotions and creams.
Make sure you know the concentration of CBD in each cream or lotion that you use. This is measured in milligrams of CBD per container, though some brands may specify how much CBD this provides in each application.
Independent third-party lab test results are a must for any CBD cream you plan on trying. These let you know that the product is free from potentially harmful compounds or toxins and that it contains the advertised concentration of cannabinoids.
Many CBD creams and topicals also contain ingredients like shea butter or olive oil and natural botanicals like citrus, peppermint, pepper, menthol, camphor, and more. Make sure that you are not allergic to any of the listed ingredients before use.
Type of Product
Some topicals are lotions that help to moisturize the skin, while others are balms, salves, liniments, or ointments that contain CBD and extra natural ingredients to create hot or cold sensations for extra help with pain relief.
How to Read Labels
The best way to ensure that you are using the correct CBD cream or salve is by carefully reading the label. These are the key pieces of information to look for on any CBD label or packaging.
- Type of CBD – The label should clearly state whether the product is made with full spectrum hemp extract, broad spectrum hemp extract, or CBD isolate.
- Concentration – Look for the amount of CBD contained in the product. For topicals, it is usually measured in milligrams of CBD per container.
- Test Results – Always check for certification that the product has been tested by a third-party lab. Many brands include QR codes on the label that link directly to the test results.
- Hemp Source – The quality of the CBD in a cream or balm is directly related to source of the hemp used. We recommend brands that use hemp grown organically in the U.S. for safety and quality.
How to Use
When you begin using CBD cream, you first need to apply the cream around the painful area to treat it locally. Actually, applying topical cream is very much the same as applying regular lotion. The main issue is that you have to use more care when using a CBD topical.
In order to make sure you’re getting the correct dosage of CBD cream, you need to find out how many milligrams of CBD are in the topical. This way, you will know right off the bat whether there’s enough CBD in the cream to give you therapeutic relief. Typically, topical creams with lower milligrams of CBD in them will be less effective than those with higher milligrams.
In general, you should use topical CBD creams as you would use CBD oil: start low and go slow. Begin with a low dose and then gradually increase the amount of the topical until you find the dose that gives you the most optimal therapeutic relief.
Another great tip for applying cream is to always make sure the area you are massaging it into is clean and free from sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells. When your skin is clean, the CBD molecules will have a better chance of reaching the affected area. When you apply the cream to the area, make sure that you use a good sized dollop. The goal is to not just rub the cream onto the area, but to thoroughly and gently massage it into the skin. Deeply massaging the topical into the skin serves to both increase the blood flow to the area as well as help the cream penetrate deeper into the tissue and spread over a wider area of the body.
Lastly, always wash your hands after applying topical cream. Since some brands have cooling or heating ingredients added to them, it definitely would not feel good if you rubbed your eyes or touched your nose or mouth after an application. Likewise, you also might want to avoid applying creams with mint, pepper, camphor, or menthol to the insides of your elbows or the backs of your knees as the skin could be easily irritated.
Safety & Side Effects
CBD is generally considered safe for adults, and CBD topicals are one of the safest methods as you do not ingest them. However, CBD can cause certain side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
CBD can also interact with some types of prescription medications, so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider and pharmacist before starting to take any CBD product. With CBD lotions or creams, there is also a chance of skin irritation if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients present. If this occurs stop using the CBD cream and consult with your doctor.
Topical CBD creams may be used alone or with other modalities such as heat or ice to add further relief from tough muscle pain, sports injuries, and muscle tension issues. They can potentially help relieve soreness and muscle pain while also promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. Use our guide to help make sure that you find the best CBD cream or lotion for you.
Marc Lewis aims to help people access the scientific consensus on natural health topics in a simple and direct format. His perspective on CBD as a natural remedy has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, MarketWatch, and Yahoo.