Size matters (and smaller is better)

With CBD salves, the molecular size of the isolate matters—one company is leveraging that to maximize their products’ efficacy

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Oral cannabidiol (CBD) products have their benefits: They deliver more CBD to a user more directly than any other form of consumption. But they are neither the fastest nor most effective delivery method for CBD. According to multiple recent research papers, transdermal CBD is the fastest form of delivery—that is, through the skin via patches or salves. Scientists aren’t completely sure why, as of yet, but evidence is mounting to support that statement as fact. If you want CBD that will work fast, get something that penetrates your skin. 

But for maximum effect, explains Peter Espig the CEO and director of Sweet Earth Skin Care, CBD producers should consider the molecular size of the isolate used in their CBD products. Skin, as an organ, only allows very small molecules to pass through it and into the body. No matter how much CBD a salve contains, if the molecular size of that isolate is too big, the CBD won’t make it through the epidermis and the dermis and into the subcutaneous tissue. 

“The effectiveness of CBD is contingent on the molecular size of the isolate,” Espig says. Your skin won’t absorb large molecules, he explains. “And if the CBD stays on the outside of your skin, it’s not effective.”

With smaller CBD isolate molecules, however, more CBD actually penetrates the skin, getting into the muscles, and into the joints, with less product. In other words, smaller molecule sizes make CBD salves go a lot further and work a lot more potently, according to Espig.  

He explains that, generally, most CBD companies making salves, rubs, or transdermal patches are using CBD isolate that has a molecular size of 150 microns (or one-thousandths of a millimeter). According to Espig, that’s the cheapest kind of isolate because it’s comparably large. But only two to 10 percent of CBD isolate molecules that size will make it all the way through the skin.  

That’s why Sweet Earth Skin Care uses CBD isolate with 70 micron molecules, he says. It costs more, certainly, but Espig asserts that the results are well worth the higher price.  

“We’re getting anywhere between 20 to 35 percent penetration to the muscle,” he says. “It’s a completely different type of product. It’s at the level of an ingestible.”

A higher rate of skin penetration means that Sweet Earth can get away with using less CBD in its skin care products. Where most muscle rubs contain somewhere between 20-30 percent CBD, Sweet Earth’s products only contain just 10 percent. It’s not about how much CBD is in the product, Espig says, it’s about how much of the CBD actually makes it through the skin and into the user’s tissue. If a company is selling a 30 percent CBD salve with a 150 micron CBD isolate molecule, their product won’t deliver as much of the CBD isolate as Sweet Earth’s 10 percent rub. 

“Our products give you six times more penetration into the muscles,” Espig explains, “which is what you actually want. That’s why you have muscle rub. You’re not after 20 percent or 30 percent or 40 percent [CBD concentration]. What you really want is for the product to work.”

To prove that its products work, Sweet Earth is in the process of conducting its own research to better understand and explain how efficiently the products deliver CBD. 

“Companies are out there putting out these products, but they really have no research or documentation behind them to show the efficacy of the products,” Espig says. “So we’re doing the opposite.”

Sweet Earth isn’t using just any hemp for the CBD in its products, either. It’s a completely vertically integrated company. Their non-GMO hemp is grown at their own farm in Oregon’s Applegate Valley by farmers growing a proprietary strain of hemp, genetically engineered specifically for Sweet Earth’s products. 

And Sweet Earth’s skin care products are organic, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan products produced by “the number-one spa product company in the state of California,” according to Espig. 

“We teamed up with a company that has 30 years of experience in creating spa grade products. And then we blend those with our [CBD isolate].”

The result is CBD skin care products that are high quality on their own, infused with exceptional CBD, and scientifically designed to deliver more CBD, faster, than most other CBD products out there. 

“We’ve spent a lot of time working on this and I think we’re kind of a leader in this industry. [We’re] not just putting things together. We’re putting it together for the sole purpose of effectiveness,” Espig says.