Cannabis Made Clear

Consuming Cannabis: Topical Application

Cannabis can be consumed in many ways, each with its own pros and cons. Discover how applying cannabis topically affects the way it works in your body.

Whether it’s through an infused cream, lip balm or bath bomb, consuming cannabis topically often produces a more localized effect than other consumption methods. Read on to learn other ways topical cannabis consumption differs, specifically how it affects your epidermal system, the timing of effects and how to minimize your risk.

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When you apply cannabis topically, the cannabinoids travel into your epidermal system, not your bloodstream. This category of regulated products is growing fast and includes items like cannabinoid-infused oils, creams and lotions, bath bombs, lip balms and shower gels.

It is thought that because CBD and other cannabinoids show evidence of anti-inflammatory properties, cannabis may be used topically to manage peripheral pain and arthritis; however, whether topical cannabis is effective for pain relief has not yet been established.


Read the label for the recommended dosage, as it varies from product to product. When you apply cannabis topicals to your skin, the cannabinoids are absorbed into your epidermal system, not your bloodstream, so you may feel tingling or muscle relaxation but are not likely to experience the psychoactive effects associated with other forms of cannabis that contain THC. (CBD does not produce intoxicating effects when absorbed into your bloodstream or epidermal system.)

It’s believed that the risk of intoxication or impairment following the application of any cannabinoid-infused topical is low, although there has yet to be thorough research evaluating these potential effects. Consider recording your reactions and monitoring them to fully understand how much of a cannabis topical to apply to achieve the desired effect.


More research is required to fully understand the onset time and duration of effects of topical cannabis products. Keep in mind that different products will affect everyone differently.

Reducing risk

Topical application of cannabis is not without risks. There is some concern that cannabis-infused topicals purchased from the illegal market could be contaminated with fungus or mould because they are not regulated. Choose legal products to ensure you’re getting the correct dosage — and read all the ingredients to avoid skin sensitivities and allergic reactions. Unless a product is designed for intimate use, avoid sensitive areas.

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This content has been assessed for accuracy by an unpaid scientific reviewer.
Learn more about our reviewers and resources.

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