A Beginner's Guide to Infused Topicals

Photo by Noah Buscher

The average woman puts five-hundred and fifteen chemicals on her body each day. Sixty percent of those are absorbed. We think of our skin as a shield, but it's time we start treating it for what it is: a sponge.

When I first fell in love with cosmetics at the age of fifteen, I was horrified to discover that the FDA did not require any pre-market testing or approval before mainstream cosmetics and personal care products hit the shelves. Many of the synthetic chemicals and industrial compounds found in American cosmetics are actually banned in Europe for being linked to cancer, reproductive harm and neurotoxicity.

That's when I realized we were all guinea pigs. And so began my 10-year crusade to make our beauty products safer and to incorporate cannabis in the process.

Most people are surprised to learn that in addition to being a plant with vast medicinal applications, cannabis is a really powerful skincare ingredient. It has been shown to relieve pain, protect skin against free radicals, fight the effects of aging, treat acne and heal dry skin—all with superior anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

So, what exactly are topicals?

Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions, balms, oils and sprays. They tend to be non-psychoactive, meaning by applying them to the skin, they won’t get you high, but they can provide real benefits like localized relief for pain and inflammation. Some brands like Foria even make a cannabis-infused lubricant to increase sexual pleasure.

As consumers, we deserve to be educated about how to evaluate the safety and efficacy of our products. It’s all about raising awareness. Cannabis Feminist was my attempt to do just that—a community platform that would educate consumers. As I built it, I discovered so many great topical brands using exclusively natural, plant-based ingredients.

So how do you find a safe topical?


Many cannabis topicals don’t list their ingredients on the bottle. Check the box and the website. If water is the first ingredient, the product probably has a lot of harmful preservatives; water has a tendency to mold. Instead, look for products that contain organic oils and butters as the base—mango butter, shea butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Many companies use organic essential oils such as tea tree, as well as Vitamin E as natural preservatives.


Always know the faces behind the products you are buying. Understand the intentions behind your favorite brands and buy products from companies that align with your values. As the cannabis industry explodes and more brands get in on the greenrush, it is crucial to find the products that are made with integrity.


Just like with food, the most trustworthy products are the ones we make ourselves. If you are a cannabis enthusiast like me, you can easily DIY and make your own cannabis skincare in the comfort of your kitchen. The next time you’re feeling crafty, use your leftover cannabis to make infused coconut oil—a cannabis beauty staple that you can use on its own or in a blend of other butters and oils. You can use infused coconut oil as a moisturizer, hair mask or even as a personal lubricant.


Jessica Assaf is the founder of Cannabis Feminist, an award-winning activist in clean beauty and cannabis, and a Harvard business school grad | ig @cannabisfeminist