Topicals and Transdermal Patches, What's the Difference?

Liz Filmer
11 Aug 2023

Cannabis-infused topicals can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt and are cannabis-infused products applied to the skin for localised relief. Cannabis extracts can be added to topical products, including salves, lotions, and balms. All of which offer a variety of formulations targeted at specific concerns.

THC and CBD are known for their effects produced when inhaled or ingested. Still, they are just as able to impact the skin thanks to the endocannabinoid system.

Aside from impacting essential biological processes like appetite, sleep and mood, the ECS is also active in the skin, where receptors may utilise topically applied cannabinoids.

Research on the endocannabinoid system’s role in our skin function is still in the early days. Investigators are uncovering several potential benefits of using cannabinoids topically, such as:

  • Anti-inflammation
  • Pain relief
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-itch
  • Oil regulating

These effects may offer relief for numerous skin conditions. Once applied, a topical should get to work within minutes and last for about two hours.

What About Transdermal Patches?

 Transdermal products are designed to penetrate all layers of the skin and reach the bloodstream. Transdermal products are often sold as gels or patches and offer deeper penetration in the areas applied to them. As they reach the bloodstream, transdermals also provide body-wide benefits. Transdermal patches are designed to deliver a steady, slow release of cannabinoids for several hours. This makes them an excellent option for extended relief.

Since topical products cannot pass through the skin and into the bloodstream, you should only feel the localised effects of the application when using THC topicals. Research supports that THC topicals alone should not appear in a blood test.

THC topicals are being studied to treat inflammatory skin diseases, neuropathic pain, and glaucoma. Many patients also use THC salves, lotions and balms to help relieve sore muscle, and joint pain, amongst other conditions.

Remember, those transdermal THC products will penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. This may produce feelings of intoxication that could appear on blood test results.

How Do CBD Topicals Work?

CBD works essentially in the same way as topical THC. This is through the activation of cannabinoid receptors found in the skin. However, CBD modulates separate receptors from THC, meaning that CBD may exercise similar effects as THC. Still, it achieves these impacts in distinct ways.

Like THC, CBD is being studied in inflammatory skin conditions and treating pain and discomfort, among other uses.

More on this Topic at Soft Secrets:

CBD for Skin Conditions

What are transdermal patches?

Alternative Cannabis Products

Liz Filmer