These are our favorite CBD creams, after two years of trial and error

By Melena Gurganus

CBD oil is changing the natural health space with its long list of wellness benefits. When applied topically, CBD cream may help alleviate localized pain or increase relaxation.

With so many options are the market, though, it can be hard to know what to buy. To make this guide we worked with more than 100 brand to understand their quality control practices, supply chain, and product formulations to making shopping easier for you.

Take a look at our top picks and learn more about CBD lotions after the product round-up.

Our Favorite Creams and Topicals for Pain

Our team spends each day talking to brands, testing products, and talking to consumers about how they use CBD. This list of best CBD creams and topicals highlights brands that we trust.

People buy hemp lotions to moisturize or treat skin. But most CBD lotions — hemp lotions that contain cannabidiol — are used to help relieve discomfort or inflammation. That’s why our list focuses on pain.

If you want a specific recommendation for some other use, you can always email me directly at

Disclosure: Clicking on these links and making a purchase may earn us a small referral fee, at no extra cost to you. Learn more here.

Spruce CBD Salve

Price: $89.00 or $169.00

This salve from Spruce CBD is available in 1000mg or 2000mg concentration options, making it the strongest topical on our list. The all-natural and full spectrum formula is a hit with customers, as they love the effects they experience when using this product.

Spruce has a loyal following in the arthritis community. The brand site is loaded with testimonials and videos from consumers. While we like the product ourselves, we especially like the amount of positive feedback the brand has received. It’s important that a product meant to deliver relief really works.

Charlotte's Web Hemp-Infused Cream

Price: $39.99

This hemp infused CBD cream contains 750mg of hemp extract in total, as well as additionally beneficial ingredients like vitamin B5, aloe, arnica and shea butter that work to nourish and soothe the skin.

Charlotte’s Web’s hemp creams — unlike many hemp lotions — don’t leave a greasy residue or feel like a cheap, natural product. This quality lotion promises a restoring, revitalized feeling. They are good for sensitive skin — and contain full spectrum hemp.

CBDistillery Topical Salve

Price: $50.00

The CBDol salve from CBDistillery has a rich 500mg of CBD per 1 ounce container, which is one of the strongest CBD topical products on the market. This product is also full spectrum to promote a synergistic effect.

We love CBDistillery for the value and variety of products offered on the site. All made with certified, Colorado hemp — the brand makes products that are consistent in quality and never over-priced.

***Discount: Use code RR10 for 10% off

cbdMD Freeze Roller

Price: $29.99, $59.99, or $99.99

For high potency options, cbdMD has some of the strongest CBD topicals on the market that come in 300mg, 750mg, or 1500mg. Their freezer roll-ons are also super helpful for applying to hard-to-reach areas.

The cooling sensation is significant — and provides good relief. This product is a favorite for the golf bag or gym bag, and kind of mirrors the “icy” half of your typical sports creams.

Should you buy CBD lotions?

CBD-infused topicals are applied on top of the skin. To get the most out of a CBD ointment or cream, gently rub the product into your skin to ensure that it is absorbed, especially if you are trying to get pain relief.

There are essentially three different consistencies when it comes to CBD topicals.

  • Lotions and creams—these tend to be very similar in terms of ingredients and texture, although CBD creams often feel slightly thicker than hemp lotions. Products that fall under the cream and lotion category typically also include shea butter, aloe vera, and other nutrients to moisturize and restore the skin barrier. (Note that these ingredients can also be found in some other topicals as well, it just depends what kind you use).
  • Balms and salves—a little goes a long way with these products, and the terms are often used interchangeably so it’s hard to determine if there are any real differences between the two. You can expect both of these topicals to have beeswax and essential oils mixed in with CBD, and no water is used to make them. Salves are generally a little softer than balms, which can be quite thick.
  • Oils—naturally, these have the smoothest feeling and usually incorporate other ingredients like olive or coconut oil, as well as other essential oils, vitamins, and minerals. Hemp extract oils may take longer to set into the skin since they are slick, but they work great when massaged into an area.

CBD topicals are convenient and easy to use. But you should shop for a product that works for your needs.

For instance, you may select a thick balm or salve for targeted relief in a troublesome area, or if you want an all-over relaxing sensation for your skin, a CBD lotion may be the route to take.

How are topicals different than other CBD products?

Since CBD topicals only affect surface layers of the body, they are unlike any other application method. Other forms of CBD use require you to sublingually apply, ingest, or inhale the cannabis extracted compound, and each of these techniques allow CBD to enter the bloodstream.

This means CBD will directly affect the endocannabinoid system, including receptors in the peripheral and central nervous system. However, this is not the case for topicals.

CBD infused balms, lotions, and salves do not enter the bloodstream when applied topically. The first layer of human skin (the epidermis) has low permeability, so the CBD in any topical products will not penetrate far enough past this barrier to reach the blood vessels.

This characteristic appeals to many newcomers in the CBD realm, since direct methods of ingestion or inhalation can seem a bit daunting to those that are unsure of the effects that CBD may have on their body.

Benefits of CBD Topicals

Although CBD doesn’t infiltrate your bloodstream through the use of topicals, they are effective in several other ways.

Like the nervous system, your skin also has endocannabinoid receptors which can be activated by applying CBD infused products, which allows your skin to absorb the CBD.

The benefits of CBD topicals may include:

  • The anti-inflammatory properties may help to reduce chronic pain, especially for joints and muscles. One study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that pain and joint swelling were significantly reduced in rats with arthritis.
  • CBD topicals may prove helpful for acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
  • Hemp seed oil is less pore clogging than some other oils and is a great moisturizer for dry or cracked skin.

Benefits of Hemp Extracts for Pain

When you experience pain, it’s often the result of inflammation that can arise from tension, overuse, stress, or minor injuries of your muscles, joints, tendons, and other body parts.

But where does this inflammation come from?

Essentially, your immune system responds to damage within the body by sending chemicals from the white blood cells to the afflicted area, which helps protect against infection from foreign substances.

When this occurs, the chemical release may cause swelling and nerve stimulation that causes us to feel pain.

Cannabinoids like CBD may be able to offer some relief for this issues through the endocannabinoid system, which helps us maintain balance for a variety of bodily functions. The human body has internal cannabinoid receptors that allow compounds like CBD to indirectly interact with our sensory receptors, which can effectively diminish our pain sensation.

These cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the skin, meaning that CBD topicals may offer some benefit to alleviating localized pain when applied to specific areas.

One study published by the European Journal of Pain also noted, “[the] use of topical CBD has potential as effective treatment of arthritic symptomatology” after conducting tests using a rat model of arthritis pain. Additionally, there are minimal side effects associated with CBD, especially when applied topically.

Is CBD oil or CBD cream better for pain?

This really depends on your personal preference and the kind of pain that your experience on a daily basis. If you suffer from chronic pain, you may prefer using the CBD oil for pain. But for aches and pains in targeted areas, especially those that arise after an intense workout or exercise training, many people prefer to use a fast-acting topical CBD cream.

Relax After a Workout

Staying fit and frequently engaging in rigorous activity can take a toll on your joints and muscles. “Even though you may be getting stronger, it’s often painful to build muscle due to micro-tears in the muscle fibers that result from physical strain. Your body seeks to repair these tiny tears, which is often what causes aches and pains for a few days after an intense workout,” says Mike Schiemer of Frugal Fitness.

CBD topicals pose a potential pain relieving solution for soreness by reducing the effects of inflammation caused by the muscle repair process, without interrupting the way in which the muscle cells rebuild themselves.

These Creams are Not a Cure-All

Before diving head-first into CBD, it’s important to mention that these products have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration (FDA). Because of this, there is little regulation on the production of CBD creams, although there are little to no side effects associated with the use of CBD topicals.

CBD itself is considered to be a safe compound whether used inside or outside of your body, but it is not meant to replace other treatments provided by your doctor. As a final measure, consult with your physician and take their opinion into account.

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