September 22, 2021

Transdermal CBD – How’s It Work?

You've heard of CBD oil. Perhaps you've even come across CBD gummies. But what about transdermal CBD (aka CBD patches)?

Transdermal products have been around for decades, but the CBD boom has brought about a new interest in using these products for pain management.

If your transdermal CBD knowledge is a little patchy, stick around because we'll be going over:

  • What transdermal CBD is
  • How transdermal CBD works
  • Where to buy transdermal CBD
  • How it differs from other topical CBD applications
  • Pros and cons of these different topical CBD products

What Is Transdermal CBD?

Transdermal is the medical term for applying a medicine directly on skin. Simply put, the drug is placed on the skin and from there gets absorbed through the bloodstream.

While not a medical product, CBD is used by many as a natural pain reliever and overall wellness aid. Its unique properties have made it a popular addition to wellness products, including CBD topical creams and transdermal CBD patches.

You may find transdermal CBD products called CBD patches, transdermal hemp patches, CBD oil patches, etc.

Transdermal CBD typically refers to applying CBD patches onto the body. It might also refer to topical CBD applications in general. But — there are some distinct differences between the two. We'll cover those differences in a bit.

How Does Transdermal CBD Work?

Transdermal CBD patches work similarly to other transdermal patches. When placed on the skin, it releases its active ingredient (CBD in the case of a CBD patch) in a consistent and steady amount throughout the wearing period (e.g., a day).

A transdermal CBD patch has a set dosage of CBD and potentially some other components like carrier oils and ingredients to boost absorption.

Transdermal CBD: Gettin’ Under Your Skin

When placed on the skin, the CBD from the patch gets absorbed into your body by permeating the layers of the skin. Once it makes its way past the skin cells, the CBD seeps into your blood vessels and eventually gets into your bloodstream. The CBD then gets to work in your body, dealing with pain or other symptoms that need relief!

It's an effective way for CBD to get into your circulatory system, but can be slower when compared to taking the same dose of CBD oil sublingually.

Transdermal CBD Vs. Topical CBD: What's The Dif?

Both transdermal CBD and topical CBD are products applied directly to the skin. So what's the difference?

Like we mentioned earlier, transdermal CBD is placed on the skin through a patch. With transdermal patches, the product goes beyond the skin around the area where the patch is placed. The CBD eventually enters the bloodstream and provides support throughout the body.

In topical CBD formulations like CBD creams and CBD lotions, the CBD gets absorbed by the skin but stays pretty local to the area it's been applied. So you'll often find that topical CBD products are formulated to target joint and muscle pain.

Will Transdermal CBD Get You High?

Nope. CBD (aka cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. So you won't feel any intoxicating effects from transdermal CBD. Cannabidiol products can't get you high.

The only instance when a CBD product might have a euphoric effect is if it's labeled "full-spectrum CBD." Full-spectrum CBD contains some amount of THC, which is the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

For a zero chance of getting high, just be on the lookout for isolate CBD or broad-spectrum CBD products.

Benefits Of Transdermal CBD

The most exciting thing about CBD is that it seems to have so many uses. Transdermal CBD is no different.

Research is showing that CBD may have a lot of health benefits, including:

  • Alleviating pain(1)
  • Relieving skin conditions like psoriasis or acne(2)
  • Having neuroprotective effects(3)
  • Improving sleep(4)
  • Reducing stress and anxiety(5)

If you haven't heard all the good stuff take a gander at our article on CBD Benefits & Uses for a rundown.

Types Of Transdermal & Topical CBD Products

Here are a few types of CBD products that can be applied on top of the skin:

  • CBD patches
  • CBD creams
  • CBD ointments
  • CBD salves
  • CBD lotions
  • CBD balms

How do you pick which one's right for you? Depending on your needs, you may be seeking a CBD patch, or you may prefer a CBD cream instead. Here's how you can find out.

Transdermal CBD Pros & Cons

Transdermal CBD products are easy to use and offer a range of benefits.

For example, you might choose to use a CBD transdermal patch for anxiety support and to help relieve localized pain at the same time. The patch provides pain relief in the area you place it, but the CBD also gets absorbed into the bloodstream and swims throughout the body.

Pros of transdermal CBD patches:

  • Easy to apply (Many are self-adhesive.)
  • Steady and continuous release of CBD
  • Easy to cover up, for discreet use

Cons of transdermal CBD patches:

  • May be uncomfortable to wear a patch for an extended period of time
  • Can be a costly form of CBD
  • Harder to find than other topical applications

Topical CBD Pros & Cons

You may prefer the benefits of a topical CBD product if you're looking for more of a skincare-based product.

CBD creams and CBD lotions are user-friendly and can be applied wherever you need it the most. Also, if you have muscle or joint inflammation, CBD topicals — like CBD cream — may be for you.

Pros of topical CBD:

  • Can use as much or as little as you want
  • Easy to administer
  • Provides relief in the desired area
  • Leaves skin soft and moisturized

Cons of topical CBD:

  • CBD isn’t absorbed past the area it's applied to
  • May need to reapply multiple times for the desired effect
  • Has lower CBD content than CBD oils

Where To Find CBD Creams, CBD Lotions & CBD Patches For Sale

There’s no need to go far to find CBD patches near you. We're lucky to live in an age in which you can source pretty much anything online.

CBD creams, lotions, and patches are available for sale on the interwebz. And, if your state is CBD-allowing, then you can likely locate some products in your own town!

But since the FDA doesn't regulate CBD products, it's on you to find the high-quality stuff. It's important to look at the label and see what ingredients are in each CBD cream, lotion, or patch before making a purchase.

Whether you buy online or in-store, make sure the retailer can show you its third-party lab results. These results prove to customers that its CBD products contain the cannabidiol content it claims — and that there are no other undesirable ingredients lurking within.

Transdermal CBD: Put A Patch On It

“Transdermal” is just a fancy way of saying “through the skin.” Topical creams and transdermal CBD patches are both easy methods of getting a dose of CBD via the skin. They could be a good option for people seeking a new way to manage pain.

Transdermal CBD patches offer an effective, but slower, means of taking in CBD. The CBD enters the skin via the patch and circulates throughout the body giving you a steady dose of CBD over an extended period of time.

Topical CBD products — like CBD creams and lotions — work in a similar way, but don't get absorbed much past the application site. This makes CBD topicals better suited for localized pain and soreness.

Transdermal CBD and topical CBD products can be found online and in stores. Just make sure to look for a reputable brand with third-party lab results and feel the benefits for yourself!



  1. Russo, EB. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management.
  2. Baswan, SM, et al. (2020). Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology.
  3. Campos, A, et al. (2016). Cannabidiol, neuroprotection and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacological research.
  4. Suraev, AS, et al. (2020). Cannabinoid therapies in the management of sleep disorders: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical studies. Sleep medicine reviews.
  5. Cherney, K. (2020). Using CBD Oil for Anxiety: Does It Work? Healthline.



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