Weeding out the Hype
The search for real CBD
“I was out with a friend, trying on different products,” Isabel Vigil, The Red Door’s National Director of Retail, tells us, “and we came across this CBD brand where the body lotion actually smelled like marijuana. And I was like, Why is this?” Having researched CBD for months for The Red Door, Vigil wasn’t confused by the product itself. She was more quizzical about the marketing, which, in this case, completely won over her friend.
“She said, ‘Oh, but I like the smell! That means that it’s working!’” Vigil says. “But in reality, CBD doesn’t have to smell like pot—because it’s not! It’s two different things.”
CBD Isn’t Easy
For fans of CBD, now is an exciting time. After decades of legal restrictions, last year a new Farm Bill allowed hemp—the non-intoxicating, CBD-saturated cousin of the marijuana plant—to be grown and distributed more easily, and along with it, a CBD craze was unleashed.
Found in much higher doses in hemp but also occurring naturally in pot, CBD doesn’t get you high and it doesn’t smell like pot, either), but it is credited with having powerful effects on the body.
Used for centuries as a health treatment, CBD is now being explored again for its potential to reduce pain, improve sleep, balance mood, reduce inflammation, and clear up skin problems such as acne and eczema.
Enthusiasm for CBD is exploding in the celebrity/stylist/Instagram universe and among everyday people, but it’s also being taken seriously by many in the medical world. (At the time of this post, there are 152 active medical studies into CBD, looking at its potential for treating everything—and, reading through the list of studies, it does seem like almost everything—from PTSD, cancer, and multiple sclerosis to opioid addiction, arthritis, depression, and Tourette’s.)
But there’s a downside to the loosening laws on CBD. As the floodgates have opened, federal regulation hasn’t had a chance to keep up. The FDA has approved CBD as a drug (to treat two rare forms of epilepsy), but when it comes to over-the-counter, everyday use, it’s a Wild West–like landscape.
“Literally, the door is just opening,” says Monique Blake, The Red Door’s National Director of Body. “There’s so little regulation—it’s not like any other product. People are really doing whatever they want in the industry, and that’s why it’s really, really crucial to make sure you know where you’re getting your CBD from.”
Some products sold as CBD are really hempseed oil, Vigil says. “That’s where it gets shady. A lot of brands are actually selling just the regular hemp oil that’s used in the hand cream you’d buy at the drug store.”
“Hempseed oil is wonderful,” Blake adds. “I put it on my salad almost every day. But it’s not CBD.”
Searching for Real, High-Quality CBD
In the absence of clear rules governing CBD, Blake and Vigil made their own. They came up with their own list of rigorous rules to screen out common problems and controversies with CBD products and vetted more than 10 vendors until they found a company that seemed to have similarly high standards. It turned out to be the Denver-based company Color Up Therapeutics.
“When we approached them, they were like, O.K., Who are you and how are you going to use our products?” Vigil says with a laugh. This protective attitude was actually a good sign. “They were so nice—so welcoming. But they definitely wanted to make sure that our messages aligned with theirs,” even when being offered the opportunity to bring their products to a national audience.
Before finding Color Up, “we looked at everything,” Blake says, sounding a little exhausted when she remembers the year of researching CBD companies. “Where they get their product from, if they’re ‘seed to sale,’ is it vertical integration, what kind of extraction methods they’re doing. What is their commitment to the community—in other words, are they stakeholders in their community? Making sure they’re not just a business but a business with a purpose.”
Founded by a group of massage therapists and estheticians in 2015, Color Up Therapeutics is indeed “seed to sale”—all of its CBD can be traced to a single organic hemp farm in southern Colorado. This is important, Blake explains, “because hemp is a ‘bio-accumulator’—it’s a plant that pulls toxins from the soil. So you want to make sure that wherever you’re sourcing your CBD from is following organic processes, so the soil to begin with is not in any way filled with chemicals.”
She continues, “Then: how are they extracting it? Because there are different extraction methods that will leave residual harmful toxins or substances in the CBD, too.” Color Up’s organic hemp is sent to an extractor in Boulder, which produces 99.99% pure CBD isolate and then sends that to Color Up’s headquarters in Denver. There, it’s made into a clean, three-ingredient tincture (just organic CBD, coconut-derived MCT oil, and a little bit of spearmint for taste) and blended with natural oils, such as raspberry seed and jojoba, to create skin- and body-care products.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” says Vigil, who visited Color Up’s space. In addition to the manufacturing areas, “they have a whole event space where they’re super-involved in the community. They host yoga classes, fundraisers, and education events [about hemp]. They have two treatment rooms, too. It’s not really a spa—they’re doing it more for educational purposes, to help the community.” For Vigil and Blake, the “stakeholder” box was checked.
For any emerging product, though, ultimately the most important checkbox is: proof. Color Up Therapeutics sends its products out to be third-party tested for purity, and then does it again, sending them to a different lab for “fourth party” testing. (The company posts the results of the lab tests on its website.)
Blake also cuts to the chase: “The bottom line is to offer something of quality, right? We want to make sure that when the guest gets on the table [for a massage or treatment] and they get off at the end, that we have a product that’s actually done something to them.”
Tincture, 500mg Full Spectrum CBD ($70, 2 oz.)
If you try any CBD product, make it the tincture. It contains only three ingredients: organic CBD, Keto-beloved MCT oil as the “carrier oil,” and a small amount of spearmint oil for taste. According to Vigil, the “sweet spot for dosage” is often recommended as 25mg a day—meaning 8–10 droplets of tincture. For fast absorption, apply under the tongue.
Body Lotion, 200mg Pure CBD ($45, 4 oz.)
An anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, collagen-boosting blanket for the skin, the body lotion contains a rich, fast-absorbing blend of CBD, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, and hempseed oil. (While different from CBD, hempseed has its own benefits: it contains high levels of amino acids, which promote collagen production.)
Salve, 75mg Pure CBD ($10, .5 oz.) and 250mg Pure CBD ($40, 2 oz.)
Recommended as a spot treatment for pain, swelling, sore muscles, arthritis, acne, insect bites, even hang nails, the salve “is kind of like that cult product—something you can use for anything.” says Isabel Vigil, The Red Door’s National Director of Retail. She likes it when traveling to moisturize skin.
Bath Balm, 30mg Pure CBD ($9, 2 oz.)
Use the bath balm to re-mineralize with Epsom salts and relax in a warm CBD-infused bath or foot bath. Great after workouts.
Lip Treatment, Full Spectrum CBD ($12, 2 oz.)
Containing raspberry- and carrot-seed oils in addition to CBD, “the lip treatment is super-anti-inflammatory,” says Vigil. “Especially in wintertime, people get a lot of dryness and cracking. Also, when you have a lot of inflammation in your body, you can get chronic dry lips from that. The lip product can help.”
CBD Massage Travel Kit ($20)
An easy way to immediately see how CBD works for you as both a tincture and skin care. The kit contains a 3.5ml vial of tincture (which, if you follow the dosage suggestion above, lasts for several days), a 1 oz. body lotion, a 1 oz. massage oil, and .125 fl. oz. salve (the size of a small hand-applied lip balm). Use for travel in countries that allow CBD products.
Products containing CBD should not be used directly on cuts, lesions, or open wounds. The Red Door does not offer CBD services for our pregnant guests. We do not offer CBD services or retail to minors under 18. The Red Door does not assume any responsibility for the improper use of CBD. If you have any concerns about the safety of CBD or conflicts with medicine you may be taking, ask your doctor prior to your spa visit.