Lord Jones, a brand that was widely considered a leader in the CBD beauty space (and whose tinctures and gummies were lined up on many beauty editors’ desks), ceased US operations in May. Its sister brand, Happy Dance, cofounded by actor Kristen Bell, shut down completely. CBD beauty seems to be over as quickly as it began. What happened?
If you consider CBD skin care just another beauty trend, you might think the answer is obvious: Like any trend, it ran its course. You’re not entirely wrong. The one-time darling of the beauty industry also found its way into your toilet (literally, you can buy CBD-enriched toilet paper), is next to you in barre class (CBD-infused leggings, anyone?), and even in your bed (would you pay $100 for “CBD-Technofiber” bed sheets?). CBD fatigue is very, very real.
But to paint CBD beauty with that same brush is to ignore its enormous impact on the industry, and the nuances of selling topical products with an ingredient that can be derived from a not-yet universally legal source.
To be clear, cannabidiol itself is not illegal. The Farm Bill, federally enacted in December 2018, removed hemp — defined as cannabis and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low concentrations of THC (no more than 0.3%) — from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. Still, the proximity of CBD to marijuana often rings alarm bells for e-commerce software systems like Shopify and advertising platforms such as Facebook.
In 2019, Casey Georgeson launched the beauty brand Saint Jane with one flagship product: Luxury Beauty Serum, a face oil containing 500 mg of CBD. “I think being a founder of a brand that has CBD in its products is 10 times harder [than being the founder of any other brand],” says Georgeson, citing the need for expensive insurance and high-risk payment processing as reasons why. “We just had to pay thousands of dollars to register in a state to sell CBD topicals, which other brands don’t have to do.”
In addition, Georgeson says, her personal Facebook account is “forever banned” from using advertising tools on the platform after being flagged during the early days of the brand’s marketing efforts. It’s no wonder, she adds, that some retailers wouldn’t take on the risk of carrying her full line, which grew to include CBD-infused moisturizer and lip glosses, among other products.
Mata of Vertly echoes these frustrations — “We went through so many credit card processors that kept shutting us down” — and adds that organic marketing has also been a struggle. “We’re shadow-banned on Instagram,” she says. “Even if you follow us, we won’t come up to the top of your feed because we are considered [to be marketing] an illicit substance.” The brand has two separate websites: one that uses the term CBD and one that doesn’t, because the former gets shut down so often, says Mata. And because SEO algorithms value duration, that means the site is de-prioritized for would-be customers.