Full vs. Broad Spectrum: What Type of CBD Is Best?


Photo: Michael Fischer / Pexels

I’m not sure at what point a trend becomes “timeless,” but CBD beauty has held strong for so long, I think we can officially say it’s not just a one-hit wonder. CBD gummies and body lotion were only the tip of the iceberg. Now we have CBD bath salts, CBD shampoo—even CBD lip gloss. My skin loves anything hemp-infused, so I always have an ear to the ground when it comes to new CBD launches. One thing I’ve noticed from reading all those CBD product labels: many brands call out their CBD as “full spectrum” or “broad spectrum”, and there’s some confusion about what those terms really mean. Here’s what I found out.

What is CBD?

First, a quick CBD primer. CBD is a cannabinoid, which is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its sister THC, it’s non-intoxicating and won’t get you high. CBD has been linked to a host of wellness benefits from soothing anxiety to taming redness and inflammation of the skin.

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD means that when CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, trace amounts of other phytochemicals come with it—like terpenes and other cannabinoids. All of these other phytochemicals work synergistically in what’s called the “entourage effect,” meaning that they amplify each other’s benefits. This also means that full-spectrum CBD can contain tiny amounts of THC (less than 0.3.%.).

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD, on the other hand, is more refined than full spectrum CBD. Broad spectrum CBD contains many of the other beneficial compounds that come from the cannabis plant, but THC is completely removed through an extra refinement process.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, made by extracting CBD from the plant and separating it from all other compounds and phytochemicals. Those who are very sensitive to THC may prefer CBD isolate, although it’s mostly found in CBD ingestibles, like tinctures.

When it comes to skincare and beauty products, you’ll most likely find full spectrum (like in Farmacy’s Better Daze Ahead) or broad spectrum CBD (see Lord Jones’ lovely Body Lotion) listed on the label. Because there isn’t much regulation of these terms yet, some brands refer to their CBD as “whole-plant CBD,” which can mean either broad spectrum or full spectrum. If you’re really curious about a product’s CBD extract, it’s worth reaching out to the brand to ask.