The 7 Best CBD Creams & Lotions Of 2023 For Aches & Joint Comfort
Disclaimer: Our website includes general information and instruction relating to health and wellness topics. This content is not a substitute for medical advice from your health care provider. All treatment decisions should be determined in partnership with a health care practitioner. Hemp CBD products are derived from U.S. industrial hemp (less than 0.3% THC) and European hemp (less than 0.2% THC). While CBD products derived from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa) are legal on a federal level in the U.S., some states have specific laws, so you'll want to check your state's laws to be sure.
When most people think of hemp-derived CBD, their minds drift to ingestible forms like CBD oils or gummies—but skipping out on topical versions of the cannabinoid means you're not always reaping the full benefits of hemp.
CBD lotion and creams are formulated with cannabidiol (CBD) to provide benefits beyond hydrating your skin and locking in moisture. While the research on hemp CBD topicals is still emerging, early studies on the therapeutic effect of hemp CBD ointments show they can support your body's inflammatory response1.
This is why many people turn to hemp CBD topicals to help with a variety of needs, including post-workout recovery and joint discomfort. While the best way to know if a product works for you is to test the lotion yourself, we've rounded up a few of our favorite CBD lotions and creams, below.
What's the difference between CBD cream and hemp cream?
There's no shortage of products that use hemp as an ingredient these days. But when it comes to distinguishing CBD cream from hemp cream, the difference is a matter of semantics.
"CBD (cannabidiol) is an active ingredient, a hemp phytochemical with powerful healing properties working in inflammatory pathways," explains Dave Gordon, M.D., medical cannabis expert and double-board certified doctor.
"Hemp is a specific type of cannabis plant from which CBD is derived. The term 'hemp cream' is very nonspecific and may or may not contain the active ingredients that a consumer is looking for, whereas CBD cream is more likely to contain CBD and other ingredients that have the health effects people want."
What are the benefits of topical CBD?
Recent research (and significant anecdotal evidence) suggests that topical CBD products may help relieve a handful of ailments, such as:
- Anti-inflammation: Research2 suggests that CBD can promote an anti-inflammatory response by balancing our endocannabinoid system, a cellular-level network of receptors that works to keep our body in homeostasis.
- Nerve pain: One small study from 20203 found that people who used a topical CBD felt relief from nerve-related pain and related itchiness.
- Eczema: Research from 20191 suggests that topical CBD is a safe and effective treatment for various skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
- Arthritis or joint pain: A 2016 study4 using mice found promising relief for joint pain and discomfort. And research from 20225 found that patients who used CBD saw improvements in arthritis-related pain.
Does CBD cream help with reducing pain?
Early research shows that topical hemp-derived CBD may be beneficial for easing both short-term and chronic pain6. It may be a helpful tool in treating localized pain near or on the surface of the skin (think: neuropathy, arthritis), as opposed to ingestible CBD products, which take a whole-body approach.
It’s also worth noting that our skin is less permeable toward cannabinoids. As a result, CBD products will often contain a higher potency in a topical cream or lotion than an oral product.
On top of cannabinoids, many CBD creams and lotions include moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and olive oil, as well as other pain-relieving botanicals like:
Arnica, which is an herb that's often used for treating bruises or muscle aches7.
White willow bark, which has anti-inflammatory properties8 and contains salicin, an chemical similar to aspirin.
Menthol, which has been used for centuries as a soothing anti-inflammatory9 that's cooling on the skin's surface.
How we picked:
Per our expert’s guidance, we focused on brands that are transparent about ingredient sourcing with a special focus on brands that farm organic hemp where possible.
We prioritized brands with reputable certifications and outstanding business practices and read hundreds of reviews from consumers to ensure these products lived up to their claims.
All of the brands we feature use and provide proof of third-party testing (certificates of analysis, or COAs) to ensure quality and safety.
Everyone's budget is different, and CBD can be pricey. That's why we included a range of products with varying price points and potencies—and included a cost breakdown.
The CBD creams & lotions of 2023:
Best for irritation: Prima R+R Muscle Recovery Cream
- Non-greasy formula
- Environmentally-friendly business
- Not for the scent-averse
Prima’s R+R cream combines organic, broad-spectrum hemp with a handful of antioxidant-packed ingredients, such as eucalyptus, rosemary, and tea tree oil. Additions like peppermint and menthol give the cream an instant cooling sensation, while lavender oil calms irritated skin.
Although there’s an initial menthol scent when applied, it wears off relatively quickly, leaving behind pleasant traces of eucalyptus and lavender (which linger for a while). One reviewer says, “The scent and texture is amazing, and it doesn’t make your skin feel sticky at all. I use a small amount on my wrists (I use a mouse & keyboard all day) and the aches go away. Also perfect for a pulled/tweaked muscle from sleeping weird or just being old!”
Sustainability & packaging: Prima has a bunch of certifications for its sustainability efforts. Both a plastic and carbon neutral company, it offset use of both by removing twice as much plastic waste from the environment as used across the brand’s packaging and operations (and investing in projects that combat the climate crisis). Prima also has a “Recycle for Real” program that encourages customers to send back five empty containers at a time to ensure they’re properly recycled (shipping is covered!).
Transparency: You can find each Prima product’s COA from the product pages. Prima is also a Certified B Corporation, which means it meets the highest standards of public transparency, environmental performance, and legal accountability. Plus, the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Best for workouts: Joy Organics CBD Sports Cream
- Cooling menthol & camphor
- Carbon-neutral company
- Subscription discount available
- Not for the scent-averse
With 1,000 mg of broad-spectrum hemp CBD, Joy Organics’ Sports Cream combines soothing lavender and olive oil with menthol and camphor for a warming and cooling sensation. This cream is scented, as most mentholated creams are—if that “icy-hot” scent is a hard “no” for you, this cream might not be your pick.
Still, customers seem to like the smell, with one reviewer saying, “This topical offers the fastest relief compared to others I have used. The cooling sensation helps ease muscles, and the scent is more pleasant than other brands I have tried.”
Sustainability & packaging: We love Joy Organics’ effort toward sustainability. All of the brand’s packaging is recyclable and it offers carbon-neutral shipping through a partnership with Carbon Fund. Joy Organic’s CBD is also harvested from USDA certified organic hemp farms. Also worth noting: It’s a family-run and woman-led out of Colorado and Texas.
Transparency: Joy Organics has a page dedicated to its process, which includes everything from farming to third-party testing to shipping. As with all of the company’s products, the Sports Cream’s COA is readily available on the product page.
Best scent: FABCBD Topical CBD Cream
- Non-greasy formula
- Popular blood orange scent
- Subscription discount available
- Strong scent (if you’re scent-averse)
- Small jar for price
FABCBD’s Topical Cream gets rave reviews from folks with joint discomfort. It combines moisturizing aloe vera, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and olive oil with organic full-spectrum hemp to create a non-greasy formula that quickly absorbs into skin. What’s more, additions like blood orange oil and cinnamon deliver a bright citrus scent that’s popular with reviewers, who agree that it’s not too overpowering.
One reviewer writes, “I've used other topicals, and they don't compare to this wonderful cream. Smells great and works fast!.” FABCBD says a little goes a long way with this cream and that you only need to use a fingertip-full. That will hopefully make your jar last for a while, as it’s not cheap for a 2-ounce package.
Sustainability & packaging: FABCBD sources hemp from an organic farm in Colorado. The brand’s CBD cream also comes in a small recyclable jar, but the company doesn’t have any other sustainability initiatives as of now.
Transparency: FABCBD uses ProVerde Laboratories for third-party testing (you can view the COAs here). The business itself doesn’t have any certifications yet.
Best for dry skin: Prima Skin Therapy CBD Body Butter
- Thick, moisturizing formula
- Environmentally-friendly business
- Not for scent-averse
- Most expensive cost per mg of CBD
This rich moisturizing body butter from Prima is a luxurious addition to any nighttime routine. It’s super thick (so a little goes a long way) and uses cloves, citrus, geranium, and ylang ylang for a soothing scent. Despite being packed with hydrating shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and cocoa butter, it’s not a greasy formula—you can trust me, I’m typing this with it on my hands as we speak!
However, take the name “body butter” seriously, because it is thick and best for use at night before bed. Reviewers tend to agree with me, with one person saying, “It’s my sleep routine. I love the smell and the richness.” Another important note: This body butter is the most expensive option when broken down by cost per mg of CBD.
Sustainability, packaging & transparency: As we mentioned earlier in this list, Prima makes a great effort toward sustainability by using recycled materials in its packaging, staying both plastic and carbon neutral. The company also has several certifications for its sustainability efforts, is a Certified B Corporation, and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. You can find the COA for this body butter on the product page.
Most affordable: Lazarus Naturals CBD Lotion
- Made with organic ingredients
- Leaping Bunny Certified
You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for quality hemp CBD, and Lazarus Naturals is here to prove it. The brand’s unscented body lotion packs full-spectrum hemp and comes in two sizes, with the larger 8.5-ounce bottle delivering the best bangs for your buck. It’s made with organic ingredients, including moisturizing mango seed butter, jojoba oil, and sweet almond oil. Despite a lineup of stellar ingredients and a Leaping Bunny certification, the lotion costs less than $0.1 per mg of CBD.
Only available in an unscented formula, the lotion earns rave reviews from users who say it leaves their skin silky smooth without lasting residue or stickiness. One reviewer says, “This fragrance-free is perfect! Love that it absorbs quickly and is not greasy! Works extremely well for discomfort."
Beyond the brand’s budget-friendly prices, Lazarus Naturals offers 60% off to veterans, people on long-term disability, and households that qualify as low-income. A ton of reviewers say they’re grateful for the cost-savings without compromise on quality.
Sustainability & packaging: Lazarus Naturals farms hemp on its own property in central Oregon. It’s also a Certified B Corp, which means the company is held to high business standards for social and environmental impact. The brand also aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, and currently uses recycled materials in its packaging.
Transparency: You can access the COA for this lotion on the product page, or via QR code on the product’s packaging.
Most potent: CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream
- White willow bark & caffeine to support healthy inflammatory response
- No lower potency option
This cream from CBDfx is one of the stronger (and, as a result, more expensive) options on our list. The CBDfx Muscle & Joint Cream is a water-based formula that uses white willow bark and caffeine, cooling menthol, and either 1,000 or 3,000 mg of CBD—if you’re new to CBD, we recommend starting with the 1,000 mg option.
Reviewers have great things to say about this cream, especially people looking to relieve aches. And although it includes menthol, many reviewers say this lightweight cream doesn’t have much of a smell.
Sustainability & packaging: CBDfx farms organically-grown hemp and uses an energy-efficient CO2 extraction process to draw out CBD. The packaging is made from curbside-recyclable plastics and glass.
Transparency: The COA for this cream was easy to find on the product description page. CBDfx also uses a team of medical advisors to review all of the product information on their pages.
Best for aches: R&R Medicinals CBD Cream
- No scents or dyes
- 60-day money back guarantee
- Features array of other cannabinoids
- Only one size option
This cream from R&R Medicinals is a great unscented pick with generous potency. With 1,000 mg of organic, full-spectrum hemp in a 2.5-ounce tube, a little goes a long way. The vegan formula includes calendula flower and jojoba for everyday moisture, as well as soothing arnica for relief from aches.
One reviewer says, “We ordered the 1000mg CBD Cream and have been absolutely loving it. No greasy feeling, works very well and quickly with little to no odor.” Several other folks mention that this lotion is a good value for the price. And, if it ends up not being a winner for you, R&R offers a 60-day money back guarantee.
Sustainability & packaging: R&R Medicinals uses USDA certified organic hemp in many of its CBD products, but this particular topical does not utilize organic hemp. However, all hemp sourced by R&R undergoes an energy-efficient supercritical CO2 extraction process. Packaging should be curbside recyclable, but R&R doesn’t offer any additional instructions.
Transparency: All of R&R’s lab testing results are available on a designated page of the website. R&R creates products in an FDA-registered facility and is registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
How to choose a CBD lotion or cream.
Keep your standards high.
"The most important things are to find a brand that grows hemp in the United States, using organic or pesticide-free, sustainable growing practices," explains Gordon. "They should also be using clean extraction methods to obtain the CBD. Any product you purchase should have independent third-party testing results readily available, showing exactly what is in the cream."
We stuck to our expert's guidance when picking these creams, but not every pick is organic, so keep that in mind!
Full-spectrum versus broad-spectrum.
You'll see both types of hemp in the products on our list, so let's break down what each of those terms means:
- Full-spectrum: Full-spectrum hemp products contain CBD and other beneficial plant compounds, including up to 0.3% THC by dry weight, which is within the federal limit (and won't get you high). Researchers10 believe this variety benefits from the "entourage effect," suggesting that the combination of compounds makes it a more powerful product.
- Broad-spectrum: While this hemp extract type contains other compounds like terpenes and flavonoids, it is filtered to contain 0.0% THC.
- Isolate: This is the most pure basic of CBD. It doesn't contain any additional compounds. There aren't any isolate products on our list.
Consider your budget.
CBD can get pricey, especially as the potency increases. Consider what you'll be using the lotion for (Joint relief? Daily moisturizing?) and how concentrated it is to determine whether you're getting the most bang for your buck.
To scent or not to scent?
For some folks, it's not a question. If you are super scent-averse, it's best to stick to an unscented formula, which is your best shot at a true, scent-free product. Products with menthol will likely have a slight icy-hot scent, which isn't for everyone.
What do you use CBD cream and lotion for?
CBD creams and lotions are used not so differently from traditional lotions or relief creams for aches. While there's still a lot of research to be done, anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD lotion can be a great way to moisturize skin, protect the skin barrier, and even encourage healthy inflammatory responses that may reduce aches, discomfort, and irritation.
What are the side effects of CBD cream?
CBD, especially as a topical, is typically well-tolerated11 in healthy adults. Still, some people may experience mild side effects such as diarrhea, changes in weight, and tiredness. It's also important to read the full ingredient list to avoid any skin allergies you may have.
You should avoid using CBD products if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. People who are regularly drug tested will also want to pass on CBD, as trace amounts of the cannabinoid may trigger a positive result.
Does CBD help with joint discomfort?
"There isn't definitive proof from clinical research studies, but all signs point to yes," says Gordon. "There are thousands and thousands of people who report benefits from CBD for joint issues, and preliminary research shows CBD can reduce discomfort while improving inflammatory response, activity levels, and quality of life."
What are the side effects of CBD cream for aches?
According to our expert, there aren't typically any side effects of CBD cream. "Of course, there are always possibilities for (personalized) allergic reactions to some ingredient in the cream, but these are uncommon," says Gordon. "Also, CBD or other constituents in creams do not get absorbed into the bloodstream when used properly, so there are no systemic (whole-body) side effects." On that note, you shouldn't expect the same benefits in mood that you might receive from ingesting oral hemp CBD products.
Which is better, CBD or hemp cream?
A product labeled CBD cream is more likely to have quality ingredients and third-party testing. According to Gordon, "The term 'hemp cream' is very non-specific and may or may not contain the active ingredients that a consumer is looking for."
There are so many CBD products on the market today, it can get overwhelming trying to narrow down the list. Luckily, with a few expert-recommended guidelines, you can figure out what products to prioritize (hint: certified, highly rated, organic if possible!) and what to avoid.
To keep exploring the world of CBD, be sure to read up on our dosing guide and check out our picks of the best full-spectrum CBD oils.
What we've updated since publishing:
3/22: We elaborated on the benefits of CBD creams and lotions using relevant research and spoke to the possible side effects of using CBD.