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Do CBD Topicals Work and Will They Show up on a Drug Test?

August 03, 2023 3 min read

Do CBD Topicals Work and Will They Show up on a Drug Test?


Have you noticed that CBD topicals like CBD creams, CBD gels, and CBD skin care products are sold in almost every big chain health store?

We're talking about Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and even commercial pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS.

But have you actually tried topical CBD gels? If so, did you notice anything like pain relief, less joint swelling, or better mobility?

If you’re curious about giving topical CBD gel a try, then you definitely need to keep reading. Because we’re about to blow the cover off the two most frequently asked questions regarding CBD topicals.

Let’s start with…

Do CBD Topicals Actually Work?

Yes! According to both scientific research and anecdotal evidence, CBD topicals are highly effective, especially when it comes to pain relief.

In one study, researchers explored how CBD gel topicals could affect pain and inflammation in rats with arthritis. And here’s what researchers discovered… 

Transdermal CBD gel not only reduced joint swelling, but it remarkably decreased spontaneous pain and immune cell infiltration.

As a result, researchers concluded that “topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects [¹].”

There are other studies that explore topical CBD for pain, all of which have similar results as the topical CBD study mentioned above.

In fact, researchers suggest that:

“The transdermal administration of CBD has also been observed to provide better absorption than the oral administration route in the same arthritic model [²].”

That said, more studies are always needed to confirm these CBD topical pain relief results.

But we know what you may be thinking: If CBD topicals are observed to provide better absorption than oral administration, then can topical CBD make you fail a drug test?

Let’s find out…

Will CBD Topicals Show Up On A Drug Test?

Generally speaking, CBD topicals will not show up on a drug test. We have multiple skin layers, all of which act as a barrier between our internal organs and bloodstream to the outside world [³].

While our skin is very absorbent, topical CBD doesn’t actually enter into your bloodstream. Hence the reason you can’t get high off of topical CBD cream.

That said, CBD topicals won’t show up on a drug test. However, there are transdermal CBD patches that act very similar to nicotine patches, which do enter the bloodstream. This kind of CBD topical may cause a failed drug test, especially if it contains THC [²].

There’s also the theory that applying topical CBD skin care products daily could result in a failed drug test.

Thankfully, drug testers aren’t specifically looking for CBD. However, the chemicals and solutions drug testers use may not be able to determine the difference between CBD and THC [].

Given that the human body is very complex, there is always a chance that CBD could be detected on drug tests. But you would need to apply a ton of topical CBD gel on your skin every day for it to possibly show up on a drug test. And honestly, that’s not likely.

CBD Topicals Are Here To Stay

Because of the studies and the anecdotal evidence, it’s safe to say that CBD topicals are here to stay.

The only issue is that not all topical CBD gels are created with the same ingredients or the same quality CBD.

In order for you to really experience the therapeutic properties of topical CBD is by purchasing it from reputable CBD brands.

Reputable CBD brands focus on high quality cultivated hemp, clean ingredients, third party testing, positive reviews, and educating their customers.

If you’re curious to see if CBD topicals can work for you, we encourage you to give them a try today. You won’t know unless you try.

For additional questions or concerns, reach out to our Leaf Remedys team. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


  1. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis
  2. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment
  3. The Skin’s Barrier
  4. U.S. Department of Transportation DOT “CBD” Notice