Talking CBD Beauty With Sam Cheow, Global Cannabinoids’s New Chief Product Innovation Officer
If you haven’t yet been initiated into the cult of all things CBD, it’s one of the many powerful compounds (113 to be exact) found in the cannabis plant and has nothing to do with THC, it’s a more famous psychoactive counterpart that’s known to possess people to order Chicken McNuggets from Uber Eats at two in the morning. Its recent migration into the mainstream triggered a host of studies into the potential benefits of CBD—short for cannabidiol—revealing powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and reparative properties. Translation for skincare: a new one-size-fits-all ingredient to solve a host of issues, from rosacea to eczema, plus a side (effect) of potential relaxation—placebo or not.
One beauty forecasting expert doesn’t see the CBD oil trend, which he saw coming over a year ago, waning anytime in the future. Sam Cheow spent 15 years at L’Oréal, nine of which as Chief Product Accelerator. Given that Cheow is uniquely poised to identify the trends taking shape in the realm of beauty and wellness, cannabis giant Global Cannabinoids recently scooped the industry vet to take on the advising role of Chief Product Innovation Officer.
We spoke with Cheow about what he’s been getting up to at Global Cannabinoids and what we can expect the future to hold for this wonder ingredient.
What attracted you to this new position initially?
Prior to joining Global Cannabinoids, I spent 15 years with L’Oréal specializing in forecasting trends for the company, identifying new opportunities in product launches as well as accelerating innovation in product development. So when I saw that cannabis was beginning to become a hot topic, I personally launched my own brand, Necessary Luxury, which is well-being aromatherapy that uses CBD as part of a fragrance component. I had been speaking with the CEO of Global Cannabinoids, Ryan Lewis, and he said, “Hey, I really need your help to steer us toward the right direction.” I identified the CBD trend as what I call ‘hot’ in 2018, around early March. At the time, I was still with L’Oréal. I just thought it was a great opportunity to dive into a new sector that is growing like crazy at the moment. I’m sure in Canada it’s doing well, since it’s 100% legal.
Do you see it as a trend that’s going to stick?
I think that this trend is going to last for a while. Think of argan oil. It’s an ingredient that has been so popular over the last five years, and it’s still popular. CBD is going to be the next generation of argan oil in a sense—everyone is going to use it in everything they can imagine. Medical cannabis these days is kind of like vitamins. Both are organic substances that used to be on the fringe of the medical world until suddenly, everyone knew someone who tried it and saw amazing results, which opens up doors for questions like, “Why does this work?”
So, why does it work?
If I can just be a little bit geeky, the thing about CBD is that it is really good in what I call stylistic genetic communication. The reason why [it helps] with anxiety, depression, digestion, appetite disorder, irregular sleep cycle, chronic pain, is that CBD is very neuro-protective. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-spasmotic. It’s very good in terms of helping a lot of people to regain general homeostasis, the balancing of your own homeochemical system. In mammals and in all humans, we already have an endochemical system in our bodies. Therefore, the CBD complements our system. It’s nothing new, but because it was illegal with THC it became a different category.
What about from a beauty standpoint?
When it comes to beauty, you have something completely different. You essentially have two things: you can inject it or you can apply it from a topical perspective. Whether it’s a skincare formulation or a makeup formulation that uses CBD in the ingredients, it has the ability to help you to calm the skin down, to reduce inflammation. I used to develop a lot of makeup and many women generally, apply so much makeup! We have primer, then we put foundation, then we do concealer… Even if you have no-makeup makeup, you’re still applying makeup. And how do you remove makeup? You wash it, with a cleansing cream, for example. Sometimes, if we’re lazy, we just use a towelette. Sometimes, we use a micellar water. So, the chemicals and the formula that you apply on the skin, it’s stress. The actual physical friction on your hands is also stress. What is the advantage of having something that anti-inflames in a formula? It helps you to soothe skin as you’re cleansing it.
Would you say anti-inflammation is the greatest benefit of CBD oil in skincare?
Yeah, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammation. We also have a really nice blend of fatty acids in the oil, which is great for the skin as well, for hydration, nourishment, soothing. For example, one of our formulas is from a brand called Terraform. We have an SPF 50 moisturizer in the formula with a high percentage of CBD. Not to toot our own horn, but the formula won buyer’s choice from various retailers during a beauty show. The reason why is because not only does it protect you from the sun but at the same time, it helps to attack all the free radical damage while also acting as an anti-inflammatory.
What do you think is feeding the CBD trend?
To me, it’s two things: firstly, consumers are taking a greater [interest] in self-care. It’s unbelievable. We’re seeing, not just millennials, but almost everyone is obsessed with looking after themselves. The self-care trend is very predominant. I’m sure you see a rise of various concepts of group sports in Canada, too. Whether you talk about Orange Theory or SoulCycle, people are really spending more time taking care of themselves. Not only that, but people are becoming very familiar with the raw trend that happened about five years ago. People are starting to talk about raw food, raw beauty, inside-out beauty, they’re taking more supplements, etc. This is really what I would call the external factors, driving everyone to look for the next best thing when it comes to wellbeing. And when I say wellbeing, I’m talking about mind, body and physical as well. CBD is a particular ingredient that has the checklist of those three criteria. The second part is because of the legalization. Suddenly, it opens up a new gateway for people to venture out and try something different. It’s no longer a taboo. If you go online, there are so many viral videos and testimonies online about how cannabis has helped them with cancer treatment, with seizures, with everything else. All of this covers a tsunami of push and pull factors that really get people becoming more aware.
What do you think the industry will look like in 10 years?
Now that it’s legal, you have all these support systems entering the industry to provide people with the support they need. You can see a very strong industry that’s well-equipped and it’s going to be super-competitive. We’re going to see everyone launching something similar and trying to compete with one another, whether it’s health, wellbeing or beauty.
What is most exciting to you about it, personally?
My background is all about identifying trends, accelerating innovation and developing new products. I identified this trend almost 18 months ago. A few people were very skeptical but I wasn’t budging. I said, “This is going to be a big trend and I will do something with it with or without L’Oréal.” Why I feel so excited is because of my own personal experience with it as well. In 2016, in August, I lost my late husband to lung cancer, and I used medical cannabis to help him reduce a lot of the inflammation that he had gone through in chemotherapy. I am also certified in aromatherapy and I combined [CBD] with the various essential oils in my own formulations, and it really helped him. Necessary Luxury is all about helping to reduce inflammation, and that got me so excited about this particular ingredient because I see the benefits of it in so many areas. You can put it into topical creams for skincare, you can put it in performance-related products helping athletes in terms of recovering from competitive sports, it can go into pet care… It’s everything you want it to be.