History of Hemp in Skincare

The History of Hemp in Skincare: From Ancient Remedies to Modern Innovations

Written by: Cindy Kuo



Time to read 14 min


Brief contextualization of skincare history

Skin care, like many things in the world, has a robust narrative stretching back to ancient civilizations. This quest for healthy, radiant skin spans across multiple cultures and eras, dating back as far as the Stone Age and Egyptian era. Skincare evolved from rudimentary practices to complex rituals and treatments, eventually becoming a vital part of daily routines worldwide. Groundbreaking discoveries and age-old traditions fused together to form a rich tapestry of skincare practices, fostering the development of modern skin care methods .

Introduction to hemp as a skincare ingredient

Within this expansive history of skincare, it would be remiss not to mention the innovations brought upon by a rather unique plant: hemp. Despite its controversial past, recent years have seen hemp stepping into the limelight, getting recognition as an invaluable resource, particularly in the realm of skincare. With hemp derived oil innovations on the rise, this plant's transformative journey from ancient medicine to modern skincare ingredient is worthy of exploration.

Hemp: Ancient Origin and Uses

Definition of hemp and its earliest known uses

Hemp, scientifically known as Cannabis Sativa, is a variety of cannabis that has been utilized throughout history due to its versatility. It's a hardy and renewable resource, used in a variety of products, from textiles and paper to food and cosmetics. However, one of the most transformative uses of this plant is found in early skincare remedies. The seeds were cold-pressed to produce hemp seed oil , leading to some of the earliest known hemp seed oil innovations.

Review of hemp use in ancient civilizations

Examining the history of hemp use across different civilizations gives us interesting insight into how this plant has been utilized in the context of skincare.


In ancient China, hemp was regarded as a key ingredient in skincare and health routines. The Chinese were among the first to recognize its healing properties. They used hemp seed oil to treat acne , dry skin and other skin conditions. Even today, many Chinese herbal remedies incorporate hemp.


The Egyptians also recognized the skincare benefits of hemp. Cleopatra, known for her exquisite beauty regimens, reportedly used hemp oil in her skincare practices. The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text, mentions remedies using hemp to treat inflammation and pain.


In India, hemp was a prominent ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. Its use dates back to 2000-1400 B.C., according to Atharvaveda, a sacred Hindu text. Ayurvedic practitioners used hemp to treat various ailments, including skin disorders. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of hemp seed oil made it an important part of traditional skincare routines.

In conclusion, history of hemp and it's use in skincare has a rich history across various cultures. From China through Egypt to India, these ancient civilizations recognized hemp's value and harnessed its benefits. These historical hemp seed oil innovations laid the foundation for the use of hemp in skincare today.

History of Hemp in Middle Ages

Use of hemp in Europe during the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, the European landscape was a hotbed of innovation and progress. Amidst these advancements, one constant presence was that of the hemp plant. Known for its versatility and ease of growth, hemp played a pivotal role in various sectors across Europe. Rope, clothing, and even parchment paper were crafted from its strong fibers, speaking to the manifold uses of this plant. Yet, a lesser-known use was in the realm of skincare - a precursor to the later hemp seed oil innovations we see today.

In these times, bathhouses and apothecaries were the repositories of skincare wisdom. As these establishments gained prominence, so did the use of hemp in their preparations. Hemp seed oil, rich in nutrients and possessing protective properties, was considered a jewel among skincare ingredients. The Middle Ages witnessed the beginning of hemp's ascendance in skincare, laying the foundations for much of the progress that was to follow.

The medicinal properties of Hemp recognized by herbalists

History of Hemp in Skincare: From Ancient Remedies to Modern Innovations

As herbalists delved deeper into the practice, they started recognizing the profound medicinal properties of hemp. Not only did it show potential in treating ailments, but it also presented possibilities in preventive care. The skincare industry was no exception to this trend. Herbalists noted the plant's ability to rejuvenate the skin, contributing to a healthier and more vibrant appearance.

Understanding the power of this plant, herbalists incorporated hemp - in its various forms – into their skincare concoctions. Hemp seed oil , in particular, was greatly esteemed. Herbalists were witness to the positive effects hemp seed oil could have on the skin, such as hydration, protection from environmental stressors, and imparting a glow to the skin.

This period in history, thus, saw the burgeoning recognition of hemp seed oil not only as a valid medicinal ingredient but as a powerful contributor to skin health. This early understanding would later pave the way for modern-day hemp seed oil innovations and the resurgence of hemp's importance in skincare routines the world over.

19th to Early 20th Century: Drop in Popularity

As we move forward into the 19th and early 20th century, a time of scientific advancements and societal growth, we see a significant decrease in hemp usage. Despite previously acknowledged hemp seed oil innovations and its widespread use in skincare remedies, its reputation started frying on a low heat.

The decrease in hemp usage

While the reasons for the drop in popularity of hemp in the skincare industry are complex, they mirror larger tendencies in society at the time. People began to favor modern techniques and ingredients that promised short-term results and were promoted with glossier marketing techniques.

This shift is particularly encapsulated by a relative indifference towards natural remedies, with a clear favoritism towards newly crafted, synesthetic solutions. The innovations of hemp seed oil innovations were deemed outdated, lacking the intrigue the new century demanded.

Contributing factors to the decrease

There were many contributing factors to the dwindling popularity of hemp, each playing a unique role in reshaping societal perspectives of this once beloved ingredient.

Rise in synthetic medicines

One such catalyst to this decline was the rise of synthetic medicines. As chemists started to produce semi-synthetic substances for mass consumption, these easily accessible, discounted materials put the more expensive and labor-intensive hemp to compete in a losing battle. Many began to question the practicality of natural remedies and their application in modern society—pushing away the valuable hemp seed oil innovations to the periphery.

Legal constraints

Around the same time, laws around the world started to tighten their chokehold on hemp possession and usage, further pushing hemp products into obscurity. Political agendas and legal constraints placed on Cannabis, hemp's infamous sibling, tainted hemp's reputation by association. As a result, many feared the use of hemp seed oil in skincare could lead to legal ramifications , pushing the universally versatile ingredient deeper into the abyss of forgotten remedies.

In conclusion, the 19th to early 20th century was not a golden age for hemp and its place in skincare. Instead, it was a time when societal views were changing, and hemp, unfortunately, didn't adapt well to the changing times. From the rise of synthetic medicines to growing legal constraints, hemp was outshone and overshadowed. The once radiant sun of hemp was clouded over, despite its historic and practical virtues. However, like all good narratives, the story of hemp’s odyssey continues into the shadows, lying in wait for a better dawn.

Late 20th Century: The Rediscovery of Hemp

As we approached the end of the 20th century, a significant turning point emerged in the history of hemp in skincare. This period marked an era of rediscovery and reevaluation for this natural ingredient, stemming from a few pivotal factors.

Increase in Interest Towards Natural Remedies

After years of synthetic product domination, there was a palpable shift towards natural, organic remedies in the latter half of the 20th century. This increase in interest was born out of a new wave of awareness and consciousness regarding the potential harm caused by chemicals in synthetic products. As a result, the spotlight once again fell on time-tested, plant-based resources with therapeutic benefits such as hemp. The move towards more organic skincare invited a host of research around various organic alternatives, leading to hemp seed oil innovations resulting from the active investigation into this versatile plant's properties.

Cannabis Legality Influencing Hemp Production

During the late 20th century, there was also an evolution in the legal understanding and acceptance of cannabis. While the global legal landscape for cannabis was far from uniform, certain places began to recognize the difference between hemp used for its therapeutic properties and cannabis consumed for psychoactive effects. This change in legal stance influenced hemp production, paving the way for reintroducing hemp into the skincare industry and contributing to research on its benefits.

Emergence of Hemp-Focused Studies

The revisited interest and the changing legality surrounding hemp led to the emergence of various hemp-focused studies. These studies further explored the potential of hemp in skincare, ranging from its nutritional benefits when included in the diet, to its potential as a topically applied remedy for various skin concerns. Researchers delved into understanding the properties of hemp, particularly the role of key components like CBD, in treating skin issues like inflammation, dryness, and aging.

The late 20th century was a period of resurgence for hemp, the beginning of a journey that saw a once ostracized plant gradually step back into the spotlight. This adventurous phase of rediscovery made room for scientific investigation, legal considerations and, ultimately, a renewed appreciation for the versatile plant, and set the stage for a new chapter in the history of hemp in skincare.

The History of Hemp

Hemp in Modern Skincare: Innovations and Benefits

Introduction of Hemp in Mainstream Cosmetics

In the trajectory of time, history often comes full circle. The incorporation and history of hemp, particularly hemp seed oil innovations, in mainstream cosmetics is a testament to this cycle. With the surge in demand for natural and organic skincare products, hemp swiftly made its way into the beauty industry, lauded for its capacity to deeply nourish skin without causing irritation or undue reactions.

Benefits of Hemp in Skincare

Hydration Properties

One does not have to probe too deeply to discover the hydration properties of hemp seed oil . Brimming with omega fatty acids, hemp skincare products seal moisture into the skin, staving off dryness and peeling while maintaining the skin’s natural barrier.
History of Hemp in Skincare: From Ancient Remedies to Modern Innovations

Anti-inflammatory Benefits

Equally noteworthy are the anti-inflammatory benefits of hemp seed . The secret lies in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid, which ebbs inflammation and encourages the growth of new cells, leading to a more rejuvenated, freshly youthful complexion.

Current Market Scenario and Popular Hemp-infused Products

The current market scenario attests to the growing expansion of hemp in skincare. From high-end beauty enterprises to local drug stores, hemp-infused products are sprouting everywhere. Noteworthy examples are hemp-infused lotions for combatting ravages of dry skin, hemp seed oil serums for overnight hydration, and hemp-based balms that promise a soothing rinse in a bath of enriched botanicals.

Future of Hemp in Skincare Industry

Current Trends and Potential Growth

As for the future, the trajectory of hemp in the skincare industry seems to be on an upward climb. This is in part due to growing awareness of natural skincare benefits, but the potential for innovation is barely scratched. Hemp seed oil innovations are predicted to steer the skincare industry to newer realms.

Possible Challenges and Opportunities

Although laden with potential, the hemp skincare industry is not free from challenges. There are regulatory uncertainties and societal misconceptions that need to be rectified. However, it is in the face of these challenges that opportunities emerge. A steadfast revising of outdated legal policies, increased research, and public outreach can aid in dispelling the misconceptions about hemp , allowing it to fully blossom as an indispensable skincare ingredient.


Recap of hemp's history in skincare

In conclusion, the journey of hemp in skincare is a testament to the ebb and flow nature of historical trends. This green plant has woven quite a tapestry throughout time, from its earliest uses in ancient societies such as China, Egypt, and India, to its recognized medicinal properties in the Middle Ages, and then the unfortunate drop in popularity in the 19th to the early 20th century due to the rise of synthetic medicines and legal constraints.

The tide, however, started to turn favorably for hemp in the late 20th century, as we saw a global pivot back to nature, and with that came the rediscovery and renewed interest in hemp and its benefits. The modern skincare industry started integrating hemp, thanks to a surge in research and better understanding of its hydration and anti-inflammatory properties of hemp.

Reiteration of hemp's potential in skincare industry

Despite some hairpin turns in its journey, hemp has proven resilient and beneficial. It is emerging as a star ingredient in mainstream cosmetics and skincare. The market is ripe, and the possibilities seem to be just beginning to bloom.

' Hemp seed oil innovations ' are playing a vital role in this modern skincare revolution, pushing the boundaries of what's possible and reimagining hemp's role in skincare. But with hemp's rich history of use and the mounting research supporting its benefits, it's perhaps more accurate to say that we're catching up to where ancient civilizations once were.

Either way, there is an undeniable potential that hemp holds within the skincare industry. In the face of accelerating interest, growth trends, and the grudging acceptance of its benefits, the industry stands on the threshold of what could be the start of a new era - an era where hemp is not just an ingredient in our hemp skincare products , but a pillar holding up the industry.


As we delve deeper into exploring and appreciating our history with hemp in skincare, a range of cited academic papers, articles, and research studies illuminate our path. Indeed, the most effective way to predict the future often lies in understanding our past.

  1. An excellent overview of the history and applications of hemp can be found in ' Hemp: Industrial Production and Uses ' (McPartland, Guy and Russo, 2014). This comprehensive review backs the findings in our second and third sections, detailing hemp's earliest uses in China, Egypt, and India and its continued popularity through the Middle Ages.

While navigating the mid-19th to early 20th-century hemp scene defined by decreased usage, ' Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years ' (Plume, 1980), proves to be a notably enlightening source. It explores the rise of synthetic medicines and legal constraints leading to the decline of hemp. However, the reemergence of hemp, which the 'Journal of International Hemp Association' (Small and Marcus, 2002) beautifully outlines, signals hope and transformation in public perceptions and legal frameworks.

Cindy Kuo

The Author: Cindy Kuo

Cindy Kuo, the founder of Olecea, is passionate about clean and natural skincare. Born in Taiwan, educated in the UK, and now residing in California, Cindy has woven a rich tapestry of diverse cultural and skincare traditions into Olecea. Her journey has been fueled by a commitment to blending the best of Asian wisdom with wellness concepts from the US and Europe.

Olecea’s formulations reflect Cindy’s dedication to using clean, natural, non-toxic, and cruelty-free ingredients. She ensures that Olecea's products not only address skincare concerns but also provide enjoyable textures that enhance the skincare routine. A key innovation is Olecea's advanced pearl encapsulation technology, which maintains the freshness and potency of active ingredients in each application. Another example is the hydrating and detoxifying charcoal mask, perfect for those who value anti-aging benefits without the dryness typically associated with such treatments.

Beyond skincare, Cindy's commitment extends to making a positive impact in the community. She actively supports local charities while balancing her role as a mother of two. Cindy’s unwavering dedication to researching and creating effective skincare formulations ensures that Olecea Skin Lovers can achieve radiant, healthy skin.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of hemp in skincare?

Hemp has a long history of use in skincare dating back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks, utilized hemp-derived ingredients for various skincare remedies, recognizing its moisturizing, soothing, and healing properties.

How did ancient cultures incorporate hemp into skincare practices?

Ancient Egyptians are known to have used hemp oil in their skincare routines, applying it topically to moisturize and protect the skin from the harsh desert environment. Hemp extracts were also used in traditional Chinese medicine for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, treating skin conditions and promoting overall health.

When did hemp become popularized in modern skincare products?

Hemp experienced a resurgence in popularity in the skincare industry during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, driven by increased awareness of its beneficial properties and advancements in extraction and formulation techniques. Today, hemp-derived ingredients are widely used in a variety of skincare products, including moisturizers, serums, and balms.

How have modern innovations influenced the use of hemp in skincare?

Modern innovations in extraction, formulation, and product development have expanded the possibilities for incorporating hemp-derived ingredients into skincare products. Advanced extraction techniques allow for the isolation of specific compounds, such as CBD (cannabidiol), which offer targeted benefits for addressing various skin concerns.

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