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Terpenes and Beauty: The Next Frontier of Skin Care

Reading Time - 8.5 min

The beauty industry is a vibrant, ever-changing trend machine, and terpenes are here to shake things up for the better.

While skin care manufacturers like to hear that their products are “trending,” what’s even more important is hearing that their products have had a genuinely positive impact on their customers lives. Those are the products that tend to stick around. People want skin care products that feel good, make skin look good, and products that smell good too. Luckily, terpenes can help skin care products accomplish all three. 

One such skin care line already taking advantage of this is one of our partner companies, Fifth & Root. Their line of “fresh, feel-good, vibe-worthy skincare” uses natural botanicals, CBD (cannabidiol), and terpenes for maximum skin absorption. After roughly one year on the market, these products are already available in select Anthropologie stores. So, it’s safe to say this is a brand on the rise.

Why Terpenes in Skincare | fifth & Root

Don’t just take it from us though. Let’s look at all the information so you can understand exactly how terpenes enhance skin care products. 

What are terpenes and why should your brand care?

If you’re just now exploring terpenes for your skin care products, then here’s the short and sweet on terpenes.

Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons produced by most plants. The evolutionary purpose of these aromatic compounds is to attract pollinators and/or repel predators. Pretty cool, huh?

The terpene profile of every plant can be different though, because terpenes are VERY sensitive to their environment. Things like weather, soil quality, and farming practices can all impact a plants terpenes--so two seeds of the same plant that are grown in two different environments might not have the same terpene profile. For manufacturers wanting to create products with a consistent flavor and aroma, this presents a problem. 

That’s where we come in.

Say you wanted to make a calming lavender scented night-cream. Even if you did manage to harvest enough lavender with a similar terpene profile (unlikely), even the manufacturing process would damage the natural terpenes of the plant. However, by adding Linalool, you’ll achieve a consistent aroma throughout your products. 

Linalool is the terpene most prevalent in lavender, and its sedative effects are part of the reason people consider Lavender such a calming herb. 

Some skin care and cosmetics companies are already using terpenes, but finding out which terpenes they’re using is a guessing game. CannabisMD says, “At the moment, there are no regulations for marketing and labeling terpene-rich skin care products, so many labels and online product pages fail to specify which terpenes a certain face mask or hair serum might contain.”

We’re only just now finding out how insanely beneficial terpenes are to our bodies and minds, so in the past this wasn’t an issue. But now that we do know, brands that both utilize terpenes and publicise those terpenes set their products above the rest. 

Just look at Fifth & Root again. They have an entire web page dedicated to explaining why certain terpenes are beneficial, and each product explains why their terpene blend was chosen. This is the kind of information we’d like to see more of from the beauty industry.

At this point we hope you’re nodding your head, but here’s where you should start jotting down notes. So, let’s get into the science of terpenes and skin care.

How can terpenes help your skin?

At Abstrax, we’re obsessed with discovering new terpenes, researching the effects of isolates and blends, and pretty much everything and anything in between. The biggest thing we’re finding out though, is there are a lot of different ways that terpenes can provide benefits to us.

The first way terpenes can help skin is topically

Skin is the largest organ of the human body, it acts as protection, and it can also act as an indicator of internal health. Ever wonder why your skin looks dull and drab when you’re running on three hours of sleep? Your skin is literally telling the world that you’re running on empty and could use a nap. Seriously, your skin does a TON of work.

How to use terpenes in skincare

But sometimes it can seem like skin has a mind of its own. Whether it’s acne, dry-flaky patches, eczema, or excess oil, skin woes can affect anyone. 

Dr. Frederick Burns of the Department of Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center has been researching the possibility that terpenes could help rejuvenate skin, especially for those dealing with skin issues from radiation or chemotherapy:

Terpene administration directs patterns of gene expression that support increased keratinocyte proliferation, keratin production, reduced inflammation, and protection from oxidative damage within the stratum corneum and related epidermal structures. Accordingly, terpenes may be used effectively to restore and improve skin and mucosal strength, thickness, and barrier functions in patients with atopic dermatitis or oral mucositis. (Office of Industrial Liaison)

Certain terpenes absorb more readily into the skin though, and their effectiveness can often differ between different types of products. So this is where understanding the differences between different terpenes comes in handy. 

In one study it was found that Linalool absorbed well via oil, hydrogel, and emulsion-based formulations. However, the terpenes Alpha-Pinene and Citronellol were mainly successfully absorbed in hydrogel formulas. 

This means throwing terpenes in your products all willy-nilly won’t guarantee their success. You need to partner with experts who understand how terpenes work and what types of formulas will optimize absorption (Psst! That’s what WE do).

The second way terpenes can help skin is from the inside-out.

Terpenes heal from inside out | Terpenes and Skincare

Terpenes are all about the experience. You taste and smell them, but their effects are so much more than skin deep. That’s why more and more skin care lines are starting to include vitamins, supplements, and tinctures. They’re tackling skin problems from the inside-out! And terpenes can work the same way.

Like we said earlier,  skin can be an indicator of internal health. So someone who deals with a lot of inflammation might experience redness or swelling of the skin. Someone with a lot of anxiety may experience acne or even seborrheic dermatitis

But which terpenes are the best for your skin?

Which Terpenes Help Your Skin

So, you know you want to enhance your products with terpenes. Great! But now comes the part where you actually have to decide which terpenes to use. It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but remember that you’re looking for the terpene with the right scent and effect. Here are just a few that you should consider--


Aroma - Slightly woody, floral, and earthy.

Effect - Anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant, rich in panthenol. promotes relaxation.

Found - Chamomile, Candeia shrub


Aroma - Sweet with minty balsam and a vegetal leafy feel.

Effect - Sedative, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic.

Found - Bay, ylang-ylang, mango, hops, wild thyme, and more.

Alpha-Caryophyllene (Humulene)

Aroma - Potent earthy flavor with a bitter woody overtone.

Effect - Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic 

Found - Hops, sage, ginseng, coriander. 


Aroma - Herbal, woody, piney and turpentine-like, with a slight cooling camphoraceous note.

Effect - Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-ulcerogenic and gastroprotective.

Found - Conifers, rosemary, eucalyptus, orange peel.

This is just a short list of some of the terpenes that can have a positive effect on your skin, so definitely do your research and find out what others you may want to use as well. If, however, you want a team of experts to help you curate your own unique blend of terpenes, we can help you with that too.

Terpenes, Cannabis, and Skin Care

We can’t talk about all the amazing benefits of terpenes without explaining their relationship to cannabis. As we mentioned earlier, terpenes are produced by most plants--the cannabis plant just happens to produce a LOT of terpenes.

Terpenes in Skincare | Topicals and Terpenes

Before we continue, know that our terpenes are 100% cannabis free and can legally ship anywhere in the U.S. and in select international locations too. You can use terpenes without having to use cannabis (and vice versa), but when terpenes and cannabis interact you get some pretty powerful effects. 

The reason is because of a phenomenon known as the Entourage Effect. Basically, it’s when different compounds work together to be more powerful than they’d be on their own. Myrcene, for example, encourages the blood-brain barrier to allow more compounds to pass through. For those wanting to increase the anxiolytic effects of their terpenes (or cannabis products) this is a very good thing.

When it comes to skin care, we’re mainly concerned with CBD (cannabidiol). CBD manufactured from industrial hemp is legal in all fifty states, and it’s non-psychoactive because of its low THC levels. If it doesn’t get you high though, why are cannabis users so obsessed with it? Here are a few reasons why CBD is awesome for your skin:

  1. Powerful antioxidant
  2. Can improve sleep
  3. Anti-inflammatory
  4. May decrease excess sebum
  5. May counteract free-radical damage
  6. May calm irritated skin
  7. May balance hormones
  8. May boost immunity
  9. May elevate mood

Those all sound good to us! 

Vanessa Florentino, the founder of Fifth & Root, made it her mission to create a plant-derived, CBD infused skin care line after working elsewhere in the beauty industry. She saw brand after brand disregard the powerful effects of cannabis, and when she launched her own line she knew that the natural, healing powers of CBD and terpenes would be at the forefront of her formulas.

“Terpenes are plant magic!  Not only do they boost the efficacy of the cannabinoids in our products but they also give off such a unique aromatherapy benefit that we haven’t seen yet on the market.”

Conclusion: Terpenes and Skin Care Belong Together

If you’re just now entering the terpene scene and you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ve got your back. Putting together formulas for skin care products is hard enough without juggling a new element. 

Terpenes are here to stay though, so brace yourself and enter this new era of the beauty industry with your head held high. Contact us today and let us help you at any step of the process. We research terpenes for a living, so we know a thing or two about them (*wink*). 

And don’t forget to give us a shoutout on instagram for a chance to be featured on one of our stories! Become part of the Abstrax community and help us spread awareness about the amazing potential of terpenes.

Summary - We covered a lot today, so here are the main takeaways:

  • Terpenes are produced by most plants and are responsible for their aroma and flavor.
  • Certain terpenes have therapeutic benefits for the skin, and some work better than others with particular products (creams, oils, hydrogels, etc.).
  • Skin can benefit from terpenes when it’s applied topically, ingested, or inhaled.
  • While you can use terpenes on their own, when combined with CBD (cannabidiol) many of their potential therapeutic benefits are enhanced (plus, CBD is incredibly good for your skin too!)

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