CBD cream vs salve: is there a difference?

CBD Cream vs. Salve

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you purchase products featured in this content or purchase from vendors featured here. Our professional curators independently research and recommend products and services, with no newsroom involvement. Merchants can pay for a sponsored listing and may choose to rewrite their summary. When that happens, we label the listing as “Sponsored” and highlight it in grey to differentiate the merchant-provided content from our writing.

And as far as cannabinoids go, none is probably more popular than CBD. This mostly non-psychoactive compound is naturally derived from hemp. Years of cannabis research have yielded interesting insights about its potential medicinal and recreational capabilities.

As a result, CBD is fast gaining traction as an ingredient for beauty products. It’s in soaps, salves, creams, lotions, balms – practically any conceivable topical. But topical CBD products come in many different shapes and forms, which sometimes makes it tricky to differentiate them.

In this article, we discuss CBD cream vs salve, their uses, and the difference between the two.

Pain Relief CBD Cream - 750mg

$39.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

Key Takeaways

  • CBD topicals come in many shapes and forms, including salves and creams.
  • Besides CBD, salves contain oil and wax, while creams are composed of oil and water.
  • CBD creams absorb better than salves. On the other hand, salves are more moisturizing.

A Quick Look at the Best CBD Topical Products Online

  1. EVN CBD Cream 
  2. FAB CBD Cream
  3. Limitless CBD Muscle Cream
  4. Tribe Tokes CBD Infused Pain Relief Cream
  5. Joy Organics Sports Cream
  6. Sweet Sensei Relief CBD Salve 
  7. Verma Farms CBD Cream
  8. Penguin CBD Cream
  9. NuLeaf Full-Spectrum CBD Balm
  10. Avid Hemp CBD Relief Balm

What is CBD Cream?

Creams are semi-solid emulsions of water and oil. There are two types: oil in water and water in oil creams. Oil-in-water creams are made by dispersing tiny oil droplets in a continuous water phase, and water-in-oil creams are made by infusing small water droplets in oil. If you add CBD extract to either of these formulations, you have CBD cream.

Oil-in-water creams are more cosmetically acceptable because they are less greasy and wash off easily. On the other hand, water-in-oil creams are greasier. However, they are more moisturizing as they create an oily barrier that minimizes water loss.

Besides moisturizing and protecting the skin from harmful elements, creams act as vehicles for medicine. This is why cannabis brands increasingly use topical formulations to transfer CBD’s beneficial properties.

Muscle Cream 500mg Full Spectrum, 2oz

$39.95  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

What is a Salve?

A salve or balm is a topical product like a cream. However, its formulation is slightly different. It is mainly composed of oil and wax hence its firmer waxy texture.

Natural beeswax is the most common choice. It’s a dense, sticky material that becomes fluid on melting. It also serves as a preservative, so salves typically don’t have many additives.

Vegetable waxes, e.g., Candelilla wax, can be used instead of beeswax, especially for vegan products.

The “oil” part carries the herb component. While different oils can be used, coconut oil is often the best owing to its high fatty acid content. MCT oil (derived from coconut) and olive oil are also excellent choices.

Salves sit on the skin surface longer than creams or lotions, making them better moisturizers.

CBD Extra Strength Hemp Oil Salve (600mg)

$70.00  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

CBD Cream vs. Salve: What Are the Differences?

CBD creams and salves are applied externally and contain CBD hence their healing and cosmetic properties. However, they are different in some aspects.

For instance, in terms of viscosity, CBD salves tend to be thicker because they don’t have water. While this quality makes them better moisturizers, they don’t absorb as fast as CBD creams and lotions.

Also, CBD salves tend to have longer shelf life than CBD creams. Knowing which product has a longer shelf life can help you make the right purchase if you’re dealing with a long-term condition.

Another difference between CBD salves and creams is their additive content. Creams have water which means they need preservatives because water can harbor bacteria. A lot of preservatives can be disadvantageous as they sometimes irritate sensitive skin.

Nonetheless, the key difference between CBD salves and CBD creams is their water content. CBD salves contain no water, while CBD creams typically have a water part. This can be as high as 20% if they are the oil-on-water type.

So, based on these differences, you can decide which product suits your needs. If you want something that absorbs fast, CBD creams are ideal. However, if you want an absolute moisturizer that works slowly, CBD salves are your best bet.

Blue Moon Hemp Eucalyptus CBD Salve

$35.00  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

CBD Cream vs Salve: How Are They Made

CBD salves can be made in several ways, all of which utilize these ingredients:

  • An herbal extract or medicinal compound like CBD
  • An oil base that also acts as the transporter for the therapeutic substance
  • Wax, e.g., beeswax or vegetable wax.
  • Essential oils and vitamins (optional)

Brands typically have proprietary production methods for these products. But the basics are the same regardless of the method used. If you want to try your hand at making homemade CBD salve, here is a simple DIY method.


  • Coconut oil
  • CBD extract
  • Beeswax pellets
  • Shea butter
  • A teaspoon of vitamin E oil (or any vitamin oil you can get)
  • Oil fragrance


  1. Mix ½ cup of Shea butter, ¼ cup of beeswax pellets, and ½ cup of coconut oil in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir until all the contents melt.
  2. Transfer the melted mixture to the fridge for roughly 10 minutes. Check whether the top layer just starts solidifying.
  3. Next, remove the mixture from the fridge and whip it with a whisk until it fluffs.
  4. Add the vitamin oil, CBD oil, and oil fragrance. Mix well.
  5. Pour the contents into a jar and cover with a tight lid. Store in a cool, dark place.

CBD creams and lotions are made in a similar manner. The hemp CBD extract is typically infused into a water-oil base. Preservatives are then added for a longer shelf life.

Generally, brands list the ingredients in their CBD salves and creams. This helps you avoid ingredients you may be allergic to. So, if you have sensitive skin, it’s a good practice to keep an eye out for this list.

What Are the Potential Benefits of CBD Topicals

Dosist CBD Topical Roll-On 550mg

$37.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

CBD topicals hold many potential benefits for conditions that affect the skin or are superficial, i.e., don’t affect deep tissues. Here are common health problems that a quality topical CBD product may help with:

Acne, Psoriasis, and Eczema

Acne, psoriasis, and eczema are relatively prevalent skin conditions. In the US alone, 31.6 million people have a form of eczema.

Acne is even more common than eczema, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. Though common in adolescents and young people, acne can occur at any stage in life.

These and many other skin problems are often treated with anti-inflammatories, which is great news considering CBD exhibits strong anti-inflammatory effects.

A study investigating CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects on acne showed it dose-dependently inhibits lipogenesis (excessive lipid production). Incidentally, excess sebum production is one of the causes of acne besides inflammation, bacteria, and blocked hair follicles.


Arthritis is an inflammatory condition for which CBD topicals may have therapeutic benefits. Several preclinical studies have shown that CBD may reduce pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

While these may be preliminary findings, they highlight the promising potential of CBD as a potential anti-arthritic treatment.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a neurological disorder caused by a squeezed/pressed median nerve. This may be due to frequent, repetitive grasping movements, bone or joint disease, or hormonal or metabolic changes. Left unattended, it may cause numbness, pain, and swelling.

Fortunately, these symptoms may be managed by CBD. This cannabinoid is shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that may help alleviate CTS-related pain and swelling.

Muscle Soreness

CBD could help reduce muscle soreness thanks to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS contains receptors that CBD binds to, stimulating pain reduction, muscle relaxation, and anti-inflammatory effects.

These effects explain why CBD is a massive hit in sports, with studies suggesting it may support post-workout muscle recovery.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can significantly disrupt the quality of life. This is because nerves heal slowly; full recovery may take months or years. Generally, how long it lasts depends on what caused it, the extent of the damage, treatment, etc.

CBD topicals may help reduce some symptoms of this condition. For example, a 2020 study found that transdermal CBD may improve pain and other disturbing sensations in patients with peripheral neuropathy. What’s more, CBD is well tolerated and produces minimal side effects. This makes it a good alternative to current therapies.

How Long Does It Take for CBD Topicals to Work

Generally, CBD topicals take 15 to 45 minutes for the effects to kick in. However, the addition of penetration enhancers and herbal extracts for cooling or warming effects can reduce the onset time significantly.

Check out our complete guide on how to use CBD hand cream.

What’s Stronger: CBD Cream vs Salve

The strength of CBD topicals typically depends on their potency. Nonetheless, the main comparison areas for creams and salves are absorption rates and occlusion.

CBD salves are more occlusive because they don’t contain water. As a result, they stay on the skin longer. On the other hand, CBD creams are fast-absorbing thanks to their high water content.

So, both products have their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, what you go for depends on your health or cosmetic needs.

CBD Topical Salve for Muscle Relief 500Mg

$49.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 12:52 pm

Which Option Has Better Absorption?

CBD creams have better absorption than salves. Regardless of whether they are water-on-oil or oil-on-water, the water part enhances their absorption.

Salves are more consistent and oilier. But as we’ve seen above, this quality makes them better moisturizers. Also, since they absorb slowly, salves may be ideal for slow dosing, especially when dealing with a chronic condition.

Can You Take Too Much Topical CBD

It’s inconceivable to “take too much topical CBD.” The skin may be porous, but it doesn’t allow everything in. After all, that’s its primary function – protection.

While you can apply too much CBD, not everything goes in. In any case, CBD products are not cheap, so it doesn’t make sense to waste them by applying too much. With these products, a little goes a long way.

CBD Cream vs Salve: Final Thoughts

Whether you go for CBD cream vs salve depends on your health or cosmetic goals. Both products have their pros and cons. Generally, creams provide better absorption and are ideal for quick relief.

Salves are thicker and stay on the skin surface longer. This makes them excellent formulations for skin nourishment and delivering slow-release drugs. Let’s briefly discuss some of the best CBD products you can buy online.

Where to Find CBD Topicals Online

Research-wise, there might not be enough on CBD, but it’s hard to discount its potential health benefits. If anything, mounting evidence suggests phytocannabinoids might be the new frontier in developing novel drugs for hard-to-treat conditions.

For now, they are excellent supplements for boosting health and overall wellness. That said, here are some CBD topicals you’ll find valuable.

1. EVN CBD Cream 

This cream from EVN nourishes dry skin and soothes sore and tight muscles. With 500mg of broad-spectrum CBD enriched with Shea butter and soothing botanicals, this is the go-to for instant cooling relief.

2. FAB CBD Cream

The CBD cream by FAB CBD is nothing like any full-spectrum lotion you’ve ever used. It’s soft, light, and non-greasy and absorbs smoothly into tired and sore muscles. With a respectable 600mg of full-spectrum CBD in a 2 oz. jar, this is one fantastic topical cocktail for muscle, joint support, and skin discomfort.

3. Limitless CBD Muscle Cream

Limitless’ CBD-infused muscle cream is a perfect companion for athletes and senior citizens. With up to 750mg of hemp CBD extract blended with aloe, arnica, and chamomile, it’s ideal for rejuvenating achy joints and sore muscles.

4. Tribe Tokes CBD Infused Pain Relief Cream

TribeTokes got this spot on if the reviews from contented customers are anything to go by! With a whopping 1000mg of CBD, nourishing ingredients, and nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, this cream is not only great for the skin but also for helping ease pain and inflammation.

5. Joy Organics Sports Cream

For people who lead super active lifestyles, this premium formulation of 1000mg of CBD, menthol, and camphor certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crafted to provide deep and fast-acting relief for joints and muscles. Feel the cooling and invigorating effects of this CBD Sports Cream by Joy Organics.

6. Sweet Sensei Relief CBD Salve 

Blended with Sweet Sensi’s premium, in-house extracted CBD rosin and organic oils, this Relief CBD salve is a big hitter. With 1000mg of CBD enriched with cooling botanicals like chamomile, lavender, menthol, and arnica, this is what you need to help against pain and discomfort.

7. Verma Farms CBD Cream

Rich, luxurious, and sweet-scented, this CBD Cream by Verma Farms rejuvenates and moisturizes fast. It contains 500mg of CBD in a 1.7 Fl. Oz bottle that’s easy to use and aesthetically designed.

8. Penguin CBD Cream

This is another silky smooth CBD cream that absorbs quickly, leaving the skin well moisturized with a pleasing scent. Made by PenguinCBD, this cream contains 250mg of broad-spectrum CBD in a 4 Oz jar and provides a comforting cooling sensation.

9. NuLeaf Full-Spectrum CBD Balm

This NuLeaf balm is simple but effective. It’s made with highly concentrated full-spectrum hemp extract and organic Shea butter to ensure it absorbs quickly to help relieve discomfort.

10. Avid Hemp CBD Relief Balm

This CBD Relief Balm by Avid Hemp contains 300mg of full-spectrum CBD in a 2 Fl. Oz can. It also has menthol and lavender to help soothe tired muscles and relieve pain. Unlike other balms, the CBD Relief balm glides gently and smoothly on your skin without leaving an oily residue.

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you purchase products featured here. Please consult your doctor before starting any new supplement to see it is right for you.