When shopping for CBD pain relief, there are many product options available on the market. How do you know which one would work best for you?
We’re going to break down the difference between two popular topicals—CBD cream vs. salve. While these products both offer the potential recovery and relief benefits of CBD, they each have their own purposes and makeup. Let’s dive into the differences between CBD cream and CBD salve.
What is a CBD Cream?
Thicker than a lotion but thinner than a butter or balm, CBD creams are a mixture of three ingredient categories—oils, water, and emulsifying agents.
Depending on the formula, a CBD topical cream could be an oil-in-water emulsion (thinner) or water-in-oil emulsion (thicker). Most CBD creams will include a mix of oil-soluble and water-soluble moisturizers, such as:
- Vitamin E
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
- Other plant-based oils
However, oil-soluble and water-soluble ingredients do not like to mix—that’s where an emulsifying agent can help combine their moisturizing powers. In skin creams, common emulsifiers include:
- Cetearyl glucoside
- Stearic acid
- Glyceryl stearate
To enhance a cream’s soothing properties, CBD creams also include cannabinoids. This may come as full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or THC-free CBD isolate (like in our CBD Muscle Cream).
Legally, cannabinoid products cannot contain more than 0.03% of THC, the substance found within cannabis plants that creates a “high.” CBD creams may also contain other active ingredients like menthol and camphor to enhance any benefits so you can have the freedom to go further, to do what you love.
What are the benefits of CBD Creams?
Almost all skin creams offer some moisturization. However, a CBD cream can provide soothing and muscle-relaxing benefits—it all depends on the cream formula. When applied thoroughly and regularly, a topical CBD cream could offer:
- Moisturization – From low humidity to poor hydration, your skin can turn dry for a number of reasons. A skin cream can provide and “trap” the moisture in your epidermis layers, thanks to the power of water (your skin’s hydration source), humectants (substances that draw in water), and occlusives (waxy or oily substances that block water evaporation).
- Skin health – Over time, regular skin cream application can significantly improve your skin health. Why so? The more hydrated your skin, the easier healthy skin cells can replace dead skin cells. This leaves your skin fresher and stronger, helping to repair old wounds and protect you from future cracks.
- Itching relief – A CBD cream mixed with active ingredients like menthol and camphor can moisturize the skin, which may reduce itching associated with dryness and irritation.,
- Ache relief – When paired with anti-inflammatory ingredients like arnica (as used in ProVault’s CBD Cream), CBD cream may reduce joint-related aches, localized nerve discomfort, and muscular inflammation to support natural muscle recovery between workouts.,,
How do you use a CBD Cream?
So, how do you soak up all the benefits of CBD cream? It takes thorough and regular application.
CBD creams with ingredients like arnica, menthol, and camphor can support muscle recovery. That said, it’s best to apply CBD cream after an activity or when a particular body area needs soothing relief. Common reasons to apply a CBD cream include:
- Strenuous workouts
- Joint discomfort
- Muscle strains or soreness
In general, it’s best to only apply 3 to 4 times daily, especially if the formula contains other active ingredients like menthol. Once applied, wash your hands to remove excess product (unless you’re applying the cream to your hands).
What is a CBD Salve?
If you had to build a moisturizer pyramid, salves would sit near the top. A CBD salve is a solid skin moisturizer that combines oil-based and wax-based products—and zero water. As a result, salves can penetrate the skin deeper for intense hydration and cannabinoid delivery.
Since a salve has no water content, it does not require emulsifiers and typically has fewer ingredients than creams. However, you may find emulsifying or water-soluble ingredients in salves that help create a solid texture, making it easier to apply on your skin. Many CBD salve formulas include soothing ingredients like:
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut oil
- Other plant-based oils
- Vitamin E
Like CBD creams, CBD salves also include full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. Some salves may also contain other active ingredients like menthol, arnica, or camphor for additional soothing relief (like our CBD Salve for Muscles).
What are the benefits of a CBD Salve?
The benefits of a CBD salve are similar to those of a CBD cream. However, a salve typically delivers these moisturizing and soothing benefits on a more intense level. The top CBD salve uses as a topical pain reliever can include:
- Intense moisturization – The highly moisturizing powers of a salve come from its occlusive ingredients like oils and waxes. Typically, your skin loses moisture through water content seeping out from the epidermis (your skin layers). Occlusives trap water from “escaping,” sealing the gaps between skin cells at the top layers. As a result, any hydration you already have stays inside your skin.
- Skin protection – The protective layer from occlusive salves can also block out irritants and pollutants and prevent them from harming your skin. A CBD salve can stop harsh temperatures, pollen, and even rough surfaces from damaging or irritating the outer layer of your skin.
- Deep muscle relief – Oils do not directly hydrate your skin (that would be water’s job). However, they may achieve deeper skin penetration. Research shows that fatty acids may have the ability to deliver nutrients deeper into the skin’s intracellular matrix. This means that a CBD salve with soothing ingredients like menthol, camphor, and arnica can penetrate the skin further to provide muscular relief at a deeper level.
How do you use a CBD Salve?
Like a CBD cream, a CBD salve can be applied to support muscular recovery.
However, a salve may not “sink” into the skin quite like a cream or lotion, leaving your skin more slippery. This means it’s best to apply salves after physical activity, rather than before. Consider adding a CBD salve to your routine for:
- Post-workout relief
- Joint discomfort
- Muscle soreness
- Environmental protection
For best results, apply a CBD topical salve up to 3 to 4 times daily. If the salve contains other active ingredients like menthol, make sure you don’t over-apply (otherwise, you may risk skin damage). Wash your hands after applying to remove excess product, unless you need the salve on your hand’s skin.
Benefits of CBD Topicals
CBD creams and CBD salves may feel quite different on the skin. However, they both can provide pain relief when needed.
As a topical ingredient, CBD has made quite a name for itself. This natural substance can help relieve sore muscles and may provide anti-inflammatory benefits to users. Currently, research points to these potential benefits for topical CBD use:
- Skin condition relief – Thanks to its soothing effect, topical CBD that’s paired with other natural ingredients like camphor and menthol may help relieve itchy skin. Additionally, the American Academy of Dermatology Association says that CBD could reduce skin inflammation that causes blemishes and irritated skin.
- Muscle support – According to a few studies, CBD might be the answer to the aches and pains of life. Studies show that regular topical application of CBD may have a soothing effect on physical aches associated with your joints and nerves.,,
- Athletic performance – Still working through your leg day recovery? Topical CBD may turn those aches around. In one study, athletes who applied CBD topicals post-exercise over 96 hours had significantly less soreness than athletes who didn’t use CBD.
Should I use a CBD Cream or Salve?
Choosing between a CBD salve vs. cream comes down to one factor—personal preference.
Both CBD salves and CBD creams deliver the benefits of cannabinoids. However, the products have a different “feel” on the skin, delivering moisture and active ingredients in slightly different ways. Consider these other factors when making your choice between a CBD salve vs. cream:
- Texture – Compared to a CBD cream, a CBD salve is a richer and thicker moisturizer. Creams easily spread across and “sink” into the skin, making them easy to apply on the go. Salves are more oily and thick, often staying as a layer on top of the skin. If you have any activity planned, a cream may work better than a salve.
- Skin needs – The main difference between creams and salves? Creams provide skin moisture, while salves protect skin moisture. A cream can give an extra boost of hydration, while a salve can lock in that hydration and create a skin barrier against outside irritants. For the best results, you can try both together!
- CBD penetration – Since oils may better penetrate your skin’s intracellular matrix, a salve might deliver CBD’s benefits at a deeper level. However, regular application matters more than choosing an oil-based or water-based CBD topical.
Find Your Relief with ProVault
Whether you choose a CBD cream or CBD salves, your muscles will appreciate the effort. An equally important decision? Choosing a high-quality CBD topical that can help soothe your body—that’s where our products come in.
At ProVault, we formulate pain relief products that are natural, fast-acting, and effective so you can continue to do what you love, whatever that may be. Our CBD topicals can relieve muscle aches with cooling menthol and anti-inflammatory camphor, alongside THC-free CBD and arnica—with zero pesticides, heavy metals, or fungicides.
Find your safe relief in our collection today.
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