A guide to hemp and why we use it for the skin

A guide to hemp and why we use it for the skin

We love our hemp-based soap here at Heyland & Whittle, but we know that we're in the minority when it comes to stocking skincare products containing this ingredient. As a result, many of you might not be entirely sure what it is or how it can be of benefit to you.

Here, we'll do our best to address this by providing some information about hemp, including its history and its effects.

What is hemp?

Let's address the most obvious issue first: hemp is not marijuana and isn't a recreational drug. The confusion on this matter has arisen because they both originate from the same species of plant - cannabis. The fact that people use 'cannabis' as a slang term for marijuana hasn't helped in the bewilderment stakes, but assuming the two are alike is like saying that wolves are the same as Chihuahuas because they are both canines.

Hemp is harvested from a high-growing subspecies of the cannabis genus that has close to no psychoactive properties at all. Indeed, the plants are actually specifically bred to have extremely low content of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compounds that cause marijuana's effects (well under one per cent), whereas marijuana is typically low-growing and can contain anything from three to 15 per cent THC.

Hemp is also grown to deliberately maximise the fibres and seeds it contains so that we can make use of it in everything from rope and cloth to fuel.

History of hemp

There are records of people growing hemp that date all the way back to the Far East in 2,700 BC, so our ancestors were clearly well aware of its useful nature and properties. This continued throughout history, with the Europeans using it for textiles and to eat - and the US Navy incentivising its growth during the Second World War to create much-needed rope when jute supplies ran low.

Hemp for skincare

Find out why hemp deserves to be better-loved.

While all of the above uses are still applicable across the globe today, we're interested in hemp because of its oil. This is collected from the seeds when it oxidises after exposure to the air, similar to how linseed oil is accumulated.

However, while linseed oil tends to be best for nourishing wood flooring and the like, hemp oil is fantastic for the skin. It is full of essential fatty acids including omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9, as well as gamma linoleic acids, which are usually very rare in natural oils.

That means that if you apply it via a skincare product such as soap, it replenishes the body's natural components instead of stripping them like chemicals can. For this reason, it is one of our go-to ingredients when making products to cater for very dry skin, alongside better-known constituents like oats.

What does it smell like?

We've heard people in the past dismissing hemp-based products because they assume they'll smell like incense afterwards. This isn't the case at all and we'd urge you to give it a try if this had occurred to you too.

Although hemp does have a distinctive scent, it's actually more like that created when you walk over a freshly cut lawn in the summer. We also think it smells a little menthol-like or minty and rather nutty too.

It also has a really clean, slightly musky after-scent in its bottom notes, meaning it's ideal for men, women and children alike.

However, the main reason we'd like you to give it a go in the form of our soaps is its moisturising lather, which appears as soon as you rub it under water, has the texture of a thick foam - you can shave with it, in fact - and can be felt on the surface of the skin for ages afterwards.

You can try this amazing ingredient in our Hemp & Walnut Soap Bar (we combine it with walnut to complement the existing nuttiness) - and once you're converted, you can stock up using Heyland & Whittle's famed soap bricks, which effectively give you four bars' worth free.