REVIEW: HIGH BEAUTY
Let me start by saying this is the first time I have had such conflicting emotions about a product I've tested. I also have to admit I'm not exactly sure where I've landed with these feelings either; they are a bit jumbled and indecisive, so for this I apologise. To the beginning, then.
Cannabis products have started taking center stage in the skincare and wellness world. There is a lot of confusion to be had with cannabis products, as many are not well versed on the differences between hemp seed oil and CBD oil. Personally I have witnessed quite a divide in the brands and products featuring cannabis. On one hand you have the brands who are truly driven by destigmatizing the plant and are fighting for it and those affected by the unfair regulations on all fronts (e.g., Not Pot). On the other, there are brands monopolizing the hype and jumping on the bandwagon, seemingly only caring about being on trend and, obviously, profiting financially. (There is an enlightening article about how cannabis marketing is extremely exploitative which I will link here and encourage you to read). High Beauty produces two skincare products featuring cannabis and, like many other brands, I feel they are (likely unintentionally) participating in problematic marketing of the plant.
When you click into their website the landing page invites you to "Be the First to Get High". Let me make something crystal clear: their products do not contain CBD nor any psychoactive ingredients. Are you confused yet? I, and several others, certainly are. The CBD in most skincare is not psychoactive and would not get you high anyway, but at a time when CBD is all the rage surely one would think products from a brand called "High Beauty" which features cannabis leaves all over their boxes would contain CBD. One scroll through the reviews on the Sephora page attest I am not the only person who assumed this during my first impression. To further prove my point I posted a photo of these products on my instagram stating the brand had gifted me them to test and one of the first comments was asking if it was CBD skincare. Clearly, the name "High" is at best misleading.
The active ingredient in both of High Beauty's products is hemp seed oil, except nowadays no one calls it hemp seed oil, everyone calls it cannabis sativa seed oil. This is, seemingly, purely due to hype and marketing. In decades previous, "cannabis" was a highly controversial word so brands made sure to label it "hemp" to make their products more marketable. Fair. Today, cannabis is all the rage, so "hemp" is out. This isn't necessarily wrong nor is it anything new to the marketing world - in fact many would argue it's crafty marketing and smart business - but it feels, well, shady. To capitalize on people's assumptions knowing you aren't delivering what they are expecting for financial gain is shady as shit. High Beauty is not the only brand doing this; one merely has to stroll the aisle of any beauty store to discover countless others doing the same, Milk Makeup, Josie Maran, Herbivore Botanicals, Origins, Khiel's, & Peter Thomas Roth just to name the brands sold at Sephora. High beauty is, however, one of the only brands whose very namesake encourages the confusion. To their credit, High Beauty clearly states their products do not contain CBD oil on their packaging, but again, for someone just glancing at the box and seeing the name "High" - it's deceptive.
I reached out to High and asked them why they chose their name and why they do not use CBD in their products. You can see their answer here:
I would be lying if I said their answer erased my mixed feelings. Personally, I feel this is a cop out answer. This "high on life" philosophy isn't mentioned anywhere in their marketing materials or packaging. Generally speaking if a brand has a "philosophy" you're going to find it everywhere. It will be on their landing page, their packaging, their ad campaigns, their emails, their instagram bio, etc. Here is my hypothesis - CBD isn't federally regulated yet so they'd rather a product they can sell commercially in all 50 states which still capitalizes on the cannabis craze than deal with the legal maze of a product which can only sold to certain populations. Instead I'm left feeling like High Beauty knows their branding is deceptive but doesn't care because they are financially profiting from it. Which is unsettling.
Okay, now that we've ranted for about a year, let's talk about the products themselves, shall we? What initially peaked my interest in this brand was their ingredient lists. Skincare ingredients are listed by how much is in the product, largest to smallest. For both their serum and moisturizer cannabis sativa seed oil is the second ingredient. This is worth highlighting as I have encountered many products wherein the brand marketed a product based on a single ingredient only to find it's listed extremely low on the ingredient list, leaving one wondering if it's an active at all; so cheers to High Beauty for delivering on the cannabis sativa seed promise. High Beauty is also a "clean at sephora" brand, which could be important to some. (The conversation around "clean beauty" and whether or not it's even a valid concern is a whole other issue for another time; but read this in the meantime if you're interested).
First up, the High Expectations facial oil ($54). This oil is meant to be used at night after cleansing. It features 32% cannabis sativa seed oil alongside a cornucopia of bioflavonoids like red grape seed, cranberry, pomegranate, black cumin seed, troxerutin and broccoli seed and also yummy oils like sunflower, coconut, cranberry, black currant seed, rose hip, argan, borage, evening primrose, flax seed and shea butter. Unfortunately for me, I do not think my skin can handle high concentrations of coconut oil. The facial oil itself is soft and buttery, but would not sink into my skin. Every night for a week I tried different approaches to try to get my skin to absorb this product but every morning I woke up with it all over my pillow and not sunk into my skin. By the end of the week my skin was red and sensitised, with some whiteheads to boot. This was a miss for me, but the product reviews on sephora attest to many success stories.
Thankfully, I had a different experience with their moisturizer. Irritatingly named High Five, (pretty sure a high five to the face means getting smacked, but okay), this moisturizer retails for $40, is comprised of 20% cannabis sativa seed oil, and mostly worked for my skin. I was delighted to find the first ingredient is aloe juice. I am always impressed when a brand finds an opportunity to use a more active filler than plain water. This moisturizer has a similar mix of bioflavonoids and potent plant oils to its sister serum, but coconut oil is much farther down the ingredient list and I didn't have the same sensitising issues I had with the serum. A little goes a long way, if I used too much my makeup would pill on top of it. It sinks in easily when I use the correct amount, smells lovely (bright, green, maybe cactus like?), and texture-wise feels like a thick cream with a slight gel undertone (if that makes sense). After two weeks, the redness on the apples of my cheeks has all but disappeared. My skin hardly feels dry at all, which is lovely and rare during Chicago winters. However since using this product the pores on and around my t-zone have been more clogged than ever. I have always had this issue with products wherein shea butter and coconut oil both appear on the ingredient list, which is this case here. I can't say this is a product I'd re-purchase as my clogged pores are annoying enough that I've started to reach for other moisturizers over this one, but the redness relief and hydration are seriously impressive. I'm also a sucker for the packaging and green and pink color scheme, which are important to a content creator (as silly as it may be).
High Beauty graciously gifted me both of their products to test and my opinions are my own. In all honesty I am still conflicted with how I feel about liking their product given their marketing of it. The same can be said for others - Herbivore Botanicals is finally launching a CBD version of their Emerald facial oil and I'm embarrassed to admit I want to try it (not only for the same problematic cannabis marketing but also for their shit handling of some moldy PR products). Should I be boycotting these brands? Can I like a product but not the brand? I don't have a good answer. I can say I sincerely hope High Beauty, as well as all the other brands with cringe-worthy names, consider renaming their products. I would have significantly less of an issue with this brand and others if they were called something else. It is the casual use of terms like "high", "dope" (Josie Maran), and "kush" (Milk Makeup) which mislead consumers into believing they are buying a different cannabis product than they are, and it's simply not right. Something needs to change and nothing will happen unless we speak up.
This concludes the longest blog I've written to date. If you read this far, bravo, gold star...and high five (but not to your face).