Do cannabinoids from topicals enter the bloodstream?

Are you afraid of how to pass a weed drug test if you use topicals? Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis Sativa plant. The most common cannabinoids include; delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC and CBD both come from the same plant, they differ based on their effects on our endocannabinoid system. THC has a psychoactive effect (gets you high) while CBD doesn’t.

THC and CBD today are used widely for recreation and medical purposes, and there is evidence that these substances can help alleviate a wide range of medical conditions. For this reason, companies have emerged to produce CBD and THC products that relieve various conditions, these products are present in many forms but are popular as topical products.

CBD topical products include cream, lotion, balm, or salve infused with CBD or THC that you apply on your skin. Many people have assumptions that such tropical products enter the bloodstream but that is not the case. THC or CBD from topical products helps relieve pain or inflammation at the point of application on the skin without entering the bloodstream.

CBD topical products continue to gain traction as more study is done on their health benefits. Research carried out by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information published on PubMed search suggests that topical CBD products could help skin disorders, pain, and muscle relief. Moreover, The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) has established that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may aid the treatment of acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Transdermal cannabis

Transdermal cannabis penetrates past the first layer of the skin (epidermis) and into the dermis that contains blood vessels to allow THC into the bloodstream. Transdermal cannabis is administered on the skin where it penetrates into the systemic circulation to deliver THC to the point of action. The result is that it can cause intoxication—but not as much as if you smoked weed, and possibly a positive drug test depending on the level of THC in the product and the frequency of use.

CBD Products and Drug test

Perhaps the biggest question today in the minds of individuals using topical CBD and THC products is whether it can lead to a positive drug test. As FMAHealth claims, it is a relevant and legitimate worry since different states and companies have independent drug policies. In the United States, hemp-derived CBD products are legal federally and in most states. Hemp CBD contains a low-level THC of less than 0.3% and has no psychoactive effects. On the other hand, marijuana-derived are illegal federally but legal in some states. It is advisable to know your state’s CBD/THC products policy if you intend to use them.

If you were to take a drug test amidst the use of weed topical (transdermal weed), you might need to consider other options to get your system cleaned up of THC to be sure of a negative result. That leads you to try and find out how to get weed out of the system. Fortunately, there are ways to do that; the quickest one is to use detox products.

Can you receive a positive drug test if you use CBD/THC products?

When you apply cannabis topicals such as lotions, balms, or creams to your skin, the active cannabinoids absorb into your skin and interact with the cannabinoid receptors. As a result, they restore balance to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to provide relief. While the THC in these products penetrates your skin, it does not penetrate deep enough to reach your bloodstream. As such, it will not get into your brain to make you high, and importantly you will not test positive after a drug test.

If you suspect that you would test positive for THC for whatever reason during a test — which most likely would be a urine test, it would be best to consider exploring other means of how to pass a urine test, for example, using synthetic urine.

THC in saliva, urine, and hair follicles

Topical products such as cream, lotion, balm, or salve do not enter the bloodstream. Hence, it is unlikely to be found in your urine, saliva, or hair follicles. However, that is not the case with transdermal patches that allow THC to penetrate the bloodstream. If you use transdermal weed products, THC will likely be detected in your system.

  • Saliva

Weed enters the saliva only when smoked or ingested–this means that there will be no THC in your saliva if you use topical products like weed lotion. However, products like RSO oil for pain that you can consume both orally and topically can lead to the presence of THC in your saliva.

THC in the saliva is detectable for up to 36 hours if you are an occasional user and up to 29 days if you are a chronic user.

  • Urine

THC is detectable in urine for:

  • Occasional users: 3 days
  • Moderate users: 5 to 7 days
  • Chronic users (daily): 10 to 15 days
  • Chronic heavy users (multiple times a day): more than 30 days

THC metabolites in urine can be detectable for several weeks because they are fat-soluble and take a long time to leave the body.

  • Hair follicles

When weed reaches hair follicles via small blood vessels, traces of THC remain in the hair. This can be detectable for up to 90 days after use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will hemp lotion show in drug tests?

The short answer is NO. Hemp-derived CBD has a low THC level, plus the cannabinoid will not penetrate the bloodstream.

How long will marijuana stay in blood?

Mayo Medical Laboratories estimates that weed will stay in the blood for:

  •   Single Use 3 Days
  •   Moderate Use 5 Days
  •   Heavy Use (Daily) 10 Days
  •   Chronic Use 30 Days

Jobs that don’t drug test near me

While the legalization of weed products gains traction, there is still a reality of having to take a pre-employee drug test.

At least 56% of employers in the US ask for a pre-employee drug test. Here are some jobs that do not require drug tests:

  •   Target
  •   Dick’s Sporting Goods
  •   Petsmart
  •   Whole Foods
  •   Starbucks

How long does it take THC level to drop?

Various factors determine how long THC level drops in your body. They include your age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) which determines how your body processes and metabolizes the drug. Other factors are how much, how frequent and how potent your weed is.

How long does weed stay in hair and nails?

Weed can stay in hair for up to 3 months and 3-6 months in the nails.

Can you absorb THC oil through skin?

The skin absorbs THC oil and allows THC to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, it doesn’t go past the outermost layer of the skin into the bloodstream.


Topical CBD/THC products offer a perfect opportunity and alternatives to be explored in both the recreational and medical fields. With ever-growing popularity, many people have turned to these products as the safest way to alleviate conditions such as muscle aches, joint pain, and skin inflammation. Topical products offer benefits in that they do not show positive drug tests except for transdermal products that penetrate the bloodstream. You consult with your doctor or cannabis clinician before you use THC/CBD products and research products to ensure you buy safe and reliable products.


  • Carolyn Gaughan

    Carolyn Gaughan is an ex-executive vice president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and represents the state associations of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians.