What is the Difference between Hemp Seed Oil and Hemp Oil and Is it Important?

Access to hemp-derived products is easier than ever. Before you buy, make sure you know what you're getting.

This article explains the difference between hemp oil and hemp seed oil.

Quick note: hemp oil is usually used interchangeably with CBD oil. That's how we've used it in the information to follow. But as you continue your research, know that sometimes people use hemp oil to refer to hemp seed oil. So double check how each source defines their terms. 

Now let's dive into the good stuff. 

What is hemp seed oil?

Hemp seed oil (sometimes written as hempseed oil) comes from the hemp plant, which is under the umbrella of the cannabis sativa plant. It is made from only the seeds of the hemp plant (more below on why this is important). Unrefined, it ranges from dark to light green in colour and has an earthy, nutty aroma and flavour. And it's texture is similar to the oiliness of human skin. 

What are its uses

Hemp seed oil can be used orally or topically. 

Orally, it is used as a nutrition supplement (1-2 spoonfuls taken directly) or as a food additive. It’s nutty flavour works well in pasta sauces, salad dressings and soups! Since hemp seed oil is full of omegas 3, 6 and 9 it’s a good vegan alternative to fish oil. You can find it at grocery stores and health food stores.  

Topically, hemp seed oil is used in many more ways:

  • Massaged directly into the scalp to improve hair strength, shine and hydration 
  • Soaked into nails as a cuticle oil 
  • Carrier oil in aromatherapy 
  • Formulated into skincare products

We’re going to focus on #4. Not only is it the most popular topical use, but it is also our favourite! 

Products That Use Hemp Seed Oil 

  • Hemp Face Wash - a hydration hero in oil cleansing, loved by everyone from the acne-prone to the over-dry. 
  • Hemp Serum - a nourishing carrier in serums that packs an extra punch of moisture.  
  • Hemp Face Cream - an ideal moisturizer for all skin types.
  • Hemp Body Soap - Oils in your  bar soap? You bet! It ensures that your skin will not feel tight or dry after bathing. 

How it works

As we’ve just seen, hemp seed oil is used in many different skincare products. Now we’ll take a look at how it works in each of them. 

For the oil cleanser, we need to have a quick chemistry lesson. 

Every cleaning process needs a “mechanism of action” i.e. the way it works. When I scrub dirt off my arm with a cloth, the mechanism of action is mechanical. The contact of the cloth and my skin, plus  the force of the  movement back and forth cleans the dirt off my arm. 

In oil cleansing, the mechanism of action is a chemical process known as “like dissolves like”.  The oils in our face wash dissolve the oil on our skin. The more alike  the cleansing oil is to our skin, the better it will be at its job. 

Hemp seed oil very closely resembles the oils on our skin. This makes it the ideal ingredient for washing your face with a cleansing oil. 

In the serum, hemp seed oil is a “carrier oil”. The role of the carrier oils is to transport or “carry” other ingredients into the skin. Just like in oil cleansing, it works as a carrier because it’s similar to our skin. Makes for easy traveling! 

In the cream and soaps, it’s simple - hemp seed oil works as a moisturizer. Specifically, it’s an emollient which is 1 of 3 types of moisturizers. 

Emollients are responsible for softening + smoothing the skin. They do this by filling in the spaces between cells that are created when skin is dry. Hemp seed oil does not clog your pores, it sits on the surface of the skin to form a protective hydrating barrier. Like a shield made of nourishing oil! 

What the benefits and side effects

Hemp seed oil has many benefits for your skin. Here’s the best of the best, plus a few benefits for the environment too! 

  • Non-comedogenic - won’t clog your pores
  • Full of omegas 3, 6 and 9- repairs the skin barrier
  • Hydrating - emollient that softens & smooths
  • Balancing - regulates oil production 
  • Anti-inflammatory - gamma-linolenic acid
  • Safe for use on all skin types 
  • Universal - mixes well with other ingredients
  • Clean & Green - scores 1-2 (depending on dose) on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database

You will not experience any side effects from using hemp seed oil unless you have an allergy to hemp.

How hemp seed oil is made

Hemp seed oil is made by cleaning and cold-pressing the seeds to extract the oil. It’s the same process used to extract your other favourites, like olive oil!

Cold pressing hemp seeds doesn’t really mean cold. It means not hot.  In other words, cold pressing is done at room temperature rather than heating the oil. Cold pressed oils are sometimes referred to as “virgin”. This is because the cold process maintains more of the oils natural characteristics, it remains unchanged. 

empyri Hemp Serum

What is hemp oil?

Hemp oil is another term for CBD oil. By removing the word seed we are talking about an oil that comes from different parts of the cannabis plant. This includes the flowers, which contain CBD or cannabidiol.

CBD isolate, broad spectrum CBD, full spectrum CBD oil , CBD extract...these are all terms related to CBD oil or hemp oil.

What are its uses

CBD products are popping up everywhere, from beauty products to snack bars! One of the most popular products is CBD oil tinctures. Just a few drops under your tongue and away you go.

CBD oil has hundreds of uses. It has a lot of potential health benefits, all that need more research to support reliable claims and safety for consumers. Some of the most common are:

From Forbes Health

How it works

CBD works by interacting with our body's endocannabinoid system. The system itself is now highly researched but much remains to be understood. We do know that the endocannabinoid system is connected to our sleep, mood and appetite to name just a few. Enzymes break down the cannabinoids (in this case CBD) and then these newly formed endocannabinoids bind with receptors - which causes the effect (for example, inducing sleep). 

How hemp oil is made?

Hemp oil is made by extracting CBD compound from the hemp plant - leaves, stalks and flowers! Depending on what exactly is extracted from the plant and combined together, we get 3 main types of hemp oil:

  1. Isolate contains only CBD, with no other cannabinoids.
  2. Full-spectrum contains all cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant, including THC.
  3. Broad-spectrum contains multiple cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant, but it does not contain THC.

(source: Healthline)

CBD Tincture from Hemp Plant

Do either contain marijuana?

No. Hemp oil and hemp seed oil come from hemp plants, not marijuana plants. 

Remember, hemp and marijuana both belong to the cannabis family. They’re siblings! Not twins. CBD oils can contain trace amounts of THC (that's the psychoactive compound in cannabis) but anything under 0.3% is considered safe and THC-free by regulators.

Hemp Oil vs Hemp Seed Oil : Does one work better than the other?

The answer depends on what problem you’re trying to solve. We'll look at two broad categories.

For the skin

Hemp seed oil works better for the skin. Why? Because all the benefits we shared earlier (scroll up if you missed it) are stored in the seeds. Essential fatty acids & essential amino acids, omegas 3, 6 and 9, and the list goes on. Hemp seed oil works wonders to hydrate and balance, which is why its been a clean beauty staple for decades. 

For Pain and Arthritis

CBD oil works better for pain relief and arthritis. "The Arthritis Foundation conducted its own poll and found that 29% reported current use of CBD (mostly in liquid or topical form), and nearly 80% of respondents were either using it, had used it in the past, or were considering it. Of those using it, most reported improvement in physical function, sleep, and well-being; of note, a minority reported improvement in pain or stiffness" (source: Harvard Health Blog).


Why Are There So Many Words For Cannabis?

A joint by any other name would smell as sweet…..

Pot. Mary Jane. Weed. Chronic. Hemp. Marijuana. There are a few reasons you've heard so many words for cannabis.

It’s scientific. A botanist will tell you that cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family. Hemp and marijuana are both “children” in this family. Though they share some things in common, they have distinct characteristics too. 

It’s cultural. Most of the words used for the cannabis plant are slang. “Pot” for example was popularized in the United States in the 1960’s. One of the more interesting theories of “pot”’s origin is that it is a short form for the Spanish potacion de guaya which means “potion of grief”. It’s thought that the potion was marijuana mixed with wine or brandy. 

It’s political. Because of its long history of criminalization, cannabis and its associated terms have been demonized. Unfortunately, much of the plant’s nuance was lost in this process. With legalization spreading across North America in recent years, a reclaiming of the words has started.

Concluding Less Confused than You Started

Both hemp seed oil and hemp oil have numerous benefits for your skin and overall health. Remember the key difference is while the former is CBD-free, the latter is CBD-full with many reasons to get excited about it. 

We're lucky that cannabis legalization in North America is opening up new opportunities for us to learn about and benefit from hemp-derived products. But with some parts of the industry still under-regulated, its important to know the difference between the ingredients you're putting on and in your body. Today we've covered one of those differences, so go forth with your knew knowledge about hemp seed oil and hemp oil. 

We're here to help you choose cannabis with confidence. Because, 

You Are Loved. 

Jennifer Grant with Hemp Roots


Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri.  Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO