Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil in Makeup and Skincare — Legal or illegal?

In December 2018, the Central Narcotics Bureau confiscated Milk Makeup’s Kush Mascara from the Skinx store at Amoy Street.

The product listed cannabis sativa seed oil as one of its ingredients, and CNB told TNP Singapore that “even in the form of seed oil, it can contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical substance that is a Class A controlled drug [in Singapore].”

This is where I’m confused. Isn’t this ingredient found in many other beauty products widely available in Singapore? Case in point, I did a quick search on Sephora.sg and found three products that contain this ingredient as well:

From left to right: Eve Lom Radiance Face Oil, $145 / Allies Of Skin Fresh Slate Clay & Manuka Honey Purifying Cleanser + Masque, $62 / Frank Body Babe Balm, $37

So what makes one product legal and another illegal? I’ve spent the good part of the day researching online for answers, and there seems to be no black and white. Apparently when it comes to cannabis sativa seed oil (a.k.a. hemp oil) in beauty and wellness products, it’s a fine grey line.

What is Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil?

Cannabis sativa seed oil is also known as hemp seed oil. It is an oil that is extracted from hemp by cold pressing methods, and this oil contains no THC, which is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis. And with no brain chemical altering element, hemp seed oil won’t make you stoned or high. But of course not all hemp seed oil is created equal, and there have been scientific studies that prove trace amounts of THC in hemp seed oil (this could for example be due to a contamination of pressed seeds).

Singapore Law on Cannabis

According to Singapore law, cannabis is very clearly designated as a Class A controlled drug. And any trafficking, possession, consumption, and import or export of it is illegal. Hemp seed oil is a product of cannabis and so falls under the same law, although here’s where the grey line is:

The law states that it is products containing THC that are banned; but some hemp seed oil contains no THC at all.

Back to the Milk Makeup Kush Mascara — the brand’s website states that the cannabis oil used in the formula contains no THC and causes no psychoactive effects. But still it was pulled from the shelves by CNB. (We’ve reached out to CNB for a comment on this — their statement is at the bottom of this article.)

So once again, why are some hemp seed oil products allowed to be on sale in Singapore, while others are not? It could just be a case of consumer complaints and awareness. If an item were to be marketed as a product of hemp, chances are, it’ll catch the attention of CNB (and Singaporeans who are uncomfortable with the idea of it), and be asked to leave. All this to keep the peace I suppose.

In the case of the above product examples I found at Sephora (eg. Eve Lom’s Radiance Face Oil), the brand does not scream and shout above hemp seed oil being in its formula; instead it’s just listed as one of the many ingredients that you’ll spot only if you scrutinise the ingredients list (whoops, did I just highlight it?).

There are many beauty products from established brands using hemp seed oil as an ingredient, but these particular items are not available for sale in Singapore. They include an entire line of hemp products by The Body Shop, an Origins face mask infused with cannabis sativa seed oil, and a face oil from Herbivore whose main ingredient is also hemp seed oil.

Even Kiehl’s has launched its own Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, and I asked the brand if this would be coming to Singapore. This is their response: “We are unable to launch this product in Singapore as it contains Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil. This ingredient is not exempted for use in cosmetic products under the Poisons Act in Singapore.” But consider that Kiehl’s is under the L’Oreal group, and such a large company has even more reason to strictly abide by any laws for risk of their other businesses and reputation.

Peter Thomas Roth is another brand that recently launched products with cannabis sativa seed oil. I asked the press relations about whether these will be brought to Singapore. This is their response: “Unfortunately, this line will not be brought into Singapore as it contains ingredients which are not allowed locally. Even though it doesn’t have THC, it has other parts of the plant and bringing it in will be an issue.”

[Click on the photos to enlarge and read their description.]

 

The question is: if you buy them overseas, can you bring them back to Singapore? The politically-correct answer is — you’re not encouraged to. But if you do, be prepared to have them confiscated at ports of entry.


UPDATE FROM CENTRAL NARCOTICS BUREAU (23 APR 2019):
I managed to speak to a representative from CNB. The organisation’s stand is that any ingredient from the cannabis plant is deemed illegal in Singapore, and that includes products with this ingredient in its formula. Even though the brand may claim there is no THC in the product, those are just claims from the brand, and these claims need to be proven — which is hard to do and hardly done. To avoid complications with the law, don’t bring these items into Singapore. 

A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson responded to queries from TODAY stressing that Singapore’s drug-control policies are underpinned by evidence and research. So it’s pretty safe to say that Singapore’s stance on cannabis (and its by-products like cannabis sativa seed oil) won’t change anytime soon, unless there is scientific evidence proving the medical and health benefits of the ingredient.

Here’s the official statement from CNB:

So are those products above going to be pulled from Sephora Singapore’s shelves? We’ll see.

 

UPDATE  (24 APR 2019):

Those products are gone. 😳

 

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