Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Both Salves (pronounced with a silent “L”) and Balms are made by combining a mix of oils and beeswax. Beeswax acts as an emollient (something that is softening or soothing to the skin) while the oils act as the pain managing agent. To make a salve or balm beeswax is melted with CBD oil and typically other essential oils like wintergreen, lemon, arnica, cinnamon, or lavender. Salves are traditionally made in a 1:4 ratio of beeswax to oil while balms tend to have more oil in them. This combination allows the product to penetrate deep into the skin for long lasting relief. The addition of the beeswax is why a salve is more effective for topical pain relief than if you were to put your CBD oil directly onto your skin.
Salves and Balms are both activated by body heat and will essentially “melt” into the skin. If you’re looking to soothe sore muscles, a thicker salve or balm is a good choice because it requires you to massage the mixture deeper into your skin. Because salves and balms have more oil in them than lotions they can be formulated to be stronger than most lotions on the market.
Lotions, unlike salves and balms contain water, which is why they have a shorter shelf life and can contain preservatives. Lotions typically have a longer, more complex (and sometimes unnatural) list of ingredients. This is because a lotion requires both an emulsifier and thickening agent. An emulsifier is a compound or substance that acts as a stabilizer, preventing liquids that ordinarily don't mix from separating (like the water and oil in the lotion). The word actually comes from the Latin word meaning "to milk," in reference that milk as an emulsion of water and fat. A lotion is absorbed into your skin quicker than a salve because of the water content in the formula.
Consider the strength, which is determined by the concentration of the product and not the total amount of CBD. One might assume that a product with 1150mg of CBD is going to be stronger than a product with 750mg of CBD. But if that 1150mg of CBD is in a 4oz container and the 750mg is in a 1oz container, the 750mg salve is going to be stronger because it will have more CBD per application that a product in a larger container.