What’s More Topical than Cannabis Topicals Testing?!

Posted on September 28, 2021







From lotions to bath products, balms, and a slew of other personal care products, cannabis-infused topicals seem to be an area of constant evolution. When you are considering the quality of your topical product, there is much to consider beyond simply what is essential for getting the topical approved by Health Canada (potency testing, heavy metals, etc.) Of course, these Health Canada regulated compounds are important to minimize the risk to consumers, but there are other often neglected indicators of product quality that are important to consider.

Due to the nature of how cannabis therapeutics are being used, such as aiding in chronic pain management and arthritis, testing for more than potency is essential to ensure the safety of the consumer. Since the mode of consumption can vary from the types of cannabis topicals used, additional testing for metals, terpenes, and shelf-life/stability can impact the consumer’s choices when purchasing a product.

While some of the tests we offer may not be required by Health Canada’s cannabis standards today, those of us who have been in the industry for a while know that the standards for testing can change. CARO is dedicated to keeping you ahead of the curve by offering testing and services above and beyond just the basics.

What do labs routinely test for in topicals (the ‘basics’)?


Testing for potency is the bare minimum required by Health Canada to determine the strength of the product. For cannabis topicals, less than 1000 mg of THC is required to pass the regulations. While there are no regulations for CBD in a product, Health Canada also requires the limit of CBD to be displayed on the packaging, in addition to the THC levels.

Metals (Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, and Lead)

Heavy metals testing in cannabis products is standard Health Canada procedure to be fully compliant with your product. Heavy metals can be found in many stages of cannabis growing and topical production phases. Testing for heavy metals in topical products helps to avoid recalls in products for levels exceeding the maximum set out by Health Canada standards. While testing for cobalt and copper are not mandatory by Health Canada’s standards, being aware of these metals in your product can help your consumer avoid allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis, among other adverse reactions.


Since using pesticides in cannabis cultivation is common practice, Health Canada requires testing for the 96 most common offenders in order for your topical to become compliant. CARO tests for over 100 of the most common pesticides that may be included in your growing practice, including those required to satisfy Health Canada criteria.

Foreign Matter

Testing for foreign matter can determine the absence or presence of pests, and evidence of spoilage in your product. Testing for foreign matter in topicals is especially important since spoilage can impact the shelf life and overall potency of your product. Mould and dirt can change the chemistry of the topical, causing the shelf life to become shorter and the product to be unusable (and possibly even harmful.) Foreign matter in cannabis topicals can include hair, moulds, insects, excreta, cinders, sand, dirt, and soil – all things you definitely don’t want floating around in your bath water, or being lathered onto your skin!


Microbiology includes the total yeast and mould count, total aerobic count, Bile-tolerant Gramnegative, E.Coli, and Salmonella app. Testing microbiology is important to cannabis products, as the presence of microbes can impact the shelf life as well as stability. Having elevated levels of any of the aforementioned microbes can cause problems such as structural damage or toxicity of the product, and hyper-activation of the immune system when used.

What Else Should I Be Looking For?

As mentioned above, Health Canada’s Regulations ensure that the product you are using is safe. Beyond ensuring your product is safe, science can tell you and your customers many great things about the quality and characteristics of the product you are selling. Below are a few commonly requested additional parameters that can help you differentiate your product in the market:


Terpenes are the smell and flavour chemicals found in plants. Terpenes ‘work’ with cannabinoids and other common medical ingredients in topicals to increase the absorption rate through the skin, soothe irritation, as well as to provide other healing properties such as reducing pain and swelling. The type of plant used can affect the terpenes in the topical. Terpenes have a variety of different impacts on the body, so listing the types of terpenes in your product can help consumers make important decisions about their self-care products.

Full cannabinoid profile

Beyond the five cannabinoids used to ascertain the potency of your product (expressed as total THC), testing for a full cannabinoid profile can help the consumer have a better understanding of your product and how they will experience it. In combination with the terpene content, different cannabinoid profiles have different effects on the user. The strain of cannabis used and the preparation methods of CBD and THC can both impact the cannabinoid profile of your product and can result in very different user experiences.

Residual solvents

Residual solvents analysis is important for highly concentrated forms of cannabis products. When CBD and THC are extracted to create topicals, solvents are used to extract the cannabinoids from the physical plant matter. Testing for the residual solvents detects any chemical residues that may remain after the extracts are produced from the plant. Since residual solvents are unsafe for human consumption, confirming the absence of these chemicals in your end creates peace of mind for those looking for a safe treatment option.

Is Testing for These Additional Parameters Worth the Cost?

If you want to differentiate your product in a market rife with topical options, it is absolutely worth it to test for parameters outside of the primary requirements set out by Health Canada. Helping consumers have a better understanding of the topical ingredients they are using will benefit both the user and your bottom line. If you are interested to learn more about what adding some of these tests to your regularly scheduled testing might look like, reach out to our team today: [email protected]. You might be surprised at how easy and cost-effective CARO’s services are!


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