Skincare Science

How to Read a COA

Written by Sara Spruch-Feiner

Published on 07/15/2021 at 4:00 PM PST

You need to read a COA to determine quality, completeness, and potency

When you’re new to CBD, there can be a lot of lingo to learn—and it can, at first, seem intimidating. But at NTY, demystifying the world of CBD is key to our mission—and we want to empower you to understand not only why we so wholeheartedly believe in CBD, but also how to vet it for yourself and make sure you’re getting the best the ingredient has to offer. One necessary skill for doing that? Reading a COA.

What IS a COA?

One of the most important terms you’ll want to familiarize with is ‘COA,’ short for Certificate of Analysis. Essentially, a COA is your roadmap to understanding what’s actually in a cannabis product.

Unfortunately, the world of CBD can be deceiving—it’s not uncommon that companies use isolate (CBD that has been processed in such a way where everything but the CBD itself is removed), then put in a drop of full-spectrum CBD and call it a full-spectrum product—but the COA allows you to check that a brand’s products actually has what they say it does.

Ultimately, for the consumer, there are two COAs that are relevant to look at. The first is the COA for the oil used (the raw material itself), the second is the COA for the final product (the product as it is once it’s in your hands).

The COA for the oil itself is important because you want to make sure you are getting a truly full-spectrum product. And because “there is no regulatory definition of what full-spectrum actually is, the best way to check is to look for as many different cannabinoids as possible,” explains Sammie Smith, No Thank You’s Chief Product Officer. The final product COA is important, too, however, “because it will show that the advertised dosage is correct,” Smith explains, noting that: “the formulation process doesn’t change what is contained in the oil, meaning one cannabinoid won’t convert to the other. The ratio of different cannabinoids will be the same, just diluted in the final product.”

What Does A Cannabis COA Tell You?

On the most basic level, a COA allows you to check the safety profile of a product before using it. “What you want to look for is pesticide levels, and heavy metal levels,” Smith says. The COA will simply note in a separate column whether it’s passed or not, and, of course, you just want to make sure it’s passed.

An important note: The COA for a good quality full spectrum oil will always show THC (the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant) around 2%.

“That is totally normal,” Smith explains, “since it is a concentrated extract, it will be more potent and above the legal limit of 0.3%. The FDA knows this, and they really only care about the percentage in the final product that is being sold to the customers. When you formulate it into products, you are diluting the CBD oil, and it works out to be much lower than the legal limit.” Given the way skincare products are formulated, you’ll never have to worry about an excess of THC in a skincare product.

But that’s not all. The COA also breaks down what cannabinoids are actually contained in a product (aka how full a spectrum of cannabinoids it contains). CBD is just the beginning! And though, it is the most well-known and commonly-found cannabinoid, we’re big believers in the ‘entourage effect’ — the concept that a host of cannabinoids ultimately work better together, in concert, than alone. At the bottom of a COA, there will be a graph with the different cannabinoids found in the product. “You want to look for a high percentage for all of the different minor cannabinoids—that’s how you know you’re getting a good full-spectrum product,” explains Smith.

Certain cannabinoids, like CBDa, for example, will only be found in a C02 extract. (CBDa is an amazing anti-inflammatory ingredient and great for skin health). C02 extractions are the highest quality CBD you can get—which means it’s more expensive and a little more rare. “The most common cannabinoids to look for are CBD, THC, CBG, CBN and CBDa. If a COA has detectable amounts of all of those, then that is a good oil,” Smith explains. “CBDa is special because it is only in CO2 extracted oil, because it will convert to CBD when heat is applied. So generally when you see CBDa, that is a good oil. The CO2 extract is considered the ‘cream of the crop” of CBD oils.” We think it’s worth it, so that’s what you’ll find in No Thank You products.

No Thank You’s products use certified organic CBD oil, which is very rare—and something we’re super proud of. In fact, Smith explains, it’s only become something that can really be found in the past year or so—and it makes a big difference in improving the quality and pesticide levels as well as the potency. Better CBD=better results for your skin. And now that you know how to examine a product independently, we encourage you not to take our word for it, but to check out our COAs—linked on each of our product pages.

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