A cream, balm, or oil even if it contains THC, will not get you high. A transdermal patch that contains THC will. Not all patches contain THC.
A topical has an effect at the actual application site, which makes it a soothing salve for skin irritations, muscle soreness, and arthritis. When absorbed through the skin, cannabis molecules linger in fat cells. Even when the topical is absorbed into in the body, THC molecules – the ones that get you high – are not absorbed into the bloodstream and remain at the site where they were applied.
Transdermal cannabis products are a different story. With a transdermal patch, the medication is designed to penetrate through the skin or mucosal membranes, and does its work into the bloodstream, away from the application site and throughout the body. Meant to release medicine over time and at a controlled rate, the effects generally kick in after a couple of hours but endure longer than a topical, with some people reporting relief for as many as two days or more.
Transdermal cannabis delivery has a very active effect and will send a consistent dose through the bloodstream.
Hemp topicals have been shown to deliver relief for common skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and can also be helpful in relieving pain from bug bites, scratches, and wounds. Topicals are ideal for treating skin conditions because, as mentioned, the cannabinoids linger in the skin.