Using Honey in Your Skin Care Routine
I’m a big fan of a tasty cocktail called the Bee’s knees. The ingredients are simple: lemon juice, gin, lavender bitters, and honey simple syrup. I don’t like the taste of honey when served plain or raw. You won’t see me spreading honey on crackers or adding it to sweeten my drinks. I didn’t know this, but honey for skin care is a real thing. After diving into the literature I can safely say, honey does have beneficial effects for skin! The good news for the organic health nuts out there is that it’s all-natural. You don’t need added chemicals to reap the rewards. You can find honey added to many products. These include lipsticks, ointments, shampoos, conditioner, lotions, creams, and after-sun gels.
Honey isn’t just a sweetener made of fructose and glucose. It also contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals that can help your skin glow. Some of the vitamins you can find in honey include: Vitamin C, biotin (B9), nicotinic acid (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and thiamine (B1). Remember that many of these vitamins acts as antioxidants that are essential for an optimal anti-aging regimen.
There are 2 main sources of honey used in the American cosmetic industry. Acacia honey and manuka honey. Acacia honey has higher fructose content and is more soluble. This makes it ideal for cosmetics. Manuka honey is marketed for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Honey has intrinsic antimicrobial properties. In ancient times, women used honey to treat things like vaginal irritation and yeast infections. But don’t reach for the honey in your kitchen cabinet! The honey used in products and medical devices is medical grade honey that has been sterilized.
How does honey combat the growth of bacteria?
Honey contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase. Glucose oxidase catalyzes a reaction that produces hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can then go on to wreak havoc on the bacterial cells.
Manuka honey, a honey variant from New Zealand, has an added antimicrobial mechanism. Manuka honey contains a compound named methyglyoxal. This highly toxic compound can even inhibit the growth of methicillin resistant Staph aureus (MRSA).
Honey and Wound Healing
Historically, honey has been used to treat burns, wounds, diaper rash, psoriasis, and even hemorrhoids. In modern times, studies have shown honey’s ability to help wound healing. Honey makes for a good wound dressing because it’s able to moisturize the wound, inhibit microbial infections, soothe tissue inflammation, and keep gauze from sticking to the wound. It can also help the wound contract better. Honey can stimulate tissue growth, collagen synthesis, and blood vessel formation in these wounds.
Honey as a Vehicle for Other Ingredients
From the cosmetic perspective, honey is a great vehicle. This means it can be used to hold other active ingredients like essential oils. High amounts of honey in a product are used to create ointments. Lower concentrations can be used in foams and creams. You can usually find honey containing products in concentrations between 1% and 10%.
Honey has humectant and hygroscopic properties.
Humectants are essentially moisturizers. Being hygroscopic means something attracts and holds water. This is why you see honey in so many moisturizing facial products. Honey’s humectant properties are due to the large amounts of glucose and fructose. These sugars are able to form bonds with water.
Honey is also used in hair for conditioning. It can penetrate into the hair shaft to restore hair’s elasticity.
And if those uses for honey aren’t enough to sway you, did you know that Creole women in Lousiana use honey to treat skin ailments AND in potions to ward off ghosts? That’s some serious double duty.
Honey can be used to treat various skin conditions.
The list of conditions that honey can treat goes on and on, but here are a few of the highlights:
- Dandruff and Seborrheic dermatitis
- Ringworm and Athlete’s foot
- Chronic wounds
What are the risks with using honey for skin care?
Honey allergies are rare. However, the pollen and bee proteins in some honey based cosmetics can sensitize the immune systems of people with preexisting pollen allergies. Infants should never eat honey due to the risk of botulism. Honey can have dormant botulinum spores that cause systemic intoxications in babies.
Do you use any skin care products that contain honey? What did you learn about honey for skin care that you didn’t know before?
- Al-Waili, Noori, Khelod Salom, and Ahmad A. Al-Ghamdi. “Honey for wound healing, ulcers, and burns; data supporting its use in clinical practice.” The scientific world journal 11 (2011): 766-787.
- Burlando, Bruno, and Laura Cornara. “Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology4 (2013): 306-313.
- Cooper, Rose A., and Leighton Jenkins. “ORIGINAL RESEARCH-A Comparison Between Medical Grade Honey and Table Honeys in Relation to Antimicrobial Efficacy.” Wounds2 (2009): 29.