Why honey could be the miracle skincare ingredient you need to try

Suffering from adult acne, dry skin, or sensitive skin?

Honey could bee (sorry!) exactly what your skincare regime needs… and not just honey but propolis too.

For those of you not well versed in beekeeping, here’s the lowdown: we all know that bees make honey from nectar but what you might not know is that they also make a substance called propolis from tree sap and buds.

Propolis has long been considered to have medicinal properties, with ancient civilisations using it for everything from treating wounds to embalming mummies. And now you can see it in your skincare.

Institut Esthederm has relaunched its Propolis+ range (from £28, lookfantastic.com), you can find a Bees Brilliance Honey & Propolis Cleanser (£19.99) at Holland & Barrett, cult Korean beauty brand CosRX offers an entire propolis range (from £7, skinsider.co.uk) and Manuka Doctor’s best-selling Manuka & Tea Tree Antiseptic Gel (£8, manukadoctor.co.uk) contains propolis.
So why the buzz about honey and propolis?

‘The importance of honey has been documented in the world’s oldest medical literatures and since ancient times it has been known to possess antimicrobial property as well as wound-healing activity,’ explains Claire Perry of Manuka Doctor.

‘The healing property of honey is because it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition and its high viscosity helps provide a protective barrier to prevent infection.’

And it’s the combination of these antibacterial properties, and the fact that it’s gentle on skin, that explains why it’s been hailed as a hero ingredient for helping acne sufferers, and especially adult acne sufferers who might also be dealing with dehydrated skin and fine lines at the same time as trying to combat breakouts.

‘Because the role of the bacteria cutibacterium acnes is well known, many treatments focus on controlling the proliferation of this bacterium that is associated with development of pimples and inflammation,’ explains Kelly Dobos, a cosmetic chemist who has worked for Kao, the laboratories behind brands including John Frieda, Bioré and Molton Brown.

‘Over-the-counter treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can have negative side effects like dryness and skin peeling, so there’s a need to find less irritating but effective solutions.’

And that’s where honey comes in. Its high sugar content means it prevents most microorganisms from growing by limiting the available water but certain types of natural honey, such as Manuka honey from New Zealand, also contain another antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MGO), which increases the antibacterial effect.

As for propolis, it has a high level of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, and can have anti-fungal properties too, according to Rebecca Dallimore, co-founder of natural and eco-friendly home and beauty brand Conscious House London (conscioushouselondon.com).

It’s the antioxidant properties that make it appealing for older consumers as antioxidants can help to neutralise free radicals, which are associated with accelerating the ageing process in skin.

But don’t think spreading your breakfast honey on your face rather than toast is the solution. While it might help to draw moisture to your skin, it won’t necessarily have any spot-fighting effects.

‘Research found that honey was the third most adulterated food globally. It can be diluted with corn syrup or other sugars and honey from the grocery store shelf can crystallise over time, changing its properties,’ says Dobos.

Instead, so you know what you’re getting, she suggests looking for ‘properly formulated cosmetic products which will have specifications for ingredients and the final product’.

It’s also worth noting that skincare like this is best for mild or infrequent acne. Dobos adds: ‘If your acne is not improving, progresses in severity or begins to affect quality of life and self-esteem, it is time to seek the help of a dermatologist.’

Best honey-based skincare products

Honey based skincare

CosRX propolis range

COSRX Full Fit Propolis Light Ampoule. From £7, skinsider.co.uk.

COSRX Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner. From £7, skinsider.co.uk.

Institut Esthederm Propolis+ range

Institut Esthederm Intensive Propolis + Purifying Mask 75ml. From £28, lookfantastic.com.

Manuka Doctor Antiseptic Gel

Manuka & Tea Tree Antiseptic Gel £8, manukadoctor.co.uk.

Bees Brilliance Honey & Propolis Cleanser

Bees Brilliance Manuka Honey & Propolis Cleanser. £19.99 at hollandandbarrett.com

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