As we all search our kitchen cabinets to make “Chopped”-esque concoctions to pass the time, you may find a kitchen staple to be a helpful addition to your skin care regimen. Turns out honey goes great on oatmeal — and on your face!
Honey has been used for thousands of years as a facial treatment. Unlike most ancient beauty rituals, this one is actually good. Honey is full of antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral agents that can help calm inflammation, heal scars, and reduce acne.
Even better, it’s easy to find, a lot cheaper than many fancy facial masks, and you can make your own treatments at home. Pretty sweet, right?
Though more study is needed to prove some of honey’s facial effects, there is enough evidence to show the promise of this golden syrup. But what can honey do? Let us count the ways.
1. Heal wounds and minimize scarring
Due to its natural microbe- and bacteria-killing properties, honey can be used to heal wounds and scars. One review found that honey helped stimulate tissue growth and lessen scars when used as a treatment on wounds.
Also, since it does such a good job of destroying bacteria, it helps keep wounds clean as they heal. If you have light scarring, a topical honey treatment may help.
Or, if you have a pimple you got a little too aggressive with, honey can help sanitize the area and speed up healing.
2. Soothe atopic dermatitis
If you have eczema, psoriasis, or another form of atopic dermatitis, honey can help.
One small study had their patients use a pure honey treatment on atopic dermatitis flare-ups for 7 days. After only a week (and no other treatments), the patients had great results. This doesn’t mean honey is a cure-all for eczema, but there’s a lot of promise in the sweet treatment.
3. Clear up acne
Some acne is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria on the skin. Honey naturally fights that bacteria, leaving your pores clean.
Plus, the high antioxidant content helps relieve inflammation and redness that acne might leave behind. Again, there aren’t a ton of studies on honey’s acne efficacy, but preliminary research has been pretty great.
4. Softens and smooths skin
Honey works as a natural emollient and humectant. That means it helps soften skin and lock in moisture. Despite all the anti-bad stuff properties, honey is incredibly gentle. The soothing nature of Pooh’s favorite food makes this an ideal treatment for anyone with sensitive skin.
5. Glowing and brightening effects
There’s nothing in honey that whitens skin, but since it encourages cell regeneration and reduces redness and inflammation, it can make the skin appear brighter. Plus, honey is sticky (sorry for dropping such a radical truth bomb).
The stickiness helps lift dead cells off the skin, leaving you with a bright, natural glow.
Luckily, honey preserves well and is safe for daily use. On its own or with a few simple ingredients you can make an powerful at-home treatment. Note that for all of these treatments, they’re best applied to freshly clean skin.
For treating acne or pimples
- Apply a small amount of honey right on the affected area.
- Let the honey sit for about 10 minutes, then gently wash off with water.
That direct dose of honey will help fight bacteria on the skin and heal the area as the pimples go away. It’s also ideal for minimizing scarring.
- Heat honey in the microwave in 15-second increments until warm — not hot, which can worsen redness. (Pro tip: If your honey is too sticky, mix with a little water to thin it out.)
- Spread over the entire face as a mask or apply to affected areas only.
- Let sit anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, then gently wash off with water or damp towel.
A study found that a mask made of equal parts honey, beeswax, and olive oil helped skin improve.
- Add ingredients to a bowl. Heat in microwave for 15-second intervals until easy to combine (you want a creamy, not runny, consistency).
- Mix well and apply as a mask.
- Let sit for at least 10 minutes, then gently rinse away.
To fight fine lines and promote a natural glow
- Use three parts honey to one part cinnamon.
- Warm (careful not to overheat), gently mix, then apply to your face.
- Let sit for 10 minutes before washing off.
For gentle exfoliation and moisturization, try an oatmeal, yogurt, and honey mask. The oatmeal calms skin while gently removing dead cells, while the yogurt fights acne with its alpha hydroxy acids.
- Combine a handful of oats, about 1/3 cup of yogurt, and a healthy drizzle of honey in a bowl.
- Let the mask sit for a few minutes (to allow oats to soften).
- Apply to the face and enjoy for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
Now that you know that honey is great, which kind of honey is best? Short answer: Usually not the kind that comes in a plastic bear. Most commercial honey is pasteurized, processed, and filtered. Many of the good things honey can bring your skin get lost in this process.
Additionally, a lot of cheaper honey varieties are hardly honey at all. Many versions were found to be diluted with corn syrup, sugar, or other non-bee derived ingredients.
One way to guarantee that you’re getting higher quality honey is to buy raw honey. Raw honey pretty much comes straight from the hive. It’s strained to get out pieces of beeswax and bees, but that’s it.
This ultra-natural honey will be sure to contain the high amounts of antimicrobials and antioxidants that your skin will love.
For an even more effective honey, try the manuka variety. Manuka honey is the most widely studied and has a very unique property — MGO.
MGO (methyl glyoxal) is toxic to bacteria, but perfectly safe for humans. Scientists believe that MGO might be the reason why Manuka is best at healing wounds and reducing scars.
Plus, it’s antibacterial and doesn’t promote bacteria resistance. So, when other antibiotics stop working because the bacteria evolve to be immune to their killing effects, manuka honey will still eliminate those suckers.
If your top priority is healing your skin, manuka honey may be worth the investment.
If you want the highest antioxidant amount possible, try acacia honey. Acacia honey is thinner and lighter than most commercial honey and it’s the highest in antioxidants. This helps skin heal, regenerate, and fight signs of aging.
Lastly and confusingly, there’s burgeoning evidence that shows that kanuka honey may be a great treatment for rosacea.
Firstly, kanuka and manuka honey are different (they come from the pollen of different plants). Secondly, though studies thus far have been small, patients who used kanuka honey experienced a reduction of redness and inflammation.
These types of honey are more expensive than generic types at the grocery store. But most are still cheaper than a lot of face masks out there. And those masks will probably taste terrible on a piece of toast or a biscuit.
In general, honey is a safe, gentle ingredient. However, if you have any allergies to bee-related things like pollen or bee stings, honey may not be for you.
Put a little honey on your hand, let it sit for 5 minutes, then wash it off. If you see any irritation develop, do not put it on your face.
Also, be sure to wash honey off completely before you go to bed. The stickiness can trap dirt, debris, or other bed-adjacent gunk and stick it right to your face. That can clog pores and be generally unpleasant.
Other than that, honey is an effective multi-use ingredient that can amplify your beautiful skin.