Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The use of honey in skincare

I have long thought that I need high tech, expensive ingredients in my skincare for it to actually work, but recently I have been hearing a lot about the use of honey and royal jelly in skincare. According to HoneyO, honey has been known for its healing properties for thousands of years - the Ancient Greeks used it, and so have many other peoples through the ages. Even up to the second world war, honey was being used for its antibacterial properties in treating wounds. But what is it that makes honey so good for the skin?

Image from Qld Saffron
We all know what honey is - its the delicious spread we put on our toast in the mornings. So how can it also be beneficial to our skin? According to the Burt's Bees website, besides being a strong humectant, honey has a very high content of minerals, amino acids and vitamins, which aid in keeping skin healthy. A humectant is a substances that attracts water, so having a strong humectant, like honey, in your skincare will keep your skin well moisturised, as the moisturiser will continue to attract water to your skin throughout the day. In addition, the Burt's Bees website goes on to say that honey contains numerous phenolic and non-phenolic antioxidants, which guard against free radical damage and encourage healthy cell turnover in the skin.

Honey also has excellent antibacterial properties. This is due to the fact that it is so high in sugar and low in water, most bacteria are unable to grow in it. However, if honey is diluted with water it loses its antibacterial property as there is then sufficient water to allow bacteria to grow. The pH of honey is between 3.2 and 4.5 making it quite acidic, and thus preventing the growth of many bacteria and, according to Professor Peter Molan, the thickness of honey also provides a protective barrier, preventing wounds from becoming infected. Honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which is released slowly when it comes into contact with fluid in the skin and this kills the bacteria in the wound. Some as-yet-unknown ingredients in honey reduce inflammation, while others, perhaps amino acids and vitamin C, speed the growth of healthy tissue.

Another use for honey is in the treatment of pimples - if you google 'natural pimple treatments' you will get thousands of websites all suggesting to use honey as a spot treatment. So how does it work? In addition to the antibacterial properties discussed above, honey also has really strong drawing properties, says the Bastyr Center. The high sugar content in honey draws infection and fluid in a pimple to the surface of the skin, allowing it to be removed and, therefore, the pimple can heal more quickly.

There is substantial scientific research into the use of honey in skincare. The majority of the research is in the field of wound healing, with Manuka honey being the key medicinal honey. This research has shown very positive results in healing wounds that have previously been untreatable. The success of these results indicate that honey is not some fad ingredient being promoted by marketers but a genuinely effective addition to your skincare.

So it seems that for such a simple ingredient, honey really does have some pretty impressive credentials. The fact that it is such a strong humectant makes it an excellent addition to a moisturiser, it is full of ingredients that speed the growth of healthy tissue and it is an potent antibacterial agent. However, if you want to use it as a pimple spot treatment or on a wound, it is best used neat as once water is added to it, it loses its antibacterial properties.

So, even though honey is not one of the high tech, expensive ingredients I have come to expect in my skincare, it is still very impressive. Many cosmetic companies are starting to use honey as a key ingredient in their products and these include Lush, L'Occitane, Laura Mercier, Mor and Comvita to name a few. Hopefully, these products live up to the standards set by the high tech, expensive ingredients in the other products I use as it would be nice to be using natural ingredients in my skincare.

What do you prefer in your skincare - high tech, expensive ingredients or natural ingredients?

All opinions stated in this blog are my own. I have no affiliation with any company discussed in this blog and received no remuneration for my comments.