One of the best beauty treatments for our skin is also one of the oldest known to mankind. And it’s something that you probably have in your cupboard or refrigerator right now. If you guessed that this miraculous beauty secret is honey, you guessed right! Despite the fact that honey has been used as a beauty treatment for millennia, I only made this discovery last year – through a subscription box.
In August 2016, Beauty Heroes featured products from Laurel Whole Plant Organics, a natural skincare brand. The featured hero product, Sun Damage Repair Serum, was accompanied by two sidekicks – Laurel’s Before & After Sun Body Oil, and their Honey Berry Enzyme Mask. Of those three products, the standout for my skin was actually one of the sidekicks – Laurel’s Honey Berry Enzyme Mask.
Laurel Whole Plant Organics’ Honey Berry Enzyme Mask was my introduction to using honey in my skincare routine. This late discovery is baffling, especially to me, because I drink tea nightly, more often than not with lemon and honey. But I digress. The Honey Berry Enzyme Mask actually sat unopened for quite some time because I was reluctant to apply the seemingly messy, sticky liquid to my face. And, I wondered, how on earth would I remove it? Eventually, I discovered that honey is not difficult to apply or remove as a skincare treatment, thanks in large part, to it being water soluble. After moving past this initial hesitation, I enjoyed the mask quite a bit, finishing the deluxe sample in no time at all.
However, being on a quest to minimize the amount of “stuff” in my life, including my beauty routine, I didn’t see the mask as essential. The result was that life continued sans this newly discovered ingredient in my skincare routine. That is until one day I was researching ways to increase the skin’s moisture levels. During that research I came across a fantastic, informative blog post by Minimalist Beauty. In her bog post, which you can read here, Minimalist Beauty describes how she uses honey as a facial cleanser to help keep her skin hydrated. She also describes the technique that she uses. Armed with the confidence and positive experience I had with Laurel’s Honey Berry Enzyme Mask, I began to experiment with using plain, raw honey as a face mask. I incorporated it into my evening skincare routine, after cleansing my face with African Black Soap, by slightly modifying Minimalist Beauty’s technique. I have not looked back since.
Since that day my face has been reaping the antibacterial, moisturizing and other benefits of honey as a skincare treatment. The wonderful thing about adding honey to your skincare regimen is that no fancy or expensive product is needed. The Honey Berry Enzyme Mask was a wonderful treat, but by no means a necessity. Plain, raw honey will produce noticeable results. Manuka honey will produce the best results. Most important is the quality of the honey you choose – not the brand name or any fancy packaging.
What Exactly is Honey?
Honey is flower nectar that has been harvested by bees and vomited many time over. Bees use their tongue to extract the nectar from flowers, which they store in their second stomach, or “crop.” (Can you imagine holiday meals if we had a second stomach? Just the thought of the ginormous amounts of delicious food has me salivating and sick to my stomach. Anyhow, I digress.) Enzymes in the bee’s stomach give the nectar a longer shelf life. Once the bee returns to the hive it vomits the nectar into another bee’s mouth. This transportation process is repeated from bee to bee until the nectar reaches a honeycomb. Once in the honeycomb, bees fan the nectar to help the water in it evaporate. When most of the water has evaporated the bee seals the honeycomb with beeswax, ensuring it will have tasty food all winter long. That is, unless a human or animal gets to the honeycomb first.
Honey, aside from being sweet and delicious, is coveted for its use internally and externally, because it has the following properties:
- wound healing
Before you reach for that jar it is important to understand the process of how honey finds its way into our homes. We don’t need anything added to our honey. And we don’t need anything other than debris and impurities to be removed. But honey may be ultra filtered, which is different from simple filtration. The problem with ultra filtering is that the end product is a honey-derived sweeter, the end product is no longer honey. There is much discussion about the role of pollen in honey. Pollen is not a part of honey, but rather “an accidental guest” that is actually “food for baby bees.” For humans, there is not enough pollen in honey to affect the nutritional value, but pollen does help us determine the floral source of honey. Ultra filtration is a complex process that is not necessary to remove pollen, and involves the addition to and subsequent removal of water from the honey. With the exception of certified organic honey, most of what we find on major grocery store shelves has no pollen. If you prefer pollen in the honey you purchase, farmers markets, co-ops, and “natural” grocers like Trader Joe’s are a better bet. Filtration, on the other hand, removes dust, debris and impurities from honey. This includes most of the pollen. By removing foreign objects from honey, filtration helps to delay the crystallization of honey. Honey may also be heated or pasteurized. Honey can be heated to make filtration easier, or pasteurized to prevent crystallization and kill microorganisms. In researching this information, I found no credible, special reason why honey might be pasteurized. Pasteurization makes little sense when we consider that honey itself is antimicrobial. So just know that it is something that is done, and be on the lookout when reading your labels. It is even more important to know that many of the beneficial enzymes, antimicrobial properties and natural flavour of raw honey are changed and even killed by heat and pasteurization. That is why it is important to buy raw honey. And whenever possible, buy from local bee keepers – they will thank us as much as our bodies will thank them.
Is Organic Honey Better?
Organic honey is an interesting thing. That which is found in major grocery store chains has a greater likelihood of containing pollen than its non-organic counterparts. Good news if you want pollen-containing honey. But what exactly is organic honey? There is legitimate doubt that truly organic honey exists, and the reasons for this doubt are simple. A colony of honey bees will normally forage for nectar within a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) radius from the hive. However, nothing stops them from traveling further. Since bee keepers can guarantee the condition of their land, but not any and every land to which a bee travels, how can a beekeeper (other than one with vast amounts of land) have any certainty that its honey is organic? Then there is the problem of beeswax from conventional beekeepers retaining pesticides. This beeswax is often used by beekeepers to start their colonies. If a beekeeper with an organic farm buys this wax as a starter comb for its colony, it is highly likely that the starter comb will contain pesticide residue. Thus, the likelihood of finding truly organic honey diminishes even further. But for whatever it is worth, the fact that organic honey is more likely to contain pollen than conventional honey means that the organic symbol on a jar of honey still has some value to me.
Is Manuka Honey Really Worth Spending My Children’s Tuition Money?
Spoiler alert: yes, raw, manuka honey is worth the cost. You can reap the many benefits of honey by using your favourite raw, organic, preferably local variety. But just because I am happy commuting in my Toyota doesn’t mean I would pass on the chance to drive an Aston Martin if one ever arose. Manuka honey is luxury vehicle of honeys. Manuka honey is better, faster and stronger. Using raw manuka honey in your beauty routine is the gold standard, and when I first tried it I noticed an immediate difference.
Manuka honey is made from the nectar of manuka flowers. The manuka plant, which is in the same family as the tea tree plant, is native to New Zealand and ranges in size from a small bush to a large tree. Raw manuka honey is prized for its potent enzymes and antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey has a higher concentration of antibacterial compounds, and a wider variety of antibacterial compounds than other varieties of honey. Honey producers have established a rating scale for the potency of manuka honey, the Unique Manuka Factor or UMF. A UMF number of 10 and above has enough beneficial compounds to be considered therapeutic. Popular manuka honey brand Wedderspoon has established its own rating scale, the Key Factor or KFactor. The KFactor measures the percentage of pollen in the honey that is manuka pollen. For example, a KFactor of 16 means that 75% of the pollen in that honey is manuka pollen. This seems like a good rating system though I am always skeptical of self-regulation. Also, a different rating system hinders comparison to UMF numbers, thus, makes comparison shopping more difficult.
As you can imagine, if you haven’t already seen for yourself, manuka honey is quite expensive. Be prepared to pay around $3.00 per ounce for raw manuka honey. The taste is slightly medicinal. It doesn’t taste good, but it also doesn’t taste bad. That definitely helped prevent me from eating a $33.00 jar of honey in one week. While you probably don’t want to dip into your children’s school fund or your retirement account to buy it, manuka honey is one of the most effective beauty and health treatments nature has to offer. It is also used for wound healing, pain relief for burns, preventing infections in venous ulcers, improving periodontal disease reducing inflammation, soothing sore throats, boosting immunity, and extending life expectancy. Okay, that last one was a joke. But honey, especially manuka honey, has some really great benefits.
How I Use Honey in my Skincare Routine
Honey has become an essential part of my evening skincare routine, but of course you should do what is best for your skin and lifestyle. First I remove any makeup, sunblock and other skincare products I happen to be wearing that day. Next, I exfoliate if I am exfoliating that day. Then I cleanse my face. After cleansing, I massage a small amount of honey onto my face and neck, which I let it sit for up to 30 minutes. If I have time I let the honey sit for even longer, but do not sleep with it on my skin. About one teaspoon is all I need (plus another to eat). You can always go back for more, but use too much and the honey will drip and create a big sticky mess. During the waiting period I might wash dishes, catch up on YouTube or do other chores around the house. When the time is up I rinse off the honey with warm water, apply toner and allow my skin to air dry until it is just damp. While my skin is still damp I continue with any other part of the skincare routine I am following that evening. Of course I don’t do all these steps every evening. This is just to give you an idea of how one person uses honey in her skincare routine. Doing this, combined with using African Black Soap to wash my face, has helped me control and reduce my acne, as well as fade the hyperpigmentation on my face.
Using this one simple ingredient, and following Minimalist Beauty’s technique, has been incredibly helpful in keeping my skin moisturized. My skin has been more moisturized, and even in texture and tone, since I began using honey as a face mask. Considering that this is an ingredient most of us have in our kitchens, using honey as a skincare ingredient is probably one of the most economical and effective beauty products to add to any skincare routine. Yes, upgrade to manuka honey whenever possible. But any honey in your beauty and skincare routine is better than no honey at all.
Do you use honey in your beauty and skincare routine? How? What difference has it made? Let us know in the comments section below. And remember to subscribe to our email list so you don’t miss any great content from Chidi Beauty!