Thanks to K-beauty’s influence in the beauty and skincare space, many ingredients that flew under the radar are now popular for beauty treatments (snail slime for wrinkles, anyone?). One of them is propolis. While honey gets all the notoriety, propolis has been around as a treatment for thousands of years (in fact, Cleopatra reportedly used propolis for its skincare benefits). If you want to learn what the buzz is all about, keep reading for its skin benefits according to Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in Connecticut, and Louie Lopez, marketing director at propolis-focused brand Banila Co.
Propolis is a sticky glue-like substance made by worker bees.
While propolis and honey both come from bees and look similar in appearance, they serve different purposes. Honey is made using the nectar of flowering plants, and is a source of food for bees. Propolis, on the other hand, is used as an everyday tool for bees and is a mix of beeswax, saliva, and resin gathered from deciduous trees (aka trees that shed their leaves in the fall). Bees create and rely on propolis to protect their hives by using it to 1) seal cracks to keep out the cold weather and predators and 2) use it to sterilize and disinfect the colony. These functions happen to be beneficial to skin as well.
Propolis is antibacterial and especially great for acne.
You’re probably wondering how the bee equivalent of household caulk can get you clear skin. According to Dr. Gohara, the four main benefits of propolis include its ability to “act as an antibacterial, help with wound healing, moisturize, and be a powerful antioxidant.”
People with acne-prone skin reap the benefits of propolis. “Its antibacterial properties can fight acne-causing bacteria, while the moisturizing and healing properties help repair skin faster post-acne as well,” says Dr. Gohara.
Propolis is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that contains “amino acids, phenolic acids, phenolic acid esters, flavonoids, cinnamic acid, terpenoids, and caffeic acid” according to Lopez. Translation: It helps reduce irritation caused by acne (or other wounds) as well as speed the healing process. And similar to the aloe plant, propolis is a great option for those who are suffering with a sun or windburn as it reduces inflammation and protects the compromised skin barrier.
Propolis can be used on all skin types.
The ingredient is totally safe for use in your everyday skincare routine. It provides moisture for those with dry skin, and is even recommended to those with oily skin as it “appears to be absorptive” according to Dr. Gohara. “It’s helpful in the anti-aging process. It also has anti-inflammatory properties—a lot of people swear by it for their skin.”
The best propolis-based products:
When asked what types of propolis-based products Dr. Gohara would recommend to her patients, she said she would recommend serums as “they are highly concentrated in product but you don't need a lot.” Here are our favorite propolis-based skincare products for every budget:
CosRX Propolis Light Ampoule
With 83 percent propolis extract, this lightweight, non-sticky ampoule is one of the most concentrated on the market. You can use it as an all over moisture treatment.
Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Cream
Dry skin, be gone! With six types of premium honey blended together, this balmy cream seriously nourishes parched skin.
Tosowoong Pure Propolis Mask
For those looking to literally soak up all the benefits of propolis, this mask is fully saturated in the extract. Add brightness to the skin while also combating acne and wrinkles all in one 20-minute sitting!
The Organic Pharmacy Blemish Gel
The Organic Pharmacy's Blemish Gel is a spot treatment that clears up your acne but doesn’t dry you out. It's packed with powerful acne-fighting ingredients that not only help reduce blemishes, but also help soothe and heal.
Pevonia Bontanica Soothing Propolis Concentrate
Dubbed liquid gold, this serum is perfect for those who suffer from skin irritations or have sensitive skin. And while it might be the most expensive of those listed here, a little goes a long way!
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