Honey long ago claimed the throne as the queen bee of the beauty world. Skeptical? Just take a trip to Sephora or the drugstore for proof of the multiple beauty uses of honey. You'll see it in face masks, shampoos, lotions, lip balms, and more.
Why, exactly though, is honey used in so many beauty products? "Honey has natural healing properties," says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale Department of Dermatology, particularly for wound healing. It can also promote collagen-building, Dr. Gohara adds, making it a great anti-ager.
That's not all the sweet stuff can do: "Honey has natural antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologic surgeon.
Still, that doesn't mean the stuff that comes in the bear-shaped bottle at the grocery store is going to magically fix all your skin problems. Carly Stein, founder of Beekeeper's Naturals, says the best honey for beauty use is raw and unpasteurized.
Stein recommends sticking with buckwheat honey (a dark honey made from the nectar of...well, buckwheat) because of its high antioxidant levels. And if you're having trouble finding some, Stein says to just look for a dark, raw honey-the darker the honey, the higher the antioxidant count and better for your beauty routine.
Curious about how honey can help you step up your beauty game? Look no further:
1. Moisturizing Face Mask
“With its moisturizing and soothing effects, raw honey can hydrate the skin, leaving it soft, radiant, and glowing,” says Ildi Pekar, celebrity facialist and owner of Ildi Pekar Skin Care. “The sugars in honey act as natural humectants and emollients that increase the water content and reduce dryness in the skin even after they have been washed off.”
And (for all the label-readers out there), if you can find raw honey with a high concentration of other bee products such as royal jelly, which is prime for boosting collagen; propolis, which is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial (so, a major win for acne-prone skin); or pollen which "contains a compound called rutin that helps drain the capillaries" and smooths out blemishes, you can take your routine up a notch.
Try it: Apply raw honey directly on the skin and leave it on for up to 20 minutes, then rinse and massage it off thoroughly with water.
2. Gentle Exfoliant
Since raw honey crystalizes over time, says Stein, the tiny granules act as a gentle exfoliant. They start to break down when they come into contact with water and the heat of your skin making for a gentler scrub than that of the harsher store-bought stuff. And since it's antibacterial, you can use it for your daily face wash.
Try it: Warm the honey in your hands by rubbing it between your fingers first, then apply it directly on the skin in circular motions. Leave it on for a few minutes before massaging it off with wet towel.
3. Scar Fader
The antioxidant properties in honey (particularly buckwheat honey) nourish damaged skin, helping the scar healing process, according to Stein. And for the added bonus of anti-inflammation, keep an eye out for honey infused with propolis-it can help tone down the look of stretch marks and skin discoloration.
Try it: Massage raw honey directly to the affected area in a circular motion for one to two minutes, then rinse it off.
4. Wound Healer
Honey's natural antiseptic properties help prevent infections and protect wounds, says Dr. Engelman, which can reduce scarring and cut down on healing time. The antioxidants in honey (particularly Manuka honey) are more than ready to serve as a natural remedy to nourish your damaged skin and bring it back to its unblemished glory.
Try it: Apply raw honey directly to the affected area and let it sit for one to two minutes, then rinse it off. If that's a little too sticky, hit up the drugstore for a branded honey-infused wound treatment which won't be as thick.
5. Acne Spot Treatment
Buckwheat honey is a great DIY remedy for acne. It's an anti-inflammatory, which helps reduce the redness and swelling of pimples, says Stein, and its antibacterial properties can help fight acne-causing bacteria especially if it's infused with propolis. “Also, because honey keeps the skin well-hydrated and balanced, it helps control the production of oil," adds Pekar.
Try it: Apply raw honey directly on the breakout and then rinse it off after 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Bath Soak
Up your relaxation goals and take a honey-infused soak. Honey’s hydrating powers will leave skin silky soft, says Pekar.
Try it: Make it at home by mixing two big tablespoons of raw honey into one cup of hot water until the honey is dissolved. Pour it into a tub of warm water to soak. You can also use a pre-made version if that's more your style.
7. Cuticle Moisturizer
Since honey is a natural humectant (aka it draws moisture into the skin), it can help keep the skin around your cuticles happy and peel-free.
Grab a bottle of honey that's packing royal jelly, another bee product, Stein says, since it's a collagen-builder. That added ingredient will bring new life to your nails and strengthen the skin around them.
Try it: Rub raw honey over each cuticle and leave it on for five to 10 minutes before rinsing it off.
8. Everyday Conditioner
“Honey is naturally a perfect conditioner because it’s a humectant and retains and attracts moisture, keeping your hair feeling smooth and healthy,” says Felix Fischer, celebrity hair artist. "Your strands will feel soft, nourished, and have plenty of life and bounce.”
Try it: Mix one-quarter cup of organic raw honey with just enough fresh water to thin it out so you can spread it around your hair. Work it into damp hair after you shampoo for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water.
9. Lip Balm
Everything that makes honey a great skin moisturizer makes it great for chapped lips, too. “The hydrating benefits mixed with natural enzymes, antioxidants, and minerals work well to moisturize lips,” Pekar says.
Try it: Apply raw honey directly to lips, leave on for a few minutes, then wash off.
10. Hydrating Hair Treatment
Honey can prevent your hair from drying out because it is very effective in retaining moisture and keeping locks soft and bouncy. It acts as a natural softener, says Fischer.
Try it: Make a banana and honey hair mask by combining two very ripe bananas, half a cup of unprocessed honey, and one-quarter cup of olive oil. Blend the ingredients until smooth then apply this onto your hair and scalp. Leave it on for about 20 to 25 minutes, then rinse the mask out with cool or lukewarm water and shampoo. Comb through the hair to get rid of any remaining mask and rinse again. This mask can be used two to three times a month.
11. Sleep Aid
"When you eat honey it causes a slow, steady spike of insulin," Stein explains, which converts to serotonin and melatonin, two chemicals that help you fall asleep. And, if you're one to wake up in the middle of the night, a tablespoon of honey will help you stay asleep since "[honey] helps to stock the glycogen in the liver-" something the brain needs to keep you asleep for a dreamy eight hours.
Try it: Eat a spoonful of honey 15 minutes before bed. Or, if waking up in the middle of the night is causing trouble, have a spoonful then.
12. Burn Relief
The anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and moisture-restoring properties of honey are super soothing on an irritated and irritating burn (even a sunburn). Plus, it's thickness acts as a barrier from any infections that might try to make their way into the burn, so no need to cover with gauze after you apply the honey.
Try it: Clean the burn, then rub a few drops of honey onto the area and let sit for as long as you like (which-warning-will get messy) before rinsing off. Reapply as needed.
Icons and animation by Amanda Becker.
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