As a product honey needs no introduction. We are introduced to it in early childhood, adding it to tea or other warming drinks to cure colds. And rightly so, for recent studies have confirmed that honey excels over medications in tackling coughs and colds. Growing up we find new uses for this by-product of beekeeping. For example, by using it to replace refined sugar in cooking.
However, honey is not only good for internal use. More and more studies confirm its effectiveness as a remedy for various skin conditions. What then makes honey so popular? And why is it worth including not only in your menu but also in your daily skincare routine? We will be looking into all of that below.
Not many products can boast such a rich century-long history as honey. According to a cave painting in Cuevas de la Araña in eastern Spain, honey and bees have been known to people over the course of 8,000 years. This is seen in the depiction of the so-called Man of Bicorp, a hunter foraging a beehive.
In studying honey distribution around the planet, Dr Melanie Roffet-Salque and her team discovered that humans used bee products in the Balkans from around 5,500 BC and from 5,000 BC in North Africa. The northernmost point where scientists were able to find traces of bee wax happened to be in Denmark. “We think that this is the environmental boundary of honeybees in prehistoric times,” says Roffet-Salque.
It is unsurprising that honey has formed the basis of century-long medical practices in many cultures. It occurred even before the Egyptians began to master beekeeping skills in 2,400 BC. More than 4,000 years ago this precious food was used in traditional ayurvedic medicine. Its internal consumption was considered to aid in curing upset stomach and disbalance in the body. Honey rubbing was used to help heal wounds faster. The healing properties of this sweet substance were known in Ancient Greece, Assyria and China.
Hippocrates prescribed it for liver and stomach ailments, rightly believing that “honey, when taken with other foods, is nourishing and brings a good colour to the face.”
Bee products were also used successfully in the Middle East. Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine contains several dozen recipes using beeswax and honey to improve digestion and “maintain youth”.
From a modern chemist’s point of view, honey consists of glucose, fructose, and minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphate, chloride, sodium, potassium and magnesium. According to BeeSource’s data, the composition of a typical honey is as follows:
- Fructose: 38,2%
- Glucose: 31,3%
- Water: 17,2%
- Maltose: 7,1%
- Sucrose: 1,3%
- Higher carbohydrates: 1,5%
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s database of nutritional supplements, one tablespoon of this product contains 64 calories, 17.3 g of sugar and 0 g of fibre, fat and protein. Therefore choosing honey over refined and processed sugar can have many long-term health benefits.
Honey in the beauty industry
The use of honey in skincare is not new. It is the stuff of legend that Cleopatra used to add the sweet nectar to her famous milk baths. Egyptian women of the time used a mixture of honey with milk as a face mask. However, it is only relatively recently that there has been scientific data to support its skin benefits.
This is due to the seismic shifts in consumer behaviour within the beauty and personal care industry in the recent years. Consumers have developed an interest in studying the ingredients of cosmetic products which they use daily. More attention is being paid to natural components in products’ composition. According to the estimation of a global marketing agency Mintel, herbal ingredients are the driving force of more than 60% of new product developments within the personal care sector.
Honey quickly is quickly becoming a favourite component among consumers: more than 75% of people are interested in purchasing a product containing it. This is possibly related to its healing qualities in addition to the fact that it is a natural ingredient.
Thanks to its unique qualities, honey can be used in cosmetics as a natural moisturiser, which prevents the loss of water. But let us not get ahead of ourselves and tease apart the specific qualities of Cleopatra’s favourite product one by one.
Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities
One of the undoubtable bonuses of honey is its ability to fight skin infections. Many in vitro studies support the idea that honey possesses antimicrobial qualities. The nectar collected from flowers is rich in fructose and glucose. The reaction of these natural sugars with bee ferments give honey a pH of around 3,9.
According to the research carried out by Dr Peter Malone from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, bacteria is unable to survive in such acidity. Meanwhile its typical adhesiveness helps eliminate other unwanted microorganisms from our skin. Therefore, facial cleansers containing honey do have antimicrobial qualities and are ideal for those dealing with acne and psoriasis.
The wondrous qualities of honey can also be explained through the presence of a special enzyme in its composition, which produces hydrogen peroxide as a result of a slow release. For this reason, honey was once effectively incorporated as an antiseptic in clinical practice.
Another study looking at the use of honey in dermatology discovered that the substance can improve the overall condition of the skin. Authors state that the sweet nectar can stop wrinkles in their tracks, preserve youth and prevent the development of infections, which speed up the ageing process.
This effect is caused by the high antioxidant content in its composition. Honey fights free radicals, which settle on our skin from our environment and cause cell breakdown. It is antioxidants that help damaged cells repair, making the skin more supple. It can therefore be boldly claimed that honey-containing cosmetics are suitable as a preventative measure against ageing processes.
Honey is also highly valued in cosmetology thanks to its moisturising qualities. There is no doubt that products containing honey can increase the level of hydration due to two simple mechanisms: occlusivity and hygroscopy. On one end, honey forms a thick protective layer on the skin, allowing it to retain moisture which is already there. On the other, it can absorb moisture from the air, much like hyaluronic acid.
Undoubtedly, honey is a desired ingredient in beauty products, growing stronger every year. Further discoveries of new beneficial qualities of this product for our health and beauty should not be ruled out. We would like to believe that scientists will soon discover the full potential of this “liquid gold” ingredient. Yet, even what we know already is enough of a prompt to add honey-based products to our makeup bag.
Honey Berry Mask
An enzyme-based mask with honey and berries, one of Laurel’s most popular items. It helps make the skin soft and smooth naturally, improving its overall condition, increasing elasticity, and helping fight breakouts. The mask also contains rowan, blackberry and raspberry, adding to its amazing scent.
MEKHA Exfoliating Cleanser
If you are on the lookout for a cleanser which would make your skin shine from within, this is it. Mekha Herbal Active Cleanser not only removes makeup and impurities. Mango butter, honey and its other herbal components from South East Asia reduce inflammation and make the skin incredibly soft and fresh. The manufacturer recommends leaving the product on your face for several minutes before removing with a wet tissue. You will be impressed by the results.
Face Scrub For Glowing Radiance
This soft honey-based scrub with blackcurrant extract is suitable for everyday use. It delicately exfoliates and softens the skin due to its natural ingredients. A beautiful combination of moisturising honey, toning sandalwood oil and damask rose oil fighting the first signs of ageing. As with all products by ILA, this one offers an incredible aromatherapy experience.
Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream
This day cream contains the world-renowned Manuka honey, evening out skin tone and getting rid of imperfections. By using it daily, skin will feel refreshed and even in tone. Meanwhile, the antioxidant qualities of Vinanza grape and kiwi come to work with the peony blossom extract to bring a radiant and healthy look to your skin. Bee venom and mamaku black fern provide a light lifting effect.
Damaged Hair Honey & Hibiscus Shampoo
John Masters shampoo for damaged hair contains more than 70% natural ingredients. Honey nourishes the hair with all the necessary nutritional elements and moisture. Hibiscus water and flower extract gently cleanse the scalp. The shampoo lathers well thanks to the coconut’s soft active surface action.
Damaged Hair Honey & Hibiscus Mask
John Masters mask is developed especially for dry and damaged hair, restoring its structure, locking in moisture, and protecting strands from further damage. An organic blend of honey and hibiscus restores shine, moisture and resilience. Meanwhile, conditioning oils of bacuri and mongongo strengthen hair from within. Strands become stronger, softer and healthier.
Complete Moisture Cleanse
This delicately cleansing facial product has a balanced pH and, alongside honey, contains herbs and rich oils which are full of phytonutrients. Avocado butter smoothens out small wrinkles and improves sebum production. Evening Primrose oil adds a light subtle aroma and improves the skin’s elasticity. The product foams well, gently washing off any bacteria and impurities.
A natural cleansing mask created using honey, kaolin clay and willow bark extract. Developed especially for balancing out oily and acne prone skin, it controls sebum production, calms the skin, and reduces redness. Salicylic acid, microcrystals of quartz sand and chlorella work as a perfect trio to minimise the appearance of blemishes, exfoliate dead cells and soften the skin. With regular use, skin becomes noticeably clearer and healthier.