Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, and a super-healthy ingredient which has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Having in mind its powerful nutrient profile, it comes as no surprise that it’s often included in home remedies for many health conditions, like some skin problems for example. People will try anything when traditional medicine fails to help them, and of course, some just don’t like using products with chemicals at all.
But, honey for acne?
Is it a myth or is there some truth between all the stories?
The familiar story you are going to read on many sites usually goes like this - leave out the expensive, not really effective, and abrasive acne products aside and get rid of the acne once and for all using nothing but honey.
To be totally honest with you - when it comes down to using honey for acne, the research has made things clear. Honey can’t really cure or heal acne, but it can reduce acne symptoms like redness and swelling. Let us explain better.
It’s pretty clear that honey is beneficial for your skin, but does it really cure acne? Let’s dig a little deeper. Honey is an antiseptic that prevents the growth of acne-causing bacteria. The high sugar amount and its acidic properties boost this effect to an even greater extent. Even though research supports the importance of the topical use of honey for its antibacterial properties —mostly for wound care—honey has not been shown to eliminate the specific type of bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) that is the major cause of acne.
Think about it like this - applying honey to a fully developed acne lesion can stop the infection in your pore from getting worse. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties honey has can help decrease the swelling and redness that acne is causing.
Unfortunately, honey can work only up to a point. This means that if there are other factors involved in your breakouts, honey might prove useless.
For example, sometimes built up debris inside the pores may trigger oil production. This, in turn, can provide the right conditions for acne-causing bacteria to grow. Needless to say, if the pore is blocked, honey won’t be able to reach it.
Another downside to honey is that is doesn’t have the strength to act as the traditional acne treatments, like benzoyl peroxide. Bottom line is that honey might help you, and it’s both cheap and safe-to-use.
Have you ever wondered what it means when people say “I only consume raw honey?” What this means is you get the same honey the bees are getting. The process of producing raw honey is quite simple - the honey gets extracted from the honeycombs of the hive, it’s stirred until it’s separated from the residue, and it’s packed up.
On the other hand, you have a few more steps before you get the honey as you know it. The two steps important for us, in this case, are pasteurization and ultrafiltration.
Pasteurization means that the honey goes under high heat so that its yeast content is eliminated. With this process, the honey loses some of its beneficial properties.
Ultrafiltration is when the honey is additionally processed so that it looks smooth and transparent. But there’s one small catch - it’ll look good, but it will be less good for you. Pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants are some of the nutrients that get lost during ultrafiltration. To make things worse, some products come with added sugar in them. So if there is a chance that honey can help you battle pimples, odds are that regular honey is not going to help you solve your acne problem.
Manuka honey is made in Australia and New Zealand, and it comes from bees that pollinate the manuka bush. People who swear by it say it can treat wound infections and other skin conditions.
OK, I know what you’re thinking - doesn’t all honey have the power to help with wounds and nourish the skin? And, you are right.
But, the antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties of honey depend on the type of honey as well as other factors - like when and how it's harvested. This is why raw honey has more benefits than traditional honey.
Manuka honey is considered even more potent because, aside from the hydrogen peroxide (the part that gives honey its antibacterial properties) it has even more ingredients with antibacterial characteristics, which is what sets it apart from traditional honey.
One of these ingredients is methylglyoxal, which in traditional honey is found only in small quantities, but in the nectar of manuka flowers, it’s present in really high concentrations. In addition to that, it has antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits.
Over the years, manuka honey has been used for wound healing, various skin conditions, for the prevention of tooth decay, and the alleviation of digestive issues. One study even found that kanuka honey (a really similar flower to manuka) is more effective in treating acne than traditional antibacterial soap.
Short answer - yes. Don’t let the sticky oily-looking appearance fool you. Honey is a great humectant - which means that it draws moisture from the air to the skin. It can provide long-lasting hydration, which will help the skin balance its oil production. Because of its humectant properties, it’s very effective in keeping your skin well moisturized without making it oily. This is the reason why it’ plays a part in many natural home remedies meant to help treat acne.
Yes, honey is safe and it won't cause any problems if left on the face a long time. There are many natural home remedies out there that are made for overnight use. But, the question you should be really asking is: is it practical to leave honey on the face overnight? Think about the mess you will make in your bed. If you really want to try this method though, I suggest applying the honey only to the affected areas. Another great alternative is to apply it during the day when you are working around the house.
It’s not only safe but even recommended in some cases. Honey is extremely nutritious and it usually comes free from chemicals and additives, meaning it won’t irritate your skin even if you leave it for a long time or use it every day. Because the beneficial properties of honey are not as strong as some acne treatment products, applying it more frequently and for longer periods of time might be needed before you see results. Just make sure you are applying high-quality honey, preferably raw, so you know it has preserved its acne-fighting properties.
The simplest and easiest way to use honey for acne is to directly apply it on the skin and let it do its work. It’s considered a safe ingredient so you don’t need to worry about side-effects.
The one thing you do need to have in mind is that not all honey is the same. Go for raw or manuka honey instead of traditional honey. Many regular honey brands add sugar and other additives, which can make your skin react negatively.
Read the package label before buying - your best choice is 100% natural and raw.
Needless to say, the next thing you need to care about is how clean your face and fingers are before applying the honey. Applying honey with dirty fingers will bring even more bacteria to your face and make your acne worse. When you apply it, massage it gently on affected areas for a couple of minutes and then leave it to act for another 20 minutes. After this, rinse it off with warm water.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant powerhouse which can do wonders for the skin. All these properties help combat redness, itchiness, discoloration, and acne, as well as dark circles. It’s no wonder that it has been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for centuries. Mix one tbsp of honey with a pinch of turmeric and stir well. Be careful not to add too much turmeric as it can make your face orange. Apply the mixture on affected areas and leave it to sit on the face for 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
Olive oil is said to improve the skin’s natural elasticity and moisturize it without making it greasy, and in combination with honey, it can help to lighten the acne lesions and make them less visible. For this mask, you will need 2 tbsp of raw honey and 2 tbsp of virgin olive oil. Just mix them together and gently apply on affected areas. Make sure your fingers are clean before you apply the mixture. Massage the area with circular motions for five to ten minutes, then leave it to act for another ten to twenty minutes. Wash off with warm water.
Oats are one of the few natural ingredients that are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as skin remedies. They contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making them efficient in handling a variety of skin disorders like sunburns, eczema, and poison ivy. Oats are also rich in zinc, which can reduce redness and kill acne-causing bacteria. Mixing oatmeal with honey can give you a powerful combination that no pimples can stand up to.
Cook (follow the instructions on the package) half a cup of oatmeal and mix it with two tbsp of raw honey. After you make sure the oatmeal is cooled down to room temperature, apply the blend gently on the affected areas of the skin. Wait for 20 minutes and then rinse off with warm water. You can repeat this procedure three to four times a week.
Green tea is associated with many health benefits and is usually recommended as a more healthy alternative to coffee. Although the research on this matter is still limited, the anecdotal evidence is piling up. Green tea, with its high levels of antioxidants, is becoming part of many skincare products and home remedies as well. It might be a smart idea to store the tea bags next time you’re drinking your tea. To make this mask, take the used tea bags, cut them open, and remove the tea leaves. Mix one to two tbsp of honey with the tea leaves in order to form a paste. Apply on affected areas and let it sit for twenty minutes before washing the face with warm water.
Tea tree oil has unbelievable antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that not only shrink the acne but also reduce the redness and swelling around it. It’s also believed to speed up the healing process of acne. All you’ll need for this mask is one-two drops of tea tree oil and one tbsp of honey. Mix the ingredients well and then apply evenly on your face. Leave it for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Repeat the procedure three to four times a week. Be careful with how much tea tree oil you are using since it’s been known to cause rashes and redness in people with sensitive skin.
Sea salt is considered good for oily skin since it’s alkaline in nature and it has the power to balance out the oil. Additionally, sea salt has antibacterial properties which can help in reducing acne and speeding up the healing process. For this mask, mix together one tbsp of both honey and sea salt. Add two tbsp of hot water and stir well. Apply the mixture on affected areas. Massage the face in a circular motion. Be careful not to use too much pressure and irritate the skin. Wash your face with warm water after 15 minutes.
Aloe Vera is one of the most famous ingredients used in wound healing. It has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which has led to its use in treating acne. Aloe Vera acts by preventing the bacteria and dirt to infect the pores. What is more, it also has antifungal properties that are useful in treating inflammation. We can say that it definitely deserves its famous reputation in the cosmetic industry. At home, you can use aloe vera in combination with honey to make yourself an incredible remedy for acne. Mix one tbsp of honey with one tbsp of aloe vera gel. Apply the mixture on the areas affected with acne. Leave it to act for 15 minutes and then rinse with warm water.