Beauty Benefits Of Honey

Honey with cinnamon, lemon and star anise.Honey is sometimes added to drinks, creams, rinses and balms.

Are there any beauty benefits of honey, and why is honey often featured in various beauty products, from facial creams to honey shampoo?  Was Cleopatra on to something when she bathed in milk and honey? 

What are the properties of honey, for which it is held in such high regard, and is there any truth in the claims made?

Here are some ideas as to why some advocate honey for beauty preparations, whether homemade or shop bought:

1. It’s natural

Honey is made by honey bees. 

Honey bee foraging on pink geranium flower.Honey bee foraging on geranium flower.

They make it by collecting nectar from flowers, which they then mix with their own bee enzyme.  It is then stored, and fanned, until it turns into honey.  At that point, the bees cap the honey with wax, and it’s ready. 

There's no doubt about it, there are many people who trust natural products more than they trust artificial, mass-produced lotions and potions. 

You can read more about this process on the page how do bees make honey Read more about the bee enzyme

Perhaps we trust bees more than we trust chemists!

However......Please note, some countries are experiencing imports of contaminated honey.  Take a look at these tips for buying honey

2. Antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties

Honey contains natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which help sterilise the honey and keep it bacteria free.  Scientists have discovered that bees secrete a type of protein into honey called defensin-1 (1).  Indeed, army soldiers have been known to use honey to promote healing of wounds for some years, and it has long been part of ‘granny’s medicine cupboard’.


The significance of this in terms of using honey for beauty products, might be in its application as a remedy for skin conditions. To give you some clue as to the power of honey for treating infections, peer reviewed research has shown honey to be effective in killing MRSA – or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – open wounds, for example, are particularly susceptible to infection, and it is a condition that is otherwise difficult to treat(2).  The pH and antibacterial properties also ensures honey does not go off, and can be stored indefinitely in a jar in the cupboard. 

Being hygroscopic (see below), it is also said that moisture is drawn out of the environment, yet at the same time, bacteria are dehydrated.  The high sugar content and low pH can also prevent the microbes from growth (3). It is claimed by some that honey is also useful for treating acne.

Take a look at these honey facial masks.




3. Honey is a humectant – or is
hygroscopic


As stated above, this means honey attracts and draws in moisture from the air, meaning it can be said to have moisturizing properties.  There is no surprise that honey should be a humectant, since honey is basically fructose and glucose (see
What Is Honey), and both of these common ingredients are natural humectants. 

A jar of soft-set honey.A jar of soft-set honey.

Humectants are often used in hair care products, and can add bounce and moisture, but they can also cause sticky hair or frizz in conditions of high humidity, and can even damage hair ultimately.  Take a look at these honey hair masks.


4. Anti-inflammatory properties

There are potentially yet more beauty benefits of honey....

Honey may have the ability to reduce swelling and redness through its anti-inflammatory action (4). Perhaps this, combined with the anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties, is why honey is advocated by some for use in treating acne. 

5. Honey and weight loss

As well as the general beauty benefits of honey for use in skin and hair preparations, honey is sometimes advocated for use in weight loss.  Personally, I am not convinced that honey is helpful in weight loss, because it is high in calories.  However, to replace a small a spoon of sugar with a small amount of honey in drinks as part of a calorie-controlled diet would seem fine.




Refs:

(1)  P. H. S. Kwakman, A. A. te Velde, L. de Boer, D. Speijer, C. M. J. E. Vandenbroucke-Grauls, S. A. J. Zaat. How honey kills bacteria. The FASEB Journal, 2010; DOI; and also: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20080922/humble-honey-kills-bacteria

(2)  Alandejani, T. Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, August 2008, vol 139, issue 2, supp 1: p 107.

(3)  Manisha Deb Mandal, Shyamapada Mandal. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011 April; 1(2): 154–160;  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/    doi:  10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60016-6; PMCID: PMC3609166.

(4)  Molan PC. Why honey is effective as a medicine  Its use in modern medicine. In: Munn P, Jones R, editors. Honey and Healing. UK: International Bee Research Association; 2001.



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