Honey is one of the oldest skin remedies, but unlike milk baths, it has endured and has even been backed up by science. This deliciously sweet material offers a ton of benefits for the skin in a way that truly helps all skin types. However, it’s not the only substance that bees produce that has a worthy place in your skincare routine! These days we also see royal jelly and propolis extract show up in formulas, especially from Korean beauty brands.
To understand exactly what makes honey so great for the skin, I explain its benefits. Then I move on to propolis extract, with an explanation of what it actually is and how it helps the skin. If you have any concerns don’t worry – I talk about potential side effects as well. To finish things off, I explain how to use honey in skin care, including some amazing DIY mask recipes.
In this article:
- Benefits of Honey for Skin
- What Is Propolis Extract?
- Benefits of Propolis for Skin
- Are There Any Side Effects to Using Honey on the Face?
- How to Use Honey in Skin Care for Glowing Face
Benefits of Honey for Skin
Whether dry or oily, sensitive or acne-prone, or just plain old concerned about the early signs of aging, honey for skin will absolutely help you. As you can see from this list, honey’s benefits are truly diverse. It can reduce redness, dehydration, treat breakouts, and just overall make the skin feel softer and healthier.
It is very common for sweet things to have humectant properties. Much like glycerin and xylitol, which also happen to be sweet, honey is a humectant that is able to absorb water and bring it to the skin. This makes honey a wonderful moisturizing ingredient that helps to soften and plump up the skin, thereby increasing its strength and barrier capabilities while also decreasing the prominence of fine lines.
Since honey moisturizes by increasing hydration, it is an appropriate addition to skincare products for all skin types. It won’t make oily skin greasy, just soft and supple.
According to Michelle of LabMuffin, honey has a few different mechanisms that make it antibacterial, including a low pH (which you know I’m slightly obsessed with), an ability to slowly release hydrogen peroxide, and its humectant properties, which allow it to draw out water from bacterial cells and thereby destroy them.
It also might have some different antibacterial compounds in it, depending on the type of honey. Honey is not as strong an antibacterial agent as benzoyl peroxide or antibiotics, but it certainly can’t hurt in your fight against acne. Anecdotally, those with acne-prone skin seem to mostly benefit from adding honey-laden skincare products to their routine.
The blend of antioxidant and humectant abilities that honey has leads to it being wonderfully soothing. People who suffer from rosacea and chronic skin redness find that honey (especially manuka honey) can be effective at reducing the redness and leaving their skin feeling much calmer.
There have been multiple studies that showed that honey is able to help with wound healing, likely due to its humectant and antibacterial properties. I don’t recommend throwing out your band-aids and using honey instead, but if your skin is compromised for any reason, including sensitivity or acne, honey can be a great ingredient in a comprehensive routine meant to repair the skin.
Rich in Antioxidants
Honey contains a variety of compounds that offer antioxidant protection, to ward off premature aging. These include multiple flavonoids and phenolic acids, including ferulic acid, which is known for its ability to boost and support vitamin C.
If you’re dealing with seborrheic dermatitis or fungal acne (maybe in addition to other skin issues), you’ll be happy to know that honey can help. Studies have shown its ability to inhibit certain fungal strains that are associated specifically with seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, but people have also seen the positive effects of honey masks on other fungal skin issues.
What Is Propolis Extract?
Propolis extract is a newer additive in skin care, even though it also has an ancient medicinal history. Like honey, propolis also comes from bees. It is a resinous sealant that bees produce in order to seal openings in their hive.
Propolis is made of a combination of beeswax, sap or resin from plants, and bee saliva. It is rich in essential oils that come from the plant sap, and has a naturally lovely scent. Its composition varies greatly from region to region and beehive to beehive, but it consistently has a variety of health benefits thanks to a diverse collection of beneficial compounds that are in it.
There are a few theories as to why bees produce and use propolis, most of which focus on its ability to reinforce the hive and insulate it. The most intriguing theory, however, is the suggestion that propolis is able to keep the hive protected against bacterial and fungal contamination.
Benefits of Propolis for Skin
Like honey, propolis extract also has a number of benefits for skin.
Like honey, propolis extract has also shown the ability to heal the skin and reduce irritation. In a study in the Journal of Diabetes, propolis was applied to diabetic foot ulcers and seemed to improve their healing by promoting wound closure. This was likely thanks to its ability to inhibit free radical damage as well as thanks to its antibacterial effects. If your skin is easily irritated or sensitive, you might benefit from the healing effects of propolis.
Propolis extract seems to be even more antimicrobial than honey, due to its high content of terpenes. So far there has only been one study, but it has shown that propolis extract was effective at reducing active acne breakouts! Propolis for skin could be great addition to an acne-fighting routine.
Like honey, propolis has also shown an inhibiting effect on certain fungi that cause common skin issues like fungal acne and seborrheic dermatitis. The combination of soothing, anti-microbial and antifungal effects is great for those suffering from a combination of skin ailments.
Propolis is comprised of a variety of compounds that offer antioxidant protection, including flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and terpenes. It aids in keeping the skin looking youthful by preventing the destructive chain reaction caused by free radicals from the sun and pollution, which leads to premature aging.
Its antioxidant effects are fairly well documented, but not necessarily comparable to other antioxidants like CoQ10, vitamin C or resveratrol. Propolis extract is best in a routine that includes other antioxidants as well.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using Honey on the Face?
As with any natural skincare ingredient, you run into the risk of allergies with honey and propolis extract as well. Chance are you already know if you’re allergic to honey, but be aware that sometimes people with pollen or bee venom allergies might also react to honey-based skin care.
It seems that propolis extract, due to its high content of terpenoids, is likelier to cause irritation than honey. If your skin is sensitive to essential oils and fragrances, then your chances of being sensitive to propolis as well are a little higher.
Always perform a patch test by applying new skincare products to a small part of your face for a few days in a row, just to make sure that you don’t have an adverse reaction to them. This is a safety practice I always recommend, however.
How to Use Honey in Skin Care for Glowing Face
You can find honey in a wide range of skincare products, including cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and everything in between. There is no special way to use products with honey or propolis for the skin. You would apply a moisturizer as you would any other moisturizer, while a cleanser or a mask would be best used according to the directions on the package.
It gets interesting when we talk about run-of-the-mill, food-grade honey. When it comes to using honey for skin, you can absolutely play around with some DIY mask recipes using whatever you have in your kitchen cabinet. Honey is probably my favorite ingredient for DIY recipes because it has nearly no downsides, it works for all skin types, and it can be mixed with so many different things.
Of course, it is better to choose raw honey, as it will contain more beneficial substances straight from the plants. Manuka and kanuka honey, in particular, have become very popular because of touted (albeit unverified) anti-inflammatory benefits. However, the truth is that even mass-produced honey holds some skin benefits.
You can also just use it on its own, as you would any other rinse-off skincare mask. I recommend using honey masks while in the shower because that’s when you can benefit from its full potential as a humectant.
Honey can pull all of the moisture from the steam directly into your skin, so after your shower your skin will be extra soft and plump. Using it in the shower also makes clean-up easy – you don’t need to worry about sticky honey dripping anywhere!
Here are some of my favorite honey mask recipes! Keep in mind that they are all single-use recipes. Mix up a small amount right before you would like to use them, since they spoil fairly quickly.
Honey Mask for Oily Skin
Apply the mixture to cleansed skin and leave on for about 10-15 minutes. Rinse it off and follow up with the rest of your skincare routine.
Honey Mask for Dehydrated and Sensitive Skin
Mix the ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated, and then apply to clean skin. Rinse it away completely after 10 minutes or so and follow up with the rest of your skincare regimen.
Honey Mask for Dry Skin
When you have dry skin, the best combination is honey and a bit of whatever skincare oil you have on hand. Put the honey into a bowl, and then mix it while adding a bit of oil. Keep adding oil until you achieve a texture that will go on the skin easily.
Apply it to your skin while it is clean, and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Once the time has passed, rinse it off and follow up with the rest of your beauty routine.
You can also turn any of these honey masks into exfoliants! If your skin is a little heartier, you can add brown sugar while if it is more sensitive, you can add ground oatmeal to them. After applying the masks to your skin, massage them in a bit to exfoliate and then leave them on to do their magic.
Photos via @mydesertglow, Instagram