There’s a reason the benefits of honey have been buzzed about for centuries. Along with its nutrient-dense profile, the natural ingredient is one of the most versatile additions when it comes to your wellness, skin and hair routines. Ahead, some of the top benefits to expect from the time-tested ingredient.
According to New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, antioxidant-rich honey offers a variety of benefits for skin health and healing: “Honey has antimicrobial properties, it moisturizes, hydrates and can calm inflammation,” says the doctor, noting the ingredient is naturally rich in antifungal and antibacterial properties, too, so it helps to clear out pores, kill bacteria and treat breakouts.
A natural humectant, honey also has the ability to absorb water and, in turn, deeply hydrate the skin without leaving a greasy feel, making it ideal for acne-prone skin types or those with chronic skin issues such as eczema or rosacea. Aside from treating dry skin and soothing reactive skin, Dr. Peredo notes that honey also contains hydrogen peroxide, “which can aid in fading scars.”
“Honey is also a great source of skin-loving antioxidants and polyphenols, compounds that help minimize free-radical damage and prevent premature aging,” explains nutritionist Jennifer Hanway.
All About Propolis
Also made by bees, propolis—essentially a “glue” to keep beehives sterile, Dr. Predo explains—is another buzzy skin-care ingredient with a laundry list of healing benefits. Usually brown to black in color, Dr. Peredo notes the ingredient is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal. “It helps with wound healing, burns and redness and can be used for acne scaring and post-laser, says the doctor. “It has great moisturizing properties and can help with anti-aging, fine lines and wrinkles.”
If you’re looking to incorporate honey’s benefits into your skin-care routine, don’t settle for any type of honey. “You should be looking for raw honey when using honey in skin care,” says Dr. Peredo. “Other types of honey are heated and filtered to increase shelf life, which in turn lessens its enzyme-rich properties. Manuka honey is also great for the skin, but it is much more expensive because it comes from New Zealand and Australia.” Hanway’s quick-and-easy trick: “Choose darker honeys for the richest sources.”
“One honey-infused product I love is Naturopathica’s Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm ($64),” says Dr. Peredo. “It is gentle and cleanses the skin while removing makeup and moisturizing the skin. It also is formulated with lactobacillus ferment to rejuvenate the skin and royal jelly peptides to give a smooth and even complexion.” For a more affordable skin-care treat, Dr. Peredo loves Burt’s Bees Milk And Honey Body Lotion ($8). “It nourishes and softens the skin with a combination of honey, coconut oil and grapefruit oil.”
There are countless honey-infused mask recipes floating around the internet, but here are two of our favorites:
Created by radiant Jada Pinkett Smith, her quick-and-easy mask recipe is not only straightforward, but surprisingly effective. The recipe: combine half an avocado and two tablespoons of honey, apply to the skin, then rinse.
For a down-and-dirty lip mask that’s safe to eat—you can also use it as a face mask—mix one teaspoon of honey with two teaspoons of sugar and massage the paste on your lips, applying pressure to loosen dead skin cells. Not only will your skin be smoother thanks to the physical exfoliation—be sure to rinse after letting the mixture sit for a few minutes—but honey will help heal the skin as well.
Health + Wellness
Dense Nutrient Profile
“Raw honey is packed full of micronutrients, including some of the vitamins and minerals that our diets can typically be low in, including B vitamins and essential nutrients such as magnesium and zinc,” explains Hanway. Honey is also a great source of prebiotic fiber, “the type of fiber that helps feed and nourish the good bacteria in our gut microbiome,” adds the nutritionist.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Hanway says honey actually plays a big role in balancing blood sugar. “While all caloric sweeteners—natural and refined—will raise blood sugar levels, honey has the lowest glycemic load—the measure of the impact of a given amount of food on blood glucose levels after it is eaten—and may even offer benefits for appetite-reduction and blood-sugar balancing,” she says.
According to the nutritionist, a 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that when honey was consumed at breakfast the participants experienced a “blunted glycemic response, meaning their blood sugar did not spike, and a reduction in the hunger hormones ghrelin and peptide YY.” However, not all types of honey are good for you. “The types of honey—determined by the type of flower the nectar was collected from—that are considered to be low GI are Yellow Box, Stringybark, Red Gum, Iron Bark and Yapunyah honeys,” Hanway explains.
Shab Reslan, NYC-based stylist and hair expert, says that while she hasn’t used any hair-care products spiked with honey, the ingredient’s benefits are undeniable. “The greatest property of honey when it comes to hair is its antibacterial capabilities as well as its soothing characteristics for any type of scalp issue,” says Reslan. “It can fight any type of infection created from chronic build-up or fungal disease.” Natural emollients found in honey also deliver a smoother appearance to the hair by coating the hair follicles.
Some options to try: softening Gisou Honey Infused Leave-In Conditioner ($34), healing Bumble & Bumble Bb.Bond-Building Repair Styling Cream ($34), and soothing Leonor Greyl Shampooing Au Miel Gentle Volumizing Shampoo ($26).