Cleopatra added honey to her baths, Nefertiti cherished it for glowy skin and the Romans presented it to their gods as a gift. More than just a yummy sweetener and sore throat soother, honey also offers skin-care benefits. But, not all types are created equal. Here’s why manuka honey is considered the crème de la crème for a radiant complexion.
- It has impressive antibacterial properties.
“Manuka honey actually gets its name from the manuka bush in New Zealand— and some parts of Australia, too—which the bees there pollinate,” says Michael Bumgarner, founder of Cannuka, a skin- care line featuring manuka honey and CBD. “The manuka bush is part of the tea tree family, and tea tree has long been revered for its antimicrobial, antifungal attributes, which get passed to the honey. This makes it more therapeutic for the skin than raw or regular honey.”
Manuka also contains a higher concentration of methylglyoxal (MG), which boosts the honey’s antibacterial powers. “MG has been shown in petri dishes to reduce or stop the growth of staphylococcus aureus and E. coli,” says cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain Ko. “Another manuka perk is its low water activity: Most pathogenic bacteria require water to grow, but the sugars in honey can bind to water, preventing bacteria from using the water. This can hinder the growth and survival of harmful microbes.”
Beverly Hills, CA dermatologist Rhonda Rand, MD says these properties are what make manuka honey a useful tool in dermatology, too. “Doctors all over the world use it to treat skin wounds, ulcers and burns,” she adds.
- It’s chock-full of antioxidants.
When we think about antioxidants in skin care, vitamins C and E typically come to mind, but honey possesses powerful antioxidant effects as well. “Our skin is exposed to pollution, visible light, infrared heat and UV rays almost every day, and these are all sources of oxidative stress (free radicals) that ultimately lead to collagen destruction,” says New York dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.
“Manuka honey can neutralize many of these free radicals, thus protecting our skin from damage, calming down inflammatory mechanisms and slowing down the aging process. When you use products with manuka honey, you are more likely to preserve the collagen you already have.”
- It’s a super hydrator.
One of manuka’s most prized traits is that it can actually draw moisture from the air and pull it into the skin. “Keeping skin hydrated is one of the most important ways to help deter signs of aging,” Bumgarner notes. “Manuka honey has the ability to retain water in the skin without creating an oily feeling.” Because of this, “it’s excellent for chronic skin conditions characterized by dryness and overgrowth of harmful microorganisms,” says Dr. Bowe, who finds it especially useful for soothing eczema and rosacea.
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