Written by Lisa Allen, MD
In the search for an effective acne treatment, people are willing to try just about anything. This includes many household food items which are believed to have medicinal value, such as honey. The problem with using home remedies and other natural acne treatments is that it is sometimes hard to know what actually works for getting rid of acne, and what doesn’t.
How can you distinguish legitimate home acne treatments from the old wives tales and other acne myths? In this article we will attempt to separate the facts from fiction and answer the question once and for all: can honey get rid of acne?
What Is Honey?
Honey is a sweet substance made by bees, using the nectar from flowers, which is stored in the beehive to be used as a food source. Several thousand years ago, humans discovered that we could also eat this honey, and we began collecting it for ourselves.
Beekeepers cultivate bees in such a way as to encourage overproduction of honey, so that the excess can be collected and sold for human consumption. According to Wikipedia, honey has been used for medicinal purposes for at least 2700 years, and is also used in the 4000 year old Indian medical practice of Ayurveda.
Many people believe that all honey is the same, when in fact there are many different types of honey, which are made by different kinds of bees in different geographic locations. Each of these varieties of honey have different health and medicinal benefits. Although most varieties of honey are good for your health, there is one type in particular that is especially good for treating acne. It’s called Manuka Honey.
Manuka Honey For Acne Treatment
Manuka honey comes only from New Zealand, and is produced by bees which gather nectar from the local Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium). Some manuka honey is given a UMF rating by the Active Manuka Honey Industry before it is exported for sale. UMF stands for Unique Manuka Factor and is a scientific measure of the antibacterial strength of that particular honey.
So what makes manuka honey so great for getting for of acne? It contains a compound called methylglyoxal, which gives the honey a significant antibacterial property. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of manuka honey make it great for killing the P. acnes bacteria, which is one of the primary causes of acne. There are really only 2 things you can do with honey that could affect your skin: consume it or apply it directly to the skin. Here is a brief overview of both treatment methods.
It is debatable as to whether or not eating honey is beneficial to the skin or not, and there are some people who claim that it helps clear them up, while others claim that honey makes their breakouts worse. One possible reason that honey could make acne worse is because of the glucose (sugar) content, which is known to be a trigger for certain people.
How To Use Honey For Acne?
A more common, and probably more effective, method of using honey to treat acne is to apply it directly to the skin either as a mask or a spot treatment. To use honey as a mask, all you have to do is warm up approximately 2 tbsp. of honey in the microwave (being careful not to overheat it!) and use your fingertips to apply it directly to the face. Leave the honey mask on the face for 10-15 minutes, and then wash it off using a gentle, non-medicated facial cleanser.
If you have oily skin, you can add 2 tsp. lemon juice into the honey to help reduce oil on the face. You can also apply some honey directly to a pimple, and wash it off after 10 minutes or so. The anti-inflammatory properties of the honey should help to reduce redness and swelling.
Honey For Acne Scars
In addition to acne itself, honey can also be used to help treat or reduce the appearance of acne scars. The best way to use honey for acne scars is to mix it with other natural scar reducing agents, such as cucumber. You can puree a mixture of honey and cucumber in a blender, and apply to the face for 30 minutes at a time as a mask. Afterward, rub down the face with ice to enhance the effects of the mask.
Although honey made from the manuka bush is the most popular derivative of the nectar, there are other variations which may be even more effective at treating acne. Essentially containing more concentrated forms of the acne fighting, manuka oil can be topically applied to the face as a spot treatment or mask in the exact same way as manuka honey, and many people find it to be much more effective.
There are soaps which are made from manuka honey and another substance which is made by bees: propolis. When used in combination with one another, manuka honey and propolis prove to be an effective and yet moisturizing acne treatment.