Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Jenna Fletcher on April 3, 2020
The use of honey in skin care is not a new concept. However, researchers have recently started to verify some of the anecdotal evidence about the benefits of applying honey to the skin.
These benefits may include the following:
Microbial properties and wound healing
One of the most widely recognized properties of honey is its ability to help fight against skin infections. According to one review, many in vitro studies support the idea that honey has antimicrobial properties.
The same review states that Manuka honey from New Zealand helps with healing wounds. Several countries, including the United States, have approved honey in medications for healing wounds.
A 2017 study on the honey of the stingless bee found that the raw honey has a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Another review of studies supports this, finding that most honey varieties have anti-inflammatory properties.
According to an older study, honey can help with improving the skin’s appearance. The authors state that it can help stop wrinkles from forming, keep the skin looking young, and prevent infections on the skin that can accelerate aging.
Treatment of skin cancer
Some evidence suggests that honey can help treat skin cancer and other cancers. A review article found several studies showing positive results of using honey on cancer cells. The studies mostly focused on honey’s ability to help slow the growth and reproduction of cancerous cells in the body.
Another more recent study also cites honey’s ability to help with cancer treatment. The study indicates that honey has antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects.
A person should talk to their doctor if they have, or suspect that they have, skin cancer. Only a doctor can diagnose the condition. They can also help create an effective treatment plan for the person.
People should not try to treat skin cancer with honey alone, as it is not a reliable treatment. However, they can talk to their doctor about using this remedy alongside medical treatments.
Honey has several potential uses on the skin, including:
- part of daily washing of the face
- help with eczema
- moisturizing effects
- help with healing small cuts or abrasions
- help skin look more youthful
A person should talk to their doctor before using honey for the treatment of skin conditions.
Before using honey on the skin, it is important to do a patch test first. A person should apply a tiny amount of honey to a small area of the skin and wait for at least 20 minutes. If the skin becomes irritated, they should not use the honey.
When using honey on the skin, a person can mix it with other ingredients to create a cream or ointment. Or, they can apply the honey directly to the area of skin that they wish to treat.
After cleaning the skin with soap and water, a person can apply the honey to the face or other areas of the skin. After leaving the honey on the skin for a few minutes, they can rinse it off.
Some people argue that raw honey is best for the skin, which a few small studies support. Raw honey contains pollen and bee propolis. According to a 2015 review, bee pollen has several helpful properties. For instance, it can have pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
In a 2017 review, researchers found that bee propolis may have anticancer and antifungal effects.
Pasteurization removes both pollen and propolis from the honey. It may also reduce its antioxidant effects. Finally, processed honey may contain additives, such as added sugar or syrup.