In the dry, hot environment of the Arabian Desert, the most-used natural product to heal skin isn’t water, or even aloe. It’s honey.1
Honey, it turns out, is a completely under-the-radar skin miracle.
Honey, milk and oatmeal mixtures were also commonly used as facial beauty scrubs in ancient Egypt. In Europe and western Asia they use honey to make a special skin balm called a mehlem. In Bosnia, there’s a skin syrup known as đulbe sugar. It’s made from honey, lemon and a small flower from the rose family.2
Surgeons use it to heal wounds from burns and cuts. Plastic surgeons use honey to fix skin grafts in place and prevent complications, such as graft loss, infection and graft rejection.3 Honey can heal acne, and help make post-acne scarring and inflammation disappear.
Honey encourages your skin to make hyaluronic acid (HA). HA fills out your skin because it absorbs 3,000 times its weight of water. Honey also forms a delicate, mesh-like collagen structure that can bring your skin’s surface back to normal and allow it to heal.4,5
You can also use honey for other skin problems like diaper rash, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, eczema and dandruff. And it’s antibacterial, too.
Honey works well against bacteria for two reasons. The first is that its sugars bind to water molecules. This denies bacteria the moisture they need to grow.
The second is a secret ingredient added by bees. It’s an enzyme called glucose oxidase. It helps stop bacteria by increasing hydrogen peroxide, a natural disinfectant.6
Honey is also deadly to the “superbug” bacteria you may have heard about recently. Mixtures that have as little as 40 percent honey kill all the harmful bacteria. Even the newest bacterial threat, gram-negative bacteria, can’t stand up to honey. In one study, researchers used only 30 percent mixture on the five known gram-negative strains and honey killed all of those, too.7
Honey is also a super-antioxidant for skin.
Antioxidants protect skin from UV radiation damage, and aid in skin rejuvenation.
Darker honeys have high ORAC values. The ORAC scale was designed to help compare the antioxidant power of different foods. The higher the ORAC value, the more power it has to stop free-radical damage and help fight off health problems.
A study at the University of Illinois found that some of the darker honeys measure 50% higher on the ORAC scale that even grapes with their high-powered skins.8
Scientists are even developing new alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) skin treatments from honey.
Why is that so important? These acids from fruits and plants work with the slight acidity of your skin to help it exfoliate naturally. AHA helps remove old skin cells by dissolving the fatty deposits that hold them in place, which allows new healthy skin to emerge.
With all the ways your skin can benefit from honey, it’s a good idea to keep some in your house. I keep a jar of raw, organic Manuka honey from New Zealand in my pantry, but any of the darker honeys are good for skin care.
If I get a cut or a scrape, I just put some honey right on the wound and cover it with a bandage or dressing. The honey will diffuse into the wound. Then I just change the bandage when I put on more honey.
When I was in India, I visited the original Ayurmana or “ancient healing house” and watched the masters of Ayurvedic medicine use honey for nearly every skin treatment they created.
They mixed it with other natural ingredients to lighten freckles, cure skin rashes and acne, and remove wrinkles.
To make an Ayurvedic exfoliant for your skin using honey, mix:
- Two tablespoons of rice powder (or amla powder, if you can find it)
- One tablespoon of milk (for dry skin, use plain yogurt instead)
- Five drops of lemon juice (for oily skin)
- One teaspoon of honey
- One half teaspoon of sugar
Stir this mixture into a paste, apply it to your skin and leave on for up to 10 minutes. Rinse with fresh, clean water and your skin will look better than ever.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Bakhotmah B, Alzahranicor H. “Self-reported use of complementary and alternative medicine … Jeddah, Western Saudi Arabia.” BMC Res. Notes. 2010; 3:254
2. ÅariÄ-KundaliÄ B, Fritz E, DobeÅ C, et. al. “Traditional Medicine in the Pristine Village of ProkoÅko Lake on Vranica Mountain, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Sci. Pharm. 2010; 78(2): 275–290
3. Emsen I. “A different and safe method of split thickness skin graft fixation: medical honey application,” Burns Sept. 2007;33(6):782-7
4. McPherson J, Piez K. “Collagen in dermal wound repair,” In: Clark R, Henson P. The Molecular and Cellular Biology of Wound Repair. New York: Plenum Press, 1988
5. “Why do some cavity wounds treated with honey or sugar paste heal without scarring?” Woundcare Journal 2002; 11(2)
6. Pruitt K, Reiter B. “Biochemistry of peroxidase system: antimicrobial effects,” In Pruitt KM, Tenovuo JO, editors, The Lactoperoxidase System: Chemistry and Biological Significance, New York: Marcel Dekker, 1985; 144-78
7. Paulus H, Kwakman, et. al. “Medical-Grade Honey Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria In Vitro and Eradicates Skin Colonization,” Clin. Infect. Dis. 2008;46 (11): 1677-1682
8. Gheldof N, Engeseth N. “Antioxidant Capacity of Honeys from Various Floral Sources…” J. Agric. Food Chem. 2002; 50 (10):3050–3055