Honey for Acne: What’s All the Buzz About?

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

There are countless do-it-yourself remedies out there, but especially Manuka honey 🍯 for acne is the real deal. If you can get past the stickiness, it can play a key role in your skincare.

Manuka honey for acne is one of the DIY remedies that can really work.

Unlike with many DIY remedies, scientists have conducted quite a few studies about the effects of using honey for acne. The results are inconclusive, which may even be due to a number of factors having nothing to do with honey’s medicinal properties. So it’s difficult to say, but at least none of the studies found that honey worsened acne. So, if you’re willing to conduct your own experiments, the worst that will happen is probably nothing. Read on for our recipes.

Honey History

Honey for medicine dates back many centuries to ancient times. Its recorded uses include the treatment of wounds, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and the liver, and even the cardiovascular system.

Is It Used In Modern Medicine?

Today, honey-soaked dressings are often preferred to regular dressings for the treatment of open wounds because it has been medically reviewed, and as one review of the literature concludes:

Honey has almost equal or slightly superior effects when compared with conventional treatments for acute wounds and superficial partial thickness burns.

However, a lot more study is needed, especially regarding honey for acne.

Honey is a popular acne remedy for its potent anti-inflammatory property and antibacterial activity.

How Does Honey Work for Acne?

Honey has a variety of healing properties, but it treats two main issues pertaining to acne: inflammation and bacteria. This is great news because these are two of the three main causes of acne.

The Three Main Causes of Acne

Inflammation, bacteria, and oil production combine forces to produce acne, and treating two out of the three can lead to huge improvements.

Bacteria

The bacteria primarily associated with acne, called P. acnes, always live on our skin, and sometimes they can help prevent breakouts by reducing oil production. P. acnes consumes the oil our skin naturally produces as a food source.

Inflammation

However, if inflammation occurs and the bacteria get trapped in a pore along with excess oil, their number can rise very quickly, creating a minor infection that becomes a pimple.

Honey For Both

Medically reviewed honey has been shown to have an inhibitory effect on approximately 60 species of bacteria. Pasture, as well as Manuka honey 🍯, are bacteriostatic (which means they have the ability to stop bacteria from reproducing) at low concentrations. At slightly higher concentrations, it is bactericidal, meaning it kills off bacteria.

Honey furthermore contains antioxidants and is also an anti-inflammatory agent. With its dual action of killing microbes and acting against inflammation, it may help prevent the more visible, painful pimples or cysts.

Different types of honey have different healing properties but research shows that especially Manuka honey may be beneficial in treating acne.

Manuka Honey To Treat Acne

Honey is made when bees collect nectar from flowers and bring it back to the hive, where it breaks down into simple sugars. The moisture evaporates, and honey is the end product. The type of honey created depends on what kind of flower the bees collected nectar from. Different kinds of honey can have slightly different flavors, colors, and scents, and manuka and kanuka honey 🐝 are very popular.

What Is Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is made primarily from the nectar of Manuka bushes that grow in some parts of New Zealand and Australia. These are also called tea tree plants. This makes sense because tea tree oil is one of the most popular essential oils for acne, and it is commonly integrated into acne treatment products, like our Acne Treatment Serum, because it kills 99% of P. acnes bacteria.

Manuka Honey’s Health Properties

Manuka honey has been shown to have powerful antibacterial properties, even against so-called ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA and VRE. These pose a serious clinical threat because they are resistant to common antibiotics. In fact, medical-grade Manuka honey is FDA approved for wound dressings in hospitals. In an article from the Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, the authors speculate that this may be due to honey’s low pH level and high sugar content, which are known to be antimicrobial mechanisms.

Since a pimple is technically a wound, it makes sense that Manuka honey may have beneficial effects in treating acne.

However, at this point, we need to warn that you should not rely only on the Internet for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Many natural remedies still need to be medically reviewed and approved, so especially for serious skin conditions, make sure to see a dermatologist 👩‍⚕️.

Recipes for Home Remedies With Honey

On the market today, there are many honey products to improve various skin conditions, and some of them are excellent. However, good honey is fairly easy to obtain so it’s also easy to whip up your own concoctions at home. Manuka honey’s particular anti-inflammatory property and antibacterial activity makes it a safe home remedy for acne treatments and wound healing. People love the following recipes for masks as they’re great for acne blemishes on different skin types. They also make good spot treatments.

DIY Recipes: Lemon And Honey Face Mask

Adding lemon juice 🍋 to a honey face mask can make up for the fact that honey doesn’t exfoliate the skin. Lemon juice (all citrus, really) can clear away the oil and dead skin cells clogging the pores, but it can also be too harsh for sensitive skin types. Combined with honey, lemon juice can exfoliate the skin without irritating it, while clearing away blackheads and pimples at the same time.

This mask is best for people with blackheads and/or oily skin, and make sure to use it as a spot treatment too.

Ingredients:

  • ½ lemon, squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey 🍯

Instructions:

Combine the lemon juice and honey in a small bowl and mix, then apply to the skin. If the stickiness bothers you, dip a cotton ball into the mixture and apply. Bear in mind that this mixture needs to be used immediately. Fresh lemon juice is always the best choice 👍. Allow the mask to set for 30-45 minutes, then rinse with cool water and pat dry with a soft towel.

Take Note:

Because the honey is so sticky, it may be tempting to use hot water or to scrub the honey away, but both these things can undo all the hard work the lemon-honey mask has just done. This may also lead to irritation and more inflammation 🔥.

DIY Recipe: Green Tea and Honey Face Mask

Like honey, green tea 🍃 has powerful anti-inflammatory properties when ingested or topically applied. This is a great option for last-minute acne treatment, so if you wake up the day of a special occasion with a painful, red breakout, this mask should reduce inflammation to make the acne less painful and less visible.

This mask is best for people with sensitive skin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 green tea bag, or 1 tablespoon of loose green tea leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey 🍯

Instructions:

Cut open the green tea bag, or measure out 1 tablespoon of green tea leaves, and add them to the honey. Combine and mix until the tea leaves are evenly distributed. Then apply to the skin and allow the mask to set. Because honey and green tea are both exceedingly gentle ingredients, they can stay on your face for as long as you like, but we recommend a minimum of 20 minutes. When you are ready to remove the mask, simply rinse with cool water and pat dry with a soft towel.

Take Note:

Unlike the lemon-honey mask, this mask can be stored and used again later, so you may want to combine your ingredients in a sealable container.

DIY Recipe: Cinnamon and Honey Face Mask

One of the best ways to use honey for acne is to combine it with cinnamon for an extra antibacterial boost.

Like honey, cinnamon has antibacterial properties, and the combination has even been medically reviewed as potentially great. So, this mask may be great for keeping P. acnes bacteria under control.

For people with regular pimple breakouts or the occasional cyst, the cinnamon-honey mask may be ideal because it can treat and prevent these without causing irritation to the skin. Cinnamon can also be an exfoliant, so it may help remove excess oil as well.

This mask is best for people with pimple-prone skin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 🍯

Instructions:

Simply mix these two ingredients thoroughly and apply to your face or wherever it’s needed. Let the mask sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then remove by rinsing with cool water 💧.

Take Note:

The exfoliating and mildly astringent nature of cinnamon may irritate very sensitive skin, so you may want to test a small area on your arm or leg before applying it to your face.

Honey is one of the most popular home remedies for ingestion too.

Adding Honey to Your Diet

Honey kills P. acnes bacteria when it is applied directly to the skin, and honey may be great for wound care too. However, ingesting honey may have long-term health benefits and reduce systemic inflammation. And it’s a super-tasty remedy too.

Ways To Ingest Honey

There are several easy ways to introduce a little honey into your diet. Add it to your favorite warm beverage, like tea ☕. Or drizzle a little honey over your breakfast cereal for a dash of sweetness. Or, take it at night with a bit of heated milk – it will have the added benefit of being a sedative.

What To Look Out For

Honey kills off all bacteria, even the good gut microbes, so if you experience stomach pains, diarrhea, or constipation after adding honey to your diet, stop ingesting it immediately. But as we previously mentioned, do rely only on your doctor for medical advice 👨‍⚕️, diagnosis, or treatment.

Exposed Skin Care and Honey for Acne

As we’ve said, honey can do wonders for acne, but it can’t do it all, which is why we recommend combining a weekly honey mask treatment with the daily three-step routine available in our Basic Kit. Exposed is the perfect match for honey because several of our best products, like our Facial Cleanser and Clear Pore Serum, contain salicylic acid, an acne-fighting ingredient 💪 that gently exfoliates the skin and reduces oil buildup. Together with a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid complements honey home remedies perfectly.

Exposed Skin Care’s 3-step acne treatment system is the perfect skin care routine to try alongside honey for acne.