Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Aheli Sen (Fashion & Beauty Expert)  on 22nd Sep 2020

How To Use Honey for Acne - The Many Benefits of Honey

How To Use Honey for Acne

Here is the thing. Most of the time, people are willing to do almost anything to get out of a problem and in the process, mess it up. More often than not, the problem is that our skin frequently breaks out. It depresses us, and we would do just about everything that has been directed towards us. Many times, this suggestion involves honey for acne.

We immediately use these suggestions without any research and end up disappointed. Just like medicines, not all forms of honey are efficient in getting rid of breakouts. There are 300 varieties of honey that are recognized by scientific boards around the world, so imagine the confusion of choice. So, here is a helping hand for all of you that want to use honey for acne. 

Let us start with the most basic question: “How good is honey for skin?” 

How good is honey for skin

Honey is considered one of the oldest wound healing agents globally; it has shown capacity when many modern medicines have failed. Honey heals wounds because of its bioactivities that include anti-bacterial, antiviral, anti‑inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.

Honey activates the immune response to infection. It induces a generation of antibodies. Honey is thus, used in control and the treatment of acute wounds and for mild to moderate superficial and partial thickness burns.

Now that that has been established, it helps us understand why honey is often recommended for skin benefits. It does have anti-bacterial properties that ensure diminishing the redness and the swollen size of acne. However, it does not cure acne. Or ensure that breakouts won’t occur upon the usage of the same. 

Why does Honey not cure acne?

The answer is simple:

Even with it having anti-bacterial properties, honey does not have the specific anti-bacterial property to kill acne-causing bacteria or the “Propionibacterium Acnes.”

Therefore, no amount of slathering any form of honey (be it raw honey, Manuka honey, Kanuka honey, or any other exotic form of honey) will stop the skin from breaking out. It cannot do what standard, gold ingredients for acne can like benzoyl peroxide and beta hydroxy acid (BHA, like salicylic acid). 

So, how does Honey reduce the redness and the size of a pimple?  

Let us first discuss what honey is made up of.

Honey is a natural product formed from the nectar of flowers by honeybees (Apis mellifera; Family: Apidae). Honey has been used by humans since ancient times, almost 5500 years ago. Most ancient populations, including Greeks, Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Mayans, and the Babylonians, consumed honey both for nutritional aims and for its medicinal properties. Honey is the only natural product derived from insects, and it has nutritional, cosmetic, therapeutic, and industrial values.

The main composition is carbohydrates that contribute to 95-97% of its dry weight.  

It further includes compounds such as: 

  • Proteins
  • Vitamins 
  • Amino Acids 
  • Minerals
  • Organic Acids

Pure or raw honey also contains:

  • Flavonoids – It helps in regulating cellular activity, to fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress on the body.
  • Polyphenols – It is a form of a micronutrient that is packed with antioxidants.
  •  Reducing compounds – Also called a reductant or a reducer, is an element or compound that loses or donates an electron to an electron recipient / oxidizing agent in a redox chemical reaction. 
  • Alkaloids – It possesses pharmacological potentials like ciprofloxacin, an anti-bacterial property.
  • Glycosides – It has a significant antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory activity. 
  • Cardiac glycosides – Class of organic compounds that increase the output force of the heart.
  • Anthraquinone – It has anti-bacterial, antifungal, antioxidant properties. 
  • Volatile compounds – an organic chemical compound that has a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature.

The compounds present in honey make it plenty evident that honey helps in reducing pimple size. Most of its compounds are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory character. Also, darker honey has a higher value than lighter honey. Darker honey for skin is better as it contains the compounds in denser format. The ability of honey with respect to its antioxidant properties is related to how bright the honey is; therefore, the darker the honey, the higher the value of antioxidant.

Studies have shown that the phenolic compounds are the primary responsible factor for honey's antioxidant activity since the phenolic level is related to honey's radical absorbance. 

So, here's how honey can help with skin and acne issues: 

1. Reduction of pore-lining – Honey can reduce water content within the pore-lining as the sugar present in honey (about 69%) dries out water and in such conditions.

Propionibacterium Acnes, as mentioned before, acne-causing bacteria, cannot thrive in deeper surfaces of the skin. Honey works in a different form from antibiotics, where it attacks the bacteria's cell wall or inhibits intracellular metabolic pathways. Honey is hygroscopic, which means that it draws moisture out of the environment and dehydrates bacteria.

Its sugar content is also high enough to hinder the growth of microbes, but the sugar content alone is not the sole reason for honey's anti-bacterial properties.

2. Reduction of redness – Honey has calming compounds, fatty acids, peptides, amino acids, antioxidants and vitamin B that visibly help minimize the redness of the skin caused by acne.

3. Fading post-acne – the same calming properties also make up for the reduction of post-acne scars.

The remarkable debriding action (removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound) of honey that has been realized by many would also help in this by removing slough, which is an extremely rich source of bacteria to stimulate an inflammatory response.

An important part of this equation is the usage of raw honey. Processed honey miss out on many ingredients present in raw honey. Hence, these do not work quite the same way in reducing down pimples. Raw honey for skin is the way to go. 

Manuka honey for acne cure:

Manuka is a kind of Honey that shows up in a lot of skincare products. It is often hyped as a select type of honey that is produced in New Zealand from bees that pollinate from the country’s native Manuka shrub. For a jar of honey to earn the name of “Manuka Honey,” it must contain at least 70% Manuka pollen.

Manuka honey is close to the “regular” clover honey except, it is said to contain a chemical called methylglyoxal, which probably gives manuka honey an advantage.

Manuka honey can improve the way your skin looks. It can balance your skin’s pH level and help get rid of dead cell debris to keep your skin looking and feeling clean. It has an anti-inflammatory component that can decrease local inflammation and redness caused by acne. As an anti-bacterial, Manuka honey does leave fewer bacteria to infect pores and cause acne. This Honey can heal existing pimples, as well. The low pH helps in speeding up the healing of acne.

Honey for Acne Cure - Myths Busted

With the plethora of natural ingredients that are supposed to cure acne, there is a lot of misinformation. The same lies with honey for acne cure. So, here are myths related to Honey for skincare completely busted:

  • Myth: Honey is chemical-free!
    Truth: All natural ingredients are made up of numerous chemicals. Most types of honey itself contain over 100 types of chemicals. There are both useful and harmful chemicals in all natural ingredients and in honey, the goodness lies in the amino acids, antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids, polyphenols and minerals. A part of Honey, however, breaks down to hydrogen peroxide that is harmful for the skin. 
  • Myth: Honey is excellent for sensitive, allergy-prone skin.
    Truth: Even with the calming effects that honey has on the skin, the pollens and protein from bees that are naturally present in all types of honey can cause allergy for some people. Even though the risk is low, honey does not get a clear pass for sensitive skin. 
  • Myth: Raw honey is the best honey for acne; raw Manuka honey for acne is what to buy.
    Truth: Research hasn’t shown that there is any one type of honey that is better or superior for acne or any other skin concern; however, processed honey (the kind sold in most grocery stores) does not have as many beneficial substances. 

nterestingly, research has shown that the antimicrobial potency of honey varies significantly. Its effectiveness depends on where the honey has been sourced from, the health and harvesting method of the plant, the season in which the honey has been sourced, and how the Honey stored.

Like most natural ingredients, honey is delicate and requires packaging that eliminates or mostly minimizes its exposure to air and light. 

The Takeaway

Honey for acne can:

  • Reduce the size of acne.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce the marks caused by acne.

Honey for skin cannot, however, get rid of acne entirely or forever.