Centuries ago, Cleopatra was legendary for her savvy use of power as she ruled Egypt. She was also known for her unparalleled beauty, which she maintained with baths laced with honey. It turns out that the queen of the Nile was onto something. Honey is a natural humectant that attracts water to keep the skin hydrated. But thanks to modern science, we are discovering that this gift from the bees offers so much more-and it's creating quite a buzz among today's beauty mavens.
What It Is
Along with its ability to help the skin retain moisture, honey benefits the complexion with a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Honey also offers a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act like potent antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals. Generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys.
Of course, honey isn't the only skin-friendly ingredient bees provide. Royal jelly, used to feed larvae that grow into queen bees, contains a powerful antibacterial protein that effectively kills gram-positive bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus. A more important characteristic from a skin-care perspective is royal jelly's ability to boost collagen production. Collagen is the protein that creates the connective tissue that keeps our complexion firm and resilient. Since overexposure to the sun breaks down collagen, compounds that increase its production can be a valuable tool in our antiaging arsenal.
Did You Know?
The United States has more than 300 varieties of honey-more than any other country, says C. Marina Marchese, author of Honeybee.
What It Does
As skin ages, it becomes thinner and doesn't retain moisture as readily as younger skin. Enter honey, which attracts moisture from the air and locks it into the upper layer of the skin. But that's just the beginning of honey's beauty benefits.
Free radicals created by the sun's harmful rays, environmental pollutants, and certain chemicals can contribute to fine lines and wrinkles. Recent data suggest that applying antioxidant-rich honey can thwart the cellular damage that leads to this premature aging.
Honey is also a strong antimicrobial and antifungal agent that can help treat seborrheic dermatitis-the overproduction of oil that causes dandruff and flaky, scaly skin. One clinical trial of patients with chronic seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp, face, and chest reported significantly less itching and scaling after applying honey for just
Because honey is such an excellent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent, anecdotal reports suggest that it might also help people suffering from chronic acne when applied topically. Not only does honey kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it also encourages healing without scarring.
Honey may have a long reputation as a beauty food, but it has also been used for more than 2,000 years to heal difficult wounds-and with good reason. Researchers have discovered that the sweet stuff provides a moist healing environment, rapidly clears infection, stimulates the immune system, and reduces inflammation.
Taken orally, honey is not only a delicious addition to a variety of foods, it may also lower blood sugar, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and cholesterol levels in both diabetics and healthy individuals. Honey also promotes digestive health by enhancing the growth and activity of the probiotic strain bifidobacteria just as effectively as commercial oligosaccharides, such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides (often listed on labels as FOS).
Where to Find It
Honey has been used in cosmetics for centuries-and it can still be found in a multitude of products. The following products are a sweet way to introduce yourself to honey's many beauty (and health) benefits:
Queene Helene Oatmeal ‘n Honey Natural Facial Scrub adds honey to replenish moisture and protect skin, while the oatmeal works to exfoliate.
Burt's Bees Honey Lip Balm soothes dry lips with a smoothness and tingle that lasts.
Garden of Life Living Foods Hawaiian Lehua Honey is harvested only once a year and is left raw and unfiltered to preserve live enzymes and nutrients.
Himalaya USA Soliga Forest Honey supports India's native Soliga tribe and is packed with antioxidants and bioflavonoids.
Honibe Honey Drop fits perfectly in your pocket for sweetness on the go with no more sticky mess.
Kiss My Face Olive & Honey Soap combines two joys of life into one product for super moisturizing power.
Queen Bee Pecan Pearl Honey Candies covers crunchy pecans with Wyoming honey to create an addictive anytime treat.