More than just a natural sweetener, honey has long been used topically for a variety of conditions, from healing wounds to helping acne. Manuka honey is made primarily from the nectar of one type of flower from a shrub native to New Zealand, commonly known as tea tree or manuka. Found out the unique properties of manuka honey and why you should incorporate this special ingredient into your beauty routine.
Manuka honey offers antibacterial benefits superior to other honeys, according to Dr. Molan, Senior Lecturer of the Biochemistry Department at the Waikato University in New Zealand, who has spent decades studying the honey’s properties. The antibacterial compounds in manuka honey, called “inhibines,” continue working even after removal of the honey, according to an in-depth study, “Identification and quantification of methylglyoxal as the dominant antibacterial constituent of Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honeys from New Zealand.”
One benefit of honey is that it continuously produces hydrogen peroxide when in contact with a wound. “Regular” hydrogen peroxide loses its potency over time and, at full strength and in large amounts, can damage skin cells. Honey, on the other hand, produces just enough hydrogen peroxide to keep wounds clean without damaging skin cells.
Manuka honey also offers non-hydrogen peroxide anti-bacterial benefits. Dr. Molan calls this the “Unique Manuka Factor" (UMF).
Acne skin, especially, benefits from the antiseptic properties inherent in manuka honey masks. This honey can relieve the infection in pustules (pimples). It also offers antiseptic properties to blackheads. Janice Cox, author of "Natural Beauty from the Garden,” recommends soaking a cotton ball in warm salt water and holding it to the blackhead for several minutes. After that, apply a dab of honey to the spot for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dr. Molan found that manuka honey offers anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce scarring. Infection in blackheads and whiteheads often results from tearing in the wall of the follicle where the infection occurs. This tearing, as well as picking at the sore, can cause scarring. By lessening the associated inflammation of the infection, manuka honey masks may help eruptions heal without scarring.
Free radicals have been linked to visible signs of aging. These highly unstable molecules can damage cells, according to the National Institute on Aging. Manuka honey has been shown to offer antioxidant properties that bind up and neutralize free radicals.
Janice Cox, in her book “Natural Beauty at Home,” promotes the humectant benefits of honey. By binding water to the skin, honey masks can moisturize skin. Milady’s Skin Care and Cosmetic Dictionary adds that honey creates a watertight film that permits skin to rehydrate itself.
- Acadamia.edu: What's Special About Active Manuka Honey
- Milady's Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary; Natalia Michalun
- Natural Beauty from the Garden; Janice Cox
- New Zealand Plant Conservation Network: Leptospermum Scoparium Var. Scoparium
- srekapi/iStock/Getty Images