Sometimes, when researching regimens and ingredients, I come across something I feel like I've been ignoring. For example, honey is trending right now, especially monofloral honeys, like manuka honey. I got sick of not knowing what all the bees were buzzing about.
Manuka honey carries with it a rating, or activity factor. Most things I have read suggest a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) of 10+ is ideal for everyday topical and internal use. Some sources suggest higher, such as 15+ or 20+, but my first foray into pricey honey capped the budget at $15.
Know this, however: a pound is a ton of honey. And also know this, manuka honey is far too disgusting to eat, in my opinion. I do ingestit in the form of a turmeric tincture-laden health shot just for funsies, but my main gig for this honey is hella soft skin and spot treatment GLORY!
It had never occurred to me just why manuka is so special. It was definitely hitting memory triggers in my brain. Manuka....luca......melaleuca! Only after purchasing had it dawned on me that manuka honey is a monofloral honey obtained from the legendary antibacterial and antifungal TEA TREE! This makes so much sense, it was as if I was smacked with a branch. Why this isn't shouted from the rooftops?!
Manuka honey is considered an "active" honey. All honey has hydrogen peroxide in it, which is created by enzymes that bees manufacture along with the sugars to turn into honey; all honey also contains methylglyoxyl, a bactericidal compound, but in very low concentrations. The magic of manuka honey is that the bees pass on the additional antifungal and antibiotic properties of the tea tree into their already nice 'n' antibacterial honey, creating more active hydrogen peroxide and methylglyoxyl. This makes manuka honey the subject of much study as a wound dressing, MRSA fighter, and acne "miracle" cure.
This is the first time I have ever used honey on my face. I did not splurge for the full pound, knowing that I was probably not going to be fond of the taste, which has been compared to elderberry and fig. But really, a small jar will do wonders if you mostly plan on using it for beauty purposes. Massive quantities of this stuff are not required to see results. I fill a small jar just for the bathroom out of the large jar in the kitchen once per week with a clean knife. (I cannot stress enough to not use the same jar of anything in the bathroom and in the kitchen. Oils, honeys, powders, anything--all a bad plan.)
The most common ways to use honey for skincare are as a cleanser, a mask, a spot treatment, and an additive to other treatments.
As a cleanser, I was not the biggest fan. First off, you need to have absolutely no makeup on your face when using honey as a cleanser. This is like twice the work. I can tell you my skin is leaps and bounds more moisturized, but even with manuka, acne reduction was minimal.
As a mask, manuka honey is a great way to moisturize. To get the active components of honey going, it needs to be slightly hydrated. Honey is hygroscopic, like glycerin, which means it can absorb moisture from the air. This also means to apply as a mask, it works best to mist your face with toner or rosewater first, and it makes it easier to spread around. The tiny amount of moisture paired with the air around you will wake up the hydrogen peroxide in the honey and allow it to go to work.
Here is a before, during, and after of a 15-minute manuka honey mask:
As a spot treatment, I think manuka honey really shines. To keep the mini pot in my potty free of contaminants, I use a clean Q-tip to grab a small drop of honey and apply it to any zits popping off. Always dip a new, clean, cotton swab in the pot of honey, but you can get five or so zits with each drop.
I put this on either a few hours before a shower or overnight. Pimples are always smaller and come to a head faster, and their flakiness is much reduced. Lately, my skin has been crappy, so this honey has been really helping me to treat those jerk zits.
A great way to combine the moisturizing and active treatment of manuka honey is to add a teaspoon into any mask you want! Another simple trick would be to mix a dollop with some vitamin C serum and apply under a mask. It's like a power play for your skin!
I used to only eat or drink honey, but my skin was really missing out. I wish they sold this stuff in tiny pots, because one would be enough for a few months of spot treating, and great for travel.
The upside is that honey, when properly stored, remains safe to consume for decades, even centuries! This must be linked to some crazy anti-aging benefits, but that is just me dreamin' for now.
Photos by Darnell Scott.