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5 Ways Manuka Honey Can Completely Transform Your Skin for the Better

Photo by Liga Cerina/Adobe Stock Images

Whether you like to add a dollop to your tea or you often use it when you’re baking, honey is more than just a natural sweetener that’s kept in your kitchen; it’s also a valuable ingredient that serves up some pretty sweet benefits when it comes to your skincare routine. When it comes to clearing up acne, moisturizing, and even preventing premature signs of aging, honey is the bee’s knees—but before you start squeezing it out from the bear-shaped jar in your pantry and slathering it on your face, it’s important to read the label. Not all honey is created equal, and, when it comes to your complexion, there’s a very specific type of honey you’ll want to reach for to reap the hydrating, antioxidant, and anti-acne benefits: manuka honey. 

About the Expert: 

Joshua Ross is a celebrity aesthetician at Los Angeles hot spot SkinLab.

So, what is manuka honey?

There’s a reason it’s so coveted (actually, a lot of reasons). “True manuka honey is harvested from manuka blossoms, which only come from New Zealand,” explains Ross. “Manuka honey has higher concentrations of some of the more beneficial, naturally occurring pollen that exist in honey. It’s also higher in amino acids, has more propolis, and overall is more of a medical grade of honey.” Unlike the honey you add to your tea, the value of manuka honey isn’t really found in its flavor. “It’s about the concentrated benefits for health versus sweetening food and taste,” explains Ross.

The Many Benefits of Manuka Honey

1. It moisturizes

Manuka honey is basically a natural moisturizer. That’s because sugar is a humectant (aka it draws in moisture), and honey is made up almost entirely of the sweet stuff, which is why raw honey is often found in moisturizers and emollients. In the case of manuka honey, it’s also loaded with additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that go above and beyond to nourish, protect, and hydrate skin. It’s great for dry skin, and can even be used as a treatment for certain skin conditions, like psoriasis. 

2. It’s anti-inflammatory

Manuka honey contains anti-inflammatory properties which make it a valuable ingredient for fighting acne, reducing the size of a pimple, or soothing sensitive skin. Wondering what causes inflammation in the first place? A pH imbalance. Our skin is naturally acidic; however, it prefers to be in balance. When that balance off, your skin tends to show it through various forms of inflammation. “Manuka honey can help balance the pH of the skin,” explains Ross. “[A balanced pH] can help with inflamed, blotchy skin, redness, or stress-induced breakouts, which can be around the chin and the jaw.” Whether you’re suffering from a painful zit or contact dermatitis, manuka honey can help. 

3. It’s antibacterial

All types of honey have antibacterial properties, thanks to their high sugar content and low pH. Honey also contains hydrogen peroxide, a known disinfectant. But manuka honey takes all these factors to the next level with an antimicrobial compound called methylglyoxal (it’s even measured via what’s called the Unique Manuka Factor, or UMF). All of these factors combine to make manuka honey great for acne-prone skin, since one of the main causes of acne is—you guessed it—bacteria (but more on that later).

4. It has anti-aging benefits

If you want to improve the appearance of premature signs of aging caused by free radical damage (y’know, the kind from the sun and pollution), manuka honey will hit the sweet spot thanks to an array of antioxidants that benefit the skin in both the long and short term. We already know that sun damage is the primary culprit of premature signs of aging, and the antioxidants in manuka honey work to stop free radicals in their tracks before they ricochet and cause more damage throughout your skin. “The number one cause of aging, after exposure to the sun, is inflammation,” explains Ross. “Anything that can help reduce inflammation is going to have anti-aging benefits.” Still, it’s important to keep in mind what manuka honey does and does not do. “It’s not going to get rid of wrinkles, but by helping maintain the health, quality, and function of the skin, it will, in turn, help prevent the aging process,” explains Ross.

5. It speeds up the wound-healing process

If you have a bad cut or burn, manuka honey can speed up the repair process thanks to its incredible healing properties. “Manuka honey has also been used as a treatment for burns,” says Ross. That’s because it recruits fibroblasts, which are specific types of cells that release enzymes your skin needs for repair. It also serves as a barrier to lock in moisture, which creates the perfect environment for healing to take place, thus speeding up the process. 

How to Use Manuka Honey in Your Skincare Routine

Whether you’re on the hunt for a good cleanser, acne spot treatment, or moisturizer, you can do it all with one product: manuka honey. In fact, you can even DIY your own skincare products all while incorporating this major multitasker into your skincare routine. To use manuka honey as a cleanser, simply mix a dime-sized amount with a few drops of warm water in the palm of your hand. Allow the honey to emulsify, and then apply it on your face as you would a cleanser. Next, wash it away. The result? Clean, soft, smooth skin that’s instantly hydrated. 

If you want to banish breakouts, create your own acne spot treatment using the natural ingredient. Using a cotton swab or your pinky (don’t forget to wash your hands!), take a small dab, and apply it directly onto your pimple. Allow it to sit overnight, then wash it away in the morning to see your zit significantly reduced. The honey’s antibacterial properties are the hero here, as they help break up the gunk responsible for forming a pimple in the first place. 

Need more inspo? Turn your bathroom into your very own spa by creating a hydrating manuka honey face mask. Ross says this is a great go-to if you’re suffering from inflammation or hormonal, stress-related acne. Apply a teaspoon of organic manuka honey on your entire face, evenly spreading it around with clean fingers. Let it sit for 10 minutes before you gently rinse it away with warm water. 

Is Manuka Honey Right for You?

One of the most incredible things about manuka honey is how versatile it is for a variety of skin types. Since it has a variety of beneficial properties, practically everyone can benefit from incorporating it in their skincare routine without suffering from side effects. If you have acne-prone skin, for example, it’s antibacterial properties help prevent future breakouts. If you have dry skin, it can hydrate and moisturize your complexion. If you have sensitive skin or suffer from psoriasis, rosacea, or eczema, manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory properties can offer soothing relief. Just remember that while this skin-soothing ingredient can work wonders for a variety of skin types, it's always best to consult your dermatologist before adding something new to your skincare routine to ensure you won’t have an allergic reaction. 

The Best Products With Manuka Honey

If you aren’t into DIYing your own beauty products, the easiest way to incorporate manuka honey in your skincare routine is with products that already contain this amazing ingredient. 

1. Best for anti-aging: FOREO Manuka Honey UFO Activated Face Mask

FOREO Manuka Honey UFO Activated Face Mask
Courtesy of FOREO

If you want to give your skin a reset and help combat premature signs of aging, treat yourself to a spa day with this revitalizing face mask. It works to restore hydration to your complexion, leaving you with softer, more supple-looking skin. Your complexion will thank you. 

2. Best for banishing bad breakouts: ORIGINS Clear Improvement Charcoal Honey Mask to Purify & Nourish

ORIGINS Clear Improvement Charcoal Honey Mask to Purify & Nourish
Courtesy of ORIGINS

If you’re dealing with congested skin, look no further than this complexion-clearing acne treatment mask that uses a potent combination of manuka honey, salicylic acid, and bamboo charcoal to purify and hydrate. The formula draws out the deep-rooted gunk, pore-clogging bacteria, dead skin cells, and debris responsible for your pimples. It also works overtime to reduce redness and inflammation and minimize the appearance of zits to leave you with a clean, conditioned complexion. 

3. Best for dry, cracked skin: CANNUKA CBD Healing Skin Balm

CANNUKA CBD Healing Skin Balm
Courtesy of CANNUKA

If you have severely dry skin, give it the relief it’s craving with this nourishing moisturizer. It’s formulated with CBD, manuka honey, rosehip oil, vitamin E, and coconut oil to heal and repair the skin barrier while providing a huge dose of hydration. 

4. Best for brightening: KIEHL’S Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream

 KIEHL’S Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream
Courtesy of KIEHL’S

Dull, lackluster skin is never in style—so if you want to get your glow on, introduce this revitalizing moisturizer to your routine. It smoothes and moisturizes your complexion with manuka honey and red ginseng root, leaving you with glowing results after just one use. 

5. Best for chapped lips: MOROCCAN MAGIC Manuka Honey Lip Balm

MOROCCAN MAGIC Manuka Honey Lip Balm

Want to soothe dry, chapped lips? Transform your pout with this hydrating lip balm that’s made with manuka honey and argan oil to lock in moisture and nourish from within. 

Want to try the buzziest beauty ingredients like manuka honey and more? Be sure to sign up for the IPSY Glam Bag to try them before you buy. Simply take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
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Article Last Updated August 28, 2021 12:00 AM