I Washed My Face With Manuka Honey for a Week—Here’s What Happened (and why it happened)
I read this story through and the reviewer made two critical mistakes:
Firstly she used a very poor quality Manuka honey without UMF certification (Manuka Doctor brand is not registered on the UMFHA website)
She only paid $21.00 for 250gm of honey. Immediately this tells me that it contained little or no measurable concentration of methylglyoxal, the principle antimicrobial compound present in high quality Manuka UMF honey.
Secondly she washed it off after only a very short time.
We advocate using Manuka honey UMF 10+ to UMF15+ and leaving it on the face overnight before gently washing it off with Manuka soap.
Using these recommendations we have seen absolutely outstanding results treating acne, eczema, rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis.
Admittedly, I’m late to the all-natural skin-care conversation. Plenty of people have been adding coconut oil and apple cider vinegar to their beauty routines for a while now. But I’m too scared to put oil on my pimple-prone face, and the potent odor of vinegar makes my nose hairs curl. That said, I did want to get in on that natural beauty tread, so I started researching natural cleansers, since I’m not particularly thrilled with the ones I have on my shelf. My glycolic cleanser is too harsh, and my foam cleanser isn’t tough enough on my oily T-zone. Like Goldilocks on a skin-care mission, I began searching for a natural cleanser that would be just right for me.
There’s even some research that suggests honey has antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. But what even is manuka honey? Native to New Zealand, manuka honey is a variety of honey with a high concentration of methylglyoxal (MG), a component derived from the nectar of manuka flowers. Though MG may be found in other types of honey, the compound is particularly rich in manuka honey, purportedly giving it greater antibacterial properties than other honey varieties.
Intrigued by the possibilities of this seemingly-wonder product, I enlisted the expertise of a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, Y. Claire Chang, M.D., of Union Square Laser Dermatology, and set out on a week-long honey cleansing experiment.
Dr. Chang suggested that I choose a high-quality honey with an appropriate formulation that wouldn’t clog my pores. After a bit of research, I picked Manuka Doctor Bio Active Honey ($21), a product certified as authentic New Zealand manuka honey by the UMFHA.
The first time I opened the jar, I was surprised. Manuka honey is almost mustard-colored and more opaque than the stuff I have in my pantry. I started with a patch test to make sure my skin wouldn’t have an adverse reaction. (Though I’m not allergic to bees or honey, it’s always better to be safe.)
Despite being viscous, the honey went on more smoothly than I expected. However, a little didn’t go a long way. I needed several large finger scoops to cover the surface area of my face. I smeared it around for thirty seconds and it felt slick on my wet skin. To my delight and shock, it rinsed off easily—nothing like the sticky mess I had envisioned.
For one week, I washed my face every night with manuka honey and took note of any changes in my acne, redness, and skin hydration. I did miss the lather of a traditional cleanser—somehow washing didn’t really feel like washing without it—but I was willing to forego the satisfaction of foamy bubbles if manuka honey worked as well as people claimed it did. Keep reading to see how my experience and the research stacks up against some common manuka honey cleansing claims:
First up: Can manuka honey do anything for my acne?
My experience: As luck would have it, I was honey cleansing the week before my period—pimple primetime—and curious to see how manuka honey would fare against my usual crop of stubborn zits. I was hopeful, but alas, I didn’t see much of a difference. The usual pre-period bumps came out to play and overstayed their welcome for 48 hours.
What the science says: The hard truth is that, despite all the amazing anecdotes I’d read, there’s not a lot of science to back up the claims that manuka honey reduces breakouts. “Though some in vitro studies suggest manuka honey can inhibit Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria associated with acne,” Dr. Chang says, “clinical research has failed to corroborate the benefits of honey as an acne treatment.”
One study did look at honey in humans and found somewhat disappointing results: For the study, published in BMJ Open in 2015, researchers gave all 136 participants with acne an antimicrobial wash to use twice daily for 12 weeks. Half of them also applied a cream containing kanuka honey (another New Zealand honey similar to manuka) after the wash for 30 to 60 minutes, while the other half just used the wash. Results showed that about 8 percent of those in the honey group and 2 percent of those in the control group showed improvements in acne over 12 weeks, which wasn’t enough of a difference for the researchers to conclude the honey did very much.
The verdict: If you have acne, you’ll probably be better off sticking to tried-and-true, evidence-based medications recommended by your dermatologist.
Next: Can manuka honey make my skin less red and irritated?
My experience: I have rosacea—an inflammatory skin condition that causes redness—and though it’s not severe, I do experience acute flare-ups now and again. At the start of the honey cleansing trial, my skin was exhibiting its usual degree of low-grade inflammation—a small rosy patch on my upper cheek. Unfortunately, after using the honey cleanser for a full week, there was minimal reduction in my redness.
What the science says: “Since rosacea may be triggered by Bacillus oleronius bacteria and the Demodex folliculorum mite, honey has been of interest as a possible treatment due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Chang says.
She notes a pilot study published in BMJ Open in 2015 in which 138 participants with rosacea applied either a cream containing kanuka honey or a control cream to their faces twice a day for eight weeks. Results showed that 34 percent of those in the honey group showed improvements in redness after eight weeks compared to just 17 percent in the control group, suggesting that the honey cream may have been more effective at reducing the symptoms of rosacea than a placebo.
For this reason, I again had high hopes that manuka honey could help my skin. However, I didn’t see much of a difference at the end of the week.
The verdict: I only used manuka honey for a week, whereas participants in the aforementioned study tried kanuka honey for two months with a twice daily application. Perhaps to see results, I would have to commit to a longer trial period.
One more test: Can manuka honey hydrate my parched skin?
My experience: During colder months, the dry air and heating do a doozy on my complexion. Despite my herculean efforts to keep my skin moisturized and hydrated, my face still gets uncomfortably dry. Testing the product in late fall when it was just starting to get cold, I was counting on manuka honey to bring some much-needed relief and praying it wasn’t just a desert mirage.
The day after my first honey face wash, I noticed something promising. The skin around my nose wasn’t peeling as badly. By mid-week, my whole face felt smoother, and I could apply my makeup with ease—my foundation spread evenly without getting trapped in the crooks and crevices of rough, flaky patches. Feeling optimistic, I took my honey routine one step further. On my last day, I gave myself a 10-minute honey face mask treatment. When the time was up, I rinsed it off as usual. The next morning, my skin felt saturated and silky smooth.
What the science says: Manuka honey may have some serious hydrating power. According to Dr. Chang, “manuka honey is a natural humectant due to its sugar component, which draws in and retains moisture, and may be a useful ingredient for moisturizers and emollients.”
The verdict: I was impressed. Plus, you don’t have to necessarily slather your face in actual honey to give it a shot—there are a bunch of skin-care products out there that contain manuka honey in some form. For instance, L’Oreal Paris Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Honey Night Balm, $21, contains a manuka honey extract, as does Ole Henriksen Moment Of Truth 2-In-1 Polishing Sugar Mask, $42 Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask, $56, and Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm, $62.
But beware that honey, like many botanical ingredients, can cause irritation or even an allergic reaction. So, especially if you have sensitive skin, this is something that should be introduced to your regimen with caution and possibly the guidance of a dermatologist.
After a week of testing manuka honey for various skin issues, I decided to continue to incorporate manuka honey into my weekly beauty regimen as a moisturizing face mask. One thing’s for certain, though—I’m a suds and lather gal, so my search for a perfect face wash continues.
As I said in bold type at the beginning, if you had followed our advice you would have achieved outstanding results.
As we have stated on very many occasions, by far the majority of honey sold around the world as Manuka honey is adulterated with cheap honey or corn syrup, it is NOT Manuka honey.
So our advice once again is listen to people who know about this - we have been selling genuine Manuka UMF honey for over 25 years and we stake our reputation on the quality of the honey and other Manuka products that we sell.
Genuine Manuka UMF honey is not cheap, it is expensive because of the demand from pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals and clinics around the world who will only buy certified honey to use in their products.