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Manuka Honey Is the Natural Cure for Inflamed, Dull and Wrinkly Skin — Here’s How to Use It

Find out how hair can benefit from it too

Honey has long been touted for its healing properties — people have been adding it to tea for centuries to soothe the throat. Manuka honey for skin, though? This buzzy variant from New Zealand is just starting to hit its stride in the beauty world. And thanks goes to its special composition that makes it extra calming and healing when used on the face and body. But if you’re wondering where to start with manuka honey — how it works, the best way to apply it and why you should try it — you’ve come to the right place. We talked to four skin pros about how to use manuka honey for skin (and hair too). Read on for all you need to know about this sweet ingredient.

What is manuka honey?

honeycomb with honey surrounded by flowers

Manuka honey gets its name from the plant it’s derived from, which is native to New Zealand. “Manuka honey is produced from bees that pollinate the tea tree bush, sometimes called the Manuka bush [or tree],” says Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R Ph, a nutritionist, pharmacist and beauty chemist, who is the founder of Truth Treatment Systems skincare line. “All honeys result from the actions of bee biochemistry upon nectar gathered for different flowering plants. In this way, manuka honey is simultaneously similar to and unique from other types of honey.”

You might be wondering how manuka honey differs from any honey you’d find in the grocery store, at least composition-wise. According to Christina Uzzardi, an esthetician and founder of skincare brand Cheeks + Co., manuka honey “has a higher concentration of certain compounds, giving it more health benefits than traditional honey.”

For Colleen Poe, founder and formulator of Apo.Ge, a skincare brand with manuka honey as one of its foundational ingredients, it all comes down to manuka’s richness in methylglyoxal (MGO). “This organic compound is responsible for the pronounced antibacterial properties of this honey and is the main compound analyzed to determine the medicinal grade of manuka honey.”

The benefits of using manuka honey for skin

Woman touching her face

Think of manuka as a supercharged version of honey, at least when it comes to the skincare benefits it offers. “Like all honeys, manuka honey is a source of enzymes, hydroxy acids and vitamins that can provide skin benefits,” says Fuchs. But that’s not where this substance’s advantages end. Not only does manuka honey have antibacterial effects, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties said to be “more significant” than other honeys, according to Fuchs. And this is great for nourishing and healing those who have distressed skin. Below are a few skin conditions that can benefit from treatment with manuka honey.

1. It heals acne, wounds and sunburns

Uzzardi says manuka honey’s antimicrobial properties make it an “ideal treatment for wounds and healing, including acne.” For Poe, its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties can “calm sun-kissed and irritated skin while reducing redness.”

2. It treats certain types of dermatitis, psoriasis and dry skin

Erica Marie Gatt, esthetician and founder of the skincare line EM Skin, says manuka honey can soften and smooth, thanks to its chemistry as a humectant, which allows it to draw moisture into the skin to hydrate it. Manuka honey can also work wonders on irritated or inflamed skin, says Gatt. “It may help reduce redness and calm sensitive skin conditions, like eczema or rosacea,” she adds.

3. It reverses aging or dull skin

“Manuka honey also has a low pH that can help stimulate growth factors and skin cell growth,” says Fuchs. To that end, Poe adds that manuka’s high levels of polyphenols can provide some protection against fine lines and wrinkles that may be caused by free radical damage from the sun and environment. This helps skin look more youthful and glowing.

How to use manuka honey for skin

Clearly, manuka honey is hyped for a reason. Now that you know about all the pros it has to offer, the next question is how to best use manuka honey for skin. It turns out that you can apply it straight out of the jar as a spot treatment for a blemish or all over your face, like a moisturizer or mask for hydration. Either way, Uzzardi suggests putting Manuka honey on at night, when the skin goes into repair mode.

But Poe maintains that even using a quick maunka honey face mask once or twice a week, applied to damp skin before your normal skincare routine, can be effective. “Allowing the honey to sit for 15 minutes will boost hydration, soften rough texture and leave your skin with a healthy glow,” she says. As far as application goes, Uzzardi maintains that a little goes a long way, saying “all you need is a light layer.”

How to make a DIY manuka honey face mask

Manuka honey mask

Just like other honeys, the texture of manuka honey can be thick and sticky. So it can be mixed with other ingredients to make it easier to apply. Uzzardi recommends adding in a bit of oil, like 2 tsp. of olive or avocado oil to 1 Tbs. of manuka honey and using a facial brush to coat your face evenly. Let sit for 15 minutes, rinse, then apply skin care.

Fuchs has a simple recipe for a super spreadable DIY manuka honey face mask. “Try adding manuka honey into a blend of equal parts avocado, mashed banana and almond oil,” he says. “Add in some fruit or vegetable juice to improve consistency. And mixing in a little egg white powder can contribute a tightening effect.” For exact amounts, try mixing ½ Tbs. each of manuka honey, mashed avocado, mashed banana and almond oil, then sprinkle in 1 tsp. of egg white powder. Apply to a clean, dry face for 10-15 minutes, then rise and follow up with your skin care routine.

Depending on your specific skin concerns, Poe provides some more options for mixing up a manuka honey mask. “For extra antioxidant properties, you can combine manuka honey with matcha green tea powder,” she says. “For oily skin types, you can thin your manuka honey with your favorite essence [or toner], then mix in bentonite clay.” To make, start with 1 Tbs. of manuka honey, then add ½ tsp. of water, essence or toner and 1 tsp. of matcha powder or bentonite clay. Apply to skin for 15 minutes, then rinse and apply skin care.

Check out the below video from @PeachesSkinCare on YouTube to see more manuka honey face mask recipes.

How to pick a manuka honey for skin

Whether you choose to apply manuka honey straight to your skin or in some kind of a mixture, all versions of the honey aren’t created equally. “To target skin concerns such as breakouts, post-acne marks or redness, use at least a UMF 15 or 500+ MGO manuka honey,” says Poe. “Higher-rated manuka honey ensures more therapeutic results.” One to try: New Zealand Honey Co. Raw Manuka Honey.

And though manuka honey is safe for regular use for most skin types, if you’re allergic to bees or pollens, it’s best to steer clear of this substance. Always do a patch test on an inconspicuous spot of your skin before using anything new, and know too much manuka honey isn’t a good thing either. “Do not overuse them because it can lead to increased congestion or breakouts,” says Gatt. “Pay close attention to how your skin reacts.”

The best skincare products made with manuka honey

Don’t want to go the DIY route? There’s plenty of manuka honey-infused skin care products to test out. Keep scrolling to see the ones the beauty pros we talked to recommend.

Best manuka honey moisturizer

First Honey Manuka Honey Cream
First Honey/Amazon

First Honey Skin Therapy Cream

This moisturizing cream makes quick work of dry patches and parched skin on both the face and body. And some users have even had positive results using it for conditions like eczema and psoriasis. “I love how universal this product is, and the concentration of Manuka honey is very high — [it’s the] number two on the ingredient list in the formula,” says Uzzardi.

Best manuka honey body wash

Dial Body Wash With Manuka Honey

Dial Body Wash Manuka Honey

Enriched with real manuka honey, this gentle body wash leaves behind a sweet, nectary fragrance as it cleanses skin. You’ll also notice a softness post-shower, too thanks to the formula’s hydrating vitamin E.

Best manuka honey bar soap

Apo.Ge Bar Soap

Apo.Ge The Balance Bar

Don’t discount the sudsing and soothing power of old-school bar soaps. “Our handmade artisan bar soaps are designed to hydrate while lifting away impurities, without stripping your skin of moisture,” says Poe, the creator of this brand, which has manuka honey in all of its bar soaps. “Each formula is carefully curated to support various skin types. The Balance Bar is ideal for oily skin types, the Clear Bar is designed for anyone struggling with body acne and the Sensitive Skin Bar is perfect for eczema-prone skin.”

Best manuka honey night cream

Manuka Doctor Night Cream
Manuka Doctor

Manuka Doctor Night Cream

If you’re feeling extra dry, Gatt recommends adding a dab of manuka honey into your regular night cream or moisturizer. Or you can try this night cream that she loves. It pairs manuka honey with shea butter and avocado (for hydration) and rosehip oil along with bees’ royal jelly and venom (for tightening and radiance) so skin looks supple and youthful in no time.

Best manuka honey cleanser

Kiwi Botanicals Purifying Honey Melt
Kiwi Botanicals/Amazon

Kiwi Botanicals Purifying Honey Melt Facial Cleanser

“You can’t beat the price, and I love how gentle yet effective this cleanser is,” says Uzzardi. “It’s really good at gently removing makeup as well.” And since it’s made with manuka honey, it won’t leave skin feeling tight or dry post-cleansing.

Bonus: How hair benefits from manuka honey

The beautifying benefits of manuka honey doesn’t stop with skin — hair and the scalp can reap manuka honey’s healing properties, too. “I’ve seen manuka honey used to treat dandruff and scalp irritation,” says Uzzardi. “I also have clients who have seen increased hair growth from regular use.” She suggests using Manuka honey as a hair mask and thoroughly rinsing it out in the shower post-treatment.

Fuchs agrees, saying “the enzymes, vitamins and other bioactive compounds may help improve dry scalp conditions.” When it comes to the hair, though, his biggest issue is with the consistency and stickiness. “For ease of application and removal, it’s best to dilute manuka honey with significant quantities of water — 8 oz. per teaspoon of water is a good starting point.”

To learn more about how manuka honey benefits hair, watch the below video from @NappyHairNation on YouTube.

For more natural beauty remedies, click through these stories:

Why Everyone Is Buzzing About Matcha Benefits for Skin + How It Can Help Women Over 40

Natural Hair Rinse Recipes: The DIY Remedy Study-Proven To Reverse Thinning + Up Shine

Natural Ways To Erase Broken Blood Vessels On Your Face — Quickly and Permanently

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