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Can Honey Truly Stop Acne?

Honey has been used as a skin treatment for thousands of years, especially in the Middle East. Honey has such potent antiseptic powers that it is even used as a surgical dressing by plastic surgeons in the United States, and it can also play an important role in your fight against acne. The best kind of honey for treating acne and other skin infections, however, is Manuka honey, imported from New Zealand.

acne and honey
Honey can help reduce inflammation, as well as kill the bacteria on the skin.


  • Honey is a natural acne treatment that can help cure acne in two different ways. Eating honey reduces sensitivity of the skin. Using honey masks and honey bandages kills bacteria on the skin.
  • The best kind of honey for treating acne is manuka honey, collecting from bees that feed on tea tree bushes on the east coasts of Australia and New Zealand.
  • Manuka honey contains a compound called methylglyoxal that fights many kinds of infections.
  • Manuka honey becomes more liquid if it stirred. A manuka honey mask is more likely to drip if you talk while you are wearing it.
  • Manuka honey only comes from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Greek and Turkish honey are also great for reducing inflammation of the skin.
  • Any locally produced honey may help reduce inflammatory reactions of the skin.
  • Honey is a great way to complement daily skin care with a complete acne fighting system like Exposed Skin Care.

What Is Special About Manuka Honey?

Manuka honey is collected from bees that gather pollen from manuka bushes, also known as tea tree plants, growing on the drier, eastern coast of New Zealand. Most manuka honey is made by bees that gather pollen and nectar exclusively from this plant. The manuka flower makes a chemical called methylglyoxal, which provides infection-fighting potency to the honey whether you eat it or you use it as a skin treatment. You can apply manuka honey directly to your skin, or use manuka-soaked sterile bandages, or even take it as a nose spray.

Manuka honey has an unusual consistency. It is a thixotropic liquid. If you shake a thixotropic liquid, it gets thinner. If you let it stand in a jar, it thickens, even if the temperature rises. The advantage of thixotropy in skin treatments is the more you move, the more the honey is spread evenly over your skin. Manuka honey won’t dissolve in perspiration, and it won’t leak out of bandages.

So Do You Eat Manuka Honey Or Do You Put It On Your Skin?

Eating about a tablespoon (15-20 grams) of manuka honey every day is a great way to get your daily dose of natural antioxidants in a tasty treat. The quercetin in the honey will reduce your sensitivity to allergens, and slow down the reactions of acne-prone skin to stress.

Specially made manuka honey dressings (sterilized to make sure the honey is not contaminated) applied to broken skin help it heal. And manuka honey nose sprays help treat sinusitis. One of the strains of bacteria that causes sinusitis also causes impetigo and nasty pimples that drain clear yellow pus.

How to Recognize the Best Brands of Manuka Honey

There is so much demand for manuka honey that it is sometimes counterfeited. Manuka honey never comes from China. Real manuka honey only comes from the east coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

The medicinal potency of Manuka honey is measured in units called UMF. A UMF rating of 10 or lower tells you that you should use the product internally. It contains quercetin and other antioxidants that may “calm” acne-prone skin, and it may help you develop resistance to all kinds of allergies, but it does not contain enough methylglyoxal to kill bacteria on contact.

If your Manuka honey has a UMF between 10 and 20, it’s optimal for treating uncomplicated skin infections. A UMF over 20 is used in making surgical dressings. It’s OK to use Manuka honey that has a UMF of 20 or more, but you don’t need to pay a premium price to get it, because lower strengths of honey will work as well.

Sometimes Manuka honey is labeled in terms of “total activity.” It is better to buy brands of Manuka honey that are labeled in terms of UMF. “Total activity” is a measure of antioxidant activity that begins to degrade just as soon as you open the jar. UMF actually increases when you open the jar.

Legitimate providers of Manuka honey are registered with the Active Manuka Foundation, and their products carry the Active Manuka trademark.

How to Use Manuka to Fight Acne

The simplest skin treatment with manuka honey is a manuka mask. Use your regular skin cleanser, rinse, and pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Pour about 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of manuka honey into a bowl. With clean fingers, gently spread the honey over your entire face, including your forehead (but not your eyebrows) and over your jawline.

It’s not a good idea to try to carry on a conversation when you have manuka honey on your face, because muscle movement will make the honey run. Just let the honey dry on your face, and rinse off with warm water 15 to 30 minutes later. If you step outside and bees start following you down the sidewalk, then you didn’t get all the honey off. Be sure to rinse off the honey mask thoroughly, because you will be rinsing off dead bacteria with it.

If you have an especially nasty skin infection, you can treat it by loosely covering it with a prepackaged manuka bandage. Don’t try to use manuka with Bandaids. The combination of the honey under the cotton swab and adhesive of the bandage clogs healthy pores while you are treating infection under the bandage.

Will Other Kinds of Honey Also Work?

Almost any kind of honey will help fight redness and inflammation. Greek and Turkish honey products are usually very high in the plant chemicals that take the red out of acne. Any locally produced honey is likely also to be rich in quercetin that fights allergies.

You fight allergies by taking honey internally, that is, by eating it. The action of swallowing honey releases some compounds that stop allergic reactions in your nose and throat, and digestion of the honey releases plant compounds that circulate to the skin. It is best to consume honey between meals. Heating the honey, for example, stirring it into tea, does not affect its anti-inflammatory power. Eating honey once a day is ideal.

Fighting skin infection, however, is best done with Manuka honey. If you get good results from tea tree oil, you will get great results from Manuka honey, but you have to apply it directly to your skin and leave it there for at least 15 minutes. You can apply honey to your skin every day if you like—but the very first time you use a new brand of honey, be sure to test a dot of the product on the inside of your forearm to make sure you don’t have an unexpected reaction.

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CJ Reply

Okay, so I just got off proactiv and my face has basically exploded with breakouts! On a different website, it said to use apple cider vinegar mixed with water. After using for a couple weeks, it's gotten rid of scars, but the acne comes in waves where I'll have a few breakouts and the scars look irritated... Basically, I'm asking if there's anything better to use for that, thanks

October 25, 2014 at 12:50 am Reply
Beeac Reply

It's been my experience that acne is an 'inside out" problem. Please pay attention to your diet. Drink mineral water and anti-oxidant teas (you can use the tea bags on your skin too). Please avoid processed foods (fast foods, packaged cheese, anything with complicated ingredient lists). I have used a product called Arbonne RE9 Skin Toner. It works very well. It's about $40 (yikes, I know), but it is gentle and contains seaweed. It made my skin look and feel EXCELLENT so I recommend it. But try the natural remedies first and see if you can save money. Good Luck. I'll be praying for you.

November 14, 2014 at 2:33 am Reply

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