Can You Use Honey For Acne Treatment?

Everyone loves the sweet taste of honey, and as a natural sweetener it has a history of human use that stretches back thousands of years.

But, its use to people through the ages goes far beyond its culinary role.

Since the beginning of human history, people have traded it, bathed in it, and used it for medicinal purposes.

It’s been found buried in the tombs of Egyptian pharoes, the Romans used it to treat the wounds of their soldiers, and the great Carthaginian leader Hannibal gave honey and vinegar to his troops as they crossed the Alps with their elephants to invade Roman soil.

Few natural products have a richer or longer history.

In modern times, scientific research has supported the use of honey for the treatment of a range of health problems.

But, can you use honey for acne treatment?

In this article, we’ll examine the scientific evidence for using honey for acne, and take a look at how you can add it to your skin care regimen.

What Is Honey?

honey for acneHoney is a sweet and edible substance that’s high in fructose and contains a variety of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

The type commonly used for human consumption is produced by bees, and it takes over 60,000 bees and 2 million flowers to collect the nectar required to form 1 pound of honey.

It’s produced during the process of digestion of the nectar within the stomach of honeybees, who pass it orally from bee to bee until the partial digestion occurs. It’s then added to a honeycomb, which is eventually sealed with wax.

This honeycomb can be removed from beehives and the honey extracted from it by crushing it or using a honey extractor. It’s then filtered, which removes any beeswax or debris that is mixed up with the honey.

While it’s very popular as a sweetener for a variety of culinary dishes, desserts, and cakes, it also has a lengthy history of medicinal use.

Many of the claims about the health benefits of honey are as yet unproven by science, but there’s evidence that supports its use for:

  • Healing wounds and burns (1)
  • Suppressing coughs
  • Fungal infections
  • Gastrointestinal tract diseases
  • Eye disorders (2)

It’s also used in a variety of cosmetic preparations for the hair and skin, where it’s thought to provide moisturizing, emollient, and hair conditioning properties (3).


Is Honey Good For Acne Prone Skin?

No clinical trials have been conducted to examine the effectiveness of using honey to treat acne.

But, there has been a lot of study into its medicinal properties, some of which indicate a potential use.

It’s one of the most popular home remedies for acne, and there are many anecdotal reports by people who claim that it’s helped to clear their skin (4), so its ability to heal acne is worth further consideration.

How Does Honey Help With Acne?

Honey has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that could explain the results some people obtain by using it. Let’s take a look at these:


One of the most studied properties of honey is its antibacterial activity.

In one study, 477 samples of honey from a variety of sources in Australia produced results that showed that 57% of the samples tested had a level of antibacterial activity of potential use therapeutically (5).

This study concluded that it's largely the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the majority of these samples that give it this ability. However, some honeys, such as Manuka honey, showed antibacterial activity even in the absence of hydrogen peroxide.

Some of the other important ingredients in honey that have been found to contribute towards this antibacterial effect are methylgloxal, and a protein called bee-defensin-1 that's produced by the immune system of bees and added to honey as they make it.

Another study performed on human patients to assess the antibacterial effect of honey when applied daily to the eyelids of patients suffering from dry eye, showed a significant reduction in bacterial presence after 1 month and 3 months (6).

These studies didn't look at the ability of honey to kill the acne causing bacteria P. acnes, but in a study that examined the effects of medical grade honey against 7 different types of bacteria on the skin of healthy human volunteers, significant activity against all bacteria tested was demonstrated (7).

Until tests are done against P. acnes we cannot say for sure how effective honey will be, but there's a strong chance that it can kill this bacteria as well.


Clinical trials that have been conducted into the effects of honey when applied to wounds have shown that it has significant anti-inflammatory properties and a soothing effect (8).

Applying honey to the skin could help to prevent and reduce acne breakouts as it's an inflammatory disease.


Honey contains a number of phenolic, flavanoid, and proline compounds that give it antioxidant properties that could help to protect your skin from oxidative damage (9).

The oxidation of sebum in your skin's pores upon exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun is thought to be a very important stage in the formation of acne (10), and topical antioxidants can help to prevent that.


How To Use Honey For Acne Treatment

To get the beneficial effects of honey for the skin you’ll need to use a raw, organic honey, which is the best honey for skin care.

Honey that’s been processed, which often involves heating and the addition of water, or that comes from hives that are not organic and are treated with chemicals, is less likely to have retained its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

The very best results are thought to be obtained by using manuka honey, because of its high antibacterial activity. Medical grade honey is also available (11).

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Honey can be used to make face masks, scrubs, and as a spot treatment for acne and pimples. Here are some recipes that you can try:


Honey And Cinnamon For Acne

honey and cinnamon

Honey and cinnamon face masks are popular for acne treatment. Cinnamon has potent antibacterial properties due to the cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl alcohol, and cinnamyl acetate it contains (12).

Directions For Use:

1. Obtain a jar of ground cinnamon and a jar of raw organic honey.

2. Place 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 tablespoon of honey in a bowl.

3. Mix together.

4. Use your fingers to apply the mixture to your face.

5. Leave the mixture on your face for about 10 minutes and then wash off again.

6. Use the face mask daily.


Honey And Sugar Scrub For Acne

Honey and sugar can be used as a gentle exfoliant to help remove dead skin.

Directions For Use:

1. Get some raw, organic honey and a packet of brown sugar.

2. Measure 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of the sugar into a bowl.

3. Mix together.

4. Using your fingers, gently massage the honey and sugar mixture into your skin.

5. Do this for about 3-5 minutes.

6. Rinse the mixture from your face using warm water.

7. Repeat daily.


Yogurt And Honey For Acne

There are probiotic bacteria in natural yogurt that are helpful for reducing acne (13).

Directions For Use:

1. Get a jar of raw organic honey and a carton of fresh organic yogurt.

2. Measure 2 tablespoons of the yogurt and 1 tablespoon of the honey into a bowl.

3. Mix them together well using a fork or spoon.

4. Apply to your skin using your fingertips.

5. Leave it on your face for 15-20 minutes and then wash off with warm water.

6. Use every day for best results.


Garlic And Honey For Acne


Some people use garlic for acne because it contains a high quantity of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties (14).

Be careful when using garlic on your skin as it can burn when not diluted sufficiently. Dilute the following recipe further by adding more honey if required.

Directions For Use:

1. Get a jar of raw honey and 2 cloves of garlic.

2. Peel the cloves of garlic.

3. You can either chop the garlic into small chunks with a knife and then crush it with the flat side of the blade, or use a garlic press to create a paste.

4. Scoop the paste into a small bowl.

5. Measure out 1 tablespoon of honey and add it to the bowl.

6. Mix the garlic and honey together well.

7. Apply the mixture to your skin using your fingers.

8. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes. Leave it on for less time if it feels uncomfortable.

9. Rinse the mixture off your face with water.

10. Apply 2-3 times each week.


Green Tea And Honey For Acne

Green tea contains polyphenolic catechins that are antibacterial and can kill P. acnes. It also contains EGCG that reduces sebum production (15).

Directions For Use:

1. Get 2 green tea bags and a jar of unprocessed organic honey.

2. Boil some water in a kettle

3. Put the tea bags in a cup and pour the boiled water to fill the cup.

4. Allow the tea bags to steep for 2-3 minutes.

5. Take the tea bags out of the cup, open them, and put the leaves in a bowl.

6. Measure 1 tablespoon of honey into the bowl and mix together.

7. Put the honey and green tea mixture onto your acne affected skin with your fingers.

8. Leave it on your face for 15-20 minutes.

9. Clean the mixture from your face using warm water.

10. Use daily.


Turmeric And Honey For Acne

Studies have shown that turmeric can kill the acne causing bacteria due to the curcumin it contains (16).

Directions For Use:

1. Purchase a jar of raw organic honey and a jar of turmeric powder.

2. Measure 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 tablespoon of honey into a bowl.

3. Mix them together.

4. Spread the mixture on the acne affected area.

5. Leave the mixture on your skin for 15-20 minutes.

6. Wash it off with warm water.

7. Apply this to your skin every day to see improvements.


Oatmeal And Honey Mask For Acne

Oatmeal contains phenolic compounds called avenanthramides that give it anti-inflammatory properties (17).

Directions For Use:

1. Get a packet of oatmeal and a jar of raw organic honey.

2. Measure out 1/2 a cup of oatmeal and cook it as per the instructions on the packet.

3. Put the cooked oatmeal into a bowl.

4. Add 1 tablespoon of raw honey and mix together.

5. Using your fingers, spread the oatmeal and honey over your skin.

6. Leave it on your skin for approximately 15-20 minutes.

7. Rinse it off your face again with water.

8. Repeat each day.


Neem And Honey For Acne

Neem has antibacterial properties that can kill the acne causing bacteria (18,19).

Directions For Use:

1. Get 20 neem leaves and a jar of raw organic honey.

2. Crush the leaves in a pestle of mortar to form a paste.

3. Put the paste in a bowl.

4. Add 1 tablespoon of honey to the bowl.

5. Mix the two together.

6. Apply the neem and honey mixture to your face and leave for 15-20 minutes.

7. Wash it off your face again.

8. Use this treatment every day.


Side Effects And Precautions

  • Before using a preparation using honey for the first time, spread a small amount on your wrist to check how your skin reacts to it and to make sure you're not allergic to anything.
  • Don't use honey if you have a pollen allergy.
  • Not to be used by women who are breastfeeding, or on infants under 12 months of age (20).


Final Thoughts

Honey has a long history of use in treating health complaints, but there are no clinical studies to prove its effectiveness in treating acne.

However, it does have proven antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that could help reduce and prevent this skin condition.

Its popularity as a treatment stems from the many anecdotal reports of success from using it in home made remedies.

If you choose to try it then it’s best to get a raw organic honey, or even better, a medical grade honey that will provide the strongest antibacterial effect.

Have you tried honey for acne? What was your experience?

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