As beauty editors, we’re pretty game to try most new (or old, but now trendy) beauty activities—especially if they promise amazing results, aren’t invasive, and don’t cost a ton of money. That’s why I jumped at the chance to go all-natural by using honey as a cleanser. I looked at it as an opportunity for me to “reset” my skin (or so I thought), and in a way, detox it from unnecessarily harsh chemicals I was putting on it. After all, if some of these beauty rituals worked for women in centuries past, something has to be good about it, right?
Replacing my facial cleanser with honey was in my eyes the equivalent of switching my shampoo to co-washing or perhaps doing an apple cider vinegar rinse (both of which my hair did not hate at all). After thoroughly reading up on the benefits of putting honey on your face and the best way to honey wash, I picked up a jar of Manuka honey from my local grocery store and stashed it in the medicine cabinet, with this question looming in the back of my head: Is honey good for your face?
The Benefits of Honey
First of all, you might wonder why anyone would wash their faces with honey to begin with. Honey contains superior antibacterial, probiotic, and healing properties and is super nourishing and hydrating. If you have any skin care ailments ranging from eczema to acne, honey can help heal them as well as minor wounds. There are, however, all different kinds of honey, depending on which flowers the bees feed on to create it. This is generally denoted in whatever the honey’s name is (orange blossom honey, sage honey, etc). And yes, it does matter what kind of honey you use for your skin—namely it needs to be raw and unfiltered. Organic and “all natural” don’t necessarily mean the honey hasn’t been processed, removing all the good bits with antioxidants and nutrients. I chose Manuka honey because it has the most anti-bacterial properties (great to test on the weird dry patches that had suddenly sprung up on my face at the time).
How To Cleanse With Honey
Basically you wash you face with honey the same way you would with any cleanser. Get your face wet, take a dollop of honey, and smear it on. Raw honey tends to be thicker (and in Manuka’s case, VERY thick), so it’s really difficult to spread it on dry skin. Once your apply it to wet skin, though, it tends to get much more slick. Your next step is to rinse. Honey actually rinses away with water cleanly. It doesn’t leave you feeling sticky or goopy. After patting my face dry with a towel, my skin felt REALLY soft and plump.
Honey is not the best makeup remover, however. You’ll have to resort to other means for that. At night, I would remove makeup and dirt with by rubbing an oil combo (generally jojoba, argan, and sweet almond oil) all over my face and wiping off with a hot damp washcloth—AKA the oil-cleansing method. The whole point of this skin care switch was to use natural, non-soap means to care for the skin on my face.
Fast forwards to about three weeks. My skin was the softest it has probably ever been, and the dry patches were no where to be seen or felt. I hadn’t experienced any blemishes while washing with honey, save for the tiny cystic bumps on my chin that liked to hang out below the surface of my skin the week before my period every month.
The only catch? This skin care method doesn’t really do much in terms of exfoliation. I tend to favor chemical over manual exfoliation since it’s gentler on skin and can really get down to the pore. Oil cleansing and honey washing, as nourishing and hydrating as they are, didn’t do me any favors in terms of clearing my skin of dead skin cell debris or everyday pore-clogging dirt and makeup. If you never wear complexion makeup, this may not be an issue for you.
The pros of washing your face with honey definitely outweigh the cons, especially if you’ve managed to find a certain type of honey that really works with your skin. You get smooth, plump, and soft skin—free of synthetic chemicals. The only glaring cons are perhaps that depending on your honey choice, it can be expensive (Manuka is probably the most expensive kind of honey and mine was about $25 for a 6 oz. jar). Also, it’s not the end-all-be-all of skin care, considering you still need some form of exfoliation if you want your clearest skin yet. Since honey wasn’t made to sweep literally every dirt and oil particle from your skin, you may find the natural residue a bit unnerving, even if it is fairly undetectable.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2015.