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How Sweet It Is: Honey in Skincare

Honey! You already love it stirred into a cup of hot tea or drizzled over your morning toast, but did you know that raw honey is a great addition to your skincare routine?

Known for its healing properties, honey has been used medicinally for centuries. Particularly beloved by the ancient Egyptians, they incorporated honey into their cosmetics and skincare. Cleopatra was known to soak in a bath of milk and honey to keep her skin smooth and supple. Serious bath goals.

But why and how is honey helping our skin? Maybe most importantly, honey is a humectant, which means that it draws in moisture and locks it in place. It’s also naturally antibacterial and antifungal, making it a popular treatment for wounds. This comes in handy for acne-prone skin - using honey as a spot treatment can be a great way to help aid in the healing process. Honey even contains small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which can help to brighten the appearance of dark spots or scars. It’s packed with antioxidants, which can help fight against the damage of free radicals. Even the enzymes found in honey act as a gentle exfoliant to gently slough away dead skin.

It’s important to note that not all honey is equal. Some recent studies have found that a frightening percentage of honey found in American grocery stores had been adulterated, or micro-filtered to remove all traces of pollen. The pollen itself is not very integral to honey, but it IS the only marker to indicate an actual bee-made product, and not a manufactured sugar syrup. One way to ensure your honey is the real deal is to always buy local and raw. Remember that real honey may be cloudy, or crystallized - those are marks of real honey and never defects.

When it comes to honey in skincare, raw is a very important factor. Honey that’s been heated past 104 degrees Fahrenheit will not contain the beneficial enzymes mentioned above - which are responsible for the wound-healing and exfoliating properties. It will still be a humectant, and will still taste fine on your biscuits, but it wouldn’t be the powerhouse skin salve without those enzymes.

To supply honey for our products and our own homes, we’ve tapped two great Chicago beekeepers. Bike a Bee Honey is a female-operated organization led by Jana Kinsman, who maintains more than 50 hives on the south and west sides of Chicago (by bicycle!) and extracts the honey herself. Get a jar of her limited supply at farmer’s markets across Chicago, or find it in some of our products: our honey all-over butter, honey rose lip butter, and honey rose soap all use Bike a Bee. We also carry retail jars of honey from The Hive, Chicago’s only beekeeping supply store, and local beekeeping operation. We always have a jar handy for cooking and at-home skincare.

Ready to incorporate honey into your skincare routine? The mask recipes below are a great place to start. 

Raw honey mask

That’s right - a straight honey mask is the simplest way to speed healing and calm irritated skin! Grab a jar of your favorite local and RAW honey, a small spoon or mask brush, and a towel to cover the collar of your shirt (in case of drips!).

Apply a full layer of honey to freshly clean, dry skin. Avoid the eye area, and anything too close to the hairline. The heat from your face may cause some melting and dripping - that’s where the towel comes in - but it’s way less weird than it sounds. 

After 15 minutes or so, rinse at the sink with warm water. Honey dissolves completely and will rinse totally clean - no need to wash again with soap. Moisturize immediately, finishing with a face oil to lock in those great effects. Repeat as often as you like!

Sea mask with banana, oat milk + honey

Oat milk and raw honey moisturize and soothe, while the sea mask gently exfoliates. The fresh banana provides vitamins A and C!

Start with all your wet ingredients - mash up a quarter of a banana until it forms a chunky paste. Add a tablespoon of oat milk (you’ll always need some liquid) and a swirl of raw honey, stirring to combine. Gradually add sea mask, stirring until all liquid is absorbed and the mixture forms a thick, glossy paste. Small clumps are ok!

Apply to clean skin with upward and outward strokes, leaving space around the eye area. After 10-15 minutes, remove with warm water (or a hot towel) and moisturize. 

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