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Some of the world’s top beauty ingredients aren’t made in a lab — they’re found in nature in plants, fruits, and herbs.

Many natural ingredients are packed with healing properties and healthy benefits. But even natural ingredients can have side effects. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it can’t harm you.

Honey and lemon are both popular natural ingredients that can be found in various beauty and health products. But are they safe to use on your face?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits and possible risks of using honey and lemon on your face, and when it may be best to use alternate ingredients in your skin care routine.

Cultures around the world have used honey on their skin for thousands of years. According to research on honey, this natural ingredient has several beneficial properties:

  • Antibacterial. A 2016 study found that honey can kill a number of different types of bacteria. Because bacteria in your skin can cause pimples, using honey on your face may help reduce breakouts.
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. A 2014 study showed honey contains flavonoid and polyphenol compounds that help it act as an antioxidant. When applied to the skin, honey has been shown to reduce the activity of inflammatory compounds. This may help to lessen skin redness and irritation.
  • Exfoliating. Honey contains natural enzymes that may help remove dead cells on the skin. This is one reason honey may be a good choice as a natural exfoliator for your skin.

There are many types of honey you can buy. Some of the best options for your skin include:

  • Raw honey, which is honey that hasn’t been processed or pasteurized. It has higher levels of nutrients and minerals than processed honey, but may not be as safe to eat.
  • Manuka honey, which is derived from a Manuka bush that grows in New Zealand. This type of honey is especially high in antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help treat acne.

Although honey is usually safe to use on your face, some people may be allergic to it or its components. You may be more likely to develop a reaction to honey if you have a known allergy to pollen or celery.

If you’re unsure about your sensitivity to honey, you may want to do a patch test on your skin before using it on your face. To do a patch test, follow these steps:

  • Apply a drop of honey to a small patch of skin.
  • Wait 24 hours.
  • Check your skin carefully after 24 hours for signs of redness, irritation, swelling, or itching. If your skin doesn’t show any of these signs, it’s probably safe to use honey on your face.

Due to its stickiness, honey can be more difficult to get off your skin compared to other ingredients. Be sure to wash your face thoroughly, without rubbing or pulling your skin. Be gentle and wash your face several times with lukewarm water to get all the honey off your face.

Before getting into the purported benefits of using lemon on your skin, it’s important to note that lemon contains natural fruit acids that can sting, irritate, or burn your skin.

That’s why many skin care experts are wary about using lemon on the face, and some believe it has more drawbacks than advantages. We’ll discuss more about the potential side effects in the next section.

According to research, lemon juice has the following properties:

  • Antioxidant. Lemon juice naturally contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that may help reduce skin damage and premature aging.
  • Astringent qualities. Due to its high pH levels, lemon can decrease oil on the skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Antifungal. A 2014 study suggested lemon juice may have antifungal properties, including the ability to kill off Candida fungus strains on the skin.
  • Skin lightening. Lemon contains acids that have the ability to naturally lighten the skin, including age spots and acne scars. However, there are prescription creams that are more effective than lemon.

Lemon has a very low pH level, which makes it very acidic. Applying it to your skin can cause several side effects. Some of the possible side effects include the following:

  • Skin irritation. This is the most common side effect of using lemon on your face. Because it’s highly acidic, lemon may cause dryness, flakiness, redness, and peeling. These side effects can be more severe if you have sensitive skin.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight. Known as phytophotodermatitis, this is a type of skin reaction that occurs when citrus fruits on your skin are exposed to sunlight. It can cause swelling, redness, and blister-like patches on your skin.
  • Leukoderma. Also known as vitiligo, this skin condition can cause large white spots to develop on the skin. Using lemon on the skin may increase the risk of this condition.
  • Sunburn. Using lemon on your skin can increase your risk of sunburn.

If you have sensitive skin, skin care experts recommend not using lemon on your skin, especially on your face.

Some natural ingredients that may be a safer option for your skin than lemon include:

If you aren’t sure how your skin will react to the acidity of lemon, you may want to do a patch test on your skin before using it. To do a patch test, follow the same steps as outlined above for a honey patch test.

Honey and lemon may be safe to use together if:

  • you have done a patch test of both ingredients and have not developed sensitivities to either ingredient
  • you know you won’t be spending time in the sun soon
  • you only use a small amount of lemon juice

If you have oily skin, the ingredients in this face mask may help absorb excess oil and tighten pores.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon of raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 egg white

Directions

  • Combine the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes. You’ll know it’s mixed well enough when the components are foamy.
  • Use your fingers or a small, clean brush to apply the mixture to your freshly washed face. Avoid the eye area when you apply it.
  • Apply as thick a mixture as possible without letting it drip.
  • Allow the mask to dry for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove it earlier if you feel the mask has dried and tightened on your skin.
  • Rinse your skin with warm water or by using a soft, wet washcloth.
  • Pat your face dry. Apply a light moisturizer.

You can use other combinations of lemon juice and honey to create face masks for different skin conditions. You’ll follow similar steps to the mask recipe listed above, just with different ingredients.

  • Mask for acne-prone skin. Mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Mask for hyperpigmentation. Mix 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt, and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Mask for reducing skin inflammation and redness. Mix two tablespoons honey, juice from one lemon slice, and one teaspoon of cinnamon. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.

Both honey and lemon are natural ingredients that have many healing properties. Of the two, honey is typically safer to use on your skin than lemon. It’s gentler, more nourishing, and less likely to cause a reaction.

Lemon is highly acidic and can cause skin irritations, dryness, and sun damage, especially if you have sensitive skin. They key to using lemon safely is to only use small amounts on your skin.

Also, be sure to do a patch test on a small area of your skin before applying either lemon or honey to your face. Do not use either ingredient if your skin becomes red, swollen, or itchy from the patch test.