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The short answer: It can.
Honey isn’t the magical end-all, be-all of curing acne and preventing future acne from ever popping up again.
But it is known to have natural antibacterial and calming qualities.
These qualities may help soothe inflamed acne blemishes.
Any kind of raw honey contains antibacterial properties, thanks to its enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxide.
Just make sure that your honey of choice is labeled as “raw.”
Raw honey may also be labeled as:
Honey that isn’t raw loses its antibacterial properties during the processing phase.
Maybe you’ve heard that Manuka honey is the best for acne healing.
While not widely studied, there’s
It’s thought that Manuka honey is still able to produce these properties even when hydrogen peroxide activity is blocked.
Honey’s main antibacterial effects may have to do with its high content of glucuronic acid, which gets converted to glucose oxidase.
On the skin, this oxidase is immediately converted to hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide functions similarly to other acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide.
Honey’s calming properties may stem from the combination of:
- vitamin B
- fatty acids
- amino acids
When applied to the face, these components can have a soothing effect and help reduce redness.
There’s some research, but there isn’t enough to support honey as an overall solution for acne.
Professionals have used honey to soothe a variety of wounds, including:
- pilonidal sinus
- venous and diabetic foot ulcers
The available research on honey’s role in beauty products suggests a wide range of uses in:
- lip balm
- hydrating lotion
- hair conditioner
- fine line treatments
One study found that honey can have effective antibacterial properties against staphylococci, a type of bacteria. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t the same bacteria that causes acne.
Honey is best for red, inflamed blemishes.
Rather than cleaning out the pore to remove dirt and impurities, the honey draws out excess water.
This means it isn’t the best option for treating blackheads or open acne.
Honey is also ideal for soothing red blemishes or deep-rooted acne spots that don’t have a “head” or opening on the surface of your skin.
You can apply the honey as a spot treatment to individual blemishes with a clean Q-tip.
If you want to DIY
If you’re aiming to soothe a large area of skin, you can certainly apply the honey as an all-over face mask.
Just remember to perform a patch test on a small area of skin, such as the inside of your elbow, to make sure you don’t experience an allergic reaction or other irritation.
Allow your spot treatment or all-over mask to sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
If you prefer a less sticky treatment, you can mix your honey with other ingredients like:
- ground oats
- brown sugar
- mashed bananas
Allow the mixture to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
There’s no need to wash your face again — warm water should do the trick.
Follow your honey treatment with the final steps in your skin care routine:
- sunscreen (SPF 30+)
If you want an over-the-counter (OTC) product
Not sure you want to go the DIY route? There are plenty of honey-based skin care treatments on the market.
The Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Mask (shop here) is a popular mask with a proprietary honey blend said to hydrate and deliver antioxidants to the skin.
If you have inflamed blemishes, Dr. Roebuck’s Tama Healing Mask (shop here) uses Australian Manuka honey to help soothe irritation and turmeric to help skin glow.
For those who aren’t sure they want to commit to a face mask, the SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Glow Getter Pressed Serum Moisturizer (shop here) combines honey with yogurt for a less intense treatment that melts into the skin.
Although honey has calming and soothing effects, this doesn’t mean it’s suitable for every person and every skin type.
Some skin types, such as sensitive skin, might get irritated by honey, propolis, or other bee products.
And if you’re allergic to honey, even the most trace amount in a DIY or OTC treatment can cause an adverse reaction, including a rash or hives.
Honey’s considered a by-product of bees, so it isn’t a viable remedy for people who are vegan or otherwise committed to minimizing the use of animal products.
As far as soothing and calming results, your skin should appear less red and inflamed the same day or the next day.
Because the healing and antibacterial properties of honey aren’t quite as researched, it’s unclear how long it may take for blemishes to fully heal.
If you don’t see results with continued use, it might be time to consider traditional acne medications or treatments.
- OTC topicals with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide
- prescription-strength topical retinoids, such as tretinoin (Retin-A)
- oral medication, including birth control pills and spironolactone
On the other hand, immediately discontinue use if you experience any of the following after application:
- worsened acne
- increased inflammation
If you’re looking for similar antibacterial effects, you can try using products with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
Tea tree oil is a popular natural alternative that may be suitable for oily or acne-prone skin types.
More severe acne blemishes might require prescription-strength medication such as Accutane.
One-time cortisone shots can be injected at a dermatologist’s office to quickly reduce severe blemishes.
To soothe irritation and calm redness, look into products with ingredients like:
Honey is by no means a magical cure-all for acne. However, it can have antibacterial and soothing effects that may curb irritation or redness caused by blemishes.
If you’re looking for an at-home remedy, honey might be a great place to start. But know that there are plenty of other options out there.
If you’re unsure about honey or have other questions, you may find it helpful to speak with a dermatologist to determine which treatment is best suited for your needs.
Jen is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network, or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.