From royalty to reality TV stars, celebrities are once again turning in droves to a time-honoured ingredient—honey—for radiant skin and healthy hair. A long-standing beauty hero, this natural ingredient was a favourite of Cleopatra, who famously bathed in milk and honey to keep her skin soft and smooth.
Likewise, modern-day royal Kate Middleton turned to Deborah Mitchell’s honey-enriched before her 2011 wedding to Prince William. Since then, Kourtney Kardashian has revealed that she stocks her vanity with the honey-based skincare line Manuka Doctor, while her supermodel sister Kendall Jenner reportedly uses honey to treat breakouts.
And a slew of brands, from Garnier to Josie Maran, have launched honey-based products this year. All of which raises the question: what’s so new and exciting about beauty’s oldest ingredient?
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Beeline for bacteria
One currency factor is that manuka honey, produced in Australia and New Zealand, is now more readily available here. It’s derived from bees that feast only on pollen from the manuka plant, giving it additional antibacterial properties. Manuka is thought to increase honey’s ability to help heal wounds, reduce inflammation and banish acne. But even regular honey can yield some of the same benefits, according to Jennifer Hirsch, natural beauty expert and botanist for the Body Shop.
“Because the pH of honey is between 3.2 and 4.5, its acidity helps prevent the growth of bacteria,” she says. “Honey is also a really good humectant, which means it attracts water to the skin.”
Honey can exfoliate, smooth and brighten your overall skin tone and help skin heal too, making it a popular ingredient in at-home beauty recipes. Victoria’s Secret models Erin Heatherton and Lindsay Ellingson both use honey-based skincare concoctions to smooth and hydrate before a show, while radiant stars such as supermodel Miranda Kerr and actress Shay Mitchell take advantage of this superfood by adding it to beautifying smoothies and feel-good recipes.
Then there are the time-fighting properties. “Honey is loaded with antioxidants, so in a raw state, it’s a great tool for anti-aging,” says New-York-City-based facialist Joanna Vargas, whose celebrity clients include Priyanka Chopra, Julianne Moore and Karlie Kloss.
Vargas uses natural honey in her custom skincare blends to help treat her clients’ breakouts and diminish signs of aging. “I look for 100 percent raw honey because the enzymes are alive in there, as are the antibacterial properties,” she says. “And I always add a dash of honey to a mask for healing and refreshing the skin, especially if it’s seen a lot of sun.”
Honeycomb for your hair
Honey can also help your hair. Catherine Zeta-Jones is known to mix it into her haircare routine to keep her lustrous locks strong, shiny and healthy.
“Honey is a rich sugar that deeply nourishes the hair without wearing it down,” explains Roger Medina, official hair expert for Garnier Hair Care. “It also prevents split ends and breakage, as well as protecting hair from heat and sun damage.” You can even massage honey directly into your scalp to help stimulate circulation and relieve dryness.
A sweet supplement
But before you start hoarding jars of honey from your local farmers’ market and going the DIY route, consider the new formulations out there that have done the hard work for you. Just slathering honey onto your face and hair isn’t necessarily going to get results. For example, honey attracts but doesn’t contain much water. “So to really moisturize the skin [and scalp], you need to combine honey with other ingredients that are barrier enhancers and hydrators,” says Medina.
Plant oils like willow bark and sandalwood, aloe water and almond milk are go-to ingredients that work with honey to boost its overall efficacy. These ultra-hydrating hair and skincare blends are ideal for ramping up your end-of-summer beauty routine when your skin and hair need more nourishment thanks to the increased exposure to UV rays, heat and pollution. “It’s a really easy ingredient to work with because it’s beneficial for all skin [and hair] types,” adds Vargas.
All of which makes honey a sweet supplement to your regular beauty regimen.