A few months ago, Reddit’s beauty threads exploded with users talking about a new natural home remedy: raw honey. Several users on the Self.Acne board credited it with curing their skin, posting before/after pictures. As is wont to happen on a Reddit thread, other commenters weighed in—1,877 of them, to be exact.
Some called the honey usage a Reddit Internet myth, while others clarified that it was only manuka honey, applied topically, that was effective at reducing the appearance of acne scars and decreasing the size of cystic acne bumps, overnight.Since 1892, honey has developed a well-known reputation for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, even used as a wound treatment in ancient Egypt. Manuka honey, specifically, is collected from honeybees who forage New Zealand and parts of Australia for the manuka tree. Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, Cosmetic Dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery, explains that it differs from regular honey because it contains “a high concentration of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, [more] than other types of honey.” Studies show that manuka honey is reported to inhibit more than 80 species of bacteria, although scientists aren’t clear on why that is just yet.
While not doubting that anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of manuka honey can have a “softening and calming quality” on the skin, Dr. Frank is doubtful about its Reddit reputation as an acne treatment. “It is merely a ‘band-aid’ [for acne] that has more to do with a bacteria in the skin that can be internal. Using a more calming product [like honey], however, as part of your skincare regimen is beneficial to calm acne, but it is definitely not a solution or cure,” he clarified.
Ni’Kita Wilson, YouBeauty’s Cosmetic Chemistry Expert, validated that because of manuka honey’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can help with reducing the appearance of acne. “I would say that it should be applied topically so the honey can come in direct contact with the skin to have a better chance at soothing the inflammation associated with acne.Dr. Frank’s advice is to use it as “salve on a healing wound (once closed) or a dry or itchy patch of skin.” Wilson adds that it can also be a replacement for Neosporin on minor wounds and used in minor ways to soothe inflammation (like in the case of having sensitive gums from gingivitis).
But in the case of treating acne with manuka honey, it sounds like it falls in line with every other acne treatment out there—it will work for some people but not for others, and it all comes down to trial and error to find out what works for you.