Honey is one of the most interesting ingredients in hair and skincare. The fact that honey is produced by bees, and can survive centuries in Egyptian tombs and still be edible (although I wouldn’t try it) is incredibly amazing, but what really makes honey such an interesting ingredient is how beneficial it is for hair and skin.
What is Honey?
Honey is a sweet, viscous liquid composed of fructose (40%), glucose (30%), sucrose (5%), and water (20%) created by bees from the nectar of flowers. As you know, it tastes about as sweet as standard baking sugar and roughly matches sucrose. It’s color can vary significantly, and its taste to a lesser extent, depending on the source of its constituent nectar. If bees primarily visit clover, for example, their honey tends to be lighter in color with a more mild taste. Dark, amber-colored honeys result from plants like orange blossom or buckwheat, and are more likely to have a deeper, richer flavor.
How is Honey Made?
You’ve probably heard before that honey is, more or less, bee vomit. But there are many small processes that nectar undergoes before transforming into the sweet, sticky treat on your table.
As bees visit flowers, they drink and swallow nectar (and pollinate plants along the way). This nectar is stored in a special extra stomach, where the nectar mixes with enzymes that ultimately help extend its shelf life. Once the bee returns to its hive, it regurgitates the nectar in its new form and passes it to another bee. This process repeats, with the nectar mixing with enzymes as it passes from bee to bee until it is placed in a honeycomb for long term storage. Bees fan this viscous liquid with their wings to encourage drying before being sealed up with beeswax to feed the hive come winter.
Honey in Skin and Hair Care
- Honey is a natural humectant, meaning it attracts water helping to keep your hair and skin moisturized.
- The mild nature of honey makes it a perfect ingredient choice for those with less-than-perfect skin. It is well known to improve the appearance of chaotic skin.
- Honey adds shine and softness to hair. Yes, it’s sticky, but when used in the shower or bath it really makes for a fabulous hair mask!
Honey is considered a moisturizing ingredient, and it also helps lock in moisture by acting as both an emollient and a humectant. Pure honey on its own may dry out the skin as it can pull moisture out, but it is traditionally just a part of formulations.
In hair care, it also acts as an emollient and humectant, leaving strands feeling soft and hydrated. It helps attract moisture to the hair, working to increase shine as follicles appear smoothed. This can also help to reduce frizz and strengthen hair, with the added benefit of moisturizing your scalp, too.
Honey can be found in a full range of skin care (lotions, creams, cleansers, face masks, etc.) and hair care products (shower gels, shampoos, and conditioners).
- Used at 0.5 to 5% in cleansers and emulsions
- Used at 10 to 15% in anhydrous products like ointments or balms.
Honey can be hard to work with given its stickiness, but low heat can help in mixing. It is recommended to keep its temperature below 40C (104F) due to the enzymes present. If you are looking for honey without the stickiness, try hydroxypropyltrimonium honey. You can learn more about it here. Or alternatively, buy your own USDA Certified Organic Honey.
Try our range of hydrating and soothing honey-based products.
Ready to try some honey for your skin or hair? Check out this easy to make and preservative free recipe for a great masque for either your face or hair!
Mega Moisture Honey Clay Mask
Equipment You’ll Need
Large glass Mixing Bowl
Latex or Nitrile Gloves
Measuring cups/spoon or scale
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy
Approximate yield: 1 Pound (16 oz)
Approximate cost per pound: $12.17
Suggested Packaging: 2oz Jar
Suggested retail price: $10 – $15
|Ingredient||Weight – (pounds)||Kitchen Measurements||Percentage by weight|
|USDA Certified Organic Honey||0.4118||¾ Cup||41%|
|Kaolin Clay||0.3765||2 ½ Cups||38%|
|Pomegranate Seed Oil||0.1529||1/3 Cup||15%|
- Place clay in your glass mixing bowl, then add the remaining ingredients. Be sure not to use metal utensils when making this masque as clay can react with metal.
- Put on your gloves, and mix together with your hands. This is really the easiest method but if you are uncomfortable using your hands, you could use a wooden spoon or spatula.
- While hands are still gloved, fill jars with masque.
- To Use for a facial masque simply apply a layer of the masque on your skin with either your fingers or a cosmetic spatula. Leave on for 10 – 20 minutes and rinse off. Follow with a toner to balance pH, serum if desired, and a facial moisturizer.
- To use for a hair masque, apply to clean, wet hair. Leave on for 20 minutes and rinse thoroughly. Follow with conditioner if desired.
Please note that this recipe has not been challenge tested for preservation efficacy. If you use this recipe for market sales, it is up to you to ensure the safety of the product.
1. Carter D. A., Blair S. E., Cokcetin N. N., et al. Therapeutic Manuka Honey: No Longer So Alternative. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016;7: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00569.
2. Burlando B., Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: A review. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2013;12(4):306–313: 10.1111/jocd.12058.
3. Fingleton J., Sheahan D., Corin A., Weatherall M., Beasley R. A randomised controlled trial of topical Kanuka honey for the treatment of psoriasis. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2014;5(3) doi: 10.1177/2042533313518913.