Advice from someone who already does
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Last month, my friend texted me that she was washing her face with raw honey. She said it made her skin clearer and softer. I can’t stop thinking about it. I definitely eat honey at least once a day, but, save for a DIY face mask at a sleepover in middle school, I can’t say I’ve ever put it on my body.

Honey, and more specifically raw honey, has been used for thousands of years as a topical and oral medicine, but only recently has it been scientifically proven to be antimicrobial and antiseptic. These newly-realized antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties all suggest the condiment would do just as well on your face as it would in your morning bowl of Greek yogurt.

“I was getting tired of trying prescription after prescription and acquiring an endless supply of chemicals to rub onto my face,” said my friend Emily Schostack, when I asked about her now daily honey face-washing routine. “I read about using raw honey a few months ago and decided to give it a try. It didn't make any less sense than rubbing a bunch of mystery ingredients into my skin on a daily basis. Worst case scenario, I use it in my tea if it didn't work for my face.”

After using raw honey daily for about two months, Schostack says her face is “softer and smoother than it has been in years.”

Credit: Photo by Rebecca Firkser

After such a ringing endorsement, I was tempted to try it out myself. But having recently applied a new moisturizer to my face and watching my skin almost immediately turn tomato-red and blazing hot, I’m suspicious of trying anything out of my ordinary skincare routine—even a natural wonder-product like raw honey. I figured I should take my quest to an expert.

“I think it is hard, practically, to wash one’s face with honey,” Cybele Fishman, a New York City-based Dermatologist, told me in an email. “My favorite uses for raw honey are as a spot treatment for acne, or as a mask used once or twice a week.”

The primary practical concern with using honey as a face wash is that it doesn’t contain makeup-removing properties, so people who wear makeup during the day would have to first take off their makeup with a different cleanser, facial oil, or makeup remover before washing their face with honey. However, Fishman is definitely a proponent of implementing honey in a skincare routine—and emphasizes the importance of buying raw over commercial honey.

Fishman explained that since commercial honey is pasteurized and filtered, it has a longer shelf life and makes the condiment clear (raw honey tend to be a bit cloudy). “However, pasteurization and filtration will remove any of the antioxidants and polyphenols which make honey anti-inflammatory and it may change the antibacterial properties of honey,” Fishman told me. “In addition, filtration removes the pollen, which in and of itself has vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.”

When selecting a raw honey, Fishman prefers New Zealand Manuka honey, because it’s regulated by the government, but the associated costs, as well as importing means that it can be significantly more expensive than other options. For example, an 8.8-ounce jar of Wedderspoon 100% Raw Premium Manuka Honey is $24.99 on Amazon, while a 16-ounce jar of Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Raw & Unfiltered Honey is is $12.49. Manuka’s skin benefits may be nominally better than any other raw honeys, but after my friend’s endorsement of 365 Organic Mountain Forest Raw Honey, a non-Manuka raw honey which costs about $6.50, I might have to give it a try.