This One Thing Can Fix Acne-Prone Skin—and It's Already in Your Pantry

close up of honey

Svetlana Cherruty / Getty Images


Okay, Byrdie readers, as much as we love coconut oil, honey is taking the spotlight in natural beauty remedies must-haves. This 100 percent natural product softens and brightens skin and its healing properties make honey a seriously underrated beauty gem, and we think it's about time it came into its own. If you've never thought of using honey on your face as a cleanser, you're in for a surprise. We spoke to dermatologists Dr. Ava Shamban, owner of Skin Five medical spas, and Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology to find out how this sweet D.I.Y ingredient works wonders for your skin. Keep reading for expert tips on how to incorporate honey into your skincare routine.


Type of Ingredient: Humectant.

Main Benefits: Antimicrobial, moisturizes and hydrates skin, soothes inflammation, and clarifies to open up pores.

Who Should Use It: All skin types should use it, but it is especially beneficial for dry, sensitive skin.

How Often Can You Use It: Usage depends on skin concern. It can be rotated in throughout the week as a treatment.

Works Well With: Honey can be used alone, however, it should be unpasteurized, natural, and active.

Don't Use With: Lemon, baking soda, cayenne pepper, or other pantry items.

What is Honey?

Honey has centuries-long credibility as a respected ingredient beyond kitchen use. "Chief among the benefits is the antimicrobial activity of many honey varieties—it kills bacteria living on the skin. This effect probably explains how honey came to be used traditionally as a wound-healing agent in many different cultures," says Howe. The sweet substance is produced by plant matter, enzyme activity, and live bacteria. According to Howe, what honey contains will depend in large part on what plant source the bees who are making it are using.

Honey is what's called a natural humectant (draws moisture into the skin). If your skin is in need of a hydrating boost, this is the perfect ingredient. It is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and acts as an anti-viral/anti-fungal.

Benefits of Honey for Skin

As Shamban describes, it is full of flavonoids, hydrogen peroxide, and phenolic acid dermal benefits. "Raw, unpasteurized honey is one of Mother Nature's power players you definitely want to have on your A-team to get the job done when needed."

  • Cleanses pores: Good news: Honey is naturally antibacterial, one of the reasons it makes for a great face wash. Remove dirt and debris with nothing more than a little raw honey—just add water.
  • Treat Acne: You can use honey as a cleanser to help prevent certain types of breakouts because of its anti-fungal properties. For a more potent effect, honey can be left on breakouts to help them heal faster.
  • Exfoliate Skin: Honey on its own works better as a cleanser as opposed to an exfoliator because of its smooth consistency. You generally won't find honey, even in its purest form, to be particularly granular.
  • Fade Scars: Honey contains trace amounts of hydrogen peroxide. This might give it mild lightening properties, which is particularly helpful when it comes to resolving pesky post-acne marks and hyperpigmentation.
  • Hydrates Skin: Honey draws moisture into the skin from the air. Applying honey on the face is a great way to keep your skin hydrated, glowing, fresh, and supple at all times.
  • Helps Skin Conditions: Howe shares, "One researcher has shown it to treat seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis." Raw honey can also soothe eczema.

If you have a blemish you'd like to nix, try dabbing a little raw honey directly on as a spot treatment. "It can be particularly beneficial for acne or blemish-prone skin. In fact, there have been clinical studies proving positive results both in lessening size and duration of blemishes," says Shamban.

Side Effects of Honey

It is important to know your allergies and how your skin will react to a new product. Allergies to bees, pollen, or bee venom can cause an allergic reaction to honey if it is contaminated. Both Shamban and Howe agree there are no expected side effects, but anyone can be reactive, allergic, or irritated. If there is a reaction after a patch test, discontinue usage. 

How to Use It

Make sure to apply the honey after wetting your face, or else it will be too sticky. Once it mixes with water, the honey's natural tackiness will be neutralized. Be careful to avoid getting the honey in or around your eyes.

Whether it's because of cold weather or the after-effects of using harsh cleansers, combat your dry skin with a honey face mask. Luckily, this mask only needs one ingredient. Take a tablespoon of honey and spread a thin layer on damp skin. Leave it on for about 20 minutes before washing off. You'll find your skin is left instantly nourished.

The Best Products With Honey

honey for face
Kiva UMF 20+ Raw Manuka Honey $65.00

Shamban suggests a raw form of manuka honey from New Zealand as manuka honey is antibacterial and bacterial resistant. "It can therefore last for years or even decades in some case without bacteria fungus or any mold," she says.

Burt'd Bees Body Lotion Milk and Honey
Burt's Bees Naturally Nourishing Milk & Honey Body Lotion $8.00

Dermatologists suggest trying any product from Burt's Bees. The combination of coconut oil, grapeseed oil, milk, and honey in this lotion will not only moisturize, but also soften the skin.

Amino Acids for Skin: Honey Savior All-in-One Skin Repair Salve With Echinacea GreenEnvy Honey
Farmacy Honey Savior All-in-One Skin Repair Salve $34.00

This balm is perfect if you're making adjustments for cooler weather or combatting dry skin. It is loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, and raw honey meant to soothe and hydrate the skin.

iS Clinical Warming honey cleanser
iS Clinical Warming Honey Cleanser $48.00

iS Clinical's Warming Honey Cleanser is a favorite of Shamban for providing a gentle but deep clarifying clean. Packed with raw honey, papaya enzymes, and green tea, the warming properties create a unique sensory experience.

Ole Henriksen Moment Of Truth 2-In-1 Polishing Sugar Mask $30.00

This luxurious face scrub and mask gently removes dead skin cells leaving skin bright and supple. The two in one spa experience creates a healthy glow without stripping the skin of its natural oils.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  2. Ahmed S, Sulaiman SA, Baig AA, et al. Honey as a potential natural antioxidant medicine: an insight into its molecular mechanisms of actionOxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:8367846. doi:10.1155/2018/8367846

  3. Moussa A, Noureddine D, Saad A, Abdelmelek M, Abdelkader B. Antifungal activity of four honeys of different types from algeria against pathogenic yeast: candida albicans and rhodotorula spAsian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2012;2(7):554-557. doi:10.1016/S2221-1691(12)60096-3

  4. Brudzynski K. A current perspective on hydrogen peroxide production in honey. A review. Food Chem. 2020 Dec 1;332:127229. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.127229.

  5. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a reviewJ Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313. doi:10.1111/jocd.12058

  6. Alangari AA, Morris K, Lwaleed BA, et al. Honey is potentially effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: clinical and mechanistic studiesImmun Inflamm Dis. 2017;5(2):190-199. doi:10.1002/iid3.153

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