The many skin benefits of manuka honey

Miracles do happen, my friend.

And every week or so, I apply a little miracle to my skin: manuka honey.

Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. It is used in both traditional and modern medicine (yep!) for its natural antibacterial properties. In addition to containing hydrogen peroxide, manuka honey is high in the antibacterial methylglyoxal (MG). MG is found in most types of honey in small quantities. However, manuka honey contains up to 100 times more MG than normal honey.

Here are a few recognizable bacteria and viruses that MG has been shown to kill when tested in a lab environment:

  • Helicobacter pylori (i.e. H. pylori): The bacterium known to cause many stomach ulcers and “leaky gut” syndrome
  • Staphylococcus aureus (i.e. staph infection) and MRSA: These “super-bugs” are known for their resistance to many antibiotics
  • Escherichia coli (i.e. E. Coli): Known to cause serious food poisoning
  • Streptococcus pyogenes (i.e. strep throat): The bacterium known to cause strep throat

Pretty amazing, huh?

But manuka honey belongs on your bathroom shelf as much as it does in a medical clinic or hospital.

Because it also keeps skin clear, youthful, and hydrated.

Skin-clearing.

Manuka honey works wonders for blemished skin because of its aforementioned natural antibacterial properties. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory, so soothes inflamed skin while healing blemishes. It also helps balance the skin’s pH and contains amino acids which slough away dead skin cells, helping to keep pores clear. In other words: this sticky-sweet substance is your problem skin’s best friend (or worst enemy, depending on which way you want to look at it).

Anti-aging.

MG has been shown to increase collagen cross-linking, promoting the structural growth of collagen in skin cells. And since amino acids are the building blacks of collagen, they also protect collagen. Healthy collagen means healthy, firm, youthful-looking skin.

Helps skin retain moisture.

Manuka honey is a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the skin. This hydration helps to further enhance the skin’s elasticity and cell regeneration, as well as promote healing.

manuka honeyDecoding manuka honey labels.

The bioactivity or strength, so to speak, of manuka honey varies and is indicated by a number ranging between 5 and 25.

  • UMF 5-9: low activity levels
  • UMF 10-15: moderate activity levels
  • UMF 16+: high activity levels

You may have noticed that I’ve been linking you to an organic, raw 16+ manuka honey that comes in a glass jar. This is the honey I own and it checks off all of the boxes (you know how I feel about plastic). Yes, it looks pricey and it is. But this 11.5 oz jar will last a VERY long time, particularly if you are using it for topical use only. Plus, manuka honey has a practically infinite shelf life.

How I use manuka honey.

As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, I use manuka honey weekly as a face mask. After washing and gently exfoliating my face with baking soda, I pat it dry and apply a very thin (probably about a teaspoon total) layer of manuka honey. I let it sit at least 30 minutes (but sometimes up to a few hours!), then wash it off with warm water and apply my DIY face oil for oily and acne-prone skin.

Sources and further reading

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Share Your Thoughts





  1. linda

    s. pyogenes a bacterium, not a virus!

    October 31, 2014 • 9:47 pm •
  2. Kelley

    The 16+ on the jar does not refer to the honey’s UMF rating – that is why it says “active 16+” on the label instead of “UMF.” Wedderspoon explains why it does not follow the UMF system on it’s website. This is a small excerpt, but they got into more detail on their site (http://www.wedderspoon.com/shop/pages/FAQ.html):

    “They are not exactly related to other known trademarks such as products licensed by the Unique Manuka Factor Association since such trademarks are covering medical claims, not supported by the Food and Drug Administration or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and therefore not legally approved for foods and honeys.”

    November 15, 2014 • 8:48 pm •
  3. a comment someone left on wedderspoon is as follows…..

    “The results of an analysis performed by NZLabs on two different Wedderspoon products were disclosed yesterday. The analysis included a jar labeled as Active 16+ and another jar labeled as Active 12+, both of which were found to have non-peroxide and total peroxide activity of less than 8.2 which is as low as the test goes. This suggests that the potency of the Wedderspoon Manuka Honey had to be either extremely low or nonexistent. It certainly confirms that the honeys were not of the potency that they were labeled as having.

    “This is not only unethical and dishonest, it’s an absolute disgrace,” says Frank Buonanotte, CEO of Honeymark International which is a U.S. importer of Manuka honey. “This type of inactive Manuka honey will not yield the same medicinal results that people have come to expect.” .

    “Wedderspoon has been able to get away with this deceptive and fraudulent practice because the FDA doesn’t recognize honey of any kind as being an antibacterial agent. Therefore, they do not have a role in regulating the potency level of Manuka honey. Nevertheless, consumers have come to recognize the numbers indicated on the label as the potency level. Wedderspoon has twisted the general public’s understanding of Manuka honey’s antibacterial activity by misleading their customers into thinking that they were getting more than what they paid for”

    March 24, 2015 • 1:10 am •
  4. Nadia

    Hmm I will have to look into this further.

    March 31, 2015 • 1:08 pm •
  5. Thanks for this great, informative article! I just ordered my own bottle of certified UMF 10+ Manuka Honey, and I can’t wait to try it! 😀
    Rachel

    April 1, 2015 • 12:39 pm •
  6. Nadia

    Awesome!! Let us know how it works out for you 🙂

    April 1, 2015 • 2:35 pm •
  7. Derrick

    Nadia,

    Thanks for posting this article. The links you have to reputable sources are very helpful. It’s sometimes difficult to explain to our friends and customers that Manuka Honey isn’t some fad, but actually has verifiable effects on skin health and has been used for a lot longer than most drug and chemical-infused products out there.

    We have been using UMF 16+ Honey in our products, which is becoming more and more difficult as the source price keeps going up. Unfortunately, we have found a TON of counterfeit (or sometimes simply misleading and/or mislabeled) manuka products out there.

    Interested to hear if you did more follow-up on the comment Kelley left?

    June 18, 2015 • 12:35 pm •
  8. […] Cleansing: I wash my face every evening. Yep, just once a day! I either use my DIY All-Natural Clarifying & Toning Foaming Facewash or a simpler wash I make with 50% tea tree castile soap and 50% manuka honey. […]

    June 24, 2015 • 4:59 pm •
  9. Kirsten

    Collagen cross linking is bad for the skin. It causes loss of elasticity. I’m sure Manuka honey does not encourage cross linking and that is just a typo on your part, but you may want to correct.

    June 27, 2015 • 8:01 am •
  10. Simone

    Hello dear
    Good info about manuka honey.But a quik question please help me with it.whenever i apply honey on my face its either plain or mixed with something i always always got red pimples.just want to know is it because mu honey is not pure enough or if i try manuka?is it worth spending money for manuka honey.i dont understand if honey is antibacterial how could i get pimples with it?ican i use manuka???i really want to apply honey ony face for its beautifull properties.
    Please help me out.eagrly waiting for ur reply
    Thanks a lot Nadia
    Love ur blog..

    July 1, 2015 • 9:32 pm •
  11. Laurie

    No UMF seal on these honey products which verify the proper amount of activity. It needs to say UMF with the number. You can get ripped off wth anything less. A lot of the high dollar stuff has been tested and flunked.

    September 14, 2015 • 7:54 pm •
  12. Laurie

    Also Manuka USA UMF 16 plus is great and properly certified_

    September 14, 2015 • 7:57 pm •
  13. Ricky muir

    I have a 4 month old baby boy who has Dermatitis of the back, shoulder,s arm,s and knees, would Manuka honey help him and what would be the best way of giving it to him ..Please HELP…

    September 28, 2015 • 2:59 am •
  14. Nadia

    For a child of that age I would consult a healthcare practitioner.

    September 28, 2015 • 8:32 pm •
  15. V

    Nadia,

    Did you ever find any information on the UMF ratings of Wedderspoon, or where to purchase quality Manuka? I keep checking back to see if you respond to that comment, as I am eager to purchase some honey. Thank you.

    V

    January 24, 2016 • 11:43 am •
  16. DIvi

    Methylglyoxal (MG) is actually suspected to be linked to oxidative stress and aging in cells. Any thoughts on this? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20393592

    Also, non of the microbes listed in this article are viruses just FYI.

    March 22, 2016 • 1:19 pm •
  17. Rob Daniels

    Didn’t knew that manuka honey had so much of use it is reaaly iformative and thanks.

    March 28, 2016 • 8:27 am •
  18. cat

    V,

    Here is the UMF page that lists all the companies that are registered license holders.
    http://www.umf.org.nz/umf-member/

    I am currently looking at Wild Cape’s honey. They are on that list and available on amazon.

    June 6, 2016 • 3:58 pm •
  19. Have you used Manuka oil? I was considering trying this out but wanted to get more information on it and make sure I’m buying from a reputable source.
    TIA!

    August 28, 2016 • 1:11 pm •
  20. Nadia

    I have used it before. It’s supposed to be very antibacterial. I personally prefer tea tree, but it may work well for you – if you give it a go, please share your experience with us!

    September 5, 2016 • 2:33 pm •
  21. Rachel

    The Wedderspoon website is offering a 20% off discount site wide right now! Hopefully you see this is time. DOn’t know how long the promo will last.

    October 20, 2016 • 8:43 pm •
  22. Maggie

    Is this product good for the elderly with bed sores?

    November 15, 2016 • 2:55 pm •