honey

Honey is a substance produced by bees from the nectar of flowering plants. Composed primarily of the sugars fructose and glucose and consumed as food, honey also has benefits in skin care due to its amino acid, peptide, antioxidant, and natural antibacterial composition. Antioxidants found in honey include vitamins A, C, and E as well as flavonoid compounds triacetin, quercetin, and luteolin.

The primary research on honey and skin has to do with its multi-faceted role in soothing various concerns. Dark honeys have a stronger antioxidant effect than light honeys. Regular honey is also known as clarified honey or purified honey—this is the type most grocery stores sell.

Along with antioxidant and soothing properties, honey also works on skin's surface by forming a barrier that helps reduce the buildup of harmful substances which can impede healing.

Is honey vegan? Technically, no. As it comes from bees, it is considered an animal (insect) byproduct. Although the starting point for honey is nectar from flowering plants, the bee itself makes the honey via digestive enzymes in its stomach and a regurgitation process that’s shared with other bees, followed by dehydration and storage in wax structures known as honeycombs.

The bees use honey as a food source in the wild; however, when bees are carefully and ethically farmed, the hive’s workers produce much more honey than the colony needs to thrive. The excess is used as sweetener by people and in various skin care products.

References for this information:

Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, December 2019, pages 1,368-1,377
Bioengineering, Volume 5, June 2018, ePublication
Journal of Functional Biomaterials, June 2018, ePublication
Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, August 2017, pages 849-855
Wounds, June 2015, pages 141-151
The Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, March 2015, ePublication
Foods, July 2014, pages 420-432
PeerJ., March 2014, eCollection, 2014
Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, December 2013, pages 306-313
Burns & Trauma, June 2013, pages 32-38
The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, April 2011, pages 154-160

See manuka honey

Back to Ingredient Dictionary

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!