Sweeten Your Skin Care Routine: Harnessing the Power of Manuka Honey
As an aromatherapist and cosmetic formulator I love adding botanicals to my formulations
And in this post I want to talk about honey.
In skincare honey is used as a humectant or substance that helps draw water into the skin or hair as well as to supply vitamins and other beneficial compounds to the skin and hair.
Because it's made by bees it's not vegan but it is natural and full or nutrients.
When using honey in cosmetic or therapeutic products there are a variety of raw materials to choose from.
You can find purified honey, honey powder, Manuka honey, or modified honey products such as quaternized honey (which offers hydrating and conditioning benefits for skin and hair), "matte" honey (honey cocoates, which is useful in products that help reduce the oily appearance of the skin), and numerous other variations of honey based ingredients.
In our "clear skin kit" we've chosen to incorporate a special kind of honey -- Manuka Honey.
Manuka honey is derived from the nectar of the manuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium) a tree native to New Zealand.
Since ancient times honey has been used not only as food but also for its therapeutic benefits. In the late 19th century researchers discovered something interesting about honey -- it has natural anti-bacterial properties.
Another interesting finding about honey is that some can support the repair of tissue damaged by infection and Manuka honey in particular has been noted to offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
But not all honey offers the same level of benefits. Depending on the type of honey and the way it is harvested some types of honey can be 100 times more potent than others.
Most honeys antimicrobial properties come from hydrogen peroxide which unfortunately breaks down with heat and light. Honey also has a low water content and high sugar content which is bad news for bacteria and other microbes.
But Manuka honey has an additional component that takes things up a notch.
Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal (MGO) a compound like hydrogen peroxide offers anti-microbial benefits but is resistant to breakdown by light or heat. MGO is created by the conversion of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) which is found in high concentrations in the Manuka flower nectar.
The more MGO, the greater the antibacterial effect. MGO ratings on Manuka honey refer to the mg of methyglyoxal per kg of honey. So an MGO rating of 100 means at least 100 mg of MGO per kg of honey.
Another rating system for the potency of Manuka honey is the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF™ ) rating. The UMF™ rating reflects MGO, DHA, and leptosperin content (a bioactive component that distinguishes Manuka honey from other types of honey).
UMF™ ratings can range from 5+ to 20+. The higher the rating the greater the antibacterial activity of the the honey. It is an indicator of genuine Manuka honey from New Zealand.
To be considered potent therapeutically WebMD mentions a minimum UMF™ rating of 10+ is needed. But they also note that doctors and researchers note that from a medical standpoint this rating may hold little meaning.
What's interesting to me as a scientist and cosmetic formulator is that Manuka honey has a grading system to evaluate its composition, potency, and source.
When we can measure and standardize we can create products with expected effects and outcomes.
Manuka honey is also being used to support wellness in areas such as dry and itchy skin and scalp, soothing, digestive and immune health.
Honey has long been used in both culinary and healing traditions. Manuka honey may offer unique therapeutic and cosmetic benefits, particularly because of the rating systems currently employed to authenticate its source and potency.
WebMD website, Manuka Honey, Accessed October 29, 2023 from: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/manuka-honey-medicinal-uses
COMVITA website, UMF vs MGO rating, Accessed October 29, 2023 from: https://www.comvita.com/blog/umf-the-ultimate-rating-system-for-manuka-honey
Manuka Guard website, What is Medical Grade Honey and Why Should You Care?, Accessed October 29, 2023 from: https://www.manukaguard.com/blogs/news/what-is-medical-grade-manuka-honey-and-why-you-should-care