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I replaced my face wash with honey—and here’s what happened

Photo: Susana Ramirez/Stocksy

Honey is one of nature’s true MVPs. It’s a great natural sweetener, it’s incredibly healing on a sore throat, and it makes for a powerful—and cheap!—facial cleanser.

So good, according to the reports—my friends gush about DIY honey masks, and wellness gurus say its holistic remedy for pretty much everything—that I put aside my face wash for a week to use honey as a cleanser instead.

What convinced me and what happened? Read on.

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Honey has all kinds of facial cleansing powers

Sweet news, it’s not some crazy new beauty craze: “Honey is the oldest skin-care ingredient and has been used extensively for both medical and skin-care purposes,” confirms Neil Sadick, MD, the very skin-serious founder of Sadick Dermatology in New York.

If you’ve got skin issues, honey’s a great go-to because it tackles many of the major ones: “It has antibacterial properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and it nurtures the skin. Honey’s particularly suitable for sensitive skin,” Dr. Sadick says.

You might not think of the thick, sweet stuff as a salve for breakouts, but honey’s antibacterial powers are so strong that it can help acne. “Honey has a very low pH, so a lot of bacterias cannot survive in honey,” says Carla Marina Marchese, the founder and beekeeper behind Red Bee Honey. “It’s about a 3.5 on average on the pH scale, and a lot of bacteria needs to thrive in closer to a 7 on the scale.”

If you’ve got skin issues, honey’s a great go-to because it tackles many of the major ones, like acne.

It has magical calming and moisturizing powers as well. “Honey is moisture-grabbing because it’s a super-saturated solution, meaning the bees mix a lot of sugars into a little bit of water,” says Marchese. “So it’s always trying to grab water from the air to balance out the sugar. This is why people use it for baked goods—it keeps them moist for longer.” On your face the humectant is gentle enough to use on tender chapped noses from allergies to super red dry, flaky patches.

But before you run to the grocery store to pick up a jar, you shouldn’t just grab any old teddy bear squeeze bottle, I learned. “You need to use the best quality honey that you can get,” says Marchese, who recommends one that’s raw or from your local farmer’s market. Manuka’s another type of honey you hear about as down-right medicinal. And though there’s a lot of buzz (and studies) behind it, it frankly costs more. So I set out to see what a $14 bottle of raw honey could do for my face.


honey face wash
Photo: Hung Quach/Stocksy

What happened to my skin on honey

So after both experts supplied proof of honey’s awesomeness, I grabbed my jar of raw, organic Red Bee Honey and slathered it on (with my fingers, so prepare to get a little messy). It’s as you’d expect: super sticky. But the weirdness quickly turned into a luxurious feeling of a moisturizing mask. Marchese calls the effect a cashmere blanket of beauty, and I can see why.

I left it on my face while I showered. Note: some may drip into your mouth, and this is not something I disliked. I figured the stickiness would be more of a battle to cleanse with, but it was akin to washing off a light mask. The raw honey I used had a honeycomb in it, so there were little particles on my face that did some gentle exfoliating, too—which makes me question why microbeads were even invented in the first place.

A few days into my honey-washing routine, my acne spots were almost invisible.

The honey I used in my regimen. Photo: Red Bee
The honey I used in my regimen. Photo: Red Bee

I gazed into the mirror with a scrutinizing eye, and noticed a slight difference in my skin. Some spots where my (cursed) adult acne was healing appeared smaller, less angry and red, and my skin had an incredible plumpness to it. My skin felt really clean and soft and I didn’t feel the need to double cleanse with anything else.

A few days into my honey-washing routine, my acne spots were almost invisible and my skin looked great. (Not something I get to say as often as I’d like.) Did I have any FOMO for the facial cleanser that I was used to using in the a.m.? Not one bit.

On the seventh day, my complexion was relatively clear. I didn’t get any new breakouts during the week, and my skin still felt as clean as it did when I used a regular cleanser (if not cleaner).

That, and the fact that it’s feels so great on my skin, have led me to continue washing my face with honey in the morning even after this assignment. Oh, and another perk? It costs much less than a lot of cleansers. Affordable, natural, and effective—it’s a sweet beauty score indeed.

Speaking of clear skin—does getting a monthly facial truly help your complexion? We’ve got answers. If you’re looking to fight breakouts, try these 8 plants with skin-clearing superpowers.