J Cosmet Dermatol, 2013 Dec;12(4):306-13
Honey is a bee-derived, supersaturated solution composed mainly of fructose and glucose, and containing proteins and amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, and other minor components. Historical records of honey skin uses date back to the earliest civilizations, showing that honey has been frequently used as a binder or vehicle, but also for its therapeutic virtues.
Antimicrobial properties are pivotal in dermatological applications, owing to enzymatic H2 O2 release or the presence of active components, like methylglyoxal in manuka, while medical-grade honey is also available. Honey is particularly suitable as a dressing for wounds and burns and has also been included in treatments against pityriasis, tinea, seborrhea, dandruff, diaper dermatitis, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, and anal fissure. In cosmetic formulations, it exerts emollient, humectant, soothing, and hair conditioning effects, keeps the skin juvenile and retards wrinkle formation, regulates pH and prevents pathogen infections.
Honey-based cosmetic products include lip ointments, cleansing milks, hydrating creams, after sun, tonic lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. The used amounts range between 1 and 10%, but concentrations up to 70% can be reached by mixing with oils, gel, and emulsifiers, or polymer entrapment. Intermediate-moisture, dried, and chemically modified honeys are also used.
Mechanisms of action on skin cells are deeply conditioned by the botanical sources and include antioxidant activity, the induction of cytokines and matrix metalloproteinase expression, as well as epithelial-mesenchymal transition in wounded epidermis.
Future achievements, throwing light on honey chemistry and pharmacological traits, will open the way to new therapeutic approaches and add considerable market value to the product.