Posted Thu, Mar 29, 2007, 10:00 am PDT
The Magic of Honey
"Hi, honey!" That happy greeting may also apply to the yellow-capped squeezie bear in your pantry, since the contents are good for so much more than sweetening tea. Honey is a natural antiseptic, moisturizer and, thanks to all its antioxidants, an age-fighter too.
"The high concentration of sugars gives honey germ-killing power, which is why it's been used for thousands of years to encourage wound healing," says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, our RealAge skin expert. Honey's thick, sticky consistency also makes it a natural protective salve, sealing out infection and creating a moist healing environment within. Use it in a pinch, Wechsler suggests, if you develop blisters on a camping trip and remembered your honey packets but forgot the Neosporin.
Honey is a terrific moisturizer for the face and body, too. "Honey is a natural humectant, meaning it draws 'free water' from interior tissues to the surface layers of the skin," says Wechsler. That subtle fluid shift creates a plumping effect that temporarily improves the appearance of wrinkles--handy before a morning presentation or a big night out.
To see for yourself, try this moisturizing honey mask, which Wechsler says also sooths dry, sensitive, or irritated skin:
Mix 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 teaspoons of whole milk.
Warm slightly in the microwave.
Smooth the mixture onto the face and lie down for 10 minutes (relaxing, plus it avoids sticky drips).
Rinse off with warm-not hot-water.
If you prefer a more cosmetic form, store shelves are swarming with honey-enhanced beauty products such as BeeCeuticals Organics' Honey Thyme Hand and Body Lotion, which is made from unfiltered, organic, nonirradiated honey ($9.95 for 8 oz. at www.healthfromthehive.com). It's made to be gentle enough to use even on psoriasis or eczema. And Benefit's Honey...Snap Out of It Scrub ($23 for 5 oz. at www.benefitcosmetics.com) has honey, vitamin E, and crushed almonds. Leave it on for three minutes and you've got a soothing and smoothing honey/almond mask.
As for the age-fighting effects, all types of honey contain antioxidants that appear to block skin-cell damaging free radicals, though dark honeys--particularly the honeydew and buckwheat varieties (check health-food stores)--have more of them than paler clover honeys. While there's still a debate on how effective antioxidants are when applied to the skin, Wechsler gives the thumbs up to swirling dark honey into your yogurt every morning. "It's a simple way to nourish your skin from the inside." Sweet.