Honey, Used for Centuries to Heal and Hydrate, Is in Demand Once Again
A new wave of beauty products, from hair oils to hand creams, are harnessing the benefits of this age-old natural remedy.
For all its syrupy sweetness, honey is one of nature’s most hard-working creations; rich with antioxidants, it is both a powerful humectant, meaning it’s able to draw and seal in moisture, and packed with potent antibacterial compounds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it has long been prized for its curative and beautifying properties: It’s listed in recipes for healing ointments that were carved into clay tablets by the ancient Sumerians around 2000 B.C. (and later discovered in what is now Iraq). Cleopatra is said to have bathed regularly in milk infused with the golden liquid. And women in Ming dynasty-era China used it to clear blemishes.
In recent years, despite scientific advancements in skin care, honey has not only maintained but increased its prominence in our regimens. Claire Marin, a beekeeper and the owner of Catskill Provisions, a honey-focused food and spirits company based in upstate New York, has found that her customers often use the brand’s two seasonal varieties of the substance — both harvested in the Catskills, the darker fall batch flavored with maple and chestnut from the bees’ diets, and the spring version distinguished by lighter notes of clover and apple — as they would a moisturizer, applying it to their hands and face in the dry months of winter. (It’s a trick Marin learned herself while growing up in Spain, where, she says, “honey is a part of everyday life.”)
And as the beauty industry shifts further toward natural and environmentally minded practices, hair and skin-care brands are also increasingly turning to honey as an effective regenerative ingredient. “Bees are at the core of who we are and what we do,” says Negin Mirsalehi, who founded the Netherlands-based line Gisou in 2013. Her father, a fifth-generation apiarist, started the family’s bee garden, a large collection of hives, in Almere in the 1970s. “Growing up,” Mirsalehi says, “we used our harvest for everything from healing our cuts and scrapes to soothing our sore throats and nourishing our hair.” Today, it supplies all the honey for Gisou’s formulas, including its Honey-Infused Hair Oil ($87), which blends the ingredient with coconut and sweet almond oil, and was adapted from Mirsalehi’s mother’s recipe.
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