mbg's Beauty Editor Swapped Cleanser With Manuka Honey For 30 Days. Here's What Happened
Having read several successful accounts of Manuka honey as a key element of healing skin care routines on mindbodygreen, I wanted to find a way to include it in my own. Manuka has healed cystic acne, calmed inflamed skin, and has even been recognized and used within the medical community for its magical healing powers. Plus, it’s picking up as a bigger skin care trend.
I’ve employed Manuka honey masks sporadically with fine results, but it was never life-changing. I wanted to test what it would do for my complexion—which is redness-prone, suffers from hormonal breakouts, and seems to be perpetually dehydrated—with everyday use. Instead of doing a daily Manuka mask, which sounded time-consuming and sticky, I decided to swap out all my cleansers for Manuka honey instead.
Coincidentally, right around the time I decided to do this experiment, I was introduced to Luke Harwood, who is the founder of Activist Manuka, a new brand whose mission is to elevate the Manuka honey space. Rather than catering to a specific beauty or medicinal need, Activist focuses on lifestyle while "nurturing and celebrating the craft of beekeeping," a worthwhile and necessary pursuit considering the alarmingly high death rate of honeybees. When I told him about my experiment, he had high hopes. "I know an older gentleman who had a lot of terrible sun spots on his face that were really dry and visible," Harwood wrote. "He put Manuka on them every day for 90 days, and they totally healed and disappeared." Powerful stuff, but without photographic evidence, I needed to try it for myself. I’ll try anything once.
I’m pretty lucky—while I’m certainly not one of those people who’s been genetically gifted with "great skin," I don’t have a ton of skin problems either…as long as I’m keeping my sleep, diet, and stress in check, my complexion is relatively calm. Here’s the thing: Since I am a modern woman who lives in New York, that’s almost never. Any imbalances and stresses of life really show up on my face. Without fail, I get a honking zit right before and after getting sick; when I’m stressed my skin is sunken, dry, and dull; and my personal favorite is the cute, persistent cluster of chin zits I get when I ovulate. No matter what I’ve tried (and believe me, it’s a lot), no product, mask, or treatment has ever been able to prevent them. They’d become the inconvenient side effect of going off the pill, being in my 30s, and being a lady—until I started using Manuka honey as a cleanser.
Yes. Manuka honey not only helped existing blemishes, but it fully prevented my hormonal breakouts. Using it for a full menstrual cycle allowed me to see the effects, and for the first time since I can remember, my chin zits simply did not appear. I kept waiting and expecting them to show up, even in a less pronounced way, but for the full 30 days my skin was soft, smooth, and breakout free, and it wasn’t because I was getting sleep, feeling stress-free, and eating perfectly. Ironically, I was out of whack across the board for a month of travel, facing some tough family issues, and constantly thinking about the current news cycle. It’s safe to say that my skin could have been in full-on freakout mode, but it was not.
I used a bottle of Activist's Raw Manuka Honey 850+ MGO in the 8.8-ounce size, which retails at a pricey $75. I also tried their 300+ version, which rings up at $45, to see if the higher "MGO" would make a difference—it does. It sped up the healing process and made a noticeable difference in my acne scarring and hyperpigmentation. In the 30 days I’ve been experimenting, they’ve introduced an even more affordable $32 version, but I haven’t tried it yet. If $45 to $75 sounds like a lot of money to pay for honey, you’re not wrong. Often when supporting an independent operation that’s putting sustainable measures in place to develop a good-quality product, prices are higher. Plus, if you think of it as your new cleanser and mask in one, the price becomes a little less daunting. But if that’s still too much, my other favorite Manuka honey brands are Wedderspoon and Comvita, which have a range of pricing options.
Compared to other honeys I’ve put on my face, 850+ MGO Activist Manuka had a bit more movement and was less "sluggish." It’s a beautiful deep-amber color and contains evenly spaced, nonclumpy little granules that probably helped with skin exfoliation.
After perfecting the art of washing my face with honey over 30 days, there are a few things I’d recommend. I wound up keeping the jar in the shower because it was a little messy, and I washed my face every morning and evening with a small dollop of honey on a wet face. It’s really helpful if you’re concerned about getting your bathroom counter sticky. Honey is a great cleanser for clean skin, but I wouldn’t recommend using honey to take your makeup off. So if you’re wearing a full face or need to remove mascara, double-cleanse using your normal cleanser first (oil cleansing would be a great option here) followed by your Manuka honey. Finally, if I had the time (sometimes I’d shave my legs and let my conditioner sit), I’d leave the Manuka on for a few minutes. It felt so good, and my skin loved it, so why not?
The other thing that's totally changed my skin? This acid-based masking and serum routine.
Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.