Everything you need to know about beauty’s liquid gold, the controversy around it and how to use it
Manuka honey, hailed liquid gold by many, has been praised for its antibacterial and healing properties for hundreds of years, starting with the Maori community in New Zealand, who used it as a form of medicine. Recently re-popularised by celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, who have pioneered the miracle ingredient by mixing it into their skincare routines, Manuka honey is as hot as ever.
Whether you eat it neat, spread it on your toast, mix it with your moisturiser or apply it directly to your skin, its benefits are countless, reportedly spanning from healing stubborn wounds, boosting the immune system and soothing hay fever and sore throats, to clearing up acne and other skin conditions like eczema.
Manuka honey has high levels of NPA - non-peroxide activity - which is what gives it its curative superpowers. All types of honey contain hydrogen peroxide (an antiseptic chemical used to treat cuts and wounds) when they are in the hive, but as soon as they are exposed to light or heat, the chemical breaks down and loses its effectiveness. Manuka honey, however, retains those benefits always, making it the ultimate skin-healing hero.
The honey has become so popular in fact, that experts have begun referring to a so-called “Manuka gold rush”, in which counterfeit manuka products are being produced. Manuka honey originates from the Manuka tree, which is native to New Zealand, therefore honey made elsewhere cannot be labelled Manuka. Research has found that 83% of Manuka products being sold aren’t pure, even though they are claiming to be. It is estimated that 10,000 tonnes of ‘Manuka honey’ are sold each year, but only 1,700 tonnes of certified honey are produced.
So how do you know if what you’re buying is the real deal? Genuine Manuka honey made in New Zealand will have a UMF rating - aka Unique Manuka Factor rating - of 10+. If a honey is UMF-certified it means it has been tested for the three compounds that are found in pure Manuka: Leptosperin, DHA (dihydroxyacetone) and MGO (methylglyoxal). The higher the UMF rating, the higher the potency and healing ability but also the price. Although, cheaper dupes will be less effective as they may be multifloral, meaning they’re contaminated with other plant sources. When in doubt, the best way to go is pure honey rather than infused products; look for a 10+ UMF rating and Manuka as the only component on the ingredient list.
Don’t let the Manuka wannabees put you off its incredible benefits, here is a list of the best ways to use it in your everyday routine.
As a cleanser
Manuka honey is a great alternative to your usual cleanser. It gently removes daily buildup and excess oil from your face, without being harsh or stripping the skin of natural moisture.
Wet your face and warm a small amount in your fingertips and massage onto your face and neck. Take your time, allowing the active ingredients to sink into your skin, then after a minute wash off with warm water. If the pure honey is too sticky for your liking, mix the same amount with some warm water to mimic the consistency of your normal cleanser.
As a spot treatment
Dab a small amount onto inflamed spots and leave on for 20 minutes or until it dries, then rinse it off. The honey will work as an anti-inflammatory and will calm down raised spots and is a great natural alternative to harsher topical treatments.
As a face mask
Apply a generous layer of pure manuka honey to clean, dry skin for 20 minutes, then rinse. You will soon feel the benefits as manuka honey is a humectant, meaning it retains natural moisture in the skin. It also works to balance the pH level of the skin and it contains collagen-boosting amino acids. Use it alone or mix with a spoon of brown sugar and a few drops of olive oil to create an exfoliating scrub.
Use on cuts and small wounds
Apply a very small amount of manuka honey to minor cuts and wounds and place a dressing such as a plaster or gauze over the top to lock in the honey. It’s NPA qualities and hydrogen peroxide concentration will clean out the wound and promote faster healing.
Mix it into your bath
Pour 1 cup of milk and half a cup of manuka honey into a running bath - lactic acid in the milk will cleanse the skin and the honey will leave it feeling softer and nourished. Just make sure all elements are mixed together before you submerge yourself.
For gut health
Mix together one spoonful of apple cider vinegar and one spoonful of manuka honey for a gut-boosting, immune-system-supporting shot. The honey is an anti-inflammatory and also protects against damage caused by bacteria, boosting the production of cells that restore the body. Building this into your morning routine will be the kick-start your body needs for the day.