I'm stuck in a playground hustle with myself in my little corner of the beauty world; a tiny chance encounter has led to an extended game of tag with an adversary rather difficult to evade. The eyes-wide-open slumber which allows me to slip past that realm of the beauty world I hesitantly call 'home remedies' is something I'm trying to rectify. For me, it is unfriendly terrain surrounded by barbed wire, peeling DO NOT ENTER signs and gun-toting soldiers trapped in a marching mechanism of to and fro.
There's just something that bothers me about home beauty and I've always been a prolific excuse-finder in order to avoid dipping my toe into those inked unknown waters; it's too messy, too time-consuming, it won't work, I bleat disingenuously, scrabbling for more excuses.
No more excuses.
Today, we're going to talk about honey, fabled food of Winnie the Pooh.
When I was younger, my absolute favourite type of bedtime story, aside from 'Frogs' Holiday' (some frogs in search of adventure get stuck in a laundromat instead) and 'There's a Nightmare in my Closet' (obvious), were the tales of Winnie the Pooh, a little bear with a definite predilection for honey.
This is what I'm reminded of, irrevocably, as I smear warmed honey on my face and gloop it onto my jeans...
But more on that later.
The first treatment I tried was a nourishing hair mask, which apparently softens and shines the hair. For this I used your average, prosaic clear honey. Mine was Tesco Value, nothing particularly special or snazzy.
I dubiously warmed it up in the microwave with a few drops of Sweet Almond Oil and then applied it to dampened, clean-ish hair and wrapped a warm towel around my head, feeling vaguely uncomfortable and sticky, but definitely quite fragrant. After about half an hour, I washed it out with shampoo and blow-dried in the usual way...
It worked! My hair was soft and shiny (and completely unstyleable because it was so soft and slippery, and I was amazed that something like honey could have provoked such an effect.
Tips for this treatment:
- Warming your honey is optional, but it makes application easier. Be careful when warming it because it gets scaldingly hot very quickly.
- Other ingredients you can add to your honey treatment: olive oil, lemon juice (for blonde hair) and rosemary oil (to stimulate hair growth).
- Wash the honey out very well; this goes without saying.
My next quest featured active Manuka honey, which is a foodstuff gaining a rapidly growing following due to its alleged health and beauty benefits. According to those in the know, it can help soothe acne to stomach complaints, depending on the strength and usage.
Things you need to know about Manuka honey:
- Unpolluted: The reason it's so useful and unique is because it is produced in a pollution-free environment in New Zealand, with flowers from the Manuka bush.
- Honey-trap: It can prevent MRSA if used preventatively by applying honey directly to the wound at risk; it can also soothe and heal burns, insect bites, poison ivy... The list goes on.
- The key is in the numbers: The UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) number on the front of your jar refers to the antibacterial quality of the honey. The higher the number, the higher the antibacterial content, although the optimum range is somewhere between 15 and 18, and anything below 10 is said to have virtually no effect.
- Slather or swallow: I'm not being rude here *wink*. You can both ingest Manuka honey and use it on your skin - so if you've got a sore tummy then enjoy some on a bit of toast.
- Cha-ching: It's quite pricey.
Opening the jar, I was struck by an antiseptic kind of smell, which was something I was not expecting. It has a waxy kind of appearance and although it's a set honey, the texture and appearance is nothing like what you'd expect.
I was primarily interested in its moisturising claims and opted for a face mask the first time around, warming the honey gently in the microwave and then maladroitly (and gingerly) slathering it onto my face.
I'm not going to lie to you and say it was a comfortable experience; it was sticky and awful and a gloopy, gluey mess.
Gross. The things I do for beauty...
After half an hour, I rinsed it off with some warm water and dried my face. At this juncture I'm not going to lie to you all and say I gently patted my skin dry with the skin of a unicorn and rainbow dust. I dried my skin with no particular attention to anything because I'm lazy and I'm probably going to end up with wrinkles anyway.
I just don't do pussy-footing around.
However, what I did notice, after committing grievous assault on my face with a towel, was how soft and happy my skin felt. The redness I tend to get on my cheeks was calmer and my face had none of the tight feeling which usually comes with washing my face.
As I presented a cheek (ooh-er) for Kiwi to feel, he boredly stretched out a hand without looking and groped blindly, only turning to inspect closer once he felt how soft and lovely my face felt.
If I manage to coax Kiwi out of beauty ambivalence, that's good enough for me.
...Though Kiwi might have just been happy to eat the remaining unused honey (as this rare photo I snapped of him proves).
The lesser-spotted Honey Monster in its natural state.
Another treatment I tried was for soothing acne and applied it topically in much the same way, though in much smaller areas. I often would leave the honey on overnight and redness around the offending area was often (but not in all cases) greatly reduced. Many sufferers of acne swear by this as a wonder-treatment, and I can see why; the honey keeps the healing and sore skin moisturised while gently fighting the bacteria which leads to infection and more acne.
My final use of Manuka honey was a bit more specialised: eczema. I woke up with an itchy hand one day 2 years ago and have eczema in varying degrees ever since. I applied some to a plaster (band-aid if you're across the pond) and left it on overnight on a sore, cracked bit of skin. When I examined it after arising at a suitably late hour, I was pretty astonished to find that the sore was all but healed and much less sore...
It makes you think twice about steroid creams.
So, things I've learned from this home beauty experiment:
- Honey heats to dangerous temperatures very quickly.
- Honey is surprisingly versatile in its beauty uses.
- Manuka honey does live up to its hype.
- If you don't want to roll around in sticky honey, there are Manuka honey lotions and soaps available.
- The Manuka honey mask is incredibly gentle and moisturising on the skin - it's not harsh so you don't have to limit yourself to only once a week.
- You do need time and patience (and to be careful!) with this - it's messy and inconvenient.
Manuka honey resources: