Honeybee Venom is Bee-ing Used In Skincare – But How?
I remember the first time I was stung by a bee.
It wasn’t fun.
So would you believe me if I told you that people are getting stung on purpose?
And, did you know that companies are adding bee venom to their skincare products?
This ingredient is trending for its reported skin and health benefits.
Bees have their place in nature – do they really bee-long on our skin?
(I’m actually very excited to write this blog because of all the opportunities for puns.)
Is using honeybee venom a safe practice?
Does it actually yield benefits?
Keep on reading to find out what all the buzz is about!
The Buzz on Bees
Honeybees aren’t native to North America; they were brought here by European settlers in the year 1622.
Studies have revealed that honeybees originate from Asia.
Beekeeping is actually a lucrative business and a popular hobby.
Whether you’re afraid of bees or downright hate them, I think we can all agree that we need them!
(But I’m not a fan of getting stung or when they fly by my ear – the “buzz” makes my skin crawl!)
We couldn’t live without them as they pollinate our crops, and honey has proven its worth time and time again.
There have been reports that honeybee populations have been dying off at rapid rates; other reports state that honeybees have put wild bees on the endangered species list.
Either way, this has gotten the attention of lawmakers. who have stressed the importance of bees to our agriculture.
I think if we take care of bees, they’ll take care of us!
What is Honeybee Venom?
Bee venom, AKA apitoxin, is a bitter, colorless liquid extracted from the stingers of honey bees.
This venom is also why you feel pain when you’ve been stung and causes allergic reactions.
It’s made of a potent combination of enzymes, peptides, and amino acids – and if you’ve read my blog before, you know that these also serve as skincare ingredients.
Melittin, the main protein found in the liquid, has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral effects.
When it’s added to creams, masks, or a lip serum as a cosmetic ingredient, your skin can be tricked into thinking it’s been stung.
This causes an increase in blood circulation and stimulates collagen and elastin production.
As a result, skin is plumped, tightened, and firmed, and fine lines and wrinkles are smoothed temporarily.
And, since the venom is anaphylactic, the facial muscles are relaxed.
These effects are why bee venom is being described as a “temporary natural Botox” (AKA “Bee-tox”).
One study found an improvement in the appearance of wrinkles with topical application of skincare products with honeybee venom.
Some people have also reported that the liquid can help with painful, inflamed, cystic pimples beneath the surface of the skin because of its ability to help damaged skin cells.
Side note: Many products will not tell you that amount of venom used but it is usually less than 1 percent.
What is Apitherapy?
Kate Middleton and Gwyneth Paltrow brought apitherapy into the spotlight a few years ago, but it was originally practiced in ancient Egypt, Greece, and China.
The practice of apitherapy refers to using different bee-produced products for overall health, including honey, pollen, propolis, and beeswax.
These products can be combined together and mixed with other ingredients, like essential oils.
However, it’s probably best known for people intentionally stinging themselves, and this is a growing trend in homeopathic medicine.
It’s said to help manage the following medical conditions:
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Additionally, there have also been claims that apitherapy can help reduce morning stiffness and relieve swollen and tender joints by stimulating an immune response.
Obviously, there are some side effects to being stung, including pain, itching, swelling, inflammation, and redness.
People undergoing apitherapy may be stung as much as 80 times in one day!
The price tag on this beauty procedure ranges from $150 to $350.
Depending on the condition being treated, some people do it weekly!
Are the Bees Harmed?
If you’re like me and passionate about cruelty-free skincare products, you can rest assured that bee venom is harvested humanely and the bees aren’t harmed.
The extraction process involves a glass pane with a light electrical current that runs through it.
This attracts the bees and gets them to sting and leave their venom on the glass.
Their stingers are left intact and they stay alive.
Bee venom isn’t cheap, but as it continues to grow in popularity, more affordable options are becoming available.
In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that “One gram of venom from New Zealand, a major producer, is the equivalent of 10,000 bee stings and costs about $304.”
A Word of Caution
Many doctors are urging people not to try apitherapy as it can be too risky.
There aren’t any scientific studies about apitoxin and skincare; it’s considered an alternative medicine.
In fact, using products with honeybee venom can be dangerous – you could have an allergic reaction that causes swelling, or worst case scenario, go into anaphylactic shock.
According to Ellen Marmur, MD, you should definitely be cautious if you use these products regularly:
“Your body is getting trained to react to something, so over time you react more and more.”
If you know you’re allergic to bees, please do not try skincare products with venom!
I would really err on the side of caution with this one.
If you don’t know you’re allergic to bees, perform a 24-hour patch test.
If your skin reacts, stay on the safe side and don’t apply the product anywhere else again.
Yes, apitoxin and apitherapy are trending in the world of skincare right now, but you shouldn’t put your health at risk because you’re curious to try it.
If you’re looking for skincare ingredients that offer a firming and plumping effect without the risk, I suggest looking for products with salicylic or glycolic acids.
These ingredients make excellent anti-aging ingredients and safely provide anti-aging effects.
Since we’re on the topic of bees today, I’m going to discuss some other safer skincare ingredients that are produced by bees.
Keep on reading to find out what they are!
What is Manuka Honey?
In 2017, the skincare industry spotlight was definitely focused on this ingredient!
It’s been touted as a superfood for its antioxidant and prebiotic properties and is full of amino acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.
Manuka honey is produced by New Zealand bees that pollinate the native manuka tree.
The manuka bush also has another name: the tea tree.
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I’m quite fond of tee tree oil for its ability to treat bug bites, pimples, and skin irritation.
So, yes, manuka honey will have some of those same benefits!
The hydrogen peroxide found in the honey gives the honey its antibacterial quality.
Manuka honey also contains methylglyoxal (MG), a powerful antibacterial compound that can even kill MRSA and more than 80 strands of bacteria.
It’s used in medical settings as a wound treatment for its ability to eliminate infection, accelerate healing, and rejuvenate cells.
It’s also been reported to help treat ulcers, prevent gingivitis, and ease a sore throat and allergies.
As for skincare, manuka honey can be applied directly as a cleanser, mask, or spot treatment.
It’s a popular overnight treatment for pimples for its ability to fight bacteria and inflammation and heal redness.
Manuka honey can also calm eczema as it promotes skin repair and regeneration.
If you haven’t already, you’ll be seeing manuka honey in more anti-aging formulas!
It inhibits MMP, a group of enzymes that destroy collagen, which keeps our skin looking young.
Additionally, it helps skin retain moisture and boost energy in skin cells.
What is Propolis?
Propolis is a resinous mixture of honeybee saliva, beeswax, and substances collected from sap and flower and tree buds.
It’s usually dark brown in color but can vary depending on what the bee collects.
Its purpose is to seal small cracks and gaps in the hive to protect from the elements.
This is why it’s often referred to as “bee glue.”
Its benefits include:
- Controls oil production
Propolis forms a barrier to the skin, just how bees use it – it keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.
It’s a good skincare ingredient for people who deal with a lot of environmental pollution.
This is due to its abundance of antioxidants and flavonoids, which can also be found in green tea.
It’s also a good skincare ingredient to combat acne due to its antibacterial properties and ability to control oil production.
Additionally, propolis is moisturizing and makes the skin’s texture more smooth and supple.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is one of the oldest ingredients used in skincare.
It was used by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks.
Bees secrete a wax from their glands and use it to make honeycombs, which serve as protection, for honey storage, and a place for baby bees to live.
It can vary in color, but generally, white beeswax has been bleached; unbleached beeswax is yellow.
Its skincare benefits include:
- Full of antioxidants
Traditionally, beeswax has been used to regulate a formula’s consistency, such as making a cream thicker and easier to spread.
Beeswax forms a network over the skin, rather than a film.
This serves as a protective barrier from environmental elements that holds in moisture, without clogging pores.
It is good for reducing dryness as beeswax is a humectant, which means it binds water molecules to the skin.
Beeswax is a good source of vitamin A, which improves hydration and the shedding of dead skin cells.
This is an excellent ingredient for sensitive or dry skin as it’s anti-allergenic and easily tolerated.