Does Honey Clear Acne?

A jar of honey with honeycomb.
Image: Laura Groesbeck / Getty Images

Honey has been used as a food and in traditional medicine since ancient times.  It has been credited with healing, antioxidant, and moisturizing properties, and even today is used in skin care and cosmetic preparations.

Not only is this sticky stuff delicious, honey is a very complex substance containing proteins, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals.

But it’s the antimicrobial action of this sweet treat that have people speculating that honey may be the perfect treatment for acne.

  It’s inexpensive, all-natural, and you probably have it in your pantry right now.

Honey may reduce bacteria. 

As far as home remedies go, honey is probably one of the best-studied.  And it does have some positive results.

Honey from all over the world has been shown to have antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.  Some studies have shown certain types of honey can even fight nasty bugs like pseudomonas and staph, including MRSA.

In some cases, honey is being used as a wound and burn dressing, with good results.  It’s also being tested as a treatment for other skin problems like dandruff, psoriasis, ringworm and athlete’s foot, and infected wounds. 

Store-bought honey isn’t the same.

There are many types of honey.  Clover honey is different from acacia honey.  And raw honey is different than purified, pasteurized honey.   Any antimicrobial activity (or lack thereof) is going to be affected by the type of honey used.


Studies have shown is there is a wide range of honey’s effectiveness, depending on the type.  The most widely studied, and the one shown to have the highest antimicrobial quality, is Manuka honey.

The stuff you buy at the grocery store in the bear-shaped bottle?  It probably doesn’t measure up to its medicinal cousin.

Honey is a natural product, so it’s ever-changing.  The medicinal quality of the honey is going to be affected by many different factors – the types of flowers the bees had access to, where in the world the hive was located, the time of year it was made.

There are so many variables you can’t just make a blanket statement that all honey is good for acne (or anything else for that matter).

Bacteria isn’t the only acne-causing factor.

Even if honey were to wipe out acne-causing bacteria, it still wouldn’t leave your skin breakout-free.  Bacteria is only one piece of the acne puzzle. 

Acne is also caused by over-active sebaceous glands, and skin cells that can’t shed properly.  These create blocked pores, making a great home for propioni bacteria to flourish.  Even if you take care of the bacteria, those other factors are still there. 

So, as awesome as it would be, honey alone won’t clear up a case of acne.

Instead of honey, try this.

Honey is still an amazing ingredient.  It’s a fun addition to your DIY skin care.  Go ahead and try a honey mask – it will leave your skin feeling clean, soft, and refreshed.  (But honestly I wouldn’t try those suggestions to sleep in it, unless you want a big ol’ mess on your pillow, sheets, not to mention your hair.)

As for treating acne, you have plenty of options.  Start off with over-the-counter acne treatments.  Give it a few weeks to work.

If those just aren’t cutting it, you’ve got plenty of prescription options as well.  So, put in a call to a dermatologist.     

Then all you have to do is relax and patiently wait until your acne medications start to work.  Might I suggest a nice cup of tea with a big spoonful of honey?


Eady EA, Layton AM, Cove JH.  “A honey trap for the treatment of acne: manipulating the follicular microenvironment to control Propionibacterium acnes.”  Biomed Res Int.  2013;2013:679680.

McLoone P, Warnock M, Fyfe L.  “Honey: a realistic antimicrobial for disorders of the skin.”  J Microbiol Immunol Infect.  2015 Jan 30.

Liu M, Lu J, Muller P, Turnbull L, et. al.  “Antibiotic-specific differneces in the response of Staphylococcus aureus to treatment with antimicrobials combined with Manuka honey.”  Front Microbiol. 2015 Jan 27; 5:779.

Jantakee K, Tragoolpua Y.  “Activities of different types of Thai honey on pathogenic bacteria cuasing skin diseases, tyrosinase enzyme and generating free radicals.”  Biol Res. 2015; 48(1):4.

Burlando B, Cornara L.  “Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review.”  J Cosmet Dermatol.  2013 Dec; 12(4):306-13.

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