- Eczema is a condition that causes red, itchy skin
- Honey is one of several alternative treatments for eczema
- Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy skin
- Eczema has no cure, but topical treatments reduce symptoms
- Only certain types of honey are effective in treating eczema
Honey has been used in medicine for thousands of years, healing wounds, relieving sore throats and fighting infections. And the medicinal qualities of honey are also effective at reducing the symptoms of eczema (atopic dermatitis), a condition that causes red and itchy patches on the skin.
In particular, manuka honey is recommended for eczema outbreaks, though other forms of raw honey work, too. To relieve your rough, itchy skin, dab some eczema honey onto the affected area. While honey helps improve skin health for most people, in rare cases it can trigger an allergic reaction. If that’s the case, or if you find honey doesn’t provide the results you want, there are other natural remedies available to clear the itchiness and redness of eczema.
Will Honey Clear Your Eczema?
Honey effectively improves eczema symptoms within two weeks of daily use. But because eczema is a chronic condition without a cure, future flare-ups cannot be prevented. Honey alone clears up eczema for some people, while others need an additional treatment, such as corticosteroid soothing cream to reduce inflammation and make the skin less dry and itchy.
How does it work?
More research is needed to understand exactly how honey treats eczema, though honey’s history as a potent medicine is undeniable. Honey has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so there are several ways honey attacks an eczema outbreak. For example, research shows that honey helps regulate antimicrobial peptide production in the skin. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are immune system molecules that fight microbes, such as bacteria, and improve healing and reduce inflammation. Eczema reduces AMP production in the body, but honey can boost AMP levels.
Honey also acts as a natural moisturizer to relieve the dry skin caused by eczema.
Best Type of Honey for Eczema
There are more than 300 varieties of honey, each with its own concentrations of glucose (sugar), acids, and other chemical properties that affect its healing potency. It’s important to select the right type of eczema honey to clear up your symptoms quickly and to avoid spending a lot of money for honey that doesn’t deliver the results you want.
Many brands of honey sold in the supermarket aren’t actually honey. The pollen, which contains the honey’s healthy qualities, has been filtered completely out of the products. To find the best eczema honey, look for the term “raw honey” on the label.
Many eczema honey products also contain other soothing ingredients, such as beeswax for moisturizing and organic sunflower oil, which provides a protective layer over the skin and releases antioxidants to fight skin cell damage. Other helpful ingredients include olive oil and coconut oil. Avoid products that include parabens, which contribute to blocked pores, and fragrances that might irritate the skin.
Manuka honey is produced only in Australia and New Zealand by bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. It’s a natural emollient that soothes and moisturizes rough, dry skin. Manuka honey affects dozens of pathogens, including many kinds of bacteria and other microbes that cause disease and worsen eczema. In addition to increasing AMP levels, manuka honey is also an antibacterial agent that reduces the spread of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium common with eczema.
Though it isn’t as effective in treating eczema as manuka honey, raw honey from other plants reduces eczema symptoms. Look for organic pure honey to make sure there are no additives that may irritate your skin.
This dark, rich honey is packed with antioxidants to support the health of your skin and the rest of you. It also decreases the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are inflammatory enzymes that harm the skin. They tend to proliferate in people with eczema and other skin conditions.
Acacia honey also protects against MMPs and two bacteria—enterobacter cloacae and proteus mirabilis—which are common causes of infections among people with atopic dermatitis. Acacia honey is a lighter variety that is available on its own or in an eczema honey product that also contains beeswax and other ingredients, such as grapeseed oil and sunflower oil.
How to Use Honey for Eczema
Using honey to treat eczema is an easy process. The key is to not leave the honey on your skin too long, as that could irritate skin that is already stressed by eczema. If you choose an eczema honey product, simply clean the affected area and follow the instructions on the label.
You should try a little sample of honey on a healthy part of your skin to make sure you’re not allergic before putting any on a patch of eczema. If you have very sensitive skin, this eczema treatment may not be right for you.
If you want to make your own honey-based soothing cream for eczema, there are many options that include mixing honey with aloe or various oils to make it less sticky and to make it an even more effective moisturizer. You can experiment or try the following preparation.
You’ll need a double boiler or a glass container that can fit easily inside a larger pot, a wide-mouth mason jar, and a handheld or stand mixer.
- 1 Tbs raw honey (manuka honey if possible)
- ½ cup shea butter
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 5 to 10 drops tea tree essential oil
- 40 drops lavender essential oil
- Place the shea butter and coconut oil in the double boiler or glass container and heat until butter is melted and the ingredients are combined.
- Add the honey and let it melt.
- Add lavender and tea tree oils, stirring until everything is combined.
- Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool. You can place it in the refrigerator, but not the freezer.
- After the mixture has started to thicken, but not solidified, mix for several minutes until the solution lightens and becomes frothy.
- Let the solution sit and then mix every 10 minutes or so until the consistency is like a lotion.
- Pour it into the mason jar and store it at room temperature. If the solution is too liquefied, store in the refrigerator to thicken it.
Rub a little onto the affected areas of your skin and leave it on for about 20 minutes at a time. Gently rinse it off. If your skin responds well, then do this twice a day and use a little more of your homemade eczema honey lotion. Don’t leave it on your skin over night. Using eczema honey in the middle of the day won’t interfere with your usual skin care routine.
Possible Side Effects of Using Honey on Your Skin
Honey is well tolerated by most people, but there are some potential side effects:
- Allergic reaction; if you are allergic to honey, pollen or bee stings, look for alternative remedies for eczema symptoms.
- Skin infection from bacteria that may be in raw honey, though this is less of a problem for honey applied topically.
- Skin irritation from leaving eczema honey on too long; honey residue can attract dust or microbes that can irritate the skin.
Other Natural Remedies for Eczema
In addition to honey, several other natural, alternative treatments are effective in clearing eczema breakouts. They include:
- East Indian sandalwood oil: A compound in sandalwood oil called alpha-santalol has a wide range of health benefits. In particular, its anti-inflammatory properties reduce symptoms, such as itchy skin.
- L-histidine: This supplement is an amino acid that increases the formation of filaggrin, a protein necessary for skin health, but one that is lacking in people with eczema.
- Vitamin E: Taken as an oral supplement, this potent antioxidant helps reduce the severity of eczema symptoms, and has no side effects for most people.
When applied directly to skin affected by eczema, honey can relieve dry, itchy symptoms. It works by moisturizing the skin and boosting the immune system’s ability to fight the eczema outbreak. Honey’s natural antibacterial properties also help fight bacteria that accompany eczema breakouts. You can find eczema honey products online or on store shelves, or you can make your own with raw honey and other ingredients, such as shea butter, essential oils, and aloe.
- Alangari, A. A., Morris, K., Lwaleed, B. A., Lau, L., Jones, K., Cooper, R., & Jenkins, R. (2017). Honey is potentially effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: Clinical and mechanistic studies. Immunity, inflammation and disease, 5(2), 190–199. https://doi.org/10.1002/iid3.153
- Jaffary, F., Faghihi, G., Mokhtarian, A., & Hosseini, S. M. (2015). Effects of oral vitamin E on treatment of atopic dermatitis: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 20(11), 1053–1057. https://doi.org/10.4103/1735-1995.172815
- Sharma Manju, Levenson Corey, Browning John C., Becker Emily M., Clements Ian, Castella Paul, Cox Michael E. East Indian Sandalwood Oil Is a Phosphodiesterase Inhibitor: A New Therapeutic Option in the Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Disease. Frontiers in Pharmacology, Volume 9, 2018. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00200
- McLoone, P., Oluwadun, A., Warnock, M., & Fyfe, L. (2016). Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. Central Asian journal of global health, 5(1), 241. https://doi.org/10.5195/cajgh.2016.241
- Shi, K., Lio, P.A. Alternative Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol 20, 251–266 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-018-0412-3
- Tan, S. P., Brown, S. B., Griffiths, C. E., Weller, R. B., & Gibbs, N. K. (2017). Feeding filaggrin: effects of l-histidine supplementation in atopic dermatitis.Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 403–411. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S146760
- Packer, J. M., Irish, J., Herbert, B. R., Hill, C., Padula, M., Blair, S. E., … Harry, E. J. (2012, July). Specific non-peroxide antibacterial effect of manuka honey on the Staphylococcus aureus proteome. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22580031