Thursday, June 4, 2009Ingredient of the month

Mel, Honey

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Honey, a golden and sweet substance, comes with properties very useful for cosmetics: moisturizing, regenerating and healing. Manufacturers of cosmetics have noticed them and have a field day with an ingredient endowed with so ubiquitous properties that it is widely used in many products. Easy to use and store, it is also a given for home-made cosmetics.

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Gold from bees, a full of richness but endangered product

Honey, manufactured by bees from the nectar of flowers or from honeydew, honey comprises many kinds of molecules: water, sugars (including glucose and fructose), amino-acids, vitamins, trace elements, organic acids, enzymes and antibiotic agents. This mix of synergetic and vital active ingredients is by itself a good explanation of its abilities to smoothen and moisturize our skin while making it healthier.
Its harmlessness, its pureness and its richness make it a major ingredient that shall be saved. Indeed, its future seems to be at risk, as the number of bees is dramatically decreasing. This makes the most pessimistic people wonder whether the future of the human race is not endangered. The main culprits are pointed to: atmosphere pollution, phytosanitary chemicals, electromagnetic waves, plus viruses and bacteria, which kill bees by thousands in beehives.

Honey, or honeys?

Honey made of nectar gathered from flowers or honey from honeydew of plants … "all flowers" honey, or honey from hawthorn, pine tree, fir tree, eucalyptus, limetree, rosemary … there is not one honey, but many kinds of honey. Colours, textures, fragrances … none is similar to the others.
In conjunction with the bio diversity of the area that bees wandered around and depending on the time of year, every honey has peculiar characteristics, either from taste and smell or for therapeutic applications. Further, honey is an "intelligent" product, which duplicates the properties of the active ingredients of the plants where it comes from. This is why honey from thyme or lavender, which both have healing and antibacterial effects, give better results for healing of wounds.

Qualities known since millenniums

Honey is prized for its antibacterial , anti-inflammatory and healing qualities since millenniums.
Egyptians used it to embalm their dead, Greeks and Romans as well as Chinese and Indians used it to heal wounds, to make skin more beautiful, to soothe bellyaches, to soothe sore throats, to treat the earaches or eyes ailments.
Since some few years, it makes a kind of comeback in hospitals, thanks to a worldwide network of researchers, and M.Ds. called apitherapists (apis being the Greek name for the Genus honeybee), who use it, along other products from beehives, in intravenous therapy, in inhalations for the respiratory tract diseases and for dermatological preparations.

Apitherapy and cosmetics

Honey is used in cosmetic products as an emollient agent to give skin suppleness and smoothness, and for its humectant and moisturizing properties, due to its high content of sugars retaining water on skin. Further, it is prized for the vitamins, amino acids and anti-oxidant trace elements, which make them a preferred ingredient in products designed for sensitive or mature epidermis while nourishing the skin.

miel-med Since the end of the seventies, it is a topic of advance search by specialists for healing important wounds and burns, due to radiotherapy. In France, Professor Bernard Descottes, the boss of the Visceral Surgery and Transplant Service in the Limoges CHU (Hospital), and the President of the French Association of Apitherapy (A.F.A. as per its French acronym) is the leader of a full generation of M.Ds., who, in Europe (Germany and UK mainly) and also in the USA, with the New York based researcher Noori S. Al-Waili, have worked to promote honey’s medical properties and its uses in hospitals. Working with his team of nurses, he has established specific procedures to apply honey on every kind of lesion: injuries, burns, bedsore, chaps or chapped skin). One important advice: use honey without heating it and apply as wound-dressing on the area of interest.

And the other products from beehives? Be aware of allergy risks!

Propolis . A resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds to erect their beehive, propolis is not that known despite its numerous antiseptic , antibacterial , antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Not much widespread in cosmetics, it is used mainly as a sebum production balancing agent in anti-acne products and in shampoos, and as a smoothening and moisturizing agent in some face cares (anti-ageing, eyes contour, mask, lip balm) and body cares (shower gels, moisturizing lotions …). It is used also as a purifying and antifungal agent in toothpastes and mouthwashes.
A small drawback: it may be allergenic . Better not to use it on sensitive skins or on babies’ and children’ skin.
Its INCI name is Propolis Cera. Some labels come with its English name: Propolis Wax.

cire-abeille Beeswax . It is extracted from the honeycombs of beehives; it is a highly prized ingredient in natural cosmetics, due to its thickening, emollient and emulsifying properties.
It is found mainly in balms and make-up products that must keep a reasonably solid texture (lipsticks, compact foundations) while taking advantage of its film-forming characteristic. It is occlusive, hence efficient in keeping the skin moisturized; nevertheless, this implies it may give birth to blackheads.
There is no known example of it being harmful to the human body, though it may be a cause for allergy for people sensitive to beehive products. Some examples of skin irritation after application are recorded.
Some labels distinguish between Cera Alba, the white purified wax, and Cera Flava, the yellow raw wax; the INCI name, nevertheless, is identical: Cera Alba. Some manufacturers add the English name, Beeswax.

Royal Jelly. It is the most precious ingredient produced by beehives. Royal jelly is the only nutrient of the queen, the longest-living bee.
Royal Jelly is produced by the workers. As a source of B-series vitamins, containing much water, it is an efficiently moisturizing agent.
This ingredient does not come for cheap, which, potentially allergenic and a potential cause of dermatitis, is rarely present in cosmetic products .
Its INCI name: Royal Jelly.

Pollen . It is the male fertilizing agent of flowering plants, or others. High in proteins, it comes as small golden grains.
Used in cosmetics as extract, it is mainly a regenerating agent.
A renowned allergenic agent, it may induce strong reactions. Hence sensitized people are advised against.
Its INCI name: Pollen Extract.


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