‘Beauty and the Bees’

That syrupy stuff is not just for sweetening your favorite herbal tea. Find out how ingredients made by bees can help boost your beauty routine.

An Apiary is a place where beehives are kept and can be as simple as a small hive box in a garden to hundreds of boxes on a commercial orchard. Humans have kept bees since ancient times – as far back as 9,000 years, possibly, with early cave paintings depicting honeycombs, bee swarms, and honey collection. Today, beekeeping has become a hobby for a growing number of rural and suburban residents. Of course, bees play a crucial role in agriculture, too; it’s hard to find a flower, tree, or food source that doesn’t require the help of the hardworking honeybee to pollinate it. Many of the foods we eat would just not be possible without bees. And, when it comes to all-natural skin and hair care, bee-based ingredients also offer a wealth of benefits.

Unrivaled Ingredients

Honey and beeswax are extremely unique. We have yet to create a synthetic version of these two ingredients that can compare to what honeybees naturally produce. Nothing quite matches the rich sweetness that honey provides, and beeswax lends an incomparable texture to everything from furniture polish and candles to waterproofing in winter boots.

In the realm of beauty, honey and beeswax promote healthy skin and hair, helping to keep it clean and protected. Made through a mixture of nectars, pollens, resins, and the bee’s own enzymes, honey is a powerful antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of bacteria on the skin. It’s also high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help slow down the signs of aging. As a humectant, it moisturizes and soothes the complexion.

Honeybees produce beeswax through secretion of their abdomen. Bees hang in strings, and as they produce this wax, they pass it through their legs and mouths to fashion the honeycomb. As the substance sets, it turns into the hardened opaque wax we are familiar with. Thanks to its antibacterial and antiviral properties, it helps protect the hive from infection.

In cosmetics, it has a long shelf life because it doesn’t become rancid. These actions make it a great addition to beauty products, and its texture creates a physical barrier that protects skin from the elements while still allowing pores to breathe. The cosmetic industry values it as an ingredient because it doesn’t become rancid and it has germ-killing properties. Like honey, it’s also a humectant, and its mild, pleasant aroma blends well with other ingredients. And all skin types, including those with sensitive skin, can enjoy it.

You can find plenty of cosmetic products on store shelves featuring these bee ingredients – or try your hand at making your own. Here are some recipes to get you started.


Honey Cleanser

Honey is often used in place of soap as a mild and gentle cleanser for skin and hair. Using local raw honey is best, but in this recipe, any pure honey will work.

1 Tbls pure honey

2 Tbls oatmeal or oat flour, finely ground

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl and spoon into a clean container. To use: Massage into damp skin and then rinse well. Yields: 1 ounce.

Anti-Aging Facial Mask

Reduce the signs of aging with this antioxidant-rich mask. The darker the color of your honey, the more antioxidants it contains, which means more benefit for your complexion.

1 Tbls raw honey

To use: Smooth the raw honey over a clean face and neck and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and pat skin dry. Follow up with your favorite moisturizer or natural oil. Yields: .5 ounces.

Egyptian Honey Mask

This recipe takes its inspiration from ancient Egyptian practices of soothing and cleansing the skin using natural clay and honey.

1 Tbls white kaolin clay

1 Tbls raw honey

1 Tbls pure or distilled water

Mix together all ingredients until you have a smooth paste. To use: Spread on your clean face and neck and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and pat your skin dry. Yield: .75 ounces.

Honeybee Bath

Honey’s especially soothing to dry skin when it’s used in the bath because it helps lock in all that moisture. If the idea of sitting in a tub full if honey sounds a bit sticky, don’t worry; this recipe will make your skin feel soft and silky without residue.

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup mild liquid soap such as castile

Mix together all the ingredients and pour into a clean container. To use: Gently shake to remix and pour 1/4 cup into the bath under running water. Bathe for 15 to 20 minutes. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a bit of aromatherapy. Yield: 16 ounces, enough for eight baths.

Beeswax Lip Balm

Most lip balms contain beeswax, and for good reason; it helps condition your lips and protects them from the elements. This recipe is for a basic lip balm; feel free to build on this recipe or experiment with different oils in place of the coconut.

1 tsp beeswax

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp cocoa butter

Place all of the ingredients in a heat-resistant container and gently heat on the stovetop or in the microwave. Stir until well-mixed and pour into a small container or empty lip balm tube. Let cool completely until it becomes solid. To use: Spread on your lips. Yield: .5 ounce

Lavender Lip Balm

Lavender and bees make a perfect pair. Honeybees love to forage and feast on lavender’s pretty purple flowers, producing a delightfully fragrant lavender honey in turn. {It’s a real treat to taste if you can find it.} Lavender and honey are also well-suited for skin care, as they both soothe and provide natural antiseptic properties. This balm contains essential oil of lavender to help heal dry, chapped lips.

2 tsp almond oil

1 tsp beeswax

1/4 tsp raw honey

2-3 drops essential oil of lavender

Place the oil and beeswax in a heat-resistant container and gently heat on the stovetop or in the microwave until the wax begins to melt. Remove from heat and add the honey and essential oil of lavender; continue to stir until well-mixed. Pour the warm mixture into a small container or empty lip balm tube. Let cool completely until it becomes solid. To use: Spread on your lips. Yield: .5 ounce

Beeswax Hand Cream

Because of pure beeswax’s moisturizing effects and protective barrier, it serves as an ideal base in hand creams, especially for those hard-working hands that prefer to dig in the dirt.

1 cup light natural oil such as almond, olive, or light sesame

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup grated beeswax

1/2 tsp vitamin E oil

In a heat-resistant container, combine all of the ingredients and heat gently until the oils and wax begin to melt. Remove from heat source and stir well until all ingredients are melted and well-mixed. Pour into a clean container and let cool completely. To use: Massage a small amount into your skin. Yield: 8 ounces

Sunny Day Healing Salve

We do our best to apply sunscreen, but sunburns can still occur, and this healing salve can help soothe some of the discomforts. Natural beeswax, along with soothing aloe vera gel, helps calm and comfort your skin. This salve also works well for mitigating dry skin and treating insect bites.

1/4 cup grated beeswax

1/2 cup cocoa butter or shea butter

1/2 cup light sesame oil

1/2 cup aloe vera gel

5-6 drops essential oil of lavender

5-6 drops essential oil of peppermint

In a heat-resistant container or pan, combine all of the ingredients and heat gently until the mixture begins to melt. Remove from heat source and stir well until all ingredients are mixed. Spoon into a clean container and let cool completely. To use: Gently spread over your skin and allow it to soak in to cool the burn. Yield: 8 ounces

Honey Conditioning Hair Pack

Honey can do great things for dry or damaged hair. It helps restore color, moisture, body, and shine. It may also lighten your hair slightly if used over time so dark-haired individuals may want to do a patch test first or skip this treatment.

1/2 cup raw honey

After shampooing, massage the honey into your hair and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes. You may want to cover your hair with a plastic shower cap or cotton towel. Rinse well with warm water and condition your hair as normal. Yield: 4 ounces

Raw Honey

As opposed to the honey you find in the store, raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized, heated, or processed. If you get raw honey directly from the source – the beehive – you know exactly what combination of flowers has gone into it.

Raw honey provides many benefits, including antibacterial properties comparable to pharmaceutical antibiotics when applied topically to wounds and red or swollen areas. It’s also effective in treating conjunctivitis, and in some cases, using small amounts of raw honey helps relieve seasonal allergies by exposing the body to small amounts of pollen {processing honey removes pollen}. Of course, the dangers of consuming unpasteurized food products include food poisoning and botulism {especially in infants; never give children under the age of one honey, raw or processed}.

Honey bee hovering near blue-eyed grass flower

Saving The Bees

You don’t have to become a beekeeper to support or “save the bees.” You can enjoy bee-based products and support your local growers and bee enthusiasts by purchasing from local growers and keepers. You can also plant some bee-friendly herbs and flowers in your yard – honeybees can fly almost five miles from their hives, and will happily find your plants. In return, they will help pollinate your garden. Some easy, bee-friendly plants include lavender, sage, mint, oregano, calendula, rosemary, and blackberry. For more local favorites, check with your favorite nursery, as many growers now feature plants that promote pollinators such as honeybees and butterflies.

Apitherapy Ingredients

“Apitherapy” is the term used for treatments that involve honey and bee-based ingredients. Honeybees may be nature’s best cosmetologist. Here are some of their amazing products.

Beeswax: This is the wax secreted from the underside of bees, which they use to make the walls of the honeycomb. No synthetic product has been developed that has all of beeswax properties. In beauty products, it forms a protective barrier on the skin that helps protect against environmental irritants and locks in moisture. You can find beeswax where beekeeping equipment is sold and at many natural food stores and markets.

Propolis: This substance is considered the “bee-glue” with which bees use to seal up their hives. It’s a sticky dark-colored mixture of beeswax and bee saliva. You’ll find it in some cosmetic products as an antioxidant ingredient and also in cough medicine. It’s used in herbal salves and balms. Obtain it through your local beekeeper or find it on sale at some beekeeping supply stores.

Bee Pollen: This is pollen collected by worker bees and used in the hive to feed young bees. It contains a number of vitamins and minerals. Cosmetic companies are increasingly adding it to products, especially ones focused on anti-aging to help promote new cell growth. There are mixed opinions about using bee pollen, the main concern being potential allergic reactions. Please check with your physician if you have any concerns about using bee pollen on your skin, especially if you are allergic to bees.