Can Active Manuka Honey Cause Pimples?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to this. What I can do is just to share my experience and theory

My fascination with Manuka honey started when I had World of Organics’ signature Sheer Indulgence Facial with Manuka Honey Mask. I loved the experience so much — the massage and the post-facial glow — that I bought my first jar of Manuka honey the day after. It cost me a whopping s$124 but it was worth it because I drained it up to the very last sticky drop.

High UMF Might Just be Too Active

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned how much I love manuka honey as a natural remedy to acne. Usually, the higher the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor), the faster it acts on pimples. I also cautioned, however, people with sensitive skin to be careful with types of Manuka honey with very high UMF, usually 20 and above. Why?

Whenever I used high UMF honey as mask or facial massage cream, I usually developed one (or as in the most recent case, more) big pimple or bump the day after. And it’s really ironic because the rest of my skin would be smooth and glowing due to the same manuka honey treatment! I’ve never known my skin to be sensitive as I used to be able to take harsh chemical peels without a problem. Except for my eyelid eczema, my skin rarely reacts to products.

I could not find any other articles which reported studies or similar experiences. My (hopefully near-intelligent) theory, however, is that since Manuka Honey is active, it can sometimes over-stimulate the skin and cause such reactions. It can trigger allergies just like any other ‘active’ ingredients like acids and certain essential oils. I also read that Manuka is very good in drawing out toxins from the skin and the body so it could also be possible that the big pimples are due to purging.

Don’t Fret, Just be Careful
Still, my experience with Manuka honey has been more on the positive side. I don’t think this post should shun away anybody from ever trying manuka honey. Just be careful and know the limits of your skin. Usually, if you need to do spot treatment for pimples, UMF24+ and above is most ideal as you need something potent. But if you just want to do a regular mask or facial massage, UMF 10+ is a safe value.

You can still use those with higher UMF values but it will depend a lot on the other ingredients you use and the ratio of manuka honey in the mixture. But until you’re really confident about mixing your own beauty recipes and are not afraid to risk having one or two pimples in the name of beauty experimentation, then I suggest better stay on the safe side for now.

Has anybody experienced similar reactions with DIY manuka honey beauty recipes before?

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  • sesame

    I love manuka honey both on my skin and in my mouth. :p One thing that came up during a discussion with a reader is that some manuka honey may not be so safe for the skin. So best to look out for those that states it’s safe for both oral and topical consumption if one has sensitive skin. I was using MGO Manuka Honey – it says that their honey is good to take orally as well as safe for topical application.

    • Vivi

      Oh, I didn’t know that some Manuka Honey are labeled “cosmetic-safe”, too. Thanks for the tip, I’ll keep that in mind. =) The previous brand I bought was Nature’s Farm (the expensive one) which was UMF 24+. I found another brand from Four Season’s Organic Market which sells cheaper. I got two jars, UMF10+ and UMF25+. I never had problems with UMF10+ but I experienced some reactions when using those with high UMF.

  • Trixie

    OMG! I was just changing my night moisturizer to Living Nature’s and adding on their rescue gel as a pimple treatment. I keep having new pimple popping up every day that looks like the one you mentioned. But its all around the same area (lower cheek). I was wondering what went wrong because everywhere else, my face is smoother and pigmentation is lighter because of the moisturizer.

    Now I’m drawn between having to stop it altogether or continue because it might be a purge. Did you experience any pimples after your sheer indulgence facial? Because i might want to try.

    • Vivi

      Hi Trixie, has your chin area always been prone to pimples? Usually, pimples caused by cosmetics pop out in the chin/nose area. You might want to read one of my previous posts:

      I haven’t tried LN’s Night Moisturizer, just the Day Moisturizer–it was alright although it clogged my pores every once in a while so I really had to be diligent with exfoliating my skin. Unless you are generally allergic to honey/bee products, you shouldn’t be too concerned with the manuka honey in LN’s products ’cause the honey they’re using is cosmetic grade manuka honey. :)

      The Sheer Indulgence facial was great. It helped purge out the headless pimple I had on my nose which would usually take ages to mature.

  • Katrina


    This is happening to me I think.. I started using raw unfiltered honey as a cleanser for 2 days, then realised i started getting small bumps all over my face :(

    I deduced I was purging( I honestly cannot bring myself to believe this myth) so I switched to a gentle cleanser to sooth it.. i honestly cannot wait around for ages for the “purging period to end revealing clearer skin..” as I have to meet clients and feel really low if I have bad skin.

    Then today, 5 days later after the honey cleanser/mask, I developed this huge red bump on my cheeks. I havent gotten those for over a year, and its usually on my chin :(

    Tried bringing it down with a turmeric spot treatment but its not really working AAAAAAAH!!!

    • Vivi

      Hi Katrina, I’ve read a lot of people reacting badly to raw unfiltered honey. Because it’s raw and unfiltered, it still contains all the pollens, spores and whatnot so it might have caused your tiny bumps…. OR you could really be purging. Purging usually only lasts for 2 weeks so if the amount of acne/pimples isn’t slowing down, may be it’s really not suitable for you.

      If the acne is headless and is deep, unfortunately, turmeric won’t help. :(

      Are you still using honey as cleanser until now? Let me know how it goes…

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