Thursday, March 3, 2011

Question: Using honey as a humectant

I'm asked all the time about using honey as a humectant in our products. Is it possible?

Honey is a good humectant, which is why we want to use it in our products, but this is also where we run into problems. Honey is self-preserving - to a certain extent - when there's no water around due to the high levels of sugar. Add some water, and fermentation begins. So if you're using honey in a product that contains water, like our lotions, the fermentation can begin quite quickly.

Honey can also be considered an anti-bacterial ingredient, but only for itself (meaning it won't behave as a preservative for our products). Some honeys are considered more anti-bacterial than others, like Manuka honey, and there are suggestions that honey might help heal wounds faster (although this is in dispute at the moment).

So to answer the question "is it possible to use honey in our products?", the answer is a yes with a but. Yes, it could be a good addition as a humectant and possible wound healer, but it's going to be more difficult to preserve, so a good broad spectrum preservative used at the maximum usage amount is required if you want to use it in your water containing products.


Anonymous said...

Probably best to use honey powder. I guess.


Brooke said...

I was just thinkinh the same thing. Have you used Honey Powder and what do you think of it?

Lise M Andersen said...

You get a lot out of honey if you add it to a face mask - immediate use - immediate effect. :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

It would be better to use honey powder, but you'll want to preserve your product very well as you would with any botanical ingredient. I've used honey powder in lotions, but I haven't found that it made a ton of difference to the humectancy of my product. I've used it in other applications for the skin feel - like body powders - and it felt nice.

Heidi said...

OMG, I just asked you if you ever heard of Manuka honey in your "I'm Sick"

I do know that Manuka honey is used in medical dressings in hospitals and sold in such dressings in medical supply stores as well. But I believe it must me 20+ active Manuka. Not sure, need to check on that number.

Erika said...

Hi Susan,

I've been looking for information on honey powder, which I'd like to incorporate into a body scrub, if possible.

I found once source that says the max amount in the total of a product should be 0.5%. (this was from a supplier)

I found another source with a formula that uses 14% honey powder. This was a facial cleanser formula that included oat flour, honey powder, white kaolin clay and milk powder. A wetting agent such as a hydrosol was recommended, but to be kept separate until use. So, I assumed this means the honey powder would not be reconstituted first. The total weight of the dry components is 107 grams. So, that's about a tablespoon of honey powder, if I calculated right.

Then, I found yet another source that mentioned 'Add to the water phase. This can be used in any quantity so long as the honey is hydrated, but we recommend a dose of between 1-10%.'

So, I'm confused about the information I'm finding. Plus, I'm not that experienced yet, so forgive me if my question is out in left field.

Can you straighten me out on this? :-)

Thanks for all you do here!

Vidyut G K said...

What happens if we emulsify honey into an anhydrous product or add honey powder to an oil based scrub? Would the anti-bacterial properties be adequate to need no further preservation?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Vidyut. No, honey can't preserve anything in our products. It's self preserving, but that's it. Add a bit of water to it, and you've got yourself a problem. If you put it into an anhydrous product, it will need a preservative. If you put it into a scrub, you should already be planning to include a preservative.

I wrote a post on this, which you could find in the humectants section of the blog. Honey: A few studies about its anti-microbial properties.

sarah hopkins said...

Hi! I am a soap maker, and I am currently working on finding a great honey soap recipe. But after reading this blog on honey, I am concerned about growing bugs in the soap if honey is added. I make cold process soap, and it goes through gel phase, so gets quite hot. I add the honey at the 'trace' stage. I was wondering if at that stage the soap batter would be hot enough to kill off anything problematic in the honey. My usage of honey: I use about 6 tsps of honey in 2000g of oils at a 5% lye discount. Any thoughts? not sure if there is a post elsewhere in your blog on this subject.. Also, I was thinking about adding honey to my solid conditioner bar with some beeswax, as I currently buy a solid conditioner from a company that adds these to their bars, and I just love those bars. Thanks for a great blog! Sarah