27.2.14

The Mighty Bee - Venom, Propolis, Honey, Royal Jelly, Beeswax



I am noticing a new trend in natural skincare for all things Bee related but I want to raise awareness that some bee by-products are potential allergens. You will be aware from my reviews, at this moment in time I do not avoid beeswax or honey. I am also going to touch on the issue of cruelty but I understand this is a sensitive topic. Let me talk you through the ingredients used in skincare that Bees produce.

Bee Venom - I am sure most of you understand that venom is the poison which makes a sting painful, but are you aware of how the venom is collected? Bees are given a tiny electric shock as they enter the hive, not enough to kill them (debatable as I'm sure some would die) but just enough to put them in a bad mood so they will release venom. Believe it or not this method is regarded as cruelty free because the alternative would involve killing the bees by removing the stinger and venom sacks. (source - ichoosewhatiuse.co.uk) People with an allergy to bee sting need to avoid this ingredient in skincare.

Royal Jelly – secreted from the glands of the bee and used to feed the larvae. Royal Jelly is used in skincare because it is rich in amino acid, vitamins and minerals. To harvest this ingredient a bee hive needs to be encouraged to produce more queen bees. The hive does not survive without a queen bee so she is removed and larvae introduced, this then encourages worker bees to feed the larvae to produce a new queen. I have read that anyone with asthma or allergies should avoid Royal Jelly. Reactions can range from mild skin irritation to anaphylaxis shock.

Propolis – a resinous mixture which is used to seal open spaces in the hive and is collected by Bees from tree buds and sap. Propolis is used in skincare because it seems to have anti inflammatory and skin healing effects. Claims have been made that it can be used to treat allergies but it can cause severe reactions especially if you are sensitive to bees. Some experts believe it can make asthma worse and anyone allergic to conifers, poplars, Peru balsam and salicylates are advised to avoid propolis.

Honey – if you follow natural bloggers, you may have seen the growing popularity in using honey as a cleanser because of the antiseptic, anti inflammatory, healing and moisturing properties. Honey is made when bees transform nectar by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. That does kind of gross me out a little. If you wanted to substitute honey in skincare, then opt for products containing manuka essential oil which is extracted from the species of New Zealand tree called Leptospermum Scoparium. It offers the same benefits as manuka honey but is obtained from the leaves, flowers and wood. If you would like to substitute honey in cooking, Vegan alternatives are Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup, Coconut Nectar and Dates (there are probably more but these are the ones I am familiar with).

Beeswax – worker bees secrete wax from their glands and use it to build the honeycomb cells in the hive. It is used in skincare as a surfactant as it forms a protective barrier on the skin but unlike mineral oil, as with all Bee by-products, it does offer antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits. Harvesting the beeswax and honey involves taking it from the hive which they reside in. This is the part of the Vegan argument that likens it to factory farming, forcing the bees to construct the hives for humans to steal from.

The thought process for writing this post was sparked following a Twitter conversation where someone told me propolis would ‘cure’ my eczema. I personally would not advise anyone with allergic eczema, like myself, to use propolis and you may wish to be cautious of the other bee by products. From my viewpoint, bee venom and royal jelly are the ingredients that upset me the most due to the method of extraction. I know that is a double standard and I can appreciate the Vegan argument that bee keeping is exploitative and cruel. Writing this blog post has certainly got me thinking in a different way. Eliminating beeswax from my skincare may prove to be difficult so I need to delve a little deeper into this. There are several creams I rely on to help treat my eczema which contain beeswax. The main point to this blog post was to highlight the issues and let you decide. 


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13 comments:

  1. Very informative post, the "bee's knees" ;) Thank you! I've never been attracted by Bee Venom, but I do sometimes use Manuka honey as a spot treatment. I hadn't heard of Manuka essential oil before, will have to get a closer look at this ingredient. Great post lovely xx

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    1. Thank you, I too use manuka honey products for spots as I find tea tree a bit harsh for my skin but it works in the same way :-)

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  2. A lot of the balms I use contain Cera Alba (beeswax). Do you think they're added to balms as a preservative? I dislike lanolin which by the sounds of it is similar to the process of beeswax? I'm all new to this so any help you can give me is welcome. I was reading your ingredient review post and feel I should re-evaluate the products I use. I don't wear lipstick because of the carmine aspect, blusher I tend to choose the carmine free ones. Which make up brands are free from carmine? Maybe you could do favourites post of products which don't compromise beauty with cruelty?

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    1. Beeswax is used for conditioning the skin as far as I'm aware not for preservative reasons. Yes, similar to lanolin as that is a wax produced from glands of sheep and used for the same reasons, it acts as a barrier on skin. My knowledge of make up is very limited, this is an area I'd like to improve on because I am frequently asked. I know the brand Beauty without Cruelty is 100% Vegan http://www.bwcshop.com/. If you want to guarantee no animal by products I would suggest those with Vegan approval are your best option. Websites like PETA, BUAV, Vegan or Vegetarian Society are good resources for information and often have lists of products they approve of. Hope that helps and I'll have a look at doing a post so thank you for the suggestion :-)

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  3. Trust you to bring a little controversy before I even had breakfast :) well, since honey and beeswax I kind off two sides of the same coin ( by extracting honey you need to go through the wax first) it would be hypocritical for me to stop using beeswax products while still consuming honey. Since I am not vegan or vegetarian I do have meat and eggs, so honey is not worse in that respect. However, there is no place for needless cruelty (to bees or other animals). I never liked the idea of bee venom and royal jelly, so I never used those products. It is definitely something to keep in mind.

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    1. me, controversial, never! lol I've continued to use honey & beeswax because as you say there are worst things, bees are not directly hurt (unlike the electric shocks) so I stuck with using these ingredients. Like you I have never used venom or royal jelly but mainly for allergy reasons rather than awareness of extraction techniques.

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  4. Interesting post Sarah & very informative! I never really thought about choosing bee venom products or royal jelly, they don't really appeal to me and definitely not now I know how it's extracted!

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    1. I've been seeing a rise in the number of products with Bee Venom and it makes me very sad that people want to put it on their skin

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  5. Thank you for this interesting informative post :) We use propolis at home for throat infection and in the tooth paste and it work very well for anti-inflammatory! Xx

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  6. Really fantastic article Sarah! One to keep bookmarked. I've also looked into the cruelty aspect of beekeeping but find the vegan argument to be quite weak...and I am strongly against factory farming. An increase in independent beekeepers has seen a positive affect on the bee population which we all know is pretty dire. As with all ingredients I think it comes down to finding the right grpwer/farmer who practises ethically. I read a great article in my fav magazine all about it - will have to scan it in and show you!

    Mayah x

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    1. I want to explore the "factory farming" claims at some point because it does cross my mind that independent bee keeping is probably a bit different in the same way organic farming is. I certainly would be interested to read the article, I want to expand my knowledge on this subject :-)

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  7. This is such an interesting post. I agree with Mayah above, independent bee keeping has a positive affect on the bee population, in the same way organic farming does with wildlife and insect life (including bees!). I think the cruel extraction techniques are awful and I won't be spending a penny of my money on anything with those ingredients in. I find it hard to exclude honey & beeswax based on cruelty though, although it's definitely given me something to research and think about more x

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    1. Pleased you found this interesting & I gave you something to think about :-)

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