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


image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/FromNikkiCharms

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. 

Sarah x