What it is: A sweet fluid produced by honey bees from the nectar of flowers. Honey is primarily composed of fructose, glucose, and water. It also contains other sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.

Where it comes from: Worker honey bees transform the floral nectar into honey by adding enzymes and reducing the moisture. As the moisture evaporates, the honey becomes thicker. Honey is stored in the honeycomb (wax cells also made by the bees). According to The National Honey Board, bees may travel as far as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey.

Properties: The color and flavor of honeys differ depending on the nectar source (the blossoms). There are more than 300 unique types of honey available in the United States, each originating from a different floral source. Honey is a natural humectant (it attracts and retains moisture). In addition to drawing moisture into the skin, honey is also an antiseptic (it inhibits the growth of bacteria). These two factors make honey a good choice for all skin types.

What it’s good for: Honey has a wholesome, all-natural image. More and more consumers are demanding cosmetics and personal care products made from natural ingredients. Its humectant properties make honey a natural fit in a variety of products including cleaners, creams, and conditioners. Honey also acts as an anti-irritant, making it suitable for sensitive skin and baby care products. Research is currently underway to develop a process using honey to create alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs are an important ingredient in many skin creams and moisturizers because they help exfoliate the skin.

Where you’ll find it: In addition to consuming honey, it can be found in a variety of skin care and other beauty products.

Other uses: Honey’s unique composition makes it an effective antimicrobial agent, useful for treating minor burns and scrapes, and for aiding the treatment of sore throats and other bacterial infections.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.