Bee Venom Is The New Buzz That Has Stormed The Skincare World. What Science Knows So Far

Learn everything about bee venom in skincare, how it is extracted and how safe it is.
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Most of us fear bee stings, and for good reasons. Yet, when it comes to skincare, the venom produced by these lovely little creatures comes out to be quite a skin savior. Indeed, the idea of applying bee venom to your complexion may sound out of this world (I was a bit skeptical at first, too), but it can actually do wonders and help improve a wide array of skin concerns. I mean, have you ever thought that bee venom could make your skin look firmer and minimize fine lines and wrinkles? Or that it can help fight stubborn acne, relieve irritation, and heal your skin? Yes, you can get all these perks by adding bee venom into your skincare routine. Do I have your attention? Good, keep reading to learn the science behind the benefits of bee venom for skin.

What is bee venom?

Bee venom is the substance produced by bees as a defense mechanism against predators. It is also what makes bee stings painful and causes swelling. As for what it’s made of, bee venom consists of a complex mixture of good-for-skin compounds, including proteins, peptides, amino acids, phospholipids, sugars, and minerals.[1][2][3] Of all, melittin (a polypeptide) is the major component of bee venom, accounting for about 40-60% of the total composition and being responsible for most of its skincare effects, including anti-aging, healing, protecting, and soothing.[3]

How is bee venom extracted?

Trust us, just like you, we also wondered how the heck this stuff was extracted when we first heard about the use of bee venom in skincare. We were most interested in whether this modern trend contributes to colony collapse disorder or affects bee life. Fortunately, the extraction process isn’t only non-fatal, but bees that have been stimulated for venom usually yield more honey than their non-stimulated friends. 

Long story short, the extraction method implies electrical stimulation. Bees spend time surrounded by fabric-covered plates that have conductor wires stretched flat across them. Once they land, the wires release a mild electric current that angers the bees just enough to sting, causing the venom to drop onto the plate. This method is most effective not only because it doesn’t affect bees’ life but also because it preserves most of the venom protein content, more than 80%, to be precise.[1] However, it turns out that it takes about one million stings to make 1g of venom, which is why most products containing bee venom have a high price tag.

How does bee venom work on skin?

Briefly, bee venom makes a great skincare ingredient because it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. When topically applied, it was proven to improve various conditions, including acne, atopic dermatitis, photoaging, psoriasis, wounds, wrinkles, and even hyperpigmentation.[2][3]

Here’s what science knows so far about the skin benefits of bee venom.

Improves acne

One of the most researched activities of bee venom in skincare relates to its acne-fighting abilities. When applied topically, it can help relieve both non-inflammatory and inflammatory conditions and suppress inflammations caused by P.acnes bacteria.[2][4] For reference, during a 2016 study on 30 people, a venom serum applied twice daily for six weeks improved acne between 8.6% and 52.3% and drastically reduced whiteheads and blackheads as well as papules, pustules, and nodules.[5] In other words, bee venom targets all types of acne.

Encourages healing

Bee venom can also speed up wound healing, which may help texturize the skin and smooth scarring. By extension of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, bee venom can reduce free radical damage as well as mitigate inflammations at a cellular level, two culprits that hinder the recovery process. Besides, it was found that bee venom induces the production of collagen type I, a protein required for wound healing.[3][6]

Relieves atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is often addressed with aggressive treatments, which can cause all sorts of adverse effects. This is where melittin (the main compound of bee venom) comes to the rescue. During a 2017 study, this polypeptide from bee venom turned out to be beneficial for relieving eczema, aka atopic dermatitis. Even more, it can soothe the symptoms that accompany dermatitis, including itchiness, redness, and flakiness.[7]

Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

Thanks to its antioxidant and collagen-stimulating activities, bee venom works wonders to minimize the appearance of aging signs as well. It was found to reduce not only the number of fine lines and wrinkles but also their depth; likewise, it can improve the texture and elasticity of the skin.[8] Interestingly, bee venom delivers the best anti-aging benefits when mixed with other bee products, namely propolis, honey, and royal jelly.

Improves hyperpigmented skin

Finally, you can use bee venom to diminish skin discoloration. This is because bee venom can directly inhibit tyrosinase, the main enzyme responsible for synthesizing melanin — the pigment that darkens the skin. This results in an even-looking complexion with less visible dark spots.[9]

Is bee venom safe for skin?

Bee venom is a perfectly safe ingredient in skincare products that’s unlikely to cause irritation or other side effects. However, if you’re allergic or sensitive to bee stings, avoid products that contain bee venom.

Final words

As you can see, bee venom in skincare isn’t just hype! Feel free to think of it as your new natural wunderkind.

Read next: 8 Best Bee Venom Skincare Products You Need To Try Out


References

Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.

References
  1. Pucca MB and other authors. Bee Updated: Current Knowledge on Bee Venom and Bee Envenoming Therapy. Frontiers in Immunology. 2019. 10:2090. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2019.02090. 
  2. Haejoong Kim, Soo-Yeon Park and Gihyun Lee. Potential Therapeutic Applications of Bee Venom on Skin Disease and Its Mechanisms: A Literature Review. Toxins (Basel). doi: 10.3390/toxins11070374. PMCID: PMC6669657, PMID: 3125265.
  3. Parente ME, Gámbaro A, Roselli T, et al. Clinical evaluation of the efficacy of bee venom as cosmetic active. J Dermat Cosmetol . 2020;4(6):152-157. DOI: 10.15406/jdc.2020.04.00167
  4. An, H., Lee, W., Kim, K., Kim, J., Lee, S., Han, S. … Park, K. (2014). Inhibitory effects of bee venom on Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammatory skin disease in an animal model. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2014.1933
  5. Sang Mi Han, Sok Cheon Pak, Young Mee Nicholls, Nicola Macfarlane. Evaluation of anti-acne properties of purified bee venom serum in humans. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Dec;15(4):324-329. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12227.
  6. Kurek-Górecka A, Komosinska-Vassev K, Rzepecka-Stojko A, Olczyk P. Bee Venom in Wound Healing. Molecules. 2020 Dec 31, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7795515/
  7. Woon-Hae Kim and other authors. Beneficial effects of melittin on ovalbumin-induced atopic dermatitis in mouse. Scientific Reports. 2017. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17873-2. PMCID: PMC5732199, PMID: 29247241.
  8. Sang Mi Han and other authors. The beneficial effects of honeybee-venom serum on facial wrinkles in humans. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2015. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S84940. PMCID: PMC4598227, PMID: 26491274.
  9. Sang Mi Han, Jung Min Kim & Sok Cheon Pak (2015) Anti-melanogenic properties of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) venom in α-MSH-stimulated B16F1 cells, Food and Agricultural Immunology, 26:3, 451-462, DOI: 10.1080/09540105.2014.950202
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