Propolis In Skincare Explained, The Savior of Troubled Skin

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Is your skin in need of some TLC? Then you’ll want to learn all about propolis in skincare. Whether the bane of your existence is acne, sun damage, premature aging, or sensitivities, this potent cocktail of bioactive compounds can help restore your complexion back to a healthy state while adding more benefits for a plump and firm appearance. Are you not sure it fits your skin needs? Rest assured. In this post, we discuss the benefits of propolis for skin and break down everything researchers have found about this game-changing bee product.

What is propolis? 

Propolis, or bee glue, is a sticky material that honey bees use in the construction of their hive. The workers create it by mixing plant resins and beeswax with their enzyme-rich saliva. The resulting compound reinforces the hive’s structure and defends the bees’ home from fungi, yeast, bacteria, and viruses.[1] Even more, the highly complex of good-for-skin compounds makes propolis an active of tremendous interest in dermatology. Brimming with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, flavonoids (mostly quercetin), phenolic acids, waxes, fatty acids, and other biologically active compounds, propolis has a wide range of uses in skincare, from wound healing to photoprotection to anti-aging.[1][2][3][4]

Propolis benefits for skin

According to research, propolis in a concentration of 5–20% has regenerative and repair effects and protects against external factors. Here’s how propolis can benefit your skin:

Accelerates skin healing

Propolis has been used in folk medicine to treat wounds and skin infections for centuries, and scientific research backs up its effectiveness. Studies found that the topical application of propolis on damaged skin protects against bacterial infection, soothes inflammation and pain, and speeds up skin regeneration. In particular, propolis has been shown to enhance the production of collagen type 3, a protein that plays a vital role in the early phases of tissue repair. The flavonoids in propolis also aid in accelerating healing and neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals.[2][4][5][6]

Treats acne

The synthetic preparations used as acne treatments are losing their effectiveness due to increasing antibiotic resistance. Thankfully, propolis offers hope. An ethanol extract of bee glue has been shown to inhibit Cuticubacterium acnes, a common culprit behind acne. In particular, the caffeic, benzoic, and cinnamic acids in propolis seem to attack the membranes of bothersome bacteria. Propolis might be even more effective as a blemish-buster when used with other natural antibacterial compounds, such as tea tree oil and aloe vera.[2][8]

Protects against UV damage

We all know that too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation is bad news for the skin. Not only can UV light cause painful sunburns, but it can also wreak havoc on the collagen fibers in the skin and lead to premature aging. The powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and regenerative properties of propolis make it a soothing addition to sun blockers and after-sun formulations. The caffeic, coumaric and ferulic acids found in bee glue absorb UV light and add a natural protective barrier against harmful UV beams, while the flavonoids in propolis help skin recover from sun-induced damage, including DNA damage.[2][7][9]

Softens fine lines and wrinkles

While no product can offer us eternal youth, there’s much we can do to slow down skin aging and even soften existing wrinkles – such as turning to beauty formulations that contain propolis. One study looked at the impact of applying a product with microscopic propolis particles around the eye area over eight weeks. The result was a significant reduction in wrinkles and a visible improvement in overall skin health. But how does propolis smooth out fine lines? For the same reason it speeds up wound healing: it’s rich in flavonoids and phenolic compounds that mop up free radicals and stimulate the growth of skin-firming collagen.[2][5]

Brightens skin

A lesser-known (but scientifically-proven) fact about propolis in skincare is that it can brighten skin and prevent dark spots. Studies found that the two active flavonoid compounds of propolis, especially quercetin, have antioxidants and melanin-inhibiting activities, both of which help diminish discoloration.[10] Interestingly, propolis also inhibits the growth of a specific type of fungus known to trigger melanin production.[11]

Melanin is the pigment that causes skin darkening (aka melasma, hyperpigmentation), and its production is often accelerated by free radicals. As such, propolis visibly lightens skin tone and promotes an even-looking complexion by neutralizing these harmful molecules and mitigating melanin synthesis. In a clinical study, the propolis extracts from different bee species had reduced pigment content in skin cells by nearly 79%.[10]

Combine propolis with a vitamin C serum, and you’ve got yourself a more potent treatment for hyperpigmentation.

How safe is it?

Besides its extensive use in traditional medicine, propolis has been scientifically studied for several decades. In skincare formulations, a concentration of 5–20% is considered safe for most people. However, numerous allergenic substances have been identified in bee glue. If you have a history of allergic reactions, proceed with caution and do a patch test on your inner arm before applying propolis to your face.[1][2]

Note also that the composition of propolis varies a lot depending on its geographical origin and botanical sources. For example, the caffeic acid esters in European propolis are often linked to allergic reactions but are not present in Brazilian green propolis.[3]

How to use propolis

Supplements aside, propolis is found in a wide range of skincare products — from serums to moisturizers to lotions — and thus is easy to incorporate into your existing beauty routine. How to use propolis for skin, though, mostly depend on the product at hand — just read the label carefully and follow the recommended application frequency. Generally, propolis is safe and gentle enough to be applied twice daily and can be mixed with most skincare actives to enhance the benefits. For instance, use propolis with retinol for a more potent anti-aging treatment or with vitamin C to brighten dark spots and accelerate skin repair.

You can also reap all the skin’s benefits of propolis by taking supplements with it. Studies found that supplementations with propolis can protect against oxidative stress caused by free radicals, stimulate the regeneration of skin tissue as well as modulate collagen production.

Who should use propolis?

Literally, everyone can use propolis except those who are allergic to bee strings. Propolis is good for dry and sensitive skin since it protects the moisture barrier and helps prevent collagen and lipids degradation. It’s also a fantastic candidate for aged skin due to its antioxidant and regenerative benefits. Propolis is a great acne treatment too — thanks to its bacteria-fighting and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Frequently asked questions about propolis in skincare

  1. Is propolis good for dark spots?

    Aside from reducing free radical damage (the first culprits that cause dark spots), propolis also inhibits pigment production, which in turn helps brighten skin and fade discoloration. So yes, propolis is effective for diminishing the look of dark spots when used regularly.

  2. Is propolis good for fungal acne?

    Thanks to its bacteria-killing and antifungal properties, propolis can inhibit the growth of fungi, helping relieve fungal acne.

  3. Does propolis help rosacea?

    Thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits, propolis can help relieve redness and pimples, which are often caused by rosacea.

  4. Can you use propolis everyday?

    Propolis-containing products can be used twice daily.

  5. Can I mix propolis and retinol?

    There's no problem with using both propolis and retinol as a part of your skincare routine. In fact, pairing them can effectively reduce fine lines and wrinkles while speeding up skin renewal.

  6. Can I mix propolis and vitamin C?

    As both are antioxidants and pigment inhibitors, propolis and vitamin C work great together to brighten dark spots and other forms of discoloration. Consider using the two if your goal is an even skin tone.

  7. Can I use propolis with AHAs?

    Using propolis and AHAs together shouldn't be a problem, but to be safe, it's best to do a patch test before going all-in with both.

  8. Can propolis cause itching and tingling?

    Common skin reactions include itching, mild tingling, and even burning. However, that's unlikely to happen if you use skincare products with propolis, as most are formulated with low concentrations of actives that shouldn't bother the skin.

  9. Does propolis expire?

    Studies point out that propolis preserves most of its antibacterial activities even after 12 months of proper storage. The shelf life of propolis-containing products depends very much on their formulations. However, propolis and its extracts function as a mild preservative due to their antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, so it actually extends the shelf life of some products.

Sources

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. Hossain R, Quispe C, Khan RA, Saikat ASM, Ray P, Ongalbek D, Yeskaliyeva B, Jain D, Smeriglio A, Trombetta D, Kiani R, Kobarfard F, Mojgani N, Saffarian P, Ayatollahi SA, Sarkar C, Islam MT, Keriman D, Uçar A, Martorell M, Sureda A, Pintus G, Butnariu M, Sharifi-Rad J, Cho WC. Propolis: An update on its chemistry and pharmacological applications. Chin Med. 2022 Aug 26;17(1):100. doi: 10.1186/s13020-022-00651-2. PMID: 36028892; PMCID: PMC9412804.
  2. Kurek-Górecka A, Górecki M, Rzepecka-Stojko A, Balwierz R, Stojko J. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. 2020 Jan 28;25(3):556. doi: 10.3390/molecules25030556. PMID: 32012913; PMCID: PMC7036894.
  3. Shiraishi E, Ishida K, Matsumaru D, Ido A, Hiromori Y, Nagase H, Nakanishi T. Evaluation of the Skin-Sensitizing Potential of Brazilian Green Propolis. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Dec 17;22(24):13538. doi: 10.3390/ijms222413538. PMID: 34948335; PMCID: PMC8704603.
  4. Król W, Bankova V, Sforcin JM, Szliszka E, Czuba Z, Kuropatnicki AK. Propolis: properties, application, and its potential. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:807578. doi: 10.1155/2013/807578. Epub 2013 Aug 12. PMID: 23997799; PMCID: PMC3753737.
  5. An JY, Kim C, Park NR, Jung HS, Koo TS, Yuk SH, Lee EH, Cho SH. Clinical Anti-aging Efficacy of Propolis Polymeric Nanoparticles Prepared by a Temperature-induced Phase Transition Method. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022 Sep;21(9):4060-4071. doi: 10.1111/jocd.14740. Epub 2022 Jan 9. PMID: 35001491.
  6. Rosa C, Bueno IL, Quaresma ACM, Longato GB. Healing Potential of Propolis in Skin Wounds Evidenced by Clinical Studies. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2022 Sep 14;15(9):1143. doi: 10.3390/ph15091143. PMID: 36145364; PMCID: PMC9504298.
  7. Kim DH, Auh JH, Oh J, Hong S, Choi S, Shin EJ, Woo SO, Lim TG, Byun S. Propolis Suppresses UV-Induced Photoaging in Human Skin through Directly Targeting Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase. Nutrients. 2020 Dec 10;12(12):3790. doi: 10.3390/nu12123790. PMID: 33322005; PMCID: PMC7764066.
  8. Mazzarello V, Donadu MG, Ferrari M, Piga G, Usai D, Zanetti S, Sotgiu MA. Treatment of acne with a combination of propolis, tea tree oil, and Aloe vera compared to erythromycin cream: two double-blind investigations. Clin Pharmacol. 2018 Dec 13;10:175-181. doi: 10.2147/CPAA.S180474. PMID: 30588129; PMCID: PMC6298394.
  9. Rivera-Yañez CR, Ruiz-Hurtado PA, Mendoza-Ramos MI, Reyes-Reali J, García-Romo GS, Pozo-Molina G, Reséndiz-Albor AA, Nieto-Yañez O, Méndez-Cruz AR, Méndez-Catalá CF, Rivera-Yañez N. Flavonoids Present in Propolis in the Battle against Photoaging and Psoriasis. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Dec 19;10(12):2014. doi: 10.3390/antiox10122014. PMID: 34943117; PMCID: PMC8698766.
  10. Arung ET, Syafrizal, Pasedan WF, et al. Prenylated Flavonoids as Antioxidant and Melanin Inhibitors From Stingless Bee (Wallacetrigona incisa) Propolis. Natural Product Communications. 2020;15(3). doi:10.1177/1934578X20911272
  11. Mamoon K, Thammasit P, Iadnut A, Kitidee K, Anukool U, Tragoolpua Y, Tragoolpua K. Unveiling the Properties of Thai Stingless Bee Propolis via Diminishing Cell Wall-Associated Cryptococcal Melanin and Enhancing the Fungicidal Activity of Macrophages. Antibiotics (Basel). 2020 Jul 17.
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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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