(photo courtesy of Bee Blessed Pure Honey)
Bee venom has long been used in medical applications, historically relating to relieving joint pain, as far back as Ancient Egypt. But more recently, places like High Street have been buzzing with the possibilities of bee venom replacing a need for Botox.
British celebs have been linked to using bee venom to help rid them of wrinkles. In an amazing transformation, the Daily Mail claims that bee venom masks were responsible for the extreme transformation of Camilla Parker-Bowles.
However, if you are anything like me (or the rest of the bloggers I hang out with) something like this tends to make your crazy/B.S. meter start going off. Since my Dad was a beekeeper and because I’ll try a lot of strange things for this blog, I decided to give it a go.
Abeeco, a company based in New Zealand, sent me a jar of their Pure New Zealand Bee Venom Mask to try. According to the company, it will help lift, plump and smooth the skin. And don’t worry about the bees, I’m told they aren’t harmed. Instead, the sting a contraption with a slight electrical current, which drains the venom but does not let the bee actually sting, so the abdomen remains intact. Not just pure bee venom as the name potentially suggests, it also contains Manuka Honey, Shea Butter, Jojoba Seed Oil, Cocoa Butter and Lavender Oil, as well as Vitamins C and E.
According to the company:
Rare New Zealand Bee Venom extract works to naturally lift and firm the skin, eliminating the need for cosmetic injections or fillers
The Abeeco Bee Venom Mask formulation combines a proprietary blend of magical New Zealand Bee Venom, soothing Manuka Honey as well as natural essential oils and nutrients to promote plump and youthful skin
Can be used as a mask or cream. The effects of the Abeeco Bee Venom Mask are cumulative, the longer you use it the more obvious the results will be
Natural Bee Venom stimulates the production of elastin and collagen to create a tightening and smoothing effect shortly after application
Working with local beekeepers, Abeeco has been producing luxury skincare products within New Zealand for over 20 years.
I would like to point out that one of the features claims to be magical. Perhaps that is a translation issue? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t actually mean MAGICAL (because if magic is involved, we all know that glitter from a unicorn horn is where the magic lives).
Silliness aside, scientists like Dr. Han of North Korea’s National Academy of Agriculture have been studying the effects of purified bee venom in cosmetic applications and, according to secondary sources, are suggesting it may boost the number of cells called keratinocytes which act as a barrier against environmental factors such as bacteria, water loss and sun damage. Keratinocyte are cells in the top layer of the skin which are needed to keep us looking youthful but as we age skin cell numbers decrease leading to a reduction in skin elasticity and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Purified Bee Venom has been proven to increase keratinocyte numbers, in turn improving skin elasticity.
So when I received a pot of Pure New Zealand Bee Venom Mask, I read the warnings to avoid the product if you have bee allergies. It also warns (with gusto, I might add) to do a patch test first. Assuming patch tests and directions are intended for those not brave enough to try bee venom whole hog, I slathered some bee venom on my face. Bracing for the tingling sensation promised, I waited with bated breath.
Perhaps this is because I have a high tolerance for bee stings, as the daughter of a beekeeper. Except my dad didn’t get stung very often and I don’t know if I’ve been stung more than three times, ever.
Maybe I’m just weird?
So after asking Loxy if he might ever need an epi-pen (he didn't), I decided to do a blind study and smear some on his face without telling him what it was, so I could get an honest reaction.
He was not initially thrilled with this tactic, as it got him killed while he was playing some Call of Duty UAV is online game. He did say that it felt chilly on the skin, and pleasant. He also didn't experience any tingling sensation.
Not getting a reaction, I then wanted to start smearing it on strangers just to see if anyone would react to the bee venom. If it’s pure, magical bee venom, someone should feel the tingle, right? Or maybe, it’s actually pure New Zealand (whatever that means) and not pure bee venom. The name could honestly go either way. Since I don’t want to get sued for causing someone like Vampy Varnish to have anaphylactic issues, I opted to ask my trusty Hopkins-educated dermatologist Dr. Noelle Sherber for her thoughts.
I do not see that Han's study was in vivo (in real skin) vs in vitro (in a petri dish, which is less generalizable to real life skin care benefits). Bee venom has been studied more extensively in arthritis and in cancer treatment, and I couldn't find any randomized controlled trials to supports its having a benefit in the skin. Bee venom may be a mild irritant, and one of the hypotheses about why
Retin-A and glycolic acid are able to trigger collagen production is that they are mild irritants, as well, so it isn't impossible that bee venom could have similar effects. However, a study to demonstrate skin improvement from these formulations being applied topically to intact human skin would be necessary to substantiate the product claims.
I found this article on PubMed about topical bee venom increasing collagen production in a healing mouse wound. Mouse skin does not behave exactly like human skin, and the venom was applied to a wound rather than to intact skin, but this could suggest that bee venom has a role in upregulating collagen production.
I would say that the jury's still out on whether bee venom creams will deliver significant results in the skin, but the Manuka honey in some of the formulations has many reports of being beneficial in hydrating and soothing the skin. Since it's rumored that Kate Middleton is using these treatments, I'm sure that public interest will continue, and this may spark some better science to support it.
I suppose I could have saved a lot of time and just asked her to begin with.
Since this product claims to give instant results, I decided to use the Bee Venom as a mask on the left side of my freshly washed face. And much to my chagrin, my skin looks and feels a tiny bit tighter on one side and the lines under my eyes are really diminished. Is it possible there is something to this magical product? I do have to say that if you wear this as skin care, test it first. It tends to ball up on me when I touch my face, so I prefer to go the mask route.
(I'm not wearing anything besides Avon's Spice Lip Crayon. Otherwise, I'd look like a blob of dough with eyes.)
Have you tried this specific brand of Pure Bee Venom? Have British cousins who rushed to High Street to buy this when it launched? Share your story in the comments!
Sent for review.