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How does propolis benefit the skin?

What you need to know about this natural ingredient.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Proplis Moisturizing Skincare Cream with Honey Extracts
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Searching for a natural solution to address your skin concerns? It might be time to give propolis a try. Propolis, sometimes referred to as “bee glue,” has been used for centuries by ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians and Egyptians for its purported health benefits.¹

Propolis is a versatile ingredient that can help soothe, heal, and protect your skin due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. So whether you're dealing with persistent skin issues or looking to maintain a healthy complexion, this ingredient may be worth trying! Here, we’ll get into everything you need to know about propolis’s benefits, and how you can incorporate it into your skincare routine.

What is propolis?

Propolis is a mixture of substances that bees use to protect their hive. They use it to fill gaps in the walls, keep the cold out, and mummify intruders. That’s why this ingredient has earned its “bee glue” nickname. 

So, where does it come from? Bees collect a resinous substance from the buds of trees, shrubs, and green plants, and mix them with their special enzymes and beeswax to make propolis. As a result, propolis varies depending on where the bees live and which plants surround them.² 

The antibacterial activity in propolis is twofold. First, it can attack the bacteria directly, and second, it can stimulate the immune system, allowing it to fight off infections more efficiently. Scientists believe it can break down the outer layer of bacteria and decrease the production of the energy the bacteria needs to function. Propolis works better on some kinds of bacteria than others.³ 

Bee products, such as honey, propolis, bee pollen, bee venom, bee bread, royal jelly, and beeswax, are increasingly being used in alternative medicine and cosmetics due to their natural, biologically active substances. These products have been shown to have skin healing properties.⁴ Each bee product has specific active substances that make it suitable for different skin issues. 

Propolis contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, cobalt, and selenium, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and E, and a number of enzymes. It has antiseptic properties and can be used to treat skin infections such as acne, burns, and fungal infections.⁵

Propolis can also help the wound healing process and may help protect the skin from UV radiation and is used in several sunscreens and lip balms. Propolis can also be used to treat dandruff and help prevent dental plaque.⁶ 

Why should I use propolis?

Uses for propolis

The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of propolis make it a popular treatment for wounds and minor skin conditions. Recent studies have shown that propolis cream is effective in burn treatment, and has been known to be more effective than other treatments such as silver sulfadiazine.⁷ 

Another potential therapeutic use of propolis is in the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex virus type 2.⁸ Similarly, propolis is used to treat herpes labialis (oral herpes), and patients using topical propolis-containing ointment have been shown in studies to heal from outbreaks in less time compared with those using placebo.⁹ 

Propolis is versatile and effective, with a range of therapeutic applications. It is commonly used in commercially available products such as creams, shampoos, lipsticks, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. With its long history of use and proven efficacy, propolis may be a valuable natural remedy for a variety of health concerns. 

Propolis benefits

Propolis is a complex mixture of compounds, and its exact composition can vary depending on factors such as geographic origin, plant species, and the season of collection. Despite these variations, propolis has been shown to have a range of benefits, such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.¹⁰ 

These properties make propolis a promising ingredient in various pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, including wound-healing, oral hygiene products, and anti-aging creams. 

Propolis has been found to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging.¹¹ Its antioxidant properties help to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to aging and other skin problems.¹²

Propolis is a versatile natural substance that may offer many benefits for human health and well-being. Its varied composition and beneficial properties can make it a promising ingredient in various pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications.

How to use propolis

Due to the rich chemical composition of propolis, it is used in many forms including creams, serums, and supplements. Unprocessed raw propolis cannot be used and must be cleaned using a solvent that extracts the necessary components for its beneficial effects.¹³ 

Studies have shown propolis to be generally safe and well tolerated. However, caution must be used when taking propolis in oral form. Research suggests a dosage of 70 mg per day has been deemed safe.¹⁴ It's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before taking propolis supplements.

The most common adverse effect of propolis administration is hypersensitivity, particularly in topical applications, which can cause allergic reactions, swelling, irritation, and hives.¹⁵ Severe adverse effects, such as laryngeal edema and anaphylactic shock, are rare, but it is still recommended that people seek medical advice before using propolis products. 

If you experience any adverse effects after using propolis, it is important to stop using the product immediately and seek medical attention. Additionally, people with allergies to bee products should avoid using propolis altogether.¹⁶ Donna McIntyre, a nurse practitioner at Curology notes, “If you have had an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to bee stings or bee products - like honey! - in the past, you could react to products containing propolis as well.”

Skincare that works for you

Natural solutions for addressing skin concerns are becoming increasingly popular. Propolis, a natural ingredient with a long history of use for its health benefits, is one such solution. From ancient to modern times, propolis has been valued for its therapeutic properties.

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FAQs

Why is propolis good for skin?

Propolis is used for burn wounds and possesses anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties.¹⁷

Does propolis make skin glow?

Propolis lightens and smoothens the skin, reduces signs of fatigue and moisturizes it.¹⁸

Is propolis good for acne?

Propolis has been found to be a potent treatment for acne vulgaris. Studies have shown that the application of an ethanol extract of propolis to the skin can significantly limit the occurrence of acne. The ethanol extract of propolis also has inhibitory effects on bacteria that can cause acne.¹⁹

Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, propolis is utilized in the production of skincare cosmetics for acne-prone skin and in the development of medications to combat microbial infections.²⁰

Is propolis good for anti-aging?

Propolis possesses anti-aging properties and can help reduce wrinkles. This is largely due to the presence of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds and flavonoids that counteract the harmful effects of free radicals on the skin.²¹

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don't have to:

  1. Rojczyk, E., et al. Historical and modern research on propolis and its application in wound healing and other fields of medicine and contributions by Polish studies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (2020, November 15).

  2. Przybylek, I. and Karpinski, T.M. Antibacterial Properties of Propolis. Molecules. (2019, May 29).

  3. Przybylek, I. and Karpinski, T.M. Antibacterial Properties of Propolis. Molecules. Ibid.

  4. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. (2020, January 28).

  5. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  6. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  7. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  8. Nokemper, S., et al. Mechanism of herpes simplex virus type 2 suppression by propolis extracts. Phytomedicine. (February 2010).

  9. Jautová, J. et al. Lip creams with propolis special extract GH 2002 0.5% versus aciclovir 5.0% for herpes labialis (vesicular stage). Wien Med Wochenschr. (2018, November 7).

  10. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  11. An, J.Y., et al. Clinical Anti-aging Efficacy of Propolis Polymeric Nanoparticles Prepared by a Temperature-induced Phase Transition Method. J Cosmet Dermatol. (2022, January 9).

  12. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  13. Ramanauskiene, K., et al. Propolis – quality analysis and use in topical formulations. Acta Pharmaceutica. (2021, April 2). 

  14. Braakhuis, A. Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis. Nutrients. (November 2019).

  15. Braakhuis, A. Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis. Nutrients. Ibid.

  16. Braakhuis, A. Evidence on the Health Benefits of Supplemental Propolis. Nutrients. Ibid.

  17. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  18. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  19. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  20. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

  21. Kurek-Górecka, A. et al. Bee Products in Dermatology and Skin Care. Molecules. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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