One of the hottest new natural products for anti-aging skin care is bee venom, the mild toxin collected from stinging honey bees. While there actually are organizations that will happily deliver you live “bees in a box” you can use to sting yourself as a kind of natural therapy, for skin care it is also possible to buy creams and lotions that contain small, standardized, painless amounts of bee venom to help maintain skin tone and color.
Because bee venom skin creams are used by the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate) and the Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla), Victoria Beckham, Kylie Minogue, and Michelle Pfeifer, they are already popular in the UK. Because no bees are harmed in the process of extracting the venom, bee venom creams are popular with people who care about the environment, and because they actually work, many users can overlook their relatively high price. But why should bee venom become the latest and greatest natural skin care product?
One of the principal components of bee venom is a chemical called melittin. In a bee sting, melittin is the chemical that makes the skin sensitive to the actual venom of the bee. Melittin latches on the surface of a cell and makes positively charged sodium ions stream out of the cell. This gives the surface of the cell a stronger, negative, electrostatic charge, so that the irritant chemical in bee venom (which is not included in the natural product) can stick to the cell in much the same way clothes stick to each other in the dryer. Melittin changes the charge of the cell so it can absorb toxins, but also so it can absorb more oxygen, hormones, and amino acids. And since the irritant component of bee sting is left out of the mix, the result of using “bee venom” is pure skin rejuvenation.
Many of the news articles about been venom say that the product “fools the skin into believing it has been lightly stung,” but actually there's no sting at all. There is only the change in the skin that makes it more responsive to oxygen and nutrients. The extra energy in the skin helps it smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. When British skin care researchers tested bee venom extract on 14 women aged 50 to 59, all reported that it smoothed out roughness and wrinkles and left their skin more beautiful. This process involves the creation of collagen, which is easier because the melittin-treated skin acts like a magnet for the amino acids it needs to make collagen and elastin to make the surface of the skin smooth and wrinkle-free.
Usually, as you may know, when a bee stings a person or an animal it senses is a threat to the hive, the stinger is torn out of its body and it dies. The makers of bee venom products, however, place a glass panel in a bee hive. Bees attack the glass and leave venom on its electrically charged surface, but they don't lose their stingers, so they are not killed. The venom collected on the glass sells for £1,000 per gram, or about $600,000 a pound.
Only tiny amounts of bee venom, however, are enough to impart electrical changes to the skin. The venom is added to a moisturizer that helps the skin shove away dead, lusterless, dry skin cells while the venom itself stimulates the basal skin layer to produce fresh new skin with deeper tones and greater elasticity.
How can you get the best results with bee venom skin creams? It may seem to go without saying, but it is important to remember that these products are intended for use on the skin. They are not to be taken orally.
And it helps to use them in the morning as the first step of putting on sun protection and make up, or last thing at night, but after your skin cleansing routine, not before. Soaps neutralize bee venom, and the two products simply cannot be used together.
Can anything go wrong with bee venom products? In the amounts used in skin care, almost certainly not, although other components of bee venom can and do cause actual allergies. Just to be on the safe side, if you are allergic to bees, don't use bee venom products. And be aware that while bee venom has been called “natural Botox,” it's not really Botox. You'll have to use the product on a regular basis for it to work—and it's your own skin that actually does the skin repair. All the other things you do to keep your skin beautiful are still necessary. Bee venom just helps them work more effectively.