Common sense says that if a substance creates painful red welts when injected into the skin, it might not be so great for the skin’s surface either; but according to some cosmetic skincare companies, bee venom is very much an exception. For the last few years a bee venom craze has gripped the anti-aging market, yielding products like skin creams, lip-volumizers, and face masks which promise smoothed and lifted skin through topical venom treatment alone. Happy converts to bee venom therapies include celebrities such as Kate Middleton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, and Michelle Pfeiffer, leading some to believe bee venom may be the next Botox. However, some dermatologists are skeptical of the venom’s effect on skin and warn consumers of potential allergy dangers associated with its long-term use.
Bee venom treatments or “apitherapy” have been used for hundreds of years to treat ailments like arthritis, back pain, and rheumatism, but only recently has it been adopted for aesthetic skin therapy. The theory behind bee venom’s skin boosting effects has to do with the presence of a compound called “melittin” within it. Melittin is an anaphylactic responsible for lingering pain of bee stings, yet it also contains anti-inflammatory properties which are stronger than hydrocortisone. When applied to the epidermis it begins to break down skin cell membranes, making the body think it is under attack, thus increasing circulation and causing skin-tightening collagen proteins to spring into action. During this process facial muscles temporarily relax, supposedly giving treatments a wrinkle-relieving effect.
Most people only notice a slight tingle when bee venom products are applied to the face; the real sting is the treatment's price. Bee venom is harvested by inserting a special electrified pane of glass into hives. When bees bump into it, the surface delivers shock which prompts them to sting. Over time the venom squirts accumulate on the glass and apiary workers are able to collect the dried venom using a razor. While the method is effective, it yields a small amount of venom. A single gram of the poison takes an estimated 100,000 stings and costs over $300, nearly six times the current rate for gold. Bee venom facials at certified spas can run around $250 per treatment while a 50 ml bottle of face mask cream containing 1% venom is competitively priced at $90.
At such a premium bee venom skin treatments are bound to be backed by solid scientific evidence, right? Not quite. "I couldn't find any legitimate scientific studies of the benefit of bee venom either topical or injected," David Leffell, a professor of Dermatology and Surgery at Yale School of Medicine, told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview about the therapy. Another dermatologist, Jeannette Graf from Great Neck, New York, found a similar lack studies on bee venom treatments. “Everybody wants to be the next Botox,” Dr. Graf told Allure, “but there haven’t been enough clinical trials to judge the effect of the venom.”
While a lack of testing doesn’t necessarily say anything about bee venom’s validity as a treatment, there are definite risks associated with its use. The substance is often used for more damaging medical applications, such as killing malignant cancer cells, and many dermatologists believe patients risk damaging essential skin cell membranes if they use venom products too often. Also, it’s a good idea to get a bee allergy test before sinking money into a spa facial or expensive cream, because around 1-in-50 Americans are allergic to bee venom. Allergies can also build up from consistent exposure over time, meaning topical treatments may cause you to develop dangerous bee sting reactions if you pursue them long enough.
Much of the ambiguity around the potential benefits and dangers of bee venom will be clarified in future studies. Until then consider skin products with bee-created substances such as honey and royal jelly, which both have definitive evidence of effective moisturizing and anti-inflammatory skin effects.
Are you interested in talking to a skin expert about bee venom products or pursuing other proven skin treatments? Contact us today, and our helpful Healthy Skin Portal representatives will schedule you a FREE consultation at a skincare clinic near you!
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