Perhaps it was all the media hype, the appeal of a British Royal, or the masochist in all of us, but when Sarah came across a face mask with bee venom, the Truth In Aging community was positively buzzing with excitement. I must admit that I caught the bug myself and couldn’t resist trying the Bee Venom Face Mask ($94 for 50ml and $38 for 15ml) by British boutique brand, Heaven.
I loved it. And then I managed to do one better. I found the actual source of the bee venom used by Heaven - a bee keeper in New Zealand called Nelson Honey. Their bee venom mask is called Royal Nectar ($68) and is even better than Heaven's - see my video comparing them.
The Bee Venom Mask is left on for about 20 minutes and I have been using it for nearly a month on my face and neck about three times a week. After rinsing, I follow with my normal regimen, but sometimes my skin looks so glowing and refreshed that I’ve left it that (apart from eye cream and anything else that I’ve been specifically testing) for the rest of the day.
Bee venom isn’t the only thing in the mask, but it is supposedly the key active. The blurb says that the skin reacts to the venom as if it has been stung, thereby jump-starting the production of elastin and collagen. OK, so let’s try to figure out what’s really going on, or if the only things being stung are our wallets.
According to 3DChem, honey bee venom contains at least 18 active substances. These include the peptides melittin and apamin. Melittin causes localized pain and inflammation but also has a moderate antibacterial and antifungal effect. More importantly, it is an anti-inflammatory that is being used to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism, and can combat cancers (source).
But there is another compound in bee venom and it is less straightforward as to whether it is friend or foe: hyaluronidase. When a bee stings, the hyaluronidase breaks down hyaluronic acid polymers that serve as intercellular cement, tissues soften and then the venom can spread through the tissue (source). Which is pretty devious and clever of Mother Nature on behalf of the bee. Now, hyaluronic acid is something that we are trying to preserve and replenish with all our anti-aging serums, so is bee venom-delivered hyaluronidaise in my latest favorite face mask doing me more harm than good?
Ultimately, I think it may do more good than harm. According to 3DChem, hyaluronidase from bee stings causes hyaluronic acid in the body to become acetylglucosamine, important to tissue functions such as hydration, lubrication, transport, cell migration, cell function and differentiation. From the reading I have done, it seems that more is being understood about hyaluronidase and that its role in turning over hyaluronic acid may be beneficial.
Interestingly, I also found a study saying that “bee venom hyaluronidase shares 30% sequence identity with human hyaluronidases, which are involved in fertilization and the turnover of HA” (source).
Another clue may come from the recent trend in using hyaluronidase to break down hyaluronic fillers (eg Restylane) without damaging the surrounding tissue. Interestingly, plastic surgeons claim that it does not affect the adjacent, natural HA (source). As one explained: “It doesn't seem to affect natural hyaluronic acid and has a predominate effect on filler injected. The reason for this is due to the fact that natural hyaluronic acid is found around a substructure within the skin. When natural hyaluronic acid is degraded it is reformed almost just as quickly. In fact, natural hyaluronic acid is turned over on a daily basis so your body naturally degrades its own hyaluronic acid and replaces it.”
There is something that inhibits hyaluronidase, should you still not be too sure about it. And that is marshmallow. And guess what... Marshmallow (also an anti-inflammatory) is in Heaven's mask.
Having got all that out of the way, I can report that Heaven’s Bee Venom Mask does not sting or any way feel uncomfortable. On the contrary, it is very pleasant and comfortable and, above all, I find the effect to be very hydrating. This may be due to the shea butter, a moisturizer, antioxidant and natural sunscreen, and the manuka honey, also an antibacterial that can help against acne. The only things not to like are the preservatives, which may cause irritation (in my case, this formula did not).
Whether Heaven’s Bee Venom Mask is responsible for the transformation of Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall) after all those years of smoking and galloping around on horses in all weathers, I can’t say. But Royal Nectar's mask is now part of my bee-auty regimen.