There is new hope for the 5-10% of adults who suffer from facial redness in the form of a medical kanuka honey formulation from New Zealand.

A large clinical trial has proved that Honevo®, a medical-grade kanuka honey formulation, developed by New Zealand company HoneyLab, is an effective and safe treatment for facial redness. The clinical trial was undertaken by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand and was partly funded by a grant from Callaghan Innovation.

The clinical trial results were recently presented at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting in San Francisco by HoneyLab Science Director Dr Shaun Holt1. The clinical trial showed that 65% of triallists showed an improvement in their facial redness using Honevo®, 34% had a large improvement and in 13% the disease disappeared completely. Improvements were seen within two weeks and this had increased when the study ended after eight weeks. These results are statistically and clinically significant and at least as good, if not better, than those that have been achieved for standard prescription-only treatments, says Dr Holt.

“People with facial redness often seek natural treatments rather than prescription drugs, but there are very few natural products that have successfully undergone rigorous clinical trials. This medical-grade kanuka honey formulation delivers the best of both worlds. It’s not only a natural and safe product, but it’s also one that is proven to be effective to the standards of a pharmaceutical medicine,” he says.

Rosacea is a chronic red rash on the face, particularly on the cheeks and nose. Long-term antibiotics are the standard treatment. However, antibiotics can not only potentially cause side effects, but they also contribute to antibiotic resistance, which the World Health Organization has declared to be a threat to global health security. Dr Holt says that recent developments in the understanding of the cause of facial redness explained why the kanuka honey formulation was so effective.

“It’s now thought that the underlying causes of facial redness are mites and associated bacteria living deep in the skin in the affected area, and the facial redness symptoms are an inflammatory reaction to these. As medical kanuka honey is effective at killing micro-organisms and reducing inflammation this is an excellent explanation as to why kanuka honey works so well.”

Honevo® is applied as a mask twice a day and then easily washes off. This patent-pending kanuka honey formulation contains a small amount of another natural product which improves its physical characteristics which makes it less sticky than regular honey. It’s also far more temperature stable and does not get too runny when hot nor too hard when it’s cold.

HoneyLab is a New Zealand pharmaceutical company with several platforms of clinical research, including dermatology, pain, and nutrition. The company plans to licence products to pharmaceutical companies once effectiveness and safety have been proven. HoneyLab is already in discussions with several of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. The current size of the facial redness market is estimated to be US$1.5 billion, but many people do not seek a treatment as a prescription from a doctor is usually required. As the new kanuka honey treatment is available over the counter and not on prescription, the potential market is effectively twice as large and sits at around US$3 billion.