Manuka honey & marketing manipulation

Manuka honey is medically proven to be one of nature’s healing wonders, but sometimes even we have to wonder when we see how the word “Manuka” is manipulated by some marketers and beauty companies.

Next time you’re in the aisle of a chemist or pharmacy, keep an eye out for cosmetic products that spruik Manuka honey as an ingredient. Some are fantastic. Some not necessarily so.

In Australia, businesses legally need to list ingredients in the order of the quantity contained. So, if we are selling a 100% jar of pure Manuka honey, the ingredient list would only contain the word: Manuka.

If we were selling, say, a natural lip balm, the ingredient list might be: Olive oil, beeswax, Manuka honey, peppermint oil.

But how’s this for an ingredient list we came across recently on a skincare product for sale in a chemist shop. The packaging focussed heavily on imagery of bees, and the text promoted the Manuka honey ingredient. But here’s the ingredient list in order of quantity (with a linking explanation of what the ingredient actually is from EWG’s Skin Deep database of cosmetic products so you can learn more about the ingredient). 


  • Aqua – water
  • Butylene Glycol – (1.3-Butanediol) is a small organic alcohol used as solvent and conditioning agent. 
  • Glycerin - Glycerin (also called glycerol) is a naturally occurring alcohol compound and a component of many lipids. Glycerin may be of animal or vegetable origin.
  • Phenoxyethanol - Phenoxyethanol is a preservative used in cosmetics and personal care products.
  • Chlorphenesin - Chlorphenesin is a synthetic preservative.
  • Xanthan Gum - Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, a sugar-based polymer produced by bacteria; it is used as a viscosity agent in personal care products and foods.
  • Pentylene glycol – Pentylene glycol is a synthetic, low molecular weight solvent and skin-conditioning agent.
  • Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer - This ingredient is a polymer of acrylic acid and related chemicals.
  • Peg-40 Hydrogenated castor oil - PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil is a polyethylene glycol derivative of castor oil; may be contaminated with potentially toxic impurities such as 1,4-dioxane.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin - Ethylhexylglycerin is a glyceryl ether used as a weak preservative and skin conditioning agent.
  • Sodium hydroxide – Sodium Hydroxide is a highly caustic and reactive inorganic base.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate - Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in connective tissues such as cartilage.
  • Fragrance - The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate - Tocopheryl acetate is a chemical compound that consists of acetic acid and tocopherol (vitamin E)
  • Niacinamide – Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3(niacin), a water-soluble vitamin; used in cosmetics and personal care products as a conditioning agent.
  • Hydrolyzed Collagen – Hydrolyzed Collagen is a hydrolysate of animal or fish collagen derived by acid, enzyme orother method of hydrolysis. It is characterized by a significant level of hydroxyproline residues.
  • Allantoin – Allantoin is a naturally ocurring nitrogenous compound used as a skin conditioning agent.
  • Saccharide Isomerate – Saccharide Isomerate is a carbohydrate complex formed from a base catalyzedrearrangement of a mixture of saccharides.


Oh my goodness, we are finally at the Honey ingredient!

  • Honey – Honey is a saccharic secretion gathered and stored by honey bees, Apis mellifera. 

Another few ingredients come after the honey, but we’ll save you reading on. Basically, you can see that the honey ingredient is the 18th ingredient! Yet, the words “Manuka honey” and bee-style imagery were used front and centre to market and sell the product.  Sure, Manuka is a magnificent ingredient and one we are incredibly honoured to produce and supply, but in this product’s case, it might be more relevant to market the product as containing H2O, as the humble ingredient of water is 18 times higher up the ingredient list than the honey!

Yes, with Manuka, a little does go a long way, but as beekeepers, we want to protect the well-deserved reputation of this special, healing honey. We hope you'll really look at ingredient labels going forward because tested active Manuka honey is worthy and worth it.

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