What are cosmetic applications of bee venom

A 2021 study answered this interesting topic

by Lorenzo Ciotti
What are cosmetic applications of bee venom
© Justin Sullivan / Staff Getty Images

Bee venom or apitoxin is a liquid with a sweetish and then bitter taste, clear and colorless, soluble in water but not in alcohol. The active portion of the venom is made up of a complex mixture of proteins that causes local inflammation and acts as an anticoagulant. The venom is produced by the bee's venom apparatus located in the abdomen of worker bees and obtained from the mixture of both acidic and basic secretions. Apitoxin, the result of the mixture, is acidic (pH from 4.5 to 5.5). The density is 1.13 g/cm³. A bee can inject about 0.1-0.2 mg of venom through its stinger. Apitoxin is similar to snake venom and nettle toxin. It is estimated that about 1% of the population is allergic to bee stings.

Apitoxin can be neutralized by ethanol, but not by high or low temperatures. The stinger of the worker bee is equipped with hooks and therefore, once stuck in the elastic epithelial tissues of mammals such as humans, it remains there. The bee is no longer able to free itself until, tearing the tissues, it leaves the stinger, the venom apparatus and a part of the viscera where they are located. The contractions of the venom apparatus continue after detachment and therefore, to prevent the venom from continuing to flow, the stinger must be promptly removed.

The bee dies within 4 minutes. The sting causes acute pain for a few minutes then redness, edema and swelling with heating of the tissues for about 48 hours and finally itching in the terminal phase. The most dangerous stings for non-hypersensitive subjects are those inside the mouth because the swelling of the larynx or the base of the tongue can lead to obstruction of the airways and therefore suffocation.

Bees and Climate Crisis
Bees and Climate Crisis© Chris McGrath / Staff Getty Images

But, can bee venom be used in cosmetics? If so, how?

Researchers from the study Cosmetic Applications of Bee Venom, published on the Toxins, explained:

"Bee venom (BV) is a typical toxin secreted by the stingers of worker bees. BV and BV therapy have long been attractive to different cultures, with extensive studies in recent decades. Nowadays, BV is applied to combat various skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, acne vulgaris, alopecia, vitiligo, and psoriasis. BV is widely used in topical preparations such as cosmetics and used as a wound healing dressing, as well as in face masks. However, the safety of BV as a therapeutic choice has always been a concern due to the immune system reaction in some people due to BV use. The documented adverse impact is explained by the fact that skin reactions to BV could extend to excessive immunological responses, including anaphylaxis, which typically resolve in several days. This review aims to address the uses therapeutic effects of bee venom in skin cosmetics."