Ingredient Spotlight: Propolis


A decade or so ago, my parents came back from a business trip to Brazil. I was eager to see what souvenirs they brought back — Brazilian coffee? Christ the Redeemer figurines? At least some Havaianas? — and was surprised when they presented a handful of throat sprays with the word “propolis” written across the top. My parents went to Rio and all I got was this lousy throat spray? Back then, I had no idea what propolis was, and neither did my parents. But they said that their local friends swore this was magic and plied them with enough throat spray to last years.

A couple years later, my parents returned from New Zealand. Once again, I eagerly awaited the stash they’d brought back. Greenstone jewelry? A sheepskin throw? A kiwi keychain, at the very least? Nope. Once again, it was propolis, again in throat spray form.

By this time, my parents were avid believers in the stuff. They swore any time they had the slightest tingling in their throat or a mouth sore, one spray and they’d be healed.

For me, it wasn’t until recently that I started taking this “magic” ingredient seriously. I started seeing propolis crop up in a variety of skincare products, ranging from creams to masks. So I did a little research.


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Propolis is actually a resin-like material collected by honeybees from certain types of trees. The bees mix the resin with their secretions and use the resulting gummy substance to stabilize, sterilize and protect the hive.

And it’s not just the bees that were in on this amazing ingredient. Propolis has been used for thousands of years by everyone from the ancient Egyptians in mummification to the 19th century British army in treating wounds. In fact, it was the ancient Greeks who named the substance (“pro” for “before” or “in defense of” and “polis” for “the city”), after noticing that bees lined the entrance to the hive with it. In South Korea, where it is called “God’s teardrop,” propolis has been used in traditional medicine and for beauty treatments for millennia. “It’s a big ingredient in Korea, not only for skincare but also for medical purposes,” says Glow Recipe co-founder Sarah. And no wonder — scientists have documented, to varying degrees, propolis’s many beneficial properties, including as an antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory.

So what does that mean for skincare? Really, what doesn’t it mean? In essence, propolis (which contains over 50 different flavonoids, the stuff, among other things, that makes berries, almonds, quinoa and green tea so good for you) can help aging skin by protecting and renewing cells, soothing irritation and yes, even preventing and healing blemishes.

If you’re interested in skincare with propolis, a perennial favorite is LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, packed with 50% propolis extract, one of Glow Recipe’s bestsellers. That little bottle packs a serious skincare punch — it makes my skin seem brighter, clearer, just glowier.

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So the last time my parents returned from a trip overseas — this time, Australia — bearing a giant bottle of supplements emblazoned with the word “propolis,” you better believe I jumped on that. Because if propolis can heal my blemishes, fight free radicals and decrease inflammation, you don’t need to convince me to be a grateful daughter.

And that’s magic money simply can’t buy.

Get your glow on,

P.S. Need a 101 about ampoules? Read all about it here.

Anna Park is the editor of

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