Putting a Sting in Your Beauty Routine

Pooh bear had a love affair with the golden stuff. A. A. Milne’s tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff, brought to full color by Disney, was obsessed with honey…I’m sorry, Hunny. Winnie may have been, but I’ve never been hardcore on this sweetener. It was never the way I wanted to spend my calories. Ironically, I’d scarf down a cupcake, then say no to honey in my tea because it was too much. However, I will now go for agave nectar or (even better) maple syrup because I was told they have a lower glycemic index so do not spike blood sugar in the same way as honey. (As if that makes them better; they’re added and likely unnecessary calories.)

Obviously, these are dietary/metabolic considerations; not moral/ethical ones. Despite reading the material from PETA, I am not against honey. My position is largely of ambivalence. I don’t seek it out, rather I opt for the alternatives, but if it’s in a product that is vegan otherwise, I won’t automatically abstain. I do have vegan friends who also, and without reservation, say they don’t care and others who had never even thought about it.

Forget vegan standards for the moment, as with the use of carmine in lipsticks and blushes (among other items…like your red Starbucks drink), killing mass numbers of insects for cosmetic and food products is not within my definition of vegetarian. To get their by-products, their deaths are not accidental but mandatory and highly unnecessary. So when I stumbled upon Kate’s beautician reveals buzz on bee-sting secret that made Duchess a blushing bride from the UK’s Daily Mail, I wondered ‘Are the bees harmed in the same way as those used for carmine?’

The article predominately banged on about Deborah Mitchell‘s celebrity clientele, with little about the process of extracting bee venom for this use. Searching for bee stings or bee venom, the overwhelming results of both are on how to treat bee stings.

According to a Wikipedia page on Bee Stings:

“Although it is widely believed that a worker honey bee can sting only once, this is a partial misconception: although the stinger is in fact barbed so that it lodges in the victim’s skin, tearing loose from the bee’s abdomen and leading to its death in minutes, this only happens if the skin of the victim is sufficiently thick, such as a mammal’s. Honey bees are the only hymenoptera with a strongly barbed sting, though yellow jackets and some other wasps have small barbs.”

So it seems, under the correct circumstances, the bees do not die from releasing their venom. One bee venom mask producer, Abeeco, describes the process:

“To extract the Bee Venom a pane of glass is placed along side the hive and a small electrical current is run through it, which encourages the bees to sting the surface.  The bees are not harmed in the process.”

Aside from fighting wrinkles, reportedly bee venom has medicinal uses for treating “arthritis and other painful conditions.” To emphasize its lavishness, Abeeco continues by emphasizing that, “Bee Venom is a an expensive scarce commodity.

For those not concerned with using animals or insects for their by-products, especially if it does not result in their automatic demise, here in may lie the rub. As with using antibiotics in animal feed, is there an ethical concern with using a scarce commodity like bee venom, with its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anit-viral properties, for aesthetic cosmetic purposes rather than reserving it for alleviating painful medical ailments?


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