Bee venom has become the buzziest antiaging ingredient. The ingredient appears in a number of high-end beauty products from Guerlain to Manuka Doctor; “Your brain thinks that [you’ve been] bitten and it sends back a signal that the skin needs to heal itself”

April 26, 2013, 2:50 p.m. ET

Here’s the Sting

Bee venom has become the most buzzed-about antiaging ingredient

By ELIZABETH HOLMES

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The toxic ingredient appears in a growing number of high-end anti-aging serums, masks and moisturizers from various companies. Manuka Doctor, a line from New Zealand, boasts a purifying process that removes extraneous elements such as pollen dust or bee bits. The U.K. brand Heaven Skincare claims to use a secret ingredient that activates the bee venom.

The key ingredient is said to improve skin by setting off an elaborate chain reaction. “Your brain thinks that [you’ve been] bitten and it sends back a signal that the skin needs to heal itself,” said Maria Hatzistefanis, founder of Rodial, a London-based skin care line known for its use of exotic ingredients, which recently debuted bee venom products. Once this brain signal has been sent, as the theory goes, blood rushes to the area, triggering an increase in the production of wrinkle-smoothing collagen. Deborah Mitchell, maker of Heaven, describes venom products as a topical, natural alternative to Botox. “Straight away, the skin tightens and firms,” she said, noting that many users report a slight tingling—a sign the product is working.The venom rage originated in Britain, where many of these products are produced (perhaps coincidentally, Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton, whose studio is in London, based her spring collection on bees and their human keepers). The mania grew buzzier in 2011, when a press leak revealed that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, tried a venom mask before the royal wedding—on the recommendation of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The U.K.-based line Lacréme Beauté has a waiting list for its bee venom creams. “My customers use it like addicts,” said Victoria Galbraith Wachtel, a company director. Still, while some of her clients use it daily, both morning and night, others find that a few times a week will suffice.

The difficulty of collecting venom largely explains the high cost of the products. When a bee stings a person, the venom-containing stinger is left behind and the bee usually dies, explained Alex Fras, a beekeeper in British Columbia who makes the Bee U Organics line of cosmetic products. To gather venom for commercial purposes, beekeepers place a sheet of glass embedded with low-voltage electrical wires at the hive entrance. After the bees receive a small jolt, they release some venom but retain their stingers. The keepers scrape the venom off the glass once it has dried.

Francesca Fusco, a Manhattan dermatologist, calls the venom “a new flavor of the month,” much like apple stem cells were a few years back. But she admits bee venom does decrease inflammation. Although some bee-venom creams claim to be safe for people with bee allergies, Dr. Fusco recommends consulting with an internist or allergist before use. There are some kinds of hives you just don’t want.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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