Healthy Skin with Herbs!
This article is about active naturals in skincare. Many products contain herbs and fruit extracts, and it is useful to have an insight into why manufacturers include these ingredients even if you aren’t interested in making and using your own simple products either at home or with clients. First, here are some commonly available herbs used in skincare, and their functions:
BASIL – antibacterial and antiviral properties, useful for troubled and acne-prone skin. Basil has a high antioxidant content which helps prevent free radicals from damaging skin cells – this makes it a useful anti-ageing herb
DANDELION – anti-microbial and anti-fungal, useful for acne-prone skin. Dandelions contain A, B, C, D and trace elements of minerals. They help maintain clear skin and dandelion can be applied in creams and gels to treat acne, eczema and other skin problems
NETTLES – soothing, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-ageing due to the high level of antioxidants in the plant
COMFREY – speeds up cell renewal due to the allantoin content
ELDERFLOWER – soothing, anti-ageing properties
CALENDULA – soothing, helps heal problem skin. It is antibacterial, antiviral and vulnerary (which means that it helps heal wounds)
CHAMOMILE – soothing, with good antiseptic properties. It owes its functions to alpha bisabolol, which helps speed healing whilst easing inflammation
PEPPERMINT – good astringent properties, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial too! It is refreshing, cooling and makes a fantastic toner for the skin
LAVENDER – anti-bacterial, antiviral, anti-toxic and anti-inflammatory, this wonderful herb is soothing and aromatic too. Rich in linalool, which assists with healing whilst helping slow down ageing
ROSEMARY – a good astringent, with antiseptic properties
LADY’S MANTLE OR ALCHEMILLA – good anti-ageing properties
MELISSA or LEMON BALM – wonderful lemon aroma, this herb is astringent and anti-viral. It has high levels of caffeic acid and ferulic acid, which allow it to penetrate through the top layers into the deeper cutaneous layers of the skin and provide protection against UV radiation-induced skin damage
This is by no means a comprehensive list – I have simply chosen plants I found in my own garden, which I know are often used in commercial skincare products! They are herbs which you should be able to get in dried form from any herbal supplier, such as Aromantic or Baldwins. If you choose to use fresh herbs, make sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and don’t pick them from the roadside where they may be contaminated with traffic fumes. Now the question is, how can we include these herbs in our own skincare routine or in our treatments? Some simple methods include:
INFUSIONS – take a teaspoon of dried herbs (or a tablespoon of fresh, chopped ones) and add boiling water. Leave to steep and cool. Add to products, use as a rinse or toner. You can also wrap the steeped herbs in a muslin bag and apply to the skin. The infusion will keep for a few days in the fridge but use it, don’t store it!
To make a toner that lasts a little longer, combine a hydrolat such as lavender or peppermint water with essential oils – 4 drops of essential oil to 20mls of the hydrolat (or flower water). Keep the toner in the fridge and use it within a week to 10 days.
HERBAL STEAM TREATMENTS can help remove blackheads and soothe acne-prone skin. Use a soothing herb such as calendula, chamomile, lavender or peppermint and experiment with combinations to find one that you enjoy. Simply use a spoon of the herbs in a big bowl, add boiling water, leave to cool for a few minutes, then when it is safe inhale the steam from the herbs and let it settle, warm and open up the pores of your skin. Use a toner to cool and close down the skin afterwards (a nicely chilled infusion from the fridge would be great).
FACE PACKS OR MASKS are a favourite way to relax whilst you do something wonderful for your skin. Use a cooled herbal infusion with a clay to make a mask for your complexion – choose the appropriate clay for your skin type, use a teaspoon of clay and mix it with 1-2 teaspoons of the infusion. Paint it on with a brush, or smooth it on with your fingertips. Relax whilst it dries, then rinse off with more of the herbal infusion, then tone the skin. You could use one of the distilled flower waters available from many suppliers. If your skin is oily, you could reach for witch hazel whilst older skins enjoy rose water – and orange water is a joy for us all, as it has the same aroma as neroli!
If you don’t like clay, then try a gauze mask steeped in the cooled infusion – deliciously refreshing, and not messy!
Enjoy exploring the herbs in your own garden to promote healthy skin! If this is a topic that interests you, then I offer a 2-day Spa Facial Therapy course which includes using simple natural products such as hydrolats, and you also make your own clay masks for use in treatments. You might also enjoy my 3-day Aromatherapy Massage Course (with or without the A&P module). Both of these courses are accredited with the Guild of Holistic Therapists/Beauty Guild for insurance and membership.