So what exactly is the big deal when it comes to the trendy » green, natural, organic beauty » , and will itty bitty herbs really make a difference in helping keep our skin healthy?
For thousands of years, herbal therapy has been used for many skin disorders and beauty regimes. Even our biologically close relatives, the great apes, use herbal self-medication !!
Fact is, many beauty products are full of artificial colors, chemical fragrances, synthetic preservatives and stabilizers that can be damaging , from the way they are produced and disposed of , to the way they are absorbed into your skin, causing more harm and potential toxic damage than good. Seriously scary!! So where do we go from here? The skin is our largest organ, and what we put on it is really important for our health and safety. We now are conscious of the dangers of most mass produced beauty products, and why we shouldn’t use them.
If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin!
Some beauty products contain carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals that increase breast cancer risk. Each product you cut from your beauty ritual decreases the number and quantity of chemicals to which you’re exposed. So be attentive and cautious of what you feed your skin!!
As synthetic drugs became more readily available, use of herbs in the west declined. But recently, as the secondary effects of these chemicals became known, the demand for herbs in skincare and a return to natures’ remedies with organic produce is increasing, we have the « green revolution ». In Asia, especially in China and India, herbal treatments that have been used for centuries are now being studied scientifically. Herbs used in Indian Ayurveda and as part of traditional Chinese medicine are 2 well known systems.
Herbs, seeds, flowers, roots, leaves, grains…..Which ones????
When searching for that perfect and safe cosmetic, follow some simple rules, like you would for a healthy diet: hunt for unprocessed ingredients, without any harsh chemicals or anything artificial! Basically, the closer to the nature your product is, the more your skin will know what to do with its beneficial ingredients in order to improve your skin’s health.
Chemicals and synthetic ingredients will only limit your skins natural healing process, clog pores, have harmful effects and can irritate skin , cause redness and flaky , dry ,skin.
There are more natural skin care products available now than ever, and their long list of benefits beyond even great looking skin might come come as a surprise to you. When you use natural products like this regularly, not only are you beautifying your skin, but you’re also absorbing antioxidants, enhancing your skin’s UV resistance, and stimulating your immune system as well. Botanical , plant derived products & extracts are being used more and more by educated customers and their desire for natural & safeproducts,
Applying unprocessed, whole-food ingredients onto your skin — many that you likely even have already in your own kitchen — will make you love your skin, even if you are someone who has sensitive skin or has struggled in the past with clearing up difficult skin-related problems.And it’s easier then you think!!!
Many herbs are used for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic activities.German chamomile, tea extracts, caffeine, rosemary, coffeeberry, and many more. There are many herbs to try out, for every skin type, research them and thier benefits well before trying one out in your formula. Basil, lavender or neem are good for acne or oily prone skin, while aloe, marshmellow or clary sage are better for dry skin. Lavender, nettle or lemon balm can help with sensitive skin. Here are some ideas for your next recipe!!
- Comfrey: Perfect for rough and dry skin. Contains the protein allantoin which speeds up cell renewal.
- Elderflower: Good for elderly skin and most other skin type; smoothes wrinkles, fades freckles, and can even sooth sunburns.
- Calendula: Heals extra problematic skin – especially nice for healing rough patches.
- Lavender: Above it’s noted that lavender is good for oily skin and it is. It’s also one of those all around herbs that are useful for almost any person’s skin type. Lavender also helps fight acne.
- Chamomille: Actually can whiten skin, plus softens and fights acne.
- Peppermint: Good for many skin types and can act as an astringent.
- Sage: Tightens pores, stimulates, and cleanses well.
How can we incorperate these herbs in our skincare?
Infusions, macerations, decoctions, & tinctures as extraction methods are the most common. Herbal and floral waters, called hydrolates or hydrosols, are by-products of the process used when making essential oils. They are a lovely addition to cosmetics instead of plain old water to toners, creams, facial washes, masks, shampoos, ect.
Herbal decoctions or infusions are a fantastic option to replace just water when making a skincare product. For a decoction, boil your harder herbs ( roots for example) in water for about 10-20 min, then let sit before straining. For an infusion, the boiling water is poured onto the herb and left to sit 20 min. before being strained. These can be kept only a few days in the fridge before use.
A tincture is when the extraction method used is alcohol. (herbs macerate in alcohol for 2-3 weeks, then are strained) and these can be kept much longer , up to 1-2 years even!! This is the formulaters choice, to use alcohol in your cosmetics or not.
Herbs can also be macerated in glycerine for 2-3 weeks for use in eye gels, facial gels, or creams, instead of using plain glycerine.
Botanical C02 extracts are more potent and effective, making for a skincare product with some seriously powerful healing properties. Here you will have a high grade extract composition very close to the natural raw material, which also can be used in addition to your herbal infusions, greatly enhancing the benefits of your product.
Macerating herbs and plants in oils are another method of extracting some of the benefits of your botanicals into a vegetable carrier oil .Leaving the herbs covered in your choice of oil (almond, olive, sunflower, grape seed are good choices) for 1-6 weeks will do the trick. After filtering, some of the therapeutic constituents are then left in the oil.
Some fantastic choices are carrots, marigold, Saint Johns wort, comfrey, chamomile, rose, hibiscus, immortelle, well, the list is endless!!!! Marigold or carrot will even color your oils, and can be used as a natural coloring agent to get a beautiful orange cream or lotion!!!! Beware, using herbs in your creams and lotions can turn your products a not so attractive beige color, or leave a medical type of scent which is not always pleasant, but this can be covered up naturally to a certain extent, with lovely smelling essential oils.
Bath treatments, facial steams, compresses, are all other methods available for healing naturally with herbs.
I will write and share a series of herbal blogs next, and go more into detail about some of my favorite herbs, how I use them in certain cosmeceutical formulas , and share some simple recipes for you to get the hang of using these precious herbs as a part of your daily skincare routine. Treat your skin with respect, and keep it healthy and safe , just like in the good old days!!!!
The Aromantic guide to the use of herbs; by Kolbjorn Borseth
Thornfeldt C. Cosmeceuticals containing herbs: fact, fiction, and future. Dermatol Surg. 2005;31:873–880. [Pubme