Contributed by our friend Rachael Pontillo, M.Msc, CIHC, LE
If you’re someone who’s ever struggled with a painful or embarrassing skin issue, you’ve likely tried just about everything to get rid of the problem. Personally, I went through years of trying whatever products my favorite magazines promised would give me clear, smooth skin. I used whatever my friends were using (and then wound up frustrated when the products seemed to work for them but not for me), and I even tried expensive professional products and medications.
In the end, it appeared that what my skin needed was nourishment–not synthetic chemicals or medicine. I gave it that nourishment internally through adequate hydration and whole foods-based nutrition, as well as topically by making my own herbal skin care products. Herbs–AKA nature’s medicine–were a huge part of my body’s recovery.
Today I’m going to share with you five different ways herbs can save your skin as they saved mine. Oh and by the way, when I refer to herbs–I’m referring to all the different forms the roots, stems, seeds, flowers, etc are available in–essential oils, whole plant extracts, fixed (carrier) oils, and both dried or fresh herbs.
My Top 5 Ways to Use Herbs for Skin Care
1—Eat or Drink Them
The most convenient ways to do this would be to make herbal infusions (teas), eat them raw, or cook them.
Cooking with herbs is great, but it’s too easy to overcook them in recipes, which may diminish their health benefits. I recommend adding fresh or powdered herbs to your green smoothies like mint, ginger, turmeric, or cinnamon–but my favorite way to ingest herbs is to drink them as tea.
While certain plants carry the most benefits in their raw state, others are best when heated to a specific temperature for a certain period of time. Some great herbs to use for the skin are flowers: rose, hibiscus, rosehips, chamomile, lavender, calendula–but others which help the body naturally detoxify are beneficial too. Some examples are stinging nettles, burdock root, licorice root, or dandelion.
Steep 1 teaspoon of herbs per 8 ounces of very hot (not quite boiling) water for 10-15 minutes. Most skin issues arise as a result of some kind of imbalance within the body–so taking herbs internally is a great way to support healthy skin from the inside out.
2—As a Toner or Substitute for Water in a Topical Skin Care Product
Herbal and flower infusions, tinctures, hydrosols, and distillates are fabulous in toners, and in place of water in facial gel and emulsion cleansers, serums, and moisturizers. One of my favorite ways to make a toner is to simply mix equal parts of herbal tea or hydrosol with witch hazel in a glass spray bottle. You can either store this in the refrigerator or add vodka or brandy as a natural preservative–not too much though! No more than 15-20% of the total liquid measure of the end product.
Steam is often used in facial treatments in spas to soften the skin and aid in exfoliation, extraction, and product absorption. You can use this method of using herbs for skin care at home simply by steaming your skin over a pot of boiling water infused with fresh or dried herbs and flowers. The steam releases and carries both the water soluble and volatile properties of the plants to the skin. This is great to do as part of an at-home facial prior to applying a mask. You’d cleanse, tone, then drape a towel over your head and steam your skin (at least 18″ away from the pot) for 5 minutes. Note: don’t use heat or steam if you have rosacea, broken skin, or any other inflammatory skin issue!
4—In a Cleansing Oil
This takes some time and effort, but you can infuse the properties of dried herbs or flowers in an antioxidant and essential fatty acid-rich plant-based carrier oil like jojoba, rosehip seed, or sesame.
After 3 to 6 weeks, the oils will take on the nourishing properties of the plants, while retaining their own benefits. These oils make great cleansing oils and oil phase ingredients in skin care products.
5—As a Compress or Poultice
A poultice resembles a large teabag or burrito and is simply fresh or dried herbs wrapped or folded into cheesecloth, gauze, or muslin and dampened with warm water. You apply this directly to the skin for 10-15 minutes at a time (depending on the herb).
Compresses are made by soaking strips or squares of fabric (can be a washcloth or small towel) soaked in a hot herbal tea, applied to the skin for 10-20 minutes. Be sure to use caution around the eye area depending on the herbs you use and leave the nostrils and mouth uncovered for easy breathing!
There are so many more ways to use herbs, flowers, and plants to improve your skin–this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Do you want to learn more about how to use herbs for skin care?
Join the free Herbal Skincare Summit, January 8-12, 2018, where 15+ herbalists and holistic health and skin care experts (including Kevin Gianni) will spill their best secrets for how to use herbs both inside and out to help you get the skin results you want, safely and naturally.
The original version of this post first appeared here.