Your skin says a lot about you. Treat yourself well and your skin should reflect your spirit’s rosy health—but a little herbal skin care never hurts. This excerpt from The Essential Herbal for Natural Health: How to Transform Easy-to-Find Herbs into Healing Remedies for the Whole Family (Roost Books, 2012) by Holly Bellebuono provides simple, stimulating recipes for Lemon Lip Balm, a Lavender Facial Wash and more to supplement your skin’s healthy hue. These simple beauty recipes are a great introduction to the herbal world of cosmetics. This excerpt was taken from chapter 17, “Skin and Body Care.”
Skin and Body Care
We know that what’s on the inside is what counts, but beauty on the outside is also important. It’s what signals that we are fulfilled, joyful, and happy with life. Glowing skin is not the result of cosmetics (though the toners and moisturizers in this chapter can help rejuvenate tired skin), but it is the culmination of a life well lived, a spirit well fed.
As the skin is our largest organ (and an organ of elimination, at that), it needs constant care and nurturing for its continued health. Your skin says a lot about you (as does the health of your hair): Is it tired, dry, and papery?
Greasy, sallow, and pitted? These conditions indicate an imbalance in your body that can be addressed by any of the remedies outlined in the previous chapters. These conditions (and usually the imbalances that cause them) are reversible and can always be resolved using natural methods that heighten your energy and nourish your life.
The skin, hair, and body treatments that follow can be enjoyed by most teens, men, and women (though specific body care formulas for men and women are found in chapter 7: Especially for Women and chapter 8: Especially for Men). Let the making of these remedies be fun activities that you do frequently, as these products tend to have short shelf lives. Use them often and enjoy your radiant (and healthy) skin and hair.
Herbs and flower preparations have been used for centuries for both men’s and women’s facial care. Since Maria Prophetissa discovered distillation techniques and created what we call the “bain-marie,” chemists and boutiques have sold flower waters and essential oils for beauty applications.
These lovely waters were favorites with ladies throughout the Middle Ages and have never lost their popularity.
With facial care, we generally consider two applications: drying (toning) and moisturizing. Determine your skin type and use whichever remedy will achieve the effect you need. Scent them as desired (lavender is a traditional and lovely facial scent), and enjoy.
Lavender Facial Wash
Yields approximately 1 cup
This is a simple-to-make facial astringent that soothes, tightens, and tones the skin. Follow it with Red Clover Whipped Lotion (the recipe follows) for a rich moisturizer.
1/2 cup fresh lavender flowers
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup distilled witch hazel
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
2 to 3 drops lavender essential oil
Combine the dry ingredients and the witch hazel in a 1-pint glass jar; steep overnight or up to two weeks. Strain and reserve the liquid; add the glycerin and essential oil. Using a cotton ball, dab the facial wash over your face using upward motions. (After straining the liquid out, try gently scrubbing your face with the flowers and oats instead of throwing them out; they will remove dirt and grime from the crevasses of your skin and exfoliate. Follow with the facial wash. Delightful!)
Red Clover Whipped Lotion
Yields 2 to 3 cups
Make a tiny batch of this lotion at a time, perhaps for special occasions when you want your face to glow. It’s extremely rich and, depending on how much water you add, can be dense or light as a cloud.
1 cup fresh red clover blossoms
1 cup cocoa butter
1 to 2 cups distilled water or rose water
1 to 2 teaspoons jojoba or sweet almond oil (optional)
Place the herbs and cocoa butter in a bowl. Without heating, use a spoon to mix the blossoms into the cocoa butter. Cover and store in a dark cabinet or pantry. Steep for two weeks.
In the top of a double boiler, gently heat the cocoa butter just until you can strain out the blossoms. Discard them and pour the melted cocoa butter into a deep soup pot (this is to reduce splattering). Using a wire whisk or an electric hand mixer, slowly add the distilled water by the tablespoonful, whisking constantly, until you have the desired consistency. Add the oil if desired, and whisk together. Scrape the lotion into a small container. This lotion lasts several weeks when refrigerated.
Rose Petal Facial Toner
Yields 2 cups
This is a simple and delightful astringent for the face.
1 cup packed fresh rose petals
1 cup distilled witch hazel
1 cup distilled water
Rose water or vegetable glycerin (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a 1-pint glass jar. Steep overnight or up to two weeks. Strain and reserve the liquid. If desired, dilute it with additional distilled water or rose water, or whisk in a few drops of vegetable glycerin. Apply this toner with a cotton ball, using upward strokes.
Dandelion–Elder Flower Blemish Lightener
Yields 2 cups
Adapted from old wives’ recipes, this classic blemish lightener uses buttermilk. Many old recipes call for tansy flowers, but I find elder flower to be just as lovely.
1 cup fresh elder flowers
1 cup fresh dandelion flowers
2 cups fresh buttermilk
Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar. Steep overnight in the refrigerator (refrigeration is important!). Strain and reserve the liquid. Using a cotton ball, apply the lotion to your face in upward movements. Once your face is covered, lie down and rest for 10 minutes. Rinse with cool water.
Store this lotion in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Lemon Lip Balm
Yields 1 cup
Lemon is a luscious, summery fragrance, and many of our beloved herbs offer that scent: lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemongrass, and wood sorrel (Oxalis) leaves and seedpods. Pick your favorites to infuse in the oil for this lip balm.
1 cup fresh lemon balm (or herb of your choice), chopped
1 cup vegetable oil (such as canola)
1/4 cup beeswax
2 to 5 drops lemon essential oil or high-quality culinary lemon extract
Follow the instructions in chapter 4: Medicine-Making Methods for making an herbal salve. Once the wax has melted, pour the mixture into small lip balm tubes or into 1/4-ounce tins. Because these small containers absorb heat easily, do not keep them in pants pockets or in a hot car.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Essential Herbal for Natural Health: How to Transform Easy-to-Find Herbs into Healing Remedies for the Whole Family by Holly Bellebuono, published by Roost Books, 2012.