Saving Face

Herbal facials for winter-weary skin.

| February/March 1996

  • Whipped cream and herbs make up this rich moisturizing mask that leaves your skin feeling wonderful. The small glass bottle contains a refreshing skin toner.
    Mirror courtesy of Jordan’s, Fort Collins, Colorado; soap dish courtesy of Vie, Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Calendula, rose, and lavender—ingredients that have been used for beautiful complexions for hundreds of years— provide excellent conditioning for all skin types.


During the cold months, does your skin feel like a desert lizard’s? Blame it on the humidity—or the lack of it. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air does, and it tends to draw moisture from your body. The artificially heated air indoors or in your car does the same thing. Even your skin’s natural defenses are down, as its production of oils, which help to keep in moisture, declines in winter. You may have noticed some new wrinkles or even cracks in your skin.

If moving to the tropics is out of the question, or even if it’s not, herbs can come to the rescue. Take some time for yourself, put on your snuggliest pajamas, and treat yourself to an herbal ­facial designed to restore moisture to your skin—and boost your spirits to boot.

Throughout history, herbs have been used topically for both their healing and cosmetic properties. The English used lavender soap as much for a clear complexion as to experience its clean fragrance. As long ago as the fifteenth century, calendula petals were recognized for their value in softening skin; today we know that they are astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal.

My great-grandmother believed that a salve of camphor and eucalyptus cured almost any skin eruption. My father swears by a concoction of camphor, menthol, lanolin, and tallow for treating chapped lips and hands. But it was Grandma Lois’s recipes—for potato poultices, mustard plasters, and dill-and-horsetail nail strengthener, to name a few—that first led me to experiment with using herbs topically. I’ve made and used skin treatments for two decades now, and I find that store-bought cosmetics don’t compare to the natural products that I make myself. I continue to be awed by the ability of herbs to help the body heal and repair itself and to help maintain a beautiful, healthy complexion.

Please be aware that “herbal” and “natural” are not synonymous with “harmless”. The properties of herbs that make them effective can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Avoid using any ingredients that you are allergic to as food: your skin could react as well. Always test any new formula on the inner fold of your elbow before using it on your entire face. Check your skin after twenty-four hours and don’t use the formula if redness, swelling, or itching is present.

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