Herbal Skin Care

My favorites for natural--and cheap--skin care

Time was, herbs were the only way we had to take care of our skin. As synthetic products came on the market, we gradually forgot the plant wisdom of our grandmothers.

Now, herbs are all the rage in skin care products, but the commercial versions have drawbacks. Often, they're not really herbal at all, but just add scents or a little splash of essential oil to make them appear herbal. The "real" herbal ones are often only available in specialty stores. And both can be prohibitively expensive.

So why not make your own? Here are some easy home recipes and ideas for my favorite herbal skin care products that you can make up quickly, easily--and cheaply!

A quick note on ingredients
Facial clay comes in many different varieties; look on the label to see which is best for your skin type. It is available at most natural food stores. If you can't find a source for it, or for any of the herbs and ingredients in this story, try MountainRoseHerbs.com, my favorite online retailer for good quality herbs and herbal supplies. They carry several kinds of facial clays, as well as bulk herbs, hydrosols and oils--including fabulous unrefined coconut oil. It's where I get my supplies.

My favorite herbal skin scrub
I've been using a scrub like this for nearly 30 years--when I remember to make it up! When I do, my skin is like a peach. This is really all you need to keep your skin clean. Do it once every 3 days or so, and the other days all you really need is warm water to clean your face.

1 part rolled oats
1 part dried lavender
1 part dried rose petals
1 part cornmeal
1 part sea salt
2 parts facial clay
Rosemary essential oil
Warm water or aloe vera juice/extract

Pulverize the oats, lavender and rose petals in a food processor. Mix all dry ingredients together and keep them in an airtight jar. To use, take a small spoonfull of the scrub mix in the palm of one hand, add a drop of the rosemary essential oil, and mix into a paste with either warm water or aloe vera juice. Wet your face with warm water and gently scrub your skin with the paste in a circular motion with your fingertips. Leave on for a few minutes if you can, then rinse with warm water.

My favorite herbal toner
Witch hazel, widely available at drug stores, is cheap and effective as a toner. I've used it since girlhood and it's always been soothing to my skin.

Hydrosols are also great toners. You've heard of rosewater or orange blossom water? Those are hydrosols. You can buy them or you can make your own simply by steeping the plant materials in hot water like a tea overnight and then straining. Good hydrosols include cucumber (a great use for peels and scraps), lavender, rosemary, chamomile and rose. Use one part plant material to one part water if fresh, one part plant material to two parts water if dried.

Green tea can also be used as a toner. It's especially beneficial if you've overdone the whole tanning thing over the years. Just brew it strong and let it cool.

My favorite herbal moisturizer
My very favorite moisturizer is unrefined coconut oil, but my skin is quite dry. You may do better with aloe vera.

Aloe vera is one of the best-known herbs for skin care, and rightly so. Freshly extracted aloe vera is a natural hydrant that helps in soothing skin. It also helps in healing cuts and treating sun burns. It's extremely easy to grow as well, thriving in a pot on a sunny windowsill. Its extract is also widely available at drug stores if you don't want to grow your own. Just smooth it on.

My favorite herbs for skin support
Taking herbs internally will also help nourish and care for your skin. Liver tonics especially will help the skin. Milk thistle, dandelion root, yellow dock root and burdock root are particularly good for the liver, and will help support your skin in the process since often our skin tries to excrete toxins the liver is too stressed to handle. Whenever John's skin starts acting up I dose him with milk thistle and he improves. Drinking green tea will also help your skin.

My favorite lifestyle recommendations
By far the best thing you can do for good skin is to get enough sleep. We are all shorting ourselves all the time these days on good sleep. Let Jay Leno take care of himself--you go to bed!

Make sure you get a good walk in daily. I have taken to getting on my treadmill upon rising, first thing, to get it out of the way.

Eat well. Avoid white sugar, corn syrup and flour. Drink lots of water.

And do what you can to de-stress your life; simplify. Easily said, I know! But the more you follow these recommendations, the better your skin will look and feel.

Lynn Siprelle edits this site.