Holistic Life – Magazine

Herbal Cosmetics

by Lia Schorr

For me, as a skin care specialist, the healing, soothing and beautifying properties of herbs are an endless source of mystery and fascination. I use herbs in my treatments at my salon in New York: I also counsel clients on home use of the wonderful garden treasures.

While my respect for herbs runs deep, I am certainly not original in my beliefs. Mankind has treasured and used herbs throughout the ages.

The Romans laced their bathwater with lavender-not only for the scent but for that herb's disinfecting properties. Interestingly, the botanical name lavandula is from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash”. Today, herbal baths can be enjoyed for many reasons. aroma, pore stimulation, muscle relaxation, and the soothing of fatigued joints.

I begin my discussion of herbs for beauty with bathing because I believe this is a magical activity. Water is an essential element of life; herbs, their product When the body is submerged in water, it is free from the constraints of normal gravity. It is held, contained, by a life-giving force. Add to this scene a handful of herbs, and you have one of life's tiny treasures that can be enjoyed often daily, if you wish. Adding to that scenario is solitude and a quiet that is only broken by the sound of running water.

Different herbs set different bath moods and satisfy different bodily needs. For relaxation, I recommend jasmine, chamomile, vervain and/or catnip. For stimulation, there is lavender, lovage, mint, rosemary and thyme. As a tonic for the skin-to make it look refreshed as well as feel refreshed nothing is quite as good as blackberry leaves. A Tea made from blackberry leaves can be added to the bath.

Another way to use herbs for bathing is to make bath bags filled with one or a combination of herbs. Take a square of cheesecloth, fill with the herbs of your choice (fresh, preferably; dried, if fresh is not available), and tie it securely. Then tie the bag to the faucet so that the stream of water soaks it. Start the bath with only hot water—to release the essence of the herbs—then mix in cold. For a bath to be most relaxing, the water should not be too hot.

For a special skin treat, you can add oatmeal in with the herbs and then use the bath bag as a skin scrub-like loofah-and emerge from the tub with truly softened skin.

The skin-care preparations I sell at my salon derive largely from natural substances: aloe, honey, herbs, mud. But for those individuals who prefer to mix their own preparations, I have tried-and-true recipes for lotions and potions that are simple to make and a pleasure to use.

Cleansing lotion is a beauty and grooming mainstay. A favorite home recipe for this genre of product is Elder Cleanser. To make it, you boil a cup of buttermilk and then add a hefty handful of elder flowers. Let steep overnight, then strain. This cleanser, which must be refrigerated, is most effective when used with a cotton ball; then flush the face with lukewarm water.

A facial mask-perhaps the most important step in a facial-serves several purposes. First, it cleanses deeply; second, it nourishes the skin; and third, it just about forces you to relax for fifteen minutes. For oily skin, I recommend the following: mix a handful of oatmeal with a teaspoon of cider vinegar and two tablespoons of a tea made from yarrow and chamomile. Apply to clean skin; leave on for fifteen minutes; then rinse thoroughly with cool water

A wonderful mask for dry skin: combine two egg yolks with a teaspoon of honey, two teaspoons of brewer's yeast and two tablespoons of a tea made from comfrey and calendula. Follow the above directions for application and rinsing.

When it comes to skin care, my favorite herb is chamomile. It cleanses and soothes, and is most effective when used in a steaming pot of water. Chamomile is the critical ingredient in an at-home facial, the steps for which are outlined here.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Apply liquid or creamy cleanser to the face with a cotton ball, using up and down motions.
  • Take another cotton ball, soaked in a toning lotion, to finish cleaning and refresh the skin.
  • Take a thick cream-or mayonnaise in the palms of your hands, and, with palms only, massage your cheeks in a circular motion; then move up to your forehead and down to your chin.
  • With your index finger, pat cream gently around the eyes, moving from the corner of the eye to the nose. Do not rub or pull.
  • Massage cream into your neck.
  • Place chamomile leaves in a pot of boiling water. Improvise a towel tent and steam your face to open pores. Follow with one of the masks mentioned above; leave on for fifteen minutes.
  • Remove mask with successive splashes of warm water.
  • Nourish your skin with Elder Cream which is made by mixing almond oil (1 cup) with. lanolin (1 teaspoon) and two tablespoons of elder flowers; then heat gently and allow to simmer for fifteen minutes. Let the mixture cool, then place it in a glass jar. This preparation need not be refrigerated

One of my favorite ways to use herbs is on the hair. A tea made from your choice of herb is a marvelous final rinse. I've put together a list of herbs and their hair-benefiting properties so that you can brew what's right for you.

Chamomile is for blondes- it softens and lightens the hair.

Marigold leaves (calendula) also lighten hair.

Rosemary is the dark-hair herb- it! lends luster and shine.

Sage softens and conditions the hair. Stinging nettle helps prevent dandruff.

Lemon verbena helps return the hair to a healthy pH.

Elder berries impart a bluish tint to gray hair-something the Romans discovered.

And then there is henna, which has been used to condition and color the hair for more than 5,000 years. Henna has been discovered in Egyptian tombs; today, it is still the custom to give an Arabic woman a sack of henna on the night before their wedding, which they use to decorate their hands and feet as well as to color their hair.

An Omani woman whom I know has a special henna recipe that she uses to condition and highlight her hair. She mixes the powdered leaves with yogurt (to keep the henna from drying the hair), an egg yolk and, instead of boiling water, she uses steaming espresso to make a pasty consistency. She leaves this mixture on her hair (the most beautiful hair I've ever seen!) for three hours. She does this once every six weeks.

benna has been used to condition and color the bair for more than 5,000 years.


Teeth Brightener (to be used instead of commercial toothpaste) Pulverize a teaspoon of sage and add to a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of sea salt and two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide. This mixture can be stored in a small jar. Brushing teeth with this formula is so dee-cleansing that, even after a whole day, your teeth do not get that "fuzzy" feeling, the one that indicates plaque is beginning to form.

Fatigue-Fighting Foot Bath (Wonderful after jogging) Fill a large bowl with boiling water, a tablespoon of sea salt and a hefty handful of soothing herbs: bay leaf, sage, thyme, and/or lavender.

Eucalyptus Mouthwash (Also serves as a gum strengthener, thanks to the myrrh Take a half-ounce of eucalyptus leaves and add three cups of rapidly boiling water. Simmer for ten minutes, then cool. Next add three drops of clove oil and three drops tincture of myrrh.Refrigerate.

Eye Refresher (To reduce puffiness)Make a tea using one tablespoon each of marsh mallow leaves and rasberry leaves in one cup of water. Strain and cool, then refrigerate. To use, soak two cotton balls with the infusion, and apply to closed eyes, and relax for ten minutes.

Lia Schorr is a truly international skincare expert. She was born in Tashkent. Russia, raised in Israel and trained in France and the United States. In addition, Lia is probably the only beauty practitioner in New York to have decided on her chosen career while serving in the Army. Once ber mind was set on the beauty track: Lia wasted no time studying and developing her unique skincare philosophy which incorporated innovative cleansing moisturizing and good lifestyle habits.