Dermascope – Magazine

Plants & Herbs as Skin Treatments

by Lia Schorr

Throughout history, flowers and herbs have been recognized and used for their healing properties. In fact, American Indians used a wide repertoire of wildflowers for treating wounds and skin problems. Plants, like medicines, can be either beneficial or toxic. If used properly, they are perfectly safe.

However allergic reactions and skin sensitivities may develop, so approach flowers with caution and moderation.

Be sure they are fresh and follow directions provided on packages. Herbs and florals are available at health food stores (in powders, capsules and teas), from chemists or herbologists, and can be grown on your own. Be sure to store them properly in clean, labeled containers kept in cool, dark, dry places.

Teas, ointments and tinctures are the most effective ways of using florals. I use a variety of herbs and plants in my facial masks, creams and lotions. I also find herbs particularly well-suited for facial steaming.

For teas or infusions, combine about one pint of boiling water with 1 /2 to 1 ounce of the blossoms head and petals. Steep about 10 minutes. The tea or infusion makes an effective astringent for the complexion or, soaked on cotton balls, relieves puffy or tired eyes.

To make an ointment, mix one ounce ground fresh flowers or one part floral powder to four parts warm petroleum jelly. Then apply externally.

To prepare a tincture, steep the flowers in alcohol and a little water (vodka or pure grain alcohol will do). Let steep two to four weeks, until the alcohol takes on the color and aroma of the flower. Strain and store the liquid. To use, dilute a few drops in water. Apply topically with cotton balls.

The following is a partial list of the ways in which I incorporate florals and herbs into skin care treatments at my salon:

ALMOND MEAL: Sweet, shelled almonds can be ground into a meal and used as beauty grains in a scrub for cleansing and exfoliating.

ALMOND OIL (sweet): Is a superior emollient in creams and lotions for dry skin.

BLACKBERRY LEAVES: Added to facial masks and lotions have an astringent property that's beneficial for oily skin.

ANISE: Smells like licorice and is used in facial steaming to open the pores and soften clogged sebum.

CHAMOMILE: As an infusion applied externally to the face, or as a facial steam, it will reduce puffiness and cleanse pores of impurities. A cloth soaked with chamomile infusion relieves and soothes sunburn.

COMFREY: Can be used in lotions, creams, ointments and hand creams as an emollient and astringent. It's widely accepted as a cell regenerator.

GINSENG: Is a wonderful skin cleanser, eye mask, moisturizing lotion or night cream.

LAVENDER: The dried plant added to facial steaming stimulates. circulation to the face and cleanses the skin. A distilled water of lavender added to a facial mask helps heal pimples and acne.

MINTS: All kinds are somewhat astringent and are used as a stimulating ingredient in facial masks.

OAT: Flakes mixed with water, yogurt and milk make a superior facial mask, especially after the pores have been steamed with herbs.

OATMEAL: Mixed with honey is a terrific skin softener. Added to soap, it's a top-notch scrub for oily skin.

ROSES: These yield rosewater, which is an effective astringent.

STRAWBERRY: Leaves make a useful astringent herb for oily skin.

SUNFLOWER: Seeds can be ground up and mixed with milk (for dry skin) or yogurt (for oily skin) to form a paste. Apply as a mask. Rinse off after 10 minutes.