Calendula and witch hazel, traditionally known as two of the best natural healers, are astringents. This group of plants contains tannins — compounds that react with proteins to produce a contracting and tightening effect on tissues to which they are applied.
These sooth and lubricate the skin surface. Violet and Irish moss are two of the most effective. Both contain mucilages — compounds that form gels when mixed with water making them easy to use on the skin.
Both almond oil and sunflower oil have a softening, moisturizing action on the skin. Almond oil also has a reputation as a cleanser.
You should match herbal cosmetics to your skin type, as you would any other skin-care products. If you have oily skin, select preparations containing astringent herbs, which tighten the skin, encouraging the closing of pores and the healing of blemishes. For dry skin, use emollient herbs, which soften, soothe, and lubricate, supplementing the skin’s own protective oils. For a simple cleanser, try using a normal strength infusion of chamomile, elder flowers, marigold, violet, or yarrow, choosing the herb for its extra properties listed in the chart below. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter and store it in the refrigerator.
Elder flowers Cleansing, emollient, lightening, promotes sweating
Irish moss Emollient
Violet Cleansing, emollient
Marsh mallow Emollient
Marigold Cleansing, astringent, promotes healing of wounds, toning
Witch hazel Astringent, promotes healing of wounds
Thyme Toning, refreshing, disinfectant
Yarrow Cleansing, toning, promotes sweating
Chamomile Cleansing, cooling, lightening, anti-inflammatory
Lavender Antiseptic, stimulating
(Pot Marigold) Antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, & astringent.
Calendula (pot marigold) should not be confused with French marigold (Tagetes patula), which is used as an insecticide and weed killer.
Note: Rosewater and vitamin E capsules are available at most drugstores. Essential oil fragrance available at specialty fragrance, bath or herb shops.
Below are some recipes for cleansers, toners, and nourishers, Use cleansers night and morning on cotton balls to remove dirt and make-up. Use toners after a bath or facial steam — gently wipe the face and neck with moistened cotton balls. Massage nourishing cream into the skin at night.
The alkalinity of most soaps can upset the skin’s natural acidity, making it feel tight and irritated, so use this gentle herbal soap with warm or cool water — avoid excessive heat or cold.
5 oz simple uncolored, unscented soap
3 oz whole fresh rosemary or marjoram
10 oz water
2 teaspoons oil of rosemary or sandalwood
Coarsely grate the soap into a bowl. Make a normal-strength infusion of your chosen herb and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain the infusion on to the soap and stand the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir as the soap melts and whisk hard until smooth. Remove from heat and beat in the essential oil. Pour quickly into molds. When cool, cover with greaseproof paper and leave in a warm, dry place for about eight weeks until hard.
Variation: For wash balls, use 5 fluid ounces of rosewater instead of the herb infusion. Rosewater is slightly astringent. Form the soap into small balls and dry in a warm place. To finish, moisten your hands with rosewater and smooth each ball to make the surface shiny.
Creamy Calendula Cleanser
4 tablespoons olive or almond oil
2 tablespoons dried calendula flowers
Few drops of violet, orange blossom or rose water
Warm the oil in a bowl placed over a saucepan of hot water. Stir in the dried flowers and continue to heat gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, strain, and stir in the flower water.
Cleansing Complexion Milk
To remove ingrained grease and dirt, deep cleansing is often necessary. Used night and morning, this milk will cool and cleanse your skin. Apply it on cotton balls or soft tissue. It contains several ingredients that are good for the skin. Oil of lemon is acidic and refreshing. Marigold is an astringent that is good for blemished skins. Almond “milk” is also very good for the complexion. It keeps for much longer than cow’s milk.
2 oz ground almonds
5 oz water
3 tablespoons strong infusion of marigold
1 teaspoon borax
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
5 drops oil of lemon
Tie the almonds in a muslin bag and soak in the 5 oz of water in a bowl for several hours, pressing occasionally with a spoon. Lift out the bag of almonds and squeeze dry. (You can set this aside for use as a bath bag,
see Hydrotherapy). Reserve the milky almond liquid. Put the marigold infusion an a cup with the borax and stand in a pan of hot water, stirring until the borax dissolves. Heat the grape seed oil and vigorously whisk in the borax solution. Add 4 tablespoons of almond milk and the oil of lemon. Cool, then pour into a bottle and shake well. Shake the complexion milk again before using.
Quick Cleansing Milk
This preparation is easy to make with common ingredients. It is good for dry skins. The lemon juice it contains is astringent and quickly restores the pH balance of the skin.
1/2 small carton natural yogurt
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Whisk together all the ingredients and use within two days.
Cleansing Facial Steam
This is a useful cleansing process for blackheads and oily skins; do not use it if you have thread veins, or your face flushes easily. Choose from the herbs listed below. This is also a good cleansing method for dry skins, provided that you follow it by massage.
2 handfuls of fresh herbs or 2 tablespoons of dried herbs, selected from:
Lavender, dried lime flowers (calming), peppermint (stimulating),
rosemary or sage (soothing, refreshing)
Cover your hair and lean over a bowl of hot water containing the herbs of your choice. Tent a thick bath towel over your head and shoulders and inhale the reviving aroma for 5 to 10 minutes. Afterwards you can squeeze out blackheads using a clean face tissue, not fingernails. Apply a dab of witch hazel to the spot.
Toning Flower Lotion
Many soaps and cosmetics upset the skin’s natural level of acidity. A healthy body restores the balance after a while, especially if you use a gentle, natural soap. This toning lotion speeds up the process, closing the pores, and tightening the skin to leave it cool and refreshed. The lemon juice provides acidity, while the witch hazel acts as an astringent.
4 tablespoons witch hazel
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons flower water (rose, elderflower, orange, or lavender)
A few drops of oil of lemon, lavender, or rose geranium
Mix all the ingredients in a jug. Pour into a bottle and shake well.
Toning Face Packs
You can use a face pack once a week to condition and tone your skin, or to brace it after a facial steam. This type of treatment is especially good for oily skins. First clean your face thoroughly, then cover your hair. Spread the mix fairly thickly over your face, avoiding the area around the eyes and mouth. Lie down for ten minutes, during which time your skin will start to feel tight and stiff. Then rinse the pack away thoroughly with warm water. Choose herbs that suit your skin. Good herbs are elder flowers, fennel leaves, marigold petals, thyme leaves, and yarrow leaves and tips.
2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs or flowers, or 2 tablespoons strong
infusion of dried herb
2 tablespoons natural yogurt
Put the herbs and yogurt into a bowl and stir in enough oatmeal to make a soft spreadable paste. You will need a little more oatmeal with dried herbs, to absorb the infusion.
Rich, Nourishing Night Cream
This cream is soothing and fragrant. The moisturizing properties of the lanolin, sunflower oil, and almond oil make it especially good for faces dried and roughened by the weather, and for chapped hands. The lavender is soothing.
3 tablespoons lanolin
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon almond oil
1 teaspoon oil of lavender
Melt the lanolin in a small bowl over a pan of hot water. Add the first two oils, and beat well to combine. Remove from the heat and cool a little, beat as the mixture thickens, then stir in the oil of lavender. Pour into a small jar and screw on the lid when the cream is cold.
Nourishing Hand Gel
The mucilage in this seaweed makes it a rich emollient.
1/2 oz dried Irish moss
7 oz water
2 teaspoons strained lemon juice
2 tablespoons glycerine
1/2 teaspoon borax
A few drops oil of lemon or orange
Soak the Irish moss for 20 minutes. Put it into an enamel pan with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer slowly for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Strain into a bowl, pressing the gel through the strainer with a wooden spoon. Stir in the lemon juice. Warm the glycerine and add the borax, stirring until it has dissolved, then beat into the Irish moss mixture. Add a few drops of citrus oil and pour the gel into screw-top jars.
Nourishing Hand & Body Oil
Smooth this light, fragrant oil over your body after bathing. The rosewater gives it a tonic and astringent quality.
3 fluid oz rosewater
1 teaspoon borax
2 tablespoons almond oil
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 teaspoon oil of rosewood, or rose geranium
Warm the rosewater in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, add the borax and stir until dissolved, then add the oils and stir briskly until thoroughly combined. Bottle, and shake well before use.
Dry Skin Lotion
3/4 cup of almond oil
1/3 cup of coconut oil or cocoa butter
1 teaspoon lanolin
1/2 oz grated beeswax
Melt these ingredients over low heat. Cool to room temperature. While these ingredients cool, mix together:
2/3 cup rosewater
1/3 cup aloe vera gel
1 to 2 drops rose oil
Contents of 1 vitamin E capsule
Add these ingredients to the first mixture. Whip together until their consistency resembles buttercream frosting. Store in a covered jar.
3 tablespoons grated beeswax
1 tablespoon liquid lanolin
1/2 cup light sesame oil
2 tablespoons strong chamomile tea
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
Combine all ingredients in a glass ovenproof container. Heat in the micro-
wave until all the wax and oil are melted. Do not boil. Pour the mixture into
a jar or container and allow to cool completely.
Makes 4 ounces.