The age old art of concocting beauty products from natural ingredients is a time honoured tradition. From lavender and rose in your garden to nettles growing wild nearby, we have easy access to so many common flowers with great skin benefits that can be brought into our daily beauty regimes. Why not try making simple beauty products from useful garden plants that are incredibly easy to grow?
It is important to note that all herbal cosmetics carry the possibility of creating an allergic reaction in certain people, so before using an homemade preparation, test by placing a dab on your forearm and leave for 24 hours to determine possible reactions.
Why Grow and Make your own Beauty Products?
There are lots of reasons why you would want to grow your own herbs and flowers to use in your own homemade skincare products. Some include wanting to reduce the chemicals you put on your skin, knowing exactly what you are putting on your skin, saving money on products, and reducing your carbon footprint by not using products wrapped in plastic.
Learning to use herbs is a valuable skill to have, many plants have skin beneficial properties that you can safely extract at home. During the growing season, I dry herbs to have them on hand to use in the winter months. Homemade cosmetics have no preservatives so remember that their shelf life will be much shorter than commercial products.
Every year I plan my yearly beauty garden alongside my vegetable garden, I grow herbs and flowers for soap making, and making salves and tea. Dried herbs and flowers can be used to colour handmade soap and used as oil infusions to add nutrients to the soap.
What Can I Grow in Scotland?
There are many plants you can easily grow in your garden to use in your homemade beauty regime, calendula and chamomile for example, are easy to start from seed and grow. Spring is the perfect time to start your beauty garden.
Calendula, Calendula offinalis – Calendula is a vibrant garden flower which is renowned for its wound healing properties but is also great for nourishing the skin. Extracts from the petals of this golden flower help to soothe the skin. It has been used for centuries in a skin ointment, and is easy to make your own extract by the oil infusion method. You can make a healing calendula balm with calendula infused oil. Calendula grows very easily in Scotland and I found my Calendula still happily growing in my garden in early winter. I also love to add Calendula to homemade soap.
Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia – A fragrant shrub, this herb grows happily in most areas except water-logged soil, in the summer scenting the air with its heady fragrance. Lavender is thought to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is commonly used for relaxation purposes. Use dried flowers to make an oil infusion to use in salves and balms or as a facial toner. Throw some lavender flowers in a warm bath for a relaxing treat.
Nettle, Urtica silica – Stinging nettle can make a wonderful hair tonic, as it is rich in iron, potassium, and magnesium. Pick the nettles with gloves on and then leave to steep in hot water for a few minutes. Let cool and use in a final rinse when washing hair.
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis – A lemony, minty plant that works as a refreshing toner, use in a water infusion as a toner and oil infusion for a light balm.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus offincinalis – Rosemary is an incredibly useful herb. It is used to help enhance memory and help with muscle pain and stress. It is aromatic and astringent and can help by promote healing by stimulating blood flow to the skin. Use an oil or water based infusion of this herb and make into massage oils, toner, balms and hair rinses.
Chamomile, Matricaria recutita – A calming and gentle herb which is thought to soothe dry and irritated skin. Use in oil infusions, toners or massage oils, and as a hair rinse.
Raspberry – Raspberries are a Scottish favourite, they grow abundantly and are packed full of beauty benefits that help strengthen skin and keep wrinkles at bay. It is easy to make a raspberry body scrub with left over seeds from cooking the raspberries into a puree. Take the left over seeds and whizz them in a blender with olive oil and sugar and use a body scrub.
Aloe vera – This plant is a beauty essential but can only be grown inside in Scotland so you need a bright spot in the house for the plant. The gel inside the plants leaves can help with sunburn and reduce inflammation. Aloe vera gel can be mixed with creams and lotions or used by itself.
How to Dry Plant Material
A good way to extend the life of skincare herbs is to dry them first. Once dried, plant material usually has a shelf life of one to two years and it can keep you busy in winter concocting beauty preparations. You can use the herbs during that time to infuse into oils, water or alcohol to make skincare.
Dry your herbs by tying them up and hanging them from a hook, on a sheet of baking paper, or in a dehydrator on a low setting. Make sure the plant material is bone dry before you store it in jars and make sure to label the jars with the name of the plant and date of picking. Keep dried material in a cool, dry and dark place while drying.
Types of Beauty Products you can Make at Home
Balm – A firm, oil based product that is rubbed into skin. The hardness comes from a hard oil like soy wax or beeswax.
Salves – Similar to balms but softer, contain a higher percentage of liquid oil than balms.
Oil infusion – Dried plant material infused into a carrier oil. Use fully dried herbs and flowers when making infused oil, the smallest amount of water can make oils turn rancid. There are two methods to making infused oils, the cold infusion method and the hot method. The cold method involves infusing plant material into oil at room temperature for a minimum of 4 weeks. You can use a hot method by heating the oil for a few hours in an oven. Once the oil is infused it can be used directly on the skin or used to make other products. You can make herb infused oils with calendula flowers, chamomile flowers, rosemary leaf, yarrow leaf, lavender flowers, and lemon balm leaf.
Herb Infused water – The name of herb infused water is a tisane, it is an infusion of plant and water that you can then make into skin creams or use as a toner. Infusions are made in the same way as you make tea. Tisanes can be used as hair rinses, rosemary is a popular hair tisane as it is said to stimulate blood flow, help dandruff, and help hair loss. Chamomile hair rinses are sometimes used to help lighten blonde hair. Tisanes can be made with lavender flowers, peppermint leaves, calendula flowers, nettle leaf, and others.
Botanical Soaps – Botanical infusions can be made to the main oils in the soap making recipe and added to the tops of soap.
Herbal Bath – You can infuse your bath by pouring boiling water over dried flowers then strain and add the infusion to your bath water
Body Scrub – You can mix skin nourishing oils with either finely ground sea salt or sugar, and infused herbal oil, and add dried flowers and herbs.
Face Mask – You can make a nourishing face mask out of oats and lavender buds. By steeping the lavender buds in a cup of water then using the reserved water to make a paste with the oats.
Cairi Balmain has years of experience growing vegetables and fruits in her garden in the Shetland Islands where the weather is extremely challenging. She also makes traditional, cold process, botanical soaps and botanical balms from home grown herbs and flowers. You can follow Cairi’s vegetable growing and botanical soap making adventures on her Instagram account.