How to use Fresh Herbs & Flowers in Beauty Products
Use homegrown plants and flowers to make handmade beauty products
So many skin caring plants and flowers can be grown by you in your own garden. Calendula for skin healing, rose petals for sensitive toning, and thyme for treating acne just to name a few. In my first post in this series I introduce some of the plants you can grow for specific skin types and issues but once you have them growing and ready to harvest what do you do next?
Using fresh plant and flowers
There are a few plants that provide us with a material that we can use fresh in our handmade beauty products. For everything else, extracting the skin beneficial properties is the next step in making your own creams, lotions, soaps, balms, toners, and more. Here are some examples of plants you can use fresh and what to use them in:
- Aloe Vera – use the fresh inner part of the plant in making creams like this DIY Organic Aloe Face Lotion
- Calendula petals – they can be used fresh in making handmade Calendula soap
- Cucumber – puree cucumbers for making face masks
Some herbs and plants can be used in their dried and powdered states as beauty product ingredients and natural decoration. You’ll find that this is a common preparation for when the roots of a plant are used as a cosmetic ingredient. It’s also best to dry your herbs and flowers before using them in oil infusions if you intend on using the infusions in water-less products without preservatives.
Drying plant material can be done in a solar or electric dehydrator or in the oven at a very low temperature. Flower petals and thin leaves will take a very short time to dry (less than an hour generally) but fruit, thick leaves, and roots will take much longer depending on what it is, how thinly you sliced the material, and how full your dehydrator is. Don’t be surprised if it takes a couple of days.
Some thin plant material, such as flower petals, can be air dried within a couple of days when left on a paper plate or a metal screen such as a rack inside a food dehydrator.
With roots, dehydrate until hard and brittle and allow to cool. Use a coffee grinder or a food processor to break the dried roots down into a powder and then sift it to remove any large particles. Dried plant material can keep up to ten years.
Suitable for most herbs and flower petals
A water infusion is essentially a tea. Use approximately 14g/0.5oz dried plant material or 28g/1oz tsp fresh to one cup boiling water. Seep for twenty minutes and strain. Use the resulting infusion in creams, lotions, rinses, or on its own as a toner. If you’re using the infusion as a toner, refrigerate the liquid and use within a month.
Suitable for herbs and flower petals with low water content. Oil infusions also work for dried and powdered roots.
Many of the beneficial components of medicinal flowers and plants are oil soluble, meaning that instead of infusing them in water, you can infuse them in oil. Oil infusions can be used in creams and lotions but they’re even more important for creating waterless products such as balms, ointments, and massage oils. There are two ways to make an oil infusion:
1. Cold Oil Infusion: place 250g dried or 500g fresh* plant material into a glass jar. Cover with 750ml (3 cups) of high quality vegetable or nut oil such as olive oil, sweet almond oil, or sunflower oil, and place the jar in a sunny window. Leave it there for at least one week and up to four weeks, shaking once a day. Oil infusions generally have a shelf-life of up to a year.
2. Warm Oil Infusion: the cold oil infusion takes at least a month to make but there’s a quicker way of extracting the medicinal components of beauty plants. Place the same quantities of herb to oil as in the cold oil infusion in a saucepan. Place that saucepan into a another pan of simmering water (also known as a double boiler) and leave to heat for two hours, keeping a close eye on the pans. Afterwards, allow the oil to cool and then strain it through a muslin, discarding the plant material. Oil infusions generally have a shelf-life of up to a year.
* Oil infusions are best made with dried plant material since there will be a small amount of water in fresh. Any water in oil can mean creating a place for bacteria to take up residence. If you’re infusing material that has relatively a lot of moisture (i.e. flower petals) it would be best to use the resulting oil within a month and in products that include a preservative.