An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
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DIY Herbal Skin Care: how to use plants to make natural beauty products

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An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skincare. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series.

There are a lot of reasons why you’d want to make your own herbal skincare. Some include wanting to treat your skin as naturally as possible, to save money on beauty products, to use garden herbs you already have growing, to start a business, or just as a fun weekend project. Whatever the reason, learning to use herbs is a valuable and creative skill to have. Your skin will love you for it too.

This is the third part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series. The first two cover different plants you can use to make beauty products and ideas on how to grow them. In this piece, we’ll be looking at how to use skincare herbs to make beauty lotions and potions.

DIY Herbal Skin Care Series

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skincare. Covers making extracts from herbs and flowers and using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #herbs #diybeauty #greenbeauty

from plants to our skin

Many plants have skin-beneficial properties that you can safely extract at home. These properties come in the form of flavonoids, tannins, mucilage, antioxidants, resins, acids, proteins, and volatile oils. Depending on the plant, they can originate in flower petals, leaves, bark, roots, or stems.

Each plant has different extracts that you can exploit to make your own beauty products. Creating those extracts is the basis of this piece. Making DIY herbal skin care recipes is all about isolating those natural chemicals using simple folk methods.

In most cases, this is an extra step that you take before making that recipe. For example, you can first make calendula infused oil and then use it to make body balms, lip balms, creams, salt scrubs, bath bombs, and more. The rest of this piece takes you through herbal extraction methods and herbal skincare recipes.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Ways to transform beauty herbs and flowers into skincare

Oil-based Herbal Skin Care

  • Balm – a firm oil-based product that needs rubbing into the skin. The hardness comes from a moderate amount of beeswax, soy wax, or another hard oil. You make balms using liquid oils, solid oils, infused oils, waxes, and essential oils.
  • Salve – Salves are oil-based products similar to balms but much softer. They contain a higher percentage of liquid oils and are generally used for medicinal purposes. You make balms using various oils, infused oils, waxes, and sometimes essential oils.
  • Cream – You make creams by blending a small amount of oil into a larger amount of water using an emulsifier. Both the oil and water content can be infused with herbs and flowers.
  • Serum – concentrated plant extracts in either water or liquid oil. You apply it to your skin after cleansing but before moisturizing. Serums are liquid oil-based and may be infused oils or have essential oils added to them
An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Creams are made by blending oil and water together using an emulsifier

Other Herbal Skin Care

  • Cleanser – there are various types of cleansers but they all do the same thing: clean the skin. Cleansers are used to remove oil, dirt, and make-up from the face and may be soap or made with other ingredients.
  • Lotion –Most people think of lotions as a thin cream (above) but technically they’re a herbal water infusion used to bathe the skin.
  • Rinse – typically a water infusion that you use on your skin or hair. When it dries, the water content evaporates off leaving botanical extracts behind. Rinses can also be made with vinegar and other liquids.
  • Toner – a liquid that you apply to your skin with cotton wool. Some are astringent and can remove oil and tighten skin. Some are gentler and aid in cleansing and refreshing. Many tinctures can be used as toners, as can tisanes made with astringent herbs.
  • Soap – On a chemical level, soap is a salt of a fatty acid. It’s made by introducing caustic substances with oils and is used as a skin cleanser. You can add fresh herbs and flowers to cold-process soap but it’s debatable as to whether herbal properties survive the soap making process. However, you can use herbs, flowers, seeds, and roots to naturally color handmade soap.
An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
This calendula soap recipe can be made with fresh or dried flower petals

Using fresh plant and flowers

Creating herbal extracts usually begins with picking and drying the plant material. It continues with infusing it into oil, water, or alcohol, to make the ingredients to use in beauty recipes. However, there are a few cases where you can work with fresh material from the get-go. Here are a few ideas:

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Without a preservative of some type, aloe vera only lasts 7-10 days even if refrigerated.

Fresh plant material can go off

Just like fresh veggies, herbs and flowers can go off. They can grow mold, rot, and become a magnet for microbes. It mainly has to do with the water content in the plant material, however little it may seem. It encourages bacterial growth and unless a broad-spectrum preservative is used, then your beauty products can go off too.

For example, fresh aloe vera gel is only good for 7-10 days in the refrigerator. And we’ve all seen how quickly a bunch of herbs can go brown and icky. If you make a skin cream with either, and don’t use a preservative, you could have mold and bacteria growing in it within days – whether you see it or not.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
There are three ways to dry peppermint and other leafy herbs

Drying herbs & flowers

One way to extend the life of skincare herbs is to first dry them, then use them on the go. Once dried, plant material usually has a shelf-life of one to two years. You can use the plants during that time to infuse into oils, water, glycerin, or alcohol, to make skincare.

Most herbs and many flowers should be picked early in the morning while their volatile oils are at their peak. Flowers that open in the day and close at night, like chamomile and calendula, are picked when they’re fully open in the afternoon.

Dry them in a food dehydrator, on a drying screen, hanging them on a rack, or in a pinch, the oven on very low heat. If you’re using the oven method, make sure to prop the oven door open a little to let the water vapor escape.

Make sure that you know which part of the plant you need, and the best way of drying it. Whichever way you use, make sure that the plant material is crispy, bone dry, and room temperature before you store it in jars or ziplock bags.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Skincare herbs infusing in sweet almond oil

Oil vs Water soluble

Your extraction method largely depends on the herb you’re using and what you’re planning on making. Many herbs like rosemary, plantain, and calendula, happily infuse into oil. Other herbs and flowers, like rose petals, contain substances that are water-soluble. Some are both water and oil soluble. Find out which plants are best infused into what before you begin.

Understanding why some are better infused in water vs oil is all about polarization. Water is a polarizing substance that attracts other polar substances like flavonoids, polyphenols, organic acids, sugars, and glycosides. Fatty acids, lipids, carotenoids, tocopherols, and carotenoids extract best into oil, a non-polar substance.

Ethanol alcohol can extract some oil-soluble and some water-soluble substances and you use alcohol to make tinctures.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Essential oils are not the same thing as infused oils

Infused oils vs. Essential oils

One thing needs clarification before you begin making your own infused oils – they are not essential oils.

Deeply fragrant and highly therapeutic essential oils are concentrated plant essences. They’re typically extracted by distillation or with solvents. They are so concentrated that in most cases they are too strong to use directly (neat) on the skin. The ‘oil’ in the world essential oil refers to volatile plant oil that can evaporate into the air.

Infused oils are carrier oils like sunflower, almond, and grapeseed, that are infused with plant material. They take up some of the substances from that material but at the end of the day are still mainly carrier oil. They’re safe to use undiluted and can be used with essential oils to make beauty recipes.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Calendula infused sweet almond oil

Making infused oils

Always use fully dried herbs and flowers when making infused oils. The tiniest amount of water can not only introduce bacteria but it can also make oils turn rancid relatively quickly. Making infused oil with fresh herbs dramatically decreases the shelf-life of your final product.

There are two main ways to make infused oils – the cold infused oil method and the hot method. The former involves infusing plant material into oil at room temperature or slightly above for 3-6 weeks. The hot method takes only a few hours in the oven, a crockpot, or a double boiler.

Either way, the oil is then strained out and used directly (neat) on the skin or to make other products. Make herb-infused oils with:

  • Calendula (flower)
  • Chamomile (flower)
  • Comfrey (leaf)
  • Lavender (flowers)
  • Lemon balm (leaf)
  • Plantain (leaf)
  • Rosemary (leaf)
  • Yarrow (leaf)
An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Use infused oil to make natural herbal lip balm

Infused oil for skincare

The easiest thing you can use infused oil for is as a massage oil. You can use it in your daily beauty regime as a serum, or as an ingredient to make body balms, lip balms, salves, and creams. Here are some ideas:

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Tisanes of fresh Peppermint (top) and rose petals

Herb-infused water for skincare

The proper term for herb-infused water is a tisane but you might want to think of it as a herbal tea. They’re made as an infusion or as a decoction, and once cooled you can use herbal water to make skin creams or to use as lotions and rinses. You could also splash your face with a herbal tisane after cleansing and thus use it as a serum/toner.

Infusions are made much in the same way that you’d make an ordinary cup of herbal tea. Decoctions are for tougher plant material like roots and bark. You make a decoction by boiling the plant material in water.

As a hair rinse, rosemary tisane is said to stimulate blood flow, combat dandruff, and help with hair loss. Chamomile hair rinses are used to gradually lighten hair.  Tisanes are a great base for making skin creams or to use as gentle toners. Make your own skincare tisanes with:

  • Calendula (flower)
  • Chamomile (flower)
  • Echinacea (all parts)
  • Lavender (flower)
  • Lemon balm (leaf)
  • Peppermint (leaf)
  • Rose (flower and hip)
Thyme tincture for combating acne and break-outs. Part of an introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Thyme tincture for combating acne and break-outs

Tinctures

Some plants are best infused into solvents other than water to make tinctures. These infusions typically use alcohol as the liquid and the most commonly used is 80 proof vodka. For skincare I like to use witch hazel though. This common skin toner is made by mixing witch hazel extract, Hamamelis virginiana, into a small amount of ethanol alcohol. A more gentle type of tincture is made with glycerin and if you have sensitive skin you should opt for that.

The solvent you choose when making tinctures should be relevant for what you’re using it for. It should also be considered that alcohol is better at extracting essential oils, alkaloids, glycosides, acids, and bitters. Glycerin and vinegar are better at extracting other substances from your herbs.

Tinctures can pull both water and oil-soluble substances from plants so can be one of the most effective skincare ingredients you can make. Use tinctures on their own or diluted with distilled water as skin-toners, to disinfect pimples and minor cuts, and to mix into skincare recipes such as creams and toners. Other skincare tinctures, such as burdock root and red clover, are normally recommended to be taken internally.

One tincture that might be best of all for skincare is one made with thyme leaves. In one interesting study, thyme has been shown to kill the bacteria responsible for pimples more effectively than over the counter medications. The alcohol in a tincture also helps to disinfect and to tighten pores.

Make tinctures for use on the skin with:

  • Calendula (flower)
  • Echinacea (root)
  • Thyme (leaf)
  • Witch hazel (bark)
An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Peppermint leaves in handmade soap infuse a golden halo around each tiny piece

Using flowers and herbs in soap making

As a soap maker, I love using fresh and dried herbs to decorate soap. They’re also really useful in naturally coloring my bars too. Dried peppermint gradually bleeds a golden halo around every fleck. Alkanet root and gromwell root tint soap a natural purple. Poppy seeds are pretty as decoration but can also make soap more exfoliating.
However, there’s some debate as to whether or not the healing qualities of plants survive the cold or hot process soap making process. If you’d like to use an infused oil in making soap, it’s best to either add a little to melt-and-pour soap, such as in this recipe or in re-batched soap.

Re-batched soap is cold or hot process soap that’s been through the curing process and is ready to use. You grate it up then and heat it until it’s soft and gloopy. At this point, you could add a little infused oil before pouring it into molds to re-harden.

An introduction to how to use herbs and flowers to make natural herbal skin care. Covers herbal extracts recipes using them to make lotions, creams, and other beauty items. Part of the DIY Herbal Skin Care series #lovelygreens #herbalskincare #diybeauty
Calendula infused oil or water can be used to make calendula body cream

DIY Herbal Skin Care Series

If you enjoyed reading this introduction to making DIY herbal skincare have a read of the other parts in this series. It begins with a piece on plants and herbs for skincare and follows on to growing your own.

22 Comments

  1. I’ve been trying to research about natural skincare recipes for some time now, and I thank God I finally hit the jackpot and found this gold mine.. Going to read it a second time so all the info sticks in my brain…this is awesome!! So much value, learnt more in these few minutes about natural skincare than I have in the past weeks and months trying to research, you ate a true blessing.. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for this amazing post! I made my first herbal serum today. Thanks for the inspiration. Really appreciate it.

  3. I’m curious if it matters what the ratio of water to herb is to get the best benefit. I’m experimenting with different herbs for a cleanser. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi I’m making comfrey salve and I infuse in coconut oil. I never dry the Comfrey first but it sounds like should. Is there some other oil I can add or use to make it go into the skin faster. Coconut oil is nice but takes awhile to settle into the skin. Thank you.

  5. There is no best care than nature so taking care of skin naturally is a good option. These all plants and flowers give your skin a healthy & youthful glow. I like this article so much. Thanks for sharing.

  6. My 9 y/o granddaughter wants to become a herbalist, any suggestions for starting. Im beginning with her making natural soaps but any help would be appreciated. Any books to suggest?

  7. good day I will like you to help me..want to have my own beauty creams for different skin type.give it my own name..please help how to mix herbs in order to see my dream become a success.

  8. When we talk about the skincare the first thing that we trust are the natural skincare products. That will be including products with Herbs, Flowers, and Plant Extracts. The above post is full of the various beneficial aspects about the same. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Oh man…. again the Nescafe jars ^_^ You kitchen and mine ahahah Nescafe jars everywhere
    I love that we have that in common :) Found someone that, like me likes to keep her glass jars <3

  10. I really like your blog, you post many useful recipes and ideas.

    My grandma was always making a calendula skin ointment. She boiled calendula petals in lard. Nowadays she would probably use olive oil :) This ointment was very good at chafes or abrasions. I was using it when I was a child. I, myself, am buying such ointment at pharmacist, but I'm going to prepare one myself :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Lard is perfect for infusing medicinal plants and flowers into! Its consistency at room temperature is like an ointment so you don't have to add additional oils in to soften/harden the mix. The vegan equivalent of lard is palm oil so if you're not keen on using animal products, source a bit of sustainably sourced palm and create the same warm oil infusion.

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