Natural beauty products fresh from the garden
How to extract the beneficial compounds in herbs and flowers for making natural herbal skincare. Includes instructions for creating water and oil infusions
You don’t have to spend a fortune at the beauty counter. 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 piece in this series I introduce some of the plants you can grow for specific skin types and issues. This next piece shares how you can extract their beneficial properties so that you can make your own herbal skincare.
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.
The reason is simple — you tend not to want big pieces of plant material in your skincare. You want its scent, skin healing properties, and sometimes its color. Not chunks of leaves and flowers that can feel gross and actually cause microbes and mold to grow. That’s not the aim with making herbal skincare. There are some exceptions to using raw plant material though:
- Aloe Vera in this DIY Organic Aloe Face Lotion
- Calendula petals in making Handmade Calendula soap
- Lavender buds in this Soap-less Face Cleanser
Drying herbs & flowers
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.
You can dry plant material on a drying rack, 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.
Water soluble extracts
Most herbs and flower petals have skin-beneficial components that are water soluble. This means that they’ll infuse into water that you can then use to make your recipe. You’d use water infusions for making lotions, creams, soap, and facial rinses
Making a Water Infusion
A water infusion is essentially a tea. Use approximately one tablespoon dried plant material (or two tablespoons fresh fresh) to one cup boiling water. Seep for 15-20 minutes and strain. Use the resulting infusion in creams, lotions, rinses, or on its own as a toner.
Herbal teas don’t last very long but you can refrigerate it for two to three days after making it. Once made, herbal infusions can be used directly on the skin or in creams, lotions, and handmade soap.
Making oil-based beauty recipes
Some beauty products don’t contain water and adding moisture can cause them to spoil. To make these you should infuse dried plant material into liquid oil and use it as an ingredient.
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 some roots and seeds that can be infused into oil to naturally color handmade soap.
Making an Oil Infusion
There are two ways to make an oil infusion.
1. Cold Oil Infusion: place 250g dried 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. You can also use a crock pot on low for this method.
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.
Make herbal skincare using homegrown herbs & flowers
Once you’ve infused your homegrown herbs into water or oil you can use it to make all kinds of beauty potions. The infusion will carry the skin beneficial compounds in the plants straight to your skin. Browse through these ideas for herbal beauty recipe ideas including lip balms, body balms, and lotions. Here’s some specific ideas based on various herbs: