Herbal cosmetics: some simple recipes, for your beauty care
"If you wouldn't want to eat it, don't put it on your skin"
Whenever we buy the latest lotion or potion, we assume that people who make it have only good intentions in mind. We assume that our governments regulate cosmetic makers and demand vigorous safety testing. We assume that cosmetic makers consciously avoid making products that contains ingredients with questionable safety records. Most important: do not assume that people succeed in the cosmetic business while being led by only one aim, to make you healthier. Every enterprise is started with a business plan that involves some sort of profit and the manufacturer can save millions by replacing just one costly natural extract with some synthetic brew. Perhaps it is time to stop assuming anything.
The chemical industry works nonstop: the amount of synthetic chemicals in use all over the world has increased twofold over the last ten years and today, we have more than 100,000 chemicals in use, and less than 5 percent of these have been thoroughly tested for their long- term impact on human health. Cosmetics, unlike drugs, are not regualted by governmental agencies: the safety of skin care, hair care, and makeup are determined by the cosmetic manufacturers themselves. No one is questioning their practices or watching over their shoulders, so they make their own rules about what to use in products we rub onto and put into our bodies. If you do not understand that toxic chemicals in cosmetics make us sick and age prematurely, you will remain a victim of the chemical industry, and it is not good for your health or the health of the planet. In fact, beauty is skin deep. Human skin is a powerful absorption organ that seems to be constantly hungry for anything that touches its surface: our skin grabs every molecule, every single drop of water, every lick of makeup, and every whiff of fragrance. Oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, as well as toxic pollutants, enter our skin and this ability of the skin to absorb chemical substances so they can be spread throughout the body is widely used in medicine. According to new estimates, our skin is so able to absorb up to 60 percent of substances applied to its surface. When a potentially toxic substance passes the skin's barriers, it ends up in blood vessels and lymph ducts located in the epidermis and dermis layers. When potential cancer- causing poisonous chemicals are absorbed by the skin and carried with the blood all over the body, the offending chemical can also interact with other chemicals in our system; sometimes these reactions produce substances that provoke cells to evolve in the wrong way, resulting in cancer or they may lead to many other serious diseases.
The beauty industry is one of the most profitable of all industries, which will start losing millions if people start asking uncomfortable questions about what goes into their favourite moisturizers and various cosmetics. After all, let me remind you: everyone in the cosmetic business is after your money. This is why is called business, not charity.
I cannot, and I don't want, possibly recommend that you stop washing your hair, brushing your teeth, or wearing makeup. You can still do all those pleasant and rewarding steps of your beauty regimen without inhaling, swallowing, and absorbing toxins. There are many wonderfully effective gentle and safe cosmetic products that won't wreak havoc on your hormones, liver and lungs.
Advantages of herbal cosmetics
If you make your own herbal cosmetics, you're in control, you'll know everything they contain, you'll know each ingredient is pure and natural and whether it's something good for your body. In addition, you can personalize your cosmetics recipes for your own individual needs. Make your own cosmetics is easy and is like trying out a new recipe; these are essentially "kitchen cosmetics", but their simplicity is part of their charm. There are no harsh chemicals to irritate the body or the environment, and their subtle effects can bring out a more naturally beautiful you!
No one in fact has ever disputed the safety of a product containing only coconut oil, aloe vera extract, chamomile infusion or green tea. As of today, none of these ingredients has ever been linked to the elevated risk of cancer, allergies or asthma. Plant extracts, juices and essential oils have been a part of human lifestyles for ages, and their safety has been vetted by millions of users down through the centuries.
Organic and natural cosmetics are made from mineral pigments and organic plant extracts, which provide natural sun filters, long-lasting color and deliver a healthy-looking radiant glow. Unlike conventional makeup, none of these products contain any synthetic dyes (also known as synthetic colors), artificial fragrances or petro-chemicals, making them ideal for people with sensitive skin.
So the advantages of herbal cosmetics are numerous:
1. These, being natural unlike synthetic or chemical substances, do not harm your skin, hair or body and are more safe to employ.
2. There is nothing wiser than following one's own tradition and culture, and these are certainly based on naturals and herbals.
3. Herbal cosmetics are in use and practice since thousands of years, without any after effects or side effects and are well- proven and documented.
4. The rapid awareness of the bad effects of modern cosmetics prompted a gradual switch- over to herbal cosmetics. The west has turned finally to the "Mother Nature knows the best philosophy".
Herbs are the best cosmetics
Herbs are the best cosmetics as well as the safest. From the earliest times herbs have been used to increase woman's beauty.
I've chosen, for this article, the herbs that, on the whole, are more usefully employed as cosmetics than in any other way (the avocado pear tree, the witch hazel tree and the elder tree are exception: the fruit of the avocado is extremely nourishing as food, and both the witch hazel and the elder tree are vulneraries of a high order).
It is now known that the oil obtained from the avocado tree has the power to penetrate through the dermis and the epidermis; it contains a combination of vitamins that is rare: vitamin D, the sun- ray vitamin, is one of them and its value in nourishing the skin is undeniable. On any skin that has become lifeless and drab through debilitating illness this oil has a most recuperative power.
The oil of the almond tree, which must be cold expressed to retain its properties, is a great preserver of beauty, and has the least acid reaction of any oil. In Eastern countries this oil has been known from the earliest times as the greatest protection against the ravages of hot climates and drying winds. The almonds themselves are used for whitening the skin, especially the hands.
Next comes the elder tree, because every part of it, the bark, leaves, flowers and berries, has a soothing and beautifying effect on the skin. From time immemorial women have concocted lotions, creams and ointments from elder flowers and elder berries for softening the skin, for removing sunburn and blemishes and freckles, and for their emollient properties generally. Elder- flower water, with its very distinctive scent, takes the place of rose- water to cleanse the face and to prevent, as well as to cure, the sunburn.
Fumitory is another plant used for freckles, and the twigs of the common ivy boiled in butter is a sunburn cream. The witch hazelis more astringent than the elder tree; the water distilled from it tones up relaxed muscles, allays inflammation of the veins and reduces them when they are too pronounced. Like the elder, it is an old 'wound' herb, but it is so much used as a tonic for the eyes and the skin that it may be ranked as a wondrous cosmetic.
The use of lupine goes back to the time of ancient Greece and Rome: the Roman women made the powdered roots into a paste for their faces; and flour of lupins was a necessary ingredient in nearly every beauty recipe.
Hennatakes us back to Egypt: Egyptian women paint their toe nails as well as their finger nails with it, and also women of all nationalities recognize that as a hair dye it is unsurpassed. Indeed it is the only safe way of dyeing the hair a light colour and, skillfully blended, it produces lovely shades of gold, red and auburn.
The strawberry plant has slimming properties: the juice whitens the skin and remove tartar from the teeth. The green osiers make an excellent toothpaste to whiten the teeth and prevent decay. The cypress powder can be used to whiten the skin (in Victorian days it was used as a face powder only by women of doubtful character!). Two old- fashioned herbs, butterwort and gromwell, have cosmetic uses. Butterwort dyes the hair a golden yellow and gromwell, as Culpeper calls it, was made into a rouge to color the cheeks.
The distilled water of burning bush is an old fashioned tonic water for the skin. All parts of the burdock, its leaves, seeds, and roots, are excellent blood purifiers and not only soothe and clear a bad skin, but feed the tissues and improve its condition generally.
The juice of the broom is an old remedy for removing freckles from the face and also for clearing the skin of all disfigurements. The chief use today of the quinces is in cosmetics: a mucilage of the seeds makes the best hair fixative, and their astringent properties make them useful in lotions. The soapwort contains a mucilaginous juice that will lather in hot water and is used as shampoo to wash the hair. Lady's seal, or polygonatum officinale, gives a distilled water, an excellent cosmetic lotion to clear up the skin from blemishes- it has been used in this way by women since the time of Galen, who prescribed it as a cosmetic. Galen, a Greek physician, was one the first to create creams for beauty by carrying out different experiments in the field of herbal cosmetology. He discovered that vegetable oil could be mixed with water and beeswax to make cold cream, an important base for many herbal cosmetics.
Natural recipes for your beauty
You can easily make your own products at home...and for a small fraction of the cost of commercial equivalents. Here some basic body care products:
-For your exhausted feet and ankles: toss five bags of green tea into a basin of hot water. Let cool until comfortable and put both feet and ankles in it; let soak until water cools completely then rub fresh mint leaves over your toes and feet. Finally apply olive oil.
-Body scrub: mix coarse sea salt or sugar with the body oil of your choice- almond, grape-seed and olive- and scent with a few drops of essential oil for an exfoliating and moisturizing body scrub. Peppermint is especially nice and cooling in summer, clove is warming in cold winter months.
-Hair shine: stir one teaspoon of honey into four cups of warm water- blondes may wish to add a squeeze of lemon. After shampooing pour the mixture through the hair, do not rinse out and dry as normal.
-Herbal shampoo: bring two cups of distillate water to a boil and then add the chopped soapwoart root. Simmer and cover for about 20 minutes. remove from heat, stir in the herbs (two teaspoon of dried lemon verbena and two teaspoon of dried rosemary) and allow mixture to cool. Strain the mixture, keeping the liquid, and pour into a bottle. Store in a dark corner of your refrigerator. Must be used within 8-10 days.
-Chamomile shampoo: steep four tea bags of chamomile (or one handful of fresh chamomile flowers) in two cups of boiled water for about 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and add four tablespoons of pure, handmade soap to the water- stir occasionally until the mixture is well blended; finally pour it into a bottle. Store in a dark corner of your refrigerator and it will last about a week.
-Cranberry lip gloss: mix all the ingredients together in a bowl (one tablespoon of sweet almond oil + ten fresh cranberries + one teaspoon of honey). Heat the mixture until just begins to boil. Stir well and gently crush the berries. Cool the mixture for five minutes and then strain through a fine sieve to remove all the fruit pieces. Stir again and set aside to cool completely and, when cool, transfer into a small portable glass container. Apply a small amount onto your lips: it protects sensitive lips from the drying winter elements.
-Lemon lip gloss: melt two tablespoon of beeswax, remove from heat and while constantly stirring, add one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of aloe vera, one tablespoon of pure almond extract and add six drops of lemon essential oil last (any essential oil can be used).
-Cream for the whole body: combine 2/3 cups of ground almonds, 1/3 cup of oatmeal and one tablespoon of herbs (lavender, chamomile etc.) until they are reduced to a coarse meal. Take this meal and put it in a glass bowl and stir in enough of plain yogurt or milk to make a paste (yogurt and milk are natural exfoliates and they will slough off dead skin cells even without the scrub). Scoop up the paste with your hands and rub over your body- then rinse thoroughly.
-Dry skin creme: blend two tablespoon of beeswax and 1/2 cup of sesame seed oil; heat on low until melted. Combine then 1/2 cup of water, drops of essential oils of your choice (grapefruit is the best) and a pinch of borax, heat for few minutes but do not boil. Now combine the water mixture with the beeswax mixture and mix all well. Finally put the cream into a glass container after it has cooled completely.
-To moisturize dry skin: melt the cocoa butter in a double boiler, add the avocado or the almond oil, and remove then it from heat. Using a dropper, add some drops of orange peel oil, while stirring; then add three or four drops each of coconut and rose oil to the mixture when it completely cools. ( a secret cosmetic for dry skin: the curd. Apply fresh curd on face every morning and wash it off after a few minutes with cold water...you will se the effects!)
-Cream for the body(rids the skin of dry patches, aids in circulation, helps to reduce cellulite while it firms and tones): in a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup of buttermilk, two tablespoons of honey, one tablespoon of grapeseed oil and one egg white, mix thoroughly. Slowly add 1/4 cup of freshly ground coffee and two tablespoon of wheat germ, being careful not to clot or clump. Scrub should be smooth and creamy but with a sight grit. Let stand. Apply all over in shower or bath using a body sponge to aid in exfoliation, then rinse completely.
-Acne tonic: step two or three teaspoons of dried basil leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10 to 20 minutes. Cool and then apply to face with a cotton ball (basil is known for its soothing and toning properties).
-To nourish the skin: mix almond oil with ten drops each of rose oil and sandalwood oil. Mix well and store it in a dark glass bottle with a dropper (this is a very good nourishing oil). In the palm, take two or three drops of this oil and add four to six drops of water when your skin is wet and gently massage the mixture all over the face and neck.
-To cleanse an oily skin: mix well one tablespoon of barley meal, one tablespoon of lemon peel, 1/2 tablespoon of dry milk. Store the mixture in a clean spice jar. Powder of orange peel well mixed in water can also be applied 30 minutes before bath (it lightens dark skin). make a firm paste in your palm by using 1/4 of the above mixture + warm water. Apply this paste all over the face and neck and gently massage it into the skin. Do not scrub, rinse well with warm water and do not dry.
-Weekly facial pack: prepare a mixture from honey, curd and egg. Apply this freshly prepared moisturizing cream over the face and neck, but do not massage it into the skin. Wash after 30 minutes: this offers nutrition to dry and spoiled skin.
-For beautiful, healthy eyes: a mild, strained rosemary leaf tea is gentle, works right away and makes your eyes clear and sparkly. You can also use an elderberry tea on a warm compress and apply to closed eyelids to brighten.
-Some herbal compounds that can relieve red, tired strained and irritated eyes:
1. place wet black tea bags over closed eyes for 10 minutes.
2. put a few drops of witch hazel on cotton pads, chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes and place over closed eyes.
3.make a rosebud/rose petal tea and use as an eyewash.
4.drop 10 to 15 drops of passionflower extract into warm water; then dip cotton balls in the liquid and use on closed eyelids to relieve fatigue.
5.soak chamomile and elder flowers in rosewater; then dip cotton balls in the liquid and use on closed eyelids to reduce inflammation.
-Mouthwash: steep four heaping tablespoon of anise sedd, two tablespoons of star anise, two tablespoon of licorice root pieces, one tablespoon of whole cloves, one tablespoon of chopped cinnamon bark in vodka, for two weeks. Add three drops of essential cinnamon, mint or aniseoil. Then add one tablespoon of the concentrate to a small glass of water and rinse the mouth to freshen breath.
- Nourishing makeup removers: use plain sesame oil, especially for eye makeup, so your eyes will look soft and dewy in the morning. Or mix in a dark bottle, apricot, avocado, almond and sesame oils: it is good for all skin types and makes your skin feel wonderful.