8 Best Herbs for Natural Skin Care
Our skin is literally our first line of defense, not only against the outdoor elements, but also things we don’t often think about like the detergents we use in our laundry, the chemicals in swimming pools and hot tubs, and the daily ravages of air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air in our homes and other buildings “can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.” Air pollutants hurt the skin in a variety of ways; they can activate cell metabolism and inflammatory processes, they can induce oxidative stress that causes free-radical damage and breaks down healthy collagen, etc., all of which ultimately throws off the balance of the skin’s natural microbiome. When that microbiome gets out of whack, some people experience sensitive acne, rashes, hives, and redness. Others struggle with dry, itchy skin and an uneven complexion. All day every day, our skin acts as a shield between us and the world. That’s why it’s important to give it all the support we can.
For thousands of years, people have turned to nature to support healthy skin and/or to deal with problematic skin issues. These time-tested botanicals have proven themselves to be some of our best allies. You can use fresh or dried herbs in teas and tinctures for internal use or you can make your own topical skin formulations customized to match your needs. In many cases, there are essential oils or hydrosols of herbs available that can also be an excellent choice and bring the wonderful side benefit of adding powerful aromatic qualities. The following are a few of our favorite herbs for the best natural skin (and scalp) care:
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula flowers are renowned for their gentle, skin-nourishing properties. They are an excellent addition to skin and scalp conditioning formulas and bring soothing, hydrating qualities to protective salves, diaper balms, and skin care recipes that are designed to neutralize irritations, itchiness, and dryness.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
The use of chamomile in skin care has been documented for thousands of years. Since ancient times, people have added this gentle flower to both skin and hair care formulations, especially to soothe minor irritation, redness, etc. It is an excellent choice for cleansing washes and serums.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is considered energetically cooling and moistening, and is an excellent source of minerals, making it ideal for skin washes and soothing formulations that encourage a soft, smooth appearance. It is particularly good for relieving general skin discomfort.
Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Horsetail has high silica and collagen content, so it’s good at delivering nutrients and stimulating circulation, making it an excellent choice for all skin types and particularly good for the scalp. It is cleansing and soothing for skin issues caused by occasional inflammation. The mineral content in horsetail is also beneficial in strengthening weak nails, which are of course made from skin cells.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula x intermedia)
Lavender has been one of the most beloved skin care herbs since ancient times. It is often found in soaps, salves, soaks, and other skin care formulations because it supports and refreshes skin while providing a calming floral scent. It is an excellent choice for all skin types and is especially good for cleaning pores and soothing isolated irritation and inflammation.
Nettle Leaf (Urtica dioica)
Nettle leaves are astringent and contain silica and minerals, making them beneficial to both hair and skin. An excellent choice in cleansing washes and facial toners for all skin types, its astringent properties make it an especially good choice for dry skin, reducing redness, balancing sebum production, and supporting healthy skin elasticity. Nettle is also particularly useful in hair care formulations that stimulate circulation at the scalp and support hair follicle health. It is an excellent choice for overall hair health and soothing occasional scalp irritations. Nettle is wonderful for all hair types and can help keep sebum in balance so hair doesn’t become too dry or oily.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Menthol and menthone are the two primary compounds in peppermint. They provide a refreshing, revitalizing quality when added to hair and skin care formulas. Good for all skin types, peppermint’s natural cleansing and cooling qualities are particularly good for oily skin and soothing for occasional skin irritations. In hair care formulas, peppermint can stimulate the scalp and increase circulation to give an invigorating boost to healthy hair follicles and is also an excellent choice to address issues involving dandruff or an itchy scalp.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary has long been studied for overall hair and skin health and beauty, and is an excellent choice for all hair and skin types. It is often used in skin care recipes intended to balance sebum and soothe occasional irritation and redness. It is also known to stimulate circulation at the scalp, which in turn supports hair growth and shine, can help to reduce dandruff, and can ease scalp conditions.
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