By Sarah Irani
Since the beginning of time, we've been beautifying ourselves with the plant kingdom's best skin andhair care helpers, and if you buy wholesome, natural cosmetics, you'll notice your ingredient list is full of plant names. But let's face it, these little beauty potions can be pricey. Thankfully it's not difficult to create your own homemade beauty products using common herbs and essential oils. It doesn't take a huge expense to ensure you have beautiful, healthy skin and hair.
It's no secret why many natural brands make rosemary shampoo - a rinse made from this herb adds luster to dark hair and strengthens and smooths damaged hair shafts. Check out EcoSalon's DIY recipe for rosemary shampoo or make a strong rosemary tea for an after-shampoo rinse.
Chamomile and Thyme
Infused into a strong tea, chamomile and thyme make a great and gentle cleanser for oily skin. Pour a liter of this tea into your bath to help clear up body blemishes, not to mention the relaxation...ahhhhh!
Related: Simple Solutions to 8 Common Beauty Problems
Lavender is a favorite herb of many natural skin care products, but why not make your own? Lavender is soothing and antiseptic, so it's a great solution for burns, psoriasis, infections and sensitive skin in general. Make a spritzer with strong lavender tea, or a small spray bottle filled with distilled water and a few drops of lavender oil (start with a low dilution, then keep adding drops until you find the strength that's right for you). And because lavender is a natural mood lifter, using this spray will make you smile and that's definitely a key to beauty.
You can pick up a bottle of rosewater at a Middle Eastern market, or a rose aromatherapy spray from the natural market (Heritage Products makes my favorite), but if you've got a rose garden and the DIY inclination, simply make your own. Since ancient times, rosewater has been used as a gentle astringent and is anti-inflammatory. Use with a cotton swab as a toner or spritz onto your face a few times a day. And don't forget, you'll smell great!
Neem is one of the big guns of the herbal world. Because it's anti-bacterial, neem oil is used to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, and it has a strong, garlic-type smell, so it may not be part of your daily skin care routine, but it's good to have around for when you really need the stronger stuff.
With it's big, soft leaves, Neem beckons us to use it. It is a well known herb for healing blemishes and repairing damaged skin. To make your own comfrey oil, stuff a jar of olive oil with comfrey leaves and let sit for 6 weeks. You can then use this oil on dry hands, chapped lips, scrapes and burns, or even eczema. If you're really DIY, melt some beeswax or cocoa butter with the comfrey oil to make a salve of thicker consistency.
Related: 4 DIY Facial Masks for Every Skin Type
Got oily skin? Then listen up. Sage (yup, the kind you grow for cooking) is astringent, so a strong tea made of sage and mixed with a bit of witch hazel or apple cider vinegar serves as a great daily toner. Or if you want, simply use the plain tea as a daily facial rinse.
You can find the oil in bottles or capsules at any natural market. Evening primrose oil contains linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that is unfortunately not produced by your body, but which promotes healthy, rejuvenated skin. Take the oil both internally and use topically on your skin to firm and hydrate your skin, help heal blemishes and reduce signs of lines and wrinkles.
Well known as a natural way to become a little more of a redhead, henna powder is a great way to add shine and protection to your hair. If you're looking for the shine without the reddish tint, go for "neutral henna," which is actually the plant Cassia obovata, but conditions and nourishes the hair just the same.
Basil is particularly useful if you live in a polluted area and your skin has lost its luster, crush a handful of basil leaves and pour a cup of hot water over them to make a strong tea. Once this brew has cooled, splash your face with it as a detoxifying, circulation-promoting toner. Without drying off, apply moisturizer.
Related: 7 Beauty Ingredients to Avoid
Turmeric is a tricky one, simply because it will temporary tinge your skin yellow, but it is a great cleanser and adds a lot of moisture to your skin. Read more about turmeric here.
You can bypass the expensive seaweed wraps at the spa and give yourself a simple facial at home. Sea vegetables are not only nutritious for the body, but because of their high mineral content and softening properties, are very nourishing for the skin. Buy some nori sheets (the same kind you'd use for making sushi), quickly dampen them with water and place them on your face for a moisturizing mask. You may want to keep spritzing to prevent the nori from drying out. Remove after 15-20 minutes and voila, you're a mermaid!
Aloe is well known for treating burns and scrapes, but you can use it on any irritated skin. A face mask made of aloe, honey and kelp will greatly soothe and moisturize your skin. You can buy the gel in stores but it's always best if you have a plant to ensure purity. At the very least, read the ingredients and make sure your aloe gel doesn't contain any of these common cosmetic toxins.
The essential oil of this common garden flower is used in many cosmetic products for balancing skin and hair. If your skin is oily, simply add 2-3 drops of geranium oil to a bowl of water and splash your face. For dry, sensitive skin make a healing oatmeal-geranium mask out of oatmeal, water, a teaspoon of melted honey, and 4-5 drops of geranium oil.
Burdock root oil (shown at top) is an ancient healer for dry, itchy scalp. It can help get rid of dandruff and keep the skin on your scalp healthy. For best results, rub a little bit into your scalp after you wash your hair and while your hair is still damp. Modern studies have shown that burdock root oil contains essential fatty acids and phytosterols, which promote hair growth and a healthy scalp. Take charge of your beauty with nature's finest ingredients - the plants! And don't forget, beauty does radiate from the inside out and a healthy diet and lifestyle is essential. Enjoy - and be beautiful!
Images: Rubber Slippers in Italy, dnak, matsuyuki, mezuni, Lilly, Lida Rose, wikipedia, Smoobs, missycorley, Tanaka Juuyoh, yimhafiz, The County Clerk, Just Food Now, miheco, titanium22, lizzlebob