Let the late Margaret Roberts inspire you to make your own cosmetics from home. Discover her secrets to a basic skin lotion, skin cream, facial scrub and how to make a fragrant facial steam.
BASIC SKIN LOTION
One of the best ways to use herbs is in the form of a versatile lotion that can be dabbed onto the skin with cotton wool pads, sprayed on as a spritz or used as a refreshing splash. It can be used for cuts, grazes and rashes; as a cleansing or astringent lotion; a facial tonic or aftershave lotion; added to the bath; or used as a final rinse for the hair. Most herbs can be made into a lotion – see the list below. Use only the parts of the plant mentioned, do not combine herbs unless specified and use only fresh herbs. Make a fresh batch each day and apply frequently to the affected area.
Simmer the recommended quantity of the fresh herb (specified ‘options’) in a litre of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the lotion to stand and cool. Strain and use as recommended, either in a spritz spray or on cotton wool discs.
- Amaranth – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Bay leaves– ½ cup fresh leaves
- Buckwheat – 1 cup fresh leaves, flowers and seeds plus 1 cinnamon stick and 10 cloves
- Burdock – ¼ cup fresh leaves and stems and ½ cup chopped root
- Calendula – 1 cup fresh flowers
- Catmint – 1 cup fresh flowers (use Nepeta mussini) plus 5 cloves
- Celery – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Chervil – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Comfrey – 1 cup fresh leaves, roughly chopped
- Costmary – 1 cup fresh leaves plus ½ fresh comfrey leaf
- Elder – 1 cup fresh flowers
- Evening primrose – 1 cup fresh flowers plus 5 cloves
- Feverfew – 1 cup fresh leaves and a few fresh flowers
- Ground ivy – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Hawthorn – 1 cup fresh berries or ½ cup dried berries (soaked overnight)
- Lemon grass – 1 cup fresh leaves, roughly chopped
- Lemon verbena – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Lovage – ½ cup fresh leaves; boil for 10 minutes only
- Lucerne – 1 cup fresh sprigs and flowers
- Melissa – 1 cup fresh sprigs
- Oregano – 1 cup fresh sprigs
- Parsley – 1 cup fresh leaves and sprigs plus 5 cloves
- Red clover – 1 cup fresh flowers and a few fresh leaves
- Rose – 1 cup fresh rose petals
- Roselle – ½ cup fresh petals, calyxes and leaves
- Soapwort – 2 cups fresh leaves, flowers and stems
- Strawberry – 1 cup fresh leaves plus 1 cinnamon stick plus 10 cloves
- Tansy – 1 cup fresh leaves
- Tea tree – 1 cup fresh sprigs; add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil to the cooled lotion
- Thyme – 1 cup fresh lemon thyme plus the rind of 1 lemon; add ½ cup apple cider vinegar to the cooled lotion
- Violet – 1 cup fresh leaves and flowers
- Winter savory – 1 cup fresh sprigs
- Yarrow – 1½ cups fresh leaves and flowers
BASIC SKIN CREAM
This superb, rich cream can be used as a facial cleanser to remove makeup and the grime of city pollution; as a nourishing moisturiser for the face, hands, feet, elbows and knees; as a gentle massage cream; or as a soothing cream for wind- and sunburn, bites, stings and rashes. Use only fresh herbs and a good-quality aqueous cream. Use only the parts of the plant mentioned and do not combine herbs unless specified below. Refer to the individual herb entries for guidance on how to use the cream.
Gently simmer fresh leaves and flowers of the herb of your choice (see options alongside) in a cup of aqueous cream in a double boiler for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and add two teaspoons of vitamin E oil and two tablespoonfuls of almond oil (bought from a pharmacy). Mix well and pour into a sterilised jar.
- Bergamot – ¾ cup fresh leaves and flowers
- Borage – 1 cup fresh leaves and flowers
- Buckwheat – 1 cup fresh leaves, flowers and stems
- Calendula – 1 cup fresh petals
- Chamomile – 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers and a few fresh leaves
- Chervil – 1 cup fresh leaves plus the juice of a lemon and 3 tablespoons lemon rind
- Comfrey – 1 cup chopped, fresh leaves
- Elder – 1 cup fully ripe fresh berries and ½ cup fresh flowers
- Evening primrose – 1 cup fresh leaves, flowers and seed capsules
- Field poppy – 1 cup fresh petals
- Mullein – 1 cup fresh flowers and leaves
- Myrtle – 1 cup fresh leaves, flowers and berries
- Red clover – 1 cup fresh flowers
- Rose – 1 cup fresh petals
- Rose-scented geranium – 1 cup fresh leaves; add 10 drops of rose geranium essential oil
- Silver birch – 1 cup fresh leaves and catkins; add 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- St John’s wort – 1 cup fresh, flowering tops; add 1 teaspoon clove oil
- Vetiver – 1 cup fresh, chopped roots
- Violet – 1 cup fresh leaves and flowers
This scrub is good for dry, rough winter skin; use it on the face, hands, elbows and knees.
Mix a cup of fresh flower petals of your choice (see options below) with a cup of large non-instant oat flakes; add enough apple cider vinegar and warm water (1:1) to form a paste.
Borage; Buckwheat; Californian poppy; Calendula; Field poppy; Linseed; Lucerne; Rose; Rose-scented pelargonium and Pennywort leaves.
A deep cleansing facial steam is a wonderful way to get the skin really clean and refine the pores. Afterwards, strain the steamer and add it to the bath for a whole-body treat!
Simmer two cups of fresh leaves and sprigs of the herb of your choice (see options below) in two litres of water for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the stove, make a towel-tent over your head, and steam your face gently over the fragrant brew.
Basil; Fennel; Lemon verbena; Mint; Tea tree and Winter savory leaves.
NATURAL COSMETIC TIPS
A ‘good’ aqueous cream means one that does not contain any petrochemicals, chemical preservatives, solvents, stabilisers and parabens (90% of all cosmetics contain parabens, which cause skin irritations and affect hormonal balance). I have taught this for many years in beauty schools and technicons but today, with more and more chemicals appearing in creams and bath preparations, I have come to the conclusion that nobody really cares – as long as it smells nice! I call these dangerous ingredients the ‘pretty poisons’.
Use very small quantities of essential oils in a carrier oil as pure essential oils can burn the skin. However, 4 to 10 drops added to a cup of good aqueous cream gives a gentle fragrance that is safe.
Become aware of the word ‘parfuum’ or ‘perfume’ – a biochemist will tell you that most perfumes contain around 40 potent and dangerous chemicals. What a price we pay to smell beautiful!
Make your own fragrant oils by warming the desired herb in almond oil in equal quantities, for example, a cup of finely chopped rose-scented pelargonium leaves mixed with a cup of almond oil. Simmer in a double boiler for 30 minutes, pressing and stirring frequently to release the oils. Cool, strain, bottle in dark glass bottles and label clearly. Use as a massage oil or as a perfume. A few drops of rose-scented pelargonium oil will further enhance its richness (test as you go on the inside of the wrist).
Buy all essential oils from a reputable supplier and handle them with respect. They are natural but powerful.