The natural ingredients you’ll read about here contain an array of skin-loving vitamins, minerals, acids, and more. Some are foods we commonly eat, while others are oils that have been pressed from various parts of plants. As with the tools of the trade, many of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery, in a health food store, or online. Before going out and buying everything listed in this chapter, peruse the recipes and choose a couple you’d like to begin with, then gather the ingredients you’ll need.
Nature has been growing an abundant pharmacy for millennia, and the plant products called for in these recipes certainly prove this to be true. In general, I use organic flowers, teas, nuts, and herbs whenever possible. I feel organic is the best, but I’d rather you make a product with conventional ingredients than skip the recipe just because you don’t have the organic variety.
ALFALFA. This nutrient-rich plant is beneficial for all parts of the body, including the skin. The chlorophyll it contains helps rid the body of impurities. It’s also rich in vitamin A and enzymes (molecules that enhance biological processes).
ALMONDS. Almonds are loaded with antioxidants, which help slow the skin’s natural aging process. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to reduce inflammation. Ground-up almonds (aka almond meal) are gentle exfoliators that won’t cause microderm-abrasions (little tears that damage and age the skin). I also make homemade almond milk, which is high in vitamins and protein, and use it in masks and facial cleansers. Store-bought almond milk can contain other ingredients that aren’t necessary to the recipe you are making. If you can find pure almond milk without additives, feel free to use it.
ALOE VERA. The aloe vera plant contains more than 75 different nutrients, including beta-carotene, which can help with skin renewal. Called the “plant of immortality” by the ancient Egyptians, it stimulates the regeneration of skin cells. It contains lots of skin-loving amino acids (the building blocks of protein), which can help smooth fine lines and improve elasticity. I use gel, juice, or jelly depending on the recipe and desired consistency.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. Apple cider vinegar packs a powerful amount of alpha hydroxy acids—even more than most products that tout this ingredient on their labels. Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of compounds that are often added to skin-care products to help remove dead skin cells. But with apple cider vinegar, those acids are delivered to your skin from a natural source, making them alive, active, and more powerful. Apple cider vinegar also has antifungal properties, which is great for acne-prone skin and aids in reducing pore congestion. Apple cider vinegar also helps balance the pH level of skin, helping the skin to be neither too dry nor too oily.
APPLE JUICE. Apples are full of beneficial vita-mins and compounds, and apple juice contains antioxidants derived from the skin and flesh of the fruit. The juice promotes circulation, which helps replenish old and damaged skin cells. The most important aspect to apple juice is malic acid, a natural form of alpha hydroxy acid.
APRICOT. This antioxidant-packed little fruit is a skin-care powerhouse. The vitamin A found in apricots helps repair skin damage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
ARROWROOT. A starch derived from the roots of various plants, arrowroot is a natural thickening agent. Aside from its ability to thicken your products, it can also help with transdermal penetration, which means that it helps active ingredients sink deeper into the skin.
AVOCADO. Avocado contains antioxidants, which protect the skin from environmental damage. It’s packed with vitamin C, which is essential for the creation of collagen and elastin, and vitamin E, which fights oxidative damage and can help protect the skin from ultraviolet rays. The essential fatty acids in avocado hydrates the skin—including the scalp—and can help repair damaged skin and fight signs of aging.
BAKING SODA. This powder, which is technically known as sodium bicarbonate, deep cleans nails and hair. It’s also a popular ingredient in oral health care products, though there’s debate whether or not it’s good for everyday brushing.
BANANA. Bananas contain amino acids, potassium, lectin (a protein), zinc, and vitamins A, B, C, and E, all of which are beneficial for the skin. This popular fruit can be used for everything from moisturizing to anti-aging treatments. Its benefits aren’t limited to placing mashed banana on the skin, of course; eating bananas can promote skin health from the inside out.
BANANA FLOUR. Just the like fruit from which it’s derived, banana flour is loaded with potassium, an important electrolyte that helps maintain fluid balance in the skin. It’s also a great gluten-free flour for baking.
BAY LEAF. Even the most casual chefs keep bay leaf around for seasoning soups and stews, but this antioxidant-packed herb can also help rejuvenate skin and prolong its youthfulness. Bay leaf has antiseptic properties that fight acne and encourage blood flow to the skin.
BILBERRY TEA. Bilberry fruit is commonly dried and made into a tea. Full of flavonoids and tannins, bilberry tea is known to increase circulation and reduce swelling.
For this book I chose to use “tea” infusions for the herbs, plants, and botanicals (some of the actives) as opposed to tinctures. There are several reasons. The tea allows you to make a product immediately whereas a tincture requires a few weeks to a month before you can even begin. Additionally, tinctures can be a bit trickier to work with. I do love them, as they can also extend the shelf life of your products without the addition of water from the tea and are more potent. However, this is the perfect book for both beginners and enthusiasts who want to improve their skin and keep it simple.
BIRCH. Birch bark contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help relieve eczema and similar skin problems. Birch leaves have a history of use in treating rashes.
BLACK TEA. Chock-full of vitamins that are naturally beneficial to the body, black tea is anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce swelling in the skin. The tannins found in black tea serve to protect the skin from environmental damage, as well as fight bacteria that can cause skin problems. The tannins also increase circulation, which promotes skin regeneration. As with many teas, black tea is also full of antioxidants that fight oxidative damage.
BURDOCK ROOT. In Chinese medicine, burdock root is used to reduce internal heat (which is perceived as a toxic element in this ancient health-care approach) and for blood cleansing and skin healing. It’s also known for its skin and hair benefits due to its antioxidant properties.
CALENDULA. A member of the daisy family, calendula flowers have been used medicinally since ancient times. This plant contains anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it an excellent skin-soothing ingredient.
CHAMOMILE TEA. Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory. It is a wonderful ingredient for those dealing with eczema and rosacea. It’s also full of flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce skin damage resulting from oxidation.
CHIA SEEDS. These small seeds are super high in omega-3 fatty acids, which nourish the skin and help improve its functions as a barrier to the outside world. They expand and soften in water, which creates a little pouch of hydration, making the seeds a soft exfoliant for the skin. (They’re much better for you than those plastic beads that come in some body washes!) The oils in chia seeds improve the skin’s natural barrier by keeping it hydrated, so it’s also great for dry skin.
CINNAMON. This popular autumn spice brings blood to the surface of the skin. It has antioxidant properties that aid in skin softening and also help remove dead skin cells. Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, cinnamon can also help with skin infections. An important note: cinnamon can make you sun sensitive and cause redness and irritation if used in too high a concentration.
CITRIC ACID. Naturally found in citrus fruits, this acid is often used as a preservative. When used in skin-care recipes, it works to remove old layers of skin and clears the pores, so that dirt and oil can escape. Citric acid is available in powdered form, but it is also abundant in citrus peels, which is one of the reasons why some DIY products suggest using the rind.
COCOA POWDER. Caffeine and theobromine are naturally found in cocoa powder; these two plant chemicals can help break down fats and are believed to have draining properties, which helps reduce swelling and cellulite. Cocoa powder is also rich in anti-aging antioxidants.
COCONUT. From coconut milk to coconut butter, I use this healthy, tropical nut in various forms in the recipes in this book. Whenever a recipe calls for the meat of the coconut, I use shredded, unsweetened coconut. Shredded coconut is an excellent mild exfoliant. Coconut in general has antibacterial properties and includes essential fatty acids, which hydrate the skin.
COFFEE. The caffeine in coffee helps with firming, toning, and tightening the skin. Because it’s what’s called a “restrictor” (it reduces inflammation and swelling), it can be beneficial for relieving puffy eyes. When I’m staying in a hotel, I sometimes dab some coffee on a tissue and apply it on the delicate under-eye tissue to reduce sleep- and travel-related puffiness. When a recipe calls for coffee grounds in a scrub or cleanser, used grounds are best, since the hot water has already activated the most powerful ingredients in the beans. This makes them better for the skin than grounds straight from the bag and eliminates waste.
CRANBERRY. Acidic and antiseptic, cranberry is a good addition to treatments for oily skin. Rich in antioxidants, it helps fight the signs of aging. These bitter berries are also loaded with vitamin C, which helps the body produce collagen to keep your skin healthy.
DANDELION ROOT. A somewhat bitter-tasting herb, dandelion root is high in skin-loving vitamins A and C.
ELDERBERRIES. Not only are elderberries delicious, but they are also rich in flavonoids (a powerful antioxidant) and full of nutrients that fight aging and acne, and aid in detoxifying the skin.
ELDERFLOWER. The plant from which the elderberry grows is an equally effective skin-care ingredient. Elderflower water is most commonly used in skin-care products and contains a host of good-for-you vitamins, like vitamins A, B1, and B2, as well as the always necessary vitamin C. Elderflower fights oxidative damage and can even fade scars and blemishes.
FENUGREEK. This spice has a host of skin-healing properties. Filled with skin-loving essentials such as vitamin A, B1, and K, plus calcium, zinc, and selenium; it is a spice not only good for cooking, but great for shoring up skin to battle acne, reduce inflammation, and work as an exfoliator. It even helps prevent sun damage.
GINGER. Ginger is antiseptic, which means it’s good for healing skin issues like acne. Its antioxidant content helps rid the body of toxins that can cause premature aging. Ginger also helps tone the skin, boosts blood flow, is anti-inflammatory, and calms puffiness.
GINSENG. Ginseng is known for its ability to soften and moisturize skin. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
GREEN TEA. Scientists have said the anti-oxidants in green tea are some of the most powerful in the world. These antioxidant compounds—specifically the polyphenols and flavonoids—help prevent damage to the skin such as formation of wrinkles and inflammation.
HEMP FLOUR. Hemp flour is made from ground hempseed, which is rich in essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are beneficial for skin health.
HORSETAIL EXTRACT. The extract from the horsetail plant has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties; it works to help the body repair and regenerate damaged skin cells. It also contains silica, which helps form collagen. It is beneficial for hair health, and can reduce split ends and help with growth and loss.
IRISH MOSS. This seaweed is high in vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as amino acids, calcium, and zinc. It also produces mucilage, which gives a “slip” to skin-care products and is useful as a detangler.
JUNIPER BERRIES. Juniper berries are believed to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties; they are wonderful for acne-prone skin. Juniper berries also help balance and regulate skin and can be used for detoxing and deep cleaning.
LAVENDER. The scent of lavender induces relaxation. The buds of the plant have an astringent quality, making them useful for both cleansing and healing the skin.
LEMON. Lemon contains phytonutrients, which are skin-healthy chemicals derived from plants. Specifically, citrus fruit contains bioflavonoids that help the skin absorb vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. The scent of lemon is also known to be uplifting.
LICORICE ROOT TEA. Applied to the skin, licorice tea is anti-inflammatory, soothing and moisturizing. It is effective for treating rosacea and psoriasis, and is used as a skin lightning agent.
LUCUMA POWDER. Made from the Peruvian fruit, lucuma, this powder is filled with skin-loving iron, niacin, calcium, and beta-carotene, making it a wonderful skin-care ingredient. Coconut sugar is an easy and effective replacement if lucuma powder isn’t on hand.
MANGO. This tasty fruit is packed with vitamins A and C. It is also a good source of beta-carotene, which can help with acne. Its antioxidants protect the skin from oxidative damage and can help maintain the skin’s youthful appearance.
MILK THISTLE. The active ingredient in this plant is silymarin, which is a natural antioxidant with detoxifying benefits. Some people find it helpful for psoriasis and eczema.
MINT. This herb contains vitamins A, B, and C, which keep the skin healthy and protected. It’s also a source of salicylic acid, a key ingredient in OTC acne-fighting products. Its astringent qualities help cleanse the skin and also stimulate blood flow. However, if you have a tendency toward redness, avoid mint facial products, soaps, and lotions.
NEROLI. Derived from the blossom of the bitter orange tree, the scent of neroli is calming. When used in skin-care products, it can help reduce redness.
NETTLE OR STINGING NETTLE. When used in skin-care products, nettles are astringent and anti-inflammatory. They also are known to help with scalp problems, both oiliness and dandruff.
OATS/OAT FLOUR. Both whole oats and oat flour are anti-inflammatory and soothing. They are excellent for relieving skin injuries like poison ivy and insect bites and are full of proteins that fortify the skin. The polysaccharides in oats can help prevent dryness, while their fat content moisturizes the skin. The saponins in oats (or the soap-like foaming substance in many plants) are natural cleansers that gently purify the pores.
OAT STRAW. Oat straw can help relieve dry, itchy, and irritated skin due to its high gluten and mucilage content. It is also a concentrated source of skin-, nail-, and hair-loving silica.
OLIVE LEAF EXTRACT. While we know much about olive oil and its benefits on the skin and for the body, olive leaf extract is just as potent as its seedy counterpart. Containing antioxidants and the bioflavonoid luteolin, this extract fights free radicals (oxidative damage) and combats the aging process.
OREGANO. This fragrant herb has numerous skin benefits. It fights oxidative damage; kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses; and reduces inflammation.
ORRIS ROOT. Derived from the root of the iris flower, orris root is used to as a fixative (holds the scent) in scented products, as a gentle exfoliation, breath freshener, and for tooth whitening.
PAPAYA. Papaya is rich in antioxidants, papain, vitamin A, and carotene, all of which can boost skin health. It helps hydrate the skin while removing dead skin cells. The antioxidants found in the fruit help repair environmental damage.
PAPRIKA. This popular spice is both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It contains several vitamins, including A and E, which are essential for skin health.
PERSIMMON. Long recognized for its skin-improving benefits in traditional Chinese medicine, persimmons are rich in anti-aging antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Persimmon can help control the overproduction of sebum, which leads to oily skin.
Here’s another set of DIY ingredients that don’t fit neatly into any of the preceding categories, but you will come across them in several of the recipes. Each has an important role in the preparation of your homemade beauty products.
BEE POLLEN. Thanks to our friends the bees, the abundance of minerals, amino acids, proteins, enzymes, and vitamins in bee pollen—all of which promote healthy skin—is available to us. This superfood is full of antioxidants and antibiotics, which can aid in fighting skin aging and acne. The acids found in bee pollen promote cell growth and relieve inflammation.
BEER. Beer contains yeast, which is rich in B vitamins and is beneficial in treating acne-prone skin, as it slows the production of sebum. This yeast also contains minerals and other beneficial vitamins. It’s a popular ingredient in hair-care products for its ability to clean and shine. Any beer will do, because it’s about the yeast, not the quality or taste.
BEESWAX. The skin benefits of beeswax are as bountiful as those found in other bee by-products. Beeswax makes an excellent moisturizer and skin protectant, which is why it’s often found in body butters and lip balms.