How To Use Herbs For Skincare + 8 Of The Best To Try

Published on March 26, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Plants have played a pivotal role in skin health throughout all traditional wellness practices.

Various herbs, spices, and flowers have been used for millennia as natural skin and beauty aids to address skin ailments, reduce the signs of aging, protect from the sun, and hydrate the skin.*

In the twentieth century, petroleum and other chemical-based ingredients largely replaced herbs in skin care, promising miracles for skin health, aging, and more.

Those ingredients are still prevalent in skin and beauty products today.

However, a growing awareness about the health and environmental benefits of natural and organic versus synthetic chemical products has brought herbal skincare back into the spotlight.

According to research conducted by Grandview Research group, the natural skin care industry was valued at 6.7 billion dollars in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% from 2022 to 2030.REF#1008

New research has highlighted the incredible skin health benefits of various herbs, flowers, and spices, including:

  • Antioxidants to support healthy aging*
  • Bacterial-balancing properties*
  • g benefits*
  • Essential fatty acids to support hydration*
  • Fungal-balancing benefits*
  • Sebum-balancing properties*
  • Soothing benefits*
  • Sun protective properties*
  • Wound- and burn-healing mechanisms*

Herbs are also an excellent way to add a fresh and non-toxic fragrance to DIY or premade products.

They are generally inexpensive, non-toxic, and easy to find if you know what to look for.

Let’s look deeper into some of the proven skin benefits of eight specific herbs and how to use them in skincare.*

8 Incredible Herbs, Flowers, & Spices To Use In Skincare

Herbs, flowers, and spices have stood the test of time as a beauty aid for a reason: they work!

Traditional cultures knew this based on experience and knowledge passed down through generations. 

Today, we benefit from scientific studies to explain the mechanisms behind how certain herbs support skin health and vitality.*

#1: Licorice

Licorice is one of the oldest, most widely used, and trusted herbs among traditional systems of wellness and herbalism.REF#1009 

It also has an extensive history of use in skin care as a wound healer, skin brightener, and aid for hyperpigmentation, dark circles, uneven skin tone, and scarring.

Modern science has discovered over 300 active plant compounds in Licorice Root.REF#1009 Many of these have been shown to contribute to its skincare benefits.

Licorice Root has been scientifically shown to: REF#1010 REF#1011 REF#1012 REF#1013 REF#1014 

  • Support normal inflammatory response
  • Promote normal skin pigmentation, and production of melanin
  • Encourage even skin tone
  • Reduce dark undereye circles
  • Promote healthy skin aging
  • Skin irritation and itching
  • Support wound healing
  • Aid acne
  • Support bacterial balance

Licorice root can be used topically or internally, and found in teas, tinctures, and in bulk in natural and health food stores. 

Gaia Herbs offers Licorice Root Tincture, Licorice Root, Glycerin Based Tincture, and Bronchial Wellness Herbal Tea to promote healthy skin from the inside out.

#2: Oregano Oil

Oregano oil, also known as Oil of Oregano or Oregano essential oil, is a popular supplement for supporting immunity, digestive system, and respiratory health via its bacterial and fungal-balancing properties.REF#1015

These properties make it an effective herb or oil to add to your skincare routine.

Research has shown oregano oil may:REF#1016 REF#1017

  • Promote normal aging
  • Provide antioxidant benefits
  • Support healthy collagen, elastase, and hyaluronidase (an enzyme that promotes moisture levels) function
  • Promote normal inflammatory function of the skin
  • Encourage healthy skin structure
  • Support wound healing

Oregano oil can be used topically or internally and can be found as a supplement, oil, or essential oil in most natural foods and skincare supply stores.

You can also make your own Oregano oil, get the tutorial here or check out Gaia Herbs Oil Of Oregano.

#3: Lavender

Lavender and Lavender oil are popular ingredients in many professional and retail skin and body care products.

Long revered for its soothing scent and topical properties, beautiful blossoms, and skin-hydrating properties, Lavender has stood the test of time as a natural beauty aid.

However, new research shows Lavender isn’t just a pretty face.

Lavender has been shown effective for: REF#1018 REF#1019 REF#1020 REF#1021 

  • Wound healing
  • Supporting bacterial balance
  • Occasional breakouts and clogged pores
  • Normal production and restoration of collagen
  • Promoting normal aging via its antioxidant benefits
  • Skin’s inflammatory response
  • Painful skin irritation

Lavender and Lavender oil have also been traditionally used on insect bites, as an insect repellant, and for minor burns.

Lavender flowers can be used topically or internally and can be found in bulk at your local health food store, in bouquets, in teas, or from various online sources. Look for organic or naturally grown to avoid pesticide residues.

Lavender oil or essential oil is not recommended for internal use.

Lavender is also easy to grow in most parts of the world and has various health benefits.

#4: Calendula

These brilliant orange or yellow flowers are members of the Marigold family and have an extensive history of use in skincare, body care, and herbalism.

Calendula’s skincare superpowers come from its comprehensive blend of antioxidants, including lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, quercetin, rutin, and many others.

It lends a soothing and smoothing quality to skincare products while imparting them with its beautiful golden hues.

Research has shown Calendula has a variety of benefits for skin care, including REF#1022 REF#1023 REF#1024 REF#1025 REF#1026 

Dried Calendula flowers and Calendula oil can be found in bulk at natural foods, health food, or skin care supply stores. 

Calendula flowers can be used internally or topically. Calendula oil is intended for topical use.

Calendula is also easy to grow and harvest, making it a lovely addition to any garden.

#5: Rosemary

The humble Rosemary not only enhances the flavors of foods and beverages but is incredible for your skin.

Rosemary has long been prized for its antioxidant properties and supportive effects on circulation—qualities that make it desirable for skin care.*

Research has shown various compounds in Rosemary, such as Rosmarinic Acid, may benefit the skin by: REF#1027 REF#1028 REF#1029 

  • Protecting from UV when combined with Marigold/Calendula
  • Supporting normal inflammatory response
  • Promoting normal aging
  • Reducing breakouts
  • Acting as a calming agent
  • Promoting bacterial balance

Fresh or dried Rosemary can be used topically or internally and can be found in any grocery store. You can also find it dried in bulk online or in natural food stores.

Rosemary essential oil is intended for topical use and is also widely available (look for 100% pure essential oil).

Interested in growing your own Rosemary? 

With minimal care, a Rosemary plant will last for years (even in cold temperatures), giving you harvest after harvest of fresh herbs.

#6: Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is one of the most famous plants for supporting skin health and vitality.

But this spikey succulent isn’t just for soothing burns. 

Aloe is also effective for hydrating the skin, soothing irritation, supporting bacterial balance, and clearing diaper rash when used topically..REF#1030

Further, internal supplementation of Aloe Gel has been shown to support healthy aging by promoting normal collagen production and elasticity while reducing wrinkles.REF#1031 

You can use aloe gel directly from a houseplant or an aloe leaf from the store or buy it premade from a skincare supply company (check the label to ensure it doesn’t contain chemical preservatives).

Aloe can also be found in various supplements and juices, including these Gaia Herbs products:

    #7: Astragalus

    Astragalus is one of the most used herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

    It is traditionally used to support the healthy flow of “Qi,” or energy, throughout the body, boost immunity, nourish the kidneys, improve heart health and circulation, and more.*

    Its antioxidant groups, known as Astragalus Polysaccharides (APS), have also been shown helpful for the skin.REF#1030

    Specifically, studies have shown Astragalus Polysaccharide, and its saponins possess high potential in wound healing. 

    Its mechanism supports normal inflammatory response, accelerates the cell cycle, and promotes the secretion of skin repair factors. REF#1031 REF#1032 

    Gaia Herbs offers Astragalus root tincture and capsules to promote healthy skin from the inside out.

    You can also buy Astragalus in bulk from Traditional Chinese Medicine stores or online suppliers.

    #8: Turmeric 

    Turmeric, also known as “the golden spice," has been a staple in Ayurvedic skin and beauty care for centuries.

    Here’s what the science says about the incredible skin-supportive properties* of this ancient spice:

    • Turmeric helps promote burn and sunburn healingREF#1033
    • Curcumin (the main active plant compound in Turmeric) supports various aspects of wound healingREF#1034
    • Antioxidants in Turmeric, such as Curcumin, support normal inflammatory levels, skin barrier function, microbiome balance, and antioxidant activity*REF#1035 REF#1036 REF#1037 REF#1038 REF#1039
    • Turmeric may help balance oily or acne-prone skinREF#1040 REF#1041
    • Turmeric, and Curcumin supports normal aging and may reduce wrinklesREF#1042
    • Turmeric may reduce scarringREF#1043
    • Turmeric promotes skin brightening and may reduce brown spotsREF#1044

    Turmeric can be found in the spice aisle of your local grocery store. 

    It can also be found fresh in many natural food stores (it looks similar to Ginger, only smaller with a bright orange flesh) or ordered in bulk through online suppliers.

    Ayurvedic and other natural skin care companies also sell Turmeric/Curcumin-based skin care products.

    Take care when using Turmeric in DIY recipes, as it will stain anything in its path.

    How To Use Herbs In Skincare Products & Your Skincare Routine

    #1: Make Facial Oils, Oil Cleansers, and Serums

    Oil-free skincare products were once popular for combination or oily skin.

    However, many experts now recommend embracing certain high-quality, non-comedogenic plant oils to help nourish, moisturize, cleanse, and balance the skin.

    This is excellent news for anyone wanting to simplify their skincare routine and/or make their facial moisturizer, cleansing oils, or serums.

    Here’s how to make a simple herbal-infused facial oil or serum for moisturizing:

    1. First, choose your base oil. This should be a non-comedogenic oil (one that won’t clog pores). You can choose one or blend several. 

    Some good options include:

    • Jojoba oil
    • Rosehip oil
    • Hempseed oil
    • Grapeseed oil
    • Sunflower oil
    • Hazelnut oil
    • Neem oil
    • Sweet almond oil
    • Pomegranate seed oil
    • Moringa oil

      1. Pour a bottle of it into a large measuring cup.
      2. Add a few tablespoons of your favorite dried pulverized herbs (pulverized are preferable to powdered for straining purposes). 
      3. You can add dried herbs directly to the oil or pulverize them with a bit of oil in a mortar and pestle to release their aromas and speed up the infusion process.
      4. Mix the herbs with the oil and pour them back into the bottle.
      5. Let sit for three days or up to two weeks.
      6. Strain the herbs from the oil using a fine mesh sieve.
      7. Discard the herbs.
      8. Enjoy your herbal-infused oil daily.

      Use this same method to infuse your oil-cleansing oil blends with herbs.

      Curious about oil cleansing? Check out this tutorial from Tree Hugger.

      #2: Use Aloe To Make a Soothing After-Sun Spray

      Aloe is infamous for soothing irritated skin, burns, and promoting optimal skin hydration.

      Aloe gel (from the plant or premade) can be used in salves, moisturizers, homemade body wash, healing gels, body lotions, diaper creams, or as an after-sun spray.

      Heading to the beach this spring or summer? 

      Check out our DIY Herbal Aloe Cooling After Sun Spray, which combines Aloe, witch hazel, and fresh herbs (such as Calendula, Plantain or Comfrey and Gaia Herbs Gotu Kola Leaf, Certified Organic Liquid Extract).

      #3: Elevate Inexpensive Bath Salts With Herbs & Flowers (This makes a great gift!)

      Epsom salt baths are an incredible way to pamper yourself while promoting detoxification, deep relaxation, and relief of sore muscles.

      They’re also a simple way to incorporate the benefits of herbs into your skin and body care routine.

      Adding herbs and dried flowers to Epsom salts is a no-brainer. 

      1. Grab a bag of plain, unscented Epsom salts from your grocery, drug, or big box store. 
      • All Epsom salts are made of the same basic ingredient: magnesium sulfate. So there’s no need to spend extra on a designer or “all-natural” brand.
        • Empty the bag into a large bowl.
        • Add one to two cups of your favorite blend of powdered or dried and pulverized herbs.
        • *Remember, these herbs need to be small enough to flow easily down the drain or large enough to be strained.

          1. Use the list of herbs above for inspiration (dried flowers, like Calendula, Rose, and Lavender are lovely) and add your favorite 100% pure essential oils if aromatherapeutic benefits are desired.
          2. Mix everything and pour into a container.
          3. These homemade bath salts make lovely gifts packaged in beakers, mason jars, bamboo boxes, or cork-lid storage jars.
          4. Add two cups to a hot bath and enjoy.
          5. For more inspiration and detailed instructions, check out this Gaia Herbs recipe for Coconut Rose Salt Scrub with Rose petals and Rosemary leaves.

            #4: Create An Herbal Facial Steam Bath

            Facial steaming is a time-honored way to open and cleanse pores, hydrate the skin, and prepare the face for deep cleansing.

            You don’t need any special equipment to make an herbal facial steam bath. Here’s how:

            1. Fill a medium to large pot with filtered water.
            2. Add your favorite combination of herbs and/or tea for your skin type/mood/goals.
            3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about ten minutes.
            4. Remove the mixture from the stove (because you don’t want to catch your towel on fire!) and place it on the counter, or pour it into a clean sink, basin, or bowl.
            5. Place a towel over your head and neck, and lean over the steam bath, breathing deeply while trapping the steam with your towel. Come up for air as necessary and adjust your proximity to the steam to your comfort.
            6. Steam your face for five to ten minutes.
            7. Follow up with cleansing, a facial mask (if desired) then a cool compress or splash of water to close the pores. 

            This facial steam bath is also fantastic for supporting respiratory health and providing relief during pollen season.

            #5: Make Your Own Herbal Acne Spot Treatment

            Herbs' natural bacterial-balancing, soothing, and wound-healing properties make them an excellent choice for occasional breakouts.

            There are many different herbs to try, including convenient herbal oils, which you can find in natural food stores or online. 

            Some herbal oils to try include:

            • Calendula oil
            • Lavender oil 
            • Neem oil
            • Oregano oil (you can open a capsule and put a few drops directly on the blemish)
            • Tea tree oil
            • Thyme oil

            If the oils are undiluted, such as essential oils, consider diluting with a non-comedogenic carrier oil (like jojoba or rosehip) for sensitive skin.

            Another effective spot treatment is to combine your favorite powdered herb (such as Licorice, Oregano Oil, Lavender, or Turmeric) with baking soda, a pinch of Epsom salt, and water to make a paste.

            Apply the paste directly to the breakout for 15 minutes or overnight. Repeat as needed.

            #6: Craft A Soothing Herbal First Aid Balm

            Semi-solid herbal first aid balms and salves can be a lifesaver for minor cuts and scrapes because they keep the wound moist, which supports the healing process.

            Typical bases include a combination of oils, such as coconut or castor oil, mixed with beeswax and/or shea butter to create a semi-solid consistency.

            Popular soothing herbs that may support wound healing for first-aid creams, balms, and salves include:

            • Calendula
            • Lavender
            • Chamomile
            • Licorice
            • Astragalus
            • Turmeric/Curcumin
            • Aloe Vera

            You could also add respiratory-support herbs, like Licorice, Plantain, or Peppermint (found in Gaia Herbs Bronchial Support), to make a comforting chest rub.*

            Note: Although Oregano Oil does have documented wound-healing properties*, it could create unwelcomed stinging side effects if too concentrated. Use at your discretion.

            See: How to Make Herbal Balms: A Beginner’s Guide And Easy Recipe for more detailed tips and instructions.

            For more balm and salve recipes check out: Mom’s Make Life Beautiful! Celebrate Mom This Mother’s Day With Natural Homemade Balms And Salves.

            #7: Whip Up a Custom Herbal Mask

            Indulging in a face mask is an excellent way to care for your skin while relaxing into self-care time.

            But high-quality, non-toxic facial masks can be pricey, especially if you plan on using them frequently.

            Instead, try whipping up a DIY mask using herbs, spices, and other culinary items around the house.

            Here’s how to make your own custom herbal facial mask:

            • Choose a base:

            You want something natural that will stick to your face and provide some benefit. Some ideas include:

              • Mashed avocado to promote hydration
              • Honey for exfoliation and bacterial balance
              • Plain yogurt (dairy or plant-based) for hydration and exfoliation
            • Aloe vera gel for hydration and soothing
            • Choose your herbs:

            Choose an herb, or a few herbs, from the list above. 

            Crush them (if not already powdered), and add them to the base. Fresh herbs also work well; just mash them in a mortar and pestle. 

            *Note: Turmeric/Curcumin will stain anything it comes into contact with. Prepare accordingly.

            • Add boosters if desired:

            This could include: 

            • A few drops of nourishing oils, like jojoba, almond, or rosehip
            • Extra exfoliating enzyme power from mashed pineapple or papaya
            • Oil-absorbing clays or charcoal
            • Powdered superfoods like spirulina, wild blueberry powder, or barley grass
            • Powdered collagen or gelatin

              1. Mix up your concoction in a small bowl, adjusting consistency as needed.
              2. Apply to clean skin.
              3. Relax for 10-20 minutes.

              Note: Skin reactions to certain herbs, foods, and natural products can occur. 

              Some people have a contact allergy to cinnamon, for example, while others may find acidic foods too strong for their skin.

              Always do a patch test before applying a full mask.

              Need More Herbal Skincare Inspiration?

              For more tips, inspiration, and herbal wisdom, check out the following articles:

              Interested in taking your healthy skincare routine to a new level?

              Check out Gaia Herbs Hair, Skin, & Nails herbal formula with Horsetail, Alfalfa, Burdock, Gotu Kola, and Nettle.


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