Answer: Herbal skin care is such a fun aspect of herbalism! Using beautiful plants to care for your skin can make you feel prettier than just squeezing boring goo from a tube. There are so many ways to use herbs for your skin. I will touch on a few of them and end with a recipe for lavender toner.
I like to take a simple, as close to nature as possible approach to skin care, as well as to most other aspects of my life. I regularly use only four products on my face: herb-infused honey, lavender or rose toner and homemade facial cream and lip balm. Once a month or so I use facial cleansing grains and a herbal facial steam as a pampering treat. If you use makeup or a lot of other products on your skin, you will probably need to cleanse more often and more thoroughly.
Honey makes a surprisingly effective facial cleanser. It moisturizes at the same time it cleanses and leaves one's skin soft and supple. I infuse the honey with herbs which also have cleansing, soothing or invigorating qualities. My favorite herb-infused honeys for facial care are lavender, rose geranium and peppermint. To cleanse your skin with honey, drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of honey into a small bowl or the palm of your hand. Apply the honey with your fingertips and gently massage it into your skin. I like to use circular motions with the fingertips of both hands. After applying the honey allow it to set on your face for a few minutes and then gently wash it off with warm water and a soft washcloth. I follow this regimen about twice a week.
Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health contains many delightful recipes for herbal skin care, including facial cleansing grains, face and hand cream and recipes for herbs for steams. I make her moisturizing cream recipe with rose geranium and chickweed infused apricot kernel oil and use this on my face as a moisturizer 2-3 times a week in the winter and once a week in the summer. People with mature or dry skin will probably need to moisturize more often. The moisturizing cream is wonderfully soothing for dry hands and feet as well. Her facial cleansing grains which are made with ground oats, herbs and almonds and white clay are great for an oily T-zone but I find them too drying when used on a regular basis so I save them for my monthly skin care treat. Facial steams are one of the easiest herbal skin care preparations and can be great for a relaxing, deep-cleansing experience. To make a herbal steam, toss several handfuls of dried herbs into a bowl or basin. I use a combination of lavender, roses and chamomile for normal skin but people with oily skin may want to add mucilaginous herbs such as comfrey and people with dry skin may want to add astringent herbs such as sage. Pour boiling water over the herbs. Test the steam above the bowl with your hand and when it is bearable, hold your face over the bowl and pull a towel over your head and the bowl so as much steam as possible is captured. Stay this way at least 5 minutes but up to 30 minutes. You can lift the towel for a breath of air from time to time if you need to do so. Afterwards gently pat your face dry.
Chamomile flowers make a nice compress for tired or irritated eyes or eyes with bags under them. You can use tea bags or make your own small bags of porous fabric or simply wrap the herb in cheesecloth. If you haven't used chamomile test in on your inner wrist to make sure you aren't sensitive to it before using it on your eyes. Moisten your tea bags with cool water and place them on your eyelids for a few minutes or very gently dab at the skin around your eyes with the tea bags.
Herbal toners are nice to use after cleansing and before moisturizing. Rosewater is a lovely toner for dry or mature skin. Vinegar toner works well for oily skin. People with normal skin can use either one. To make lavender vinegar toner you will need:
*a clean glass jar
*a plastic lid for the jar or a metal lid with parchment paper to line it
*enough fresh lavender buds to loosely fill the jar or enough dried lavender buds to fill the jar about 1/3 full
*apple cider vinegar (White vinegar is too harsh. Use the best apple cider vinegar you can afford. The organic apple cider vinegar available at health food stores seems less harsh than conventional vinegar to me.)
*distilled water or rosewater
In a saucepan over medium low heat, warm vinegar. Loosely fill the jar with buds and pour the vinegar over them. Every so often as you pour, poke the mixture with a chopstick or the end of a spoon to release any air bubbles. Place the lid on the jar, label it and allow it to set 2-6 weeks out of direct sunlight. Shake the jar occasionally. Strain out the plant material and dilute the vinegar with equal parts distilled water or rosewater. Bottle in a spray bottle and spray on your face after cleansing it or as a refresher.