Botanicals are natural plant extracts packed with nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, as well as antibacterial, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
Because of their many attributes, botanicals work on any skin type, from red and irritated skin, to oily and acne-prone complexions, and to faces with inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis.
Botanicals are also anti-aging warriors that fight wrinkles and lines, and plump, firm, heal, and rejuvenate skin.
For thousands of years, Ayurvedic doctors have relied on herbs and spices for medicinal purposes, such as turmeric, sage, holy basil, and rosemary. If see an Ayurvedic doctor today for treatment of a respiratory ailment, chances are you will spend 20 minutes oil pulling, a practice that involves either coconut or sesame oil.
The idea is that our mouths hold thousands of bacteria. Both of those oils have strong antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, so by swishing with them - the bacteria in your mouth gets “stuck” in the oil and then gets spit out.
Ayurveda is a 5,000 year medical system that has origins in India, although Chinese and Greek medicine both have roots in Ayurveda. Literally translated, Ayurveda means “science of life,” which follows guidelines on daily and seasonal routines, for sleeping, eating, lifestyle - all to remind us that health incorporates the environment and our body, mind, and spirit.
According to Chinese Medicine, ailments are often due to damp-heat toxins, such as skin disease, stomach, liver and blood heat, as well as Qi (energy) stagnation, and various deficiencies.
The acupuncturist or Chinese medical practitioner will recommend a botanical, such as a heat-clearing herb, to cool and act as antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agents.
It wasn’t so long ago that harsh scrubs and chemicals were thought to be the only way to treat skin. Now we’re seeing that that concept is not only counterintuitive to how the body works, but it is downright damaging and can exacerbate certain skin conditions.
We get assaulted every day by pollutants, environmental stress, and chemicals that show up in our soaps, cosmetics, and household cleaners. These all can damage our protective skin barrier which has immune cells that protect us from bacteria, pollutants, and other harmful substances.
The skin barrier holds water which keeps skin plump. When it’s damaged, we not only lose that moisture, but also the ability to keep bacteria and other harmful substances out.
When we scrub too hard or use overly harsh chemicals and flood our skin with parabens, sulfates, fragrances, sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate, then as a result, we might see oily, acne-prone skin, flakiness or even inflammatory conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) protect skin by forming the outer layers of skin. Simply put, this skin barrier keeps water in, holds on to nutrients, and moves waste, fats, bacteria, and other harmful substances out.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital ingredients in any skin care routine according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. These vital compounds are found in many plants and plant oils used for healthy skin.
When it comes to selecting a cleanser, there are a some "golden rules" to follow for maintaining healthy skin.
First, regardless of your skin type, the cleanser should not feel harsh or stripping, or leave your skin tight and dry. One way to avoid this is to banish sulfate-based washes. Often found on the label as sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (but also under deceptive names like coco sulfate), these harsh surfactants are used because they are inexpensive and provide a nice, rich lather. However, they strip oils from skin which can disrupt your skin's barrier and lead to dry skin, irritation and blemishes.
When choosing the type of cleanser, you'll want to take into consideration your skin type. Gel-based and foaming formulas are good for most skin types (but may be harsh on very dry skin). Cream or oil-based formulas are likely to work best for dry and sensitive skin (but may not cleanse deeply enough for oily skin). Micellar water cleansers are a good option for makeup removal, or for light cleansing on normal to dry skin.
Once you have the basics down, consider the added ingredients and how they align with your skin's needs and your skin type. Below are some of the most popular and beneficial ingredients you may find in cleansers, and what type of benefits they offer.
This botanical has strong antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, because of its high lauric acid content.
Lauric Acid is a fatty acid that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found in one study to be more effective at killing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide. It contains caprylic and caproic fatty acids, which also contribute to coconut oil's ability to fight bacteria.
To cleanse skin, rub about a teaspoon of coconut oil in your hands until it becomes liquefied. Apply to skin with gentle circular motions. Leave on one or two minutes and wipe off with a warm, damp washcloth. Coconut oil can even remove makeup!
For most skin types, you will want to follow up an oil cleanse with a traditional facial cleanser to keep pores clear and happy.
This is the great skin balancer. Rose maintains skin's pH balance while controlling excess oil. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties, and plenty of antioxidants work together to heal, repair, rejuvenate skin and speed wound healing.
Rose treats redness and irritation caused by acne, refines skin texture, and controls skin diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Rosehips are another part of the rose plant (the seed pod), from which rosehip seed oil is derived. Rosehips have different properties compared to the flowers, and are very popular in skincare due their high content of vitamin C. Rosehip seed oil is beneficial for most skin types as it provides light hydration, brightens discoloration, promotes renewal, and offers antioxidant protection.
These phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are natural surfactants, with a soap-like or detergent quality that foams when mixed with water.
Saponins occur naturally in many plants, including the soap bark tree (go figure!), soybeans, oats, peas, ginseng, herbs, vegetables, yucca and aloe. Plant-based surfactants derived from these ingredients tend to be milder and less stripping.
There appears to be renewed interest in this highly skin-healing botanical because it’s packed with antioxidants, and astringent and anti-inflammatory properties that help to heal acne, blisters, insect bites, poison ivy, and the cellular damage that can result in skin cancer and much more.
Witch hazel is popular in toners (used after cleansing), but is also being seen in cleanser formulations as well.
There’s a lot of reasons you’ll want to rub this botanical on your face. It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as abundant vitamins C and E (both great skin vitamins) and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
Aloe vera speeds wound healing, builds collagen, improves skin elasticity, calms sunburn and is often used to treat psoriasis. This ingredient is ideal in cleansers designed for sensitive skin and dry skin types.
Often recommended by Chinese Medicine practitioners as a heat-clearing botanical, seaweed is packed with amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it an ideal ingredient for fighting everything from acne to signs of aging.
A seaweed cleanser or scrub is appropriate for all skin types, and is specifically soothing for redness, eczema, or psoriasis.
There are many types of seaweed you'll see in cleansers, each with different properties. Some are used primarily to naturally thicken formulas while others like Chondrus Crispus also have functional benefits such as soothing inflammation.
This oil is especially popular for treating acne because of its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. In a study in 2016, participants found that use of a tea tree-containing sunscreen for 30 days showed a reduction in skin oil.
Because of tea tree's anti-inflammatory properties, it calms redness, swelling, itchiness and inflammation. It may even help to speed wound healing, reduce acne scars, and treat psoriasis.
If you have blemish-prone or oily skin, a cleanser with tea tree oil as a main ingredient could be a good choice.
Moroccans have been using argan oil to cleanse, fight wrinkles, treat acne, hydrate skin and to condition, protect, and repair hair.
It’s rich in vitamins A, C and E, as well as being loaded with minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, linolenic acid, and more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Argan oil helps break that cycle we sometimes fall into when we damage the skin barrier and then afterwards, skin gets too oily as a way to defend itself. This oil can be good when used as a primary ingredient in a cleanser or in its pure format as a step in your routine.
Chamazulene, an anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antispasmodic is abundant in chamomile so it’s not only a great cleanser, but it can soothe dry, irritated skin. This botanical is typically suitable for all skin types.
This herb seems most known for well-known for reducing anxiety and stress. But, one of the greatest things about lavender is the antibacterial properties, which get deep into pores and eliminate breakouts. Antiseptic properties treat infection and speed wound healing while the abundant anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness and irritation.
Whether used as a hydrosol or in a toner, clay mask or cleanser, this a good all-around choice for happy, healthy skin.
Cleopatra was known for her love of botanicals for skin beauty and we we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that blue lily was in her beauty tool box, especially since it was grown in Egypt. Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) heals, controls oil production, and moisturizes.
This botanical contains saponins and has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. White water lily heals, nourishes, and strengthens while regulating pH and helping to diminish wrinkles, fine lines, and scars.
Some may be hesitant to try oil cleansing on skin that already seems to have an excess of oil but, very often, the problem is actually dry skin that can be corrected with a botanical ingredient.
Dry skin triggers the sebaceous glands into secreting excess sebum, so we’re tricked into thinking we’re just naturally oily.
Oil dissolves the already-existing oil that needs to go and leaves skin soft. Our skin needs oil to protect, lubricate, heal, and moisturize. Some of the best oils include clary sage, jojoba (which has a chemical structure similar to our body’s sebum, so there’s already an affinity), eucalyptus leaf, safflower seed, ginseng, peppermint, cucumber, and prickly pear.