Grow your own Skincare Garden

I am delighted to be hosting some Guest Bloggers on The Pink Wheelbarrow  this month to give you some new ideas and fresh takes on gardening and growing your own. I am so delighted to welcome Pamela Styles, a lecturer in Environmental Awareness who is passionate about exploring how our growing disconnect from the natural world is having detrimental impacts on our bodies and minds. Pamela inspires and guides people to live more natural, simple, sustainable lives and get closer to nature. 

You are going to love these fabulous ideas from Growing Simplicity!

‘Growing Your Own’ doesn’t have to stop with food: you can create an apothecary garden full of herbal remedies, plant a tea garden, grow your own kindling or firewood, or even grow ingredients to make your very own, unique DIY skincare products. 

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Making products like bath bombs, body scrubs, facial toners, face masks and body butters is becoming increasingly popular as people become more concerned about the chemicals we’re putting on our skin and washing down the drain, where they potentially end up in wetland environments and harm aquatic wildlife. We’ve also got plastic packaging to worry about, but by making your own products you can buy the base ingredients in bulk and potentially grow the rest at home, massively cutting down on the amount of packaging you use. 

Some of the chemicals in the products we buy, like parabens, phthalates and triclosan, can all have endocrine-disrupting effects, affecting the hormones of humans and wildlife. Other chemicals are added to give a product a long shelf life or to give it a particular, consistent texture or ensure it absorbs into the skin quickly. If you’re willing to accept something that won’t stay good forever (but still has a more than long enough shelf life for what you’ll need), and might change in consistency slightly depending on the temperature in your house, then you can definitely start making your own. Those are compromises I’m more than willing to make to benefit from the advantages, and I think it’s much better to know exactly what you’re putting on your skin. 

As well as being potentially good for you and the environment, growing skincare ingredients and making your own products is fun and can help you save money, getting really good quality products for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy them. I love creating a garden that looks great and is attractive and beneficial for wildlife too, but if I can also use what I’m growing for some other purpose it feels even better. Most of the plants in my skincare garden do more than one job, and I favour those that I know attract pollinators or can also be used as food. 

By growing your own ingredients and making your own products, you can tailor your creations specifically to your skin care needs with just a little bit of research: what’s good for dry skin, for blemishes, for brightening the skin, or for relaxation? And once you’ve bought your base ingredients in bulk, you can experiment with different creations and create unique, homemade gifts for Christmas and birthdays. 

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You can create something truly individual, tailored to the recipient, that you wouldn’t be able to buy in the shops. I’ve made ‘love potion’ witches’ cauldron bath bombs with home-grown rose as gifts for a Halloween party, and created face masks from foraged bladderwrack seaweed for my ocean-loving friends. 

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I don’t tend to follow any strict recipes when making my creations, and actually, unless you’re using essential oils (in which case you need to adhere to dilution ratios to make sure they’ll be in a concentration that’s safe to apply to your skin), you can’t go far wrong! My advice is to just start experimenting and see what works for you! 

Basic Recipes 

Bath tea: Mix any combination of skin-safe dried herbs or flowers you like (some ideas below) and add them to bath water. If you don’t feel like picking them out of the bath afterwards, tie them up in a muslin cloth or in a cloth bag under the tap while it’s running, or make your concentrated bath tea (just like making normal tea!) in advance and pour it into the water. Great plants for bath teas are Calendula petals, lavender buds, rose petals and chamomile flowers. 

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Bath salts: Mix your bath tea ingredients with Epsom salts or Himalayan pink salt and add a few scoops to your bath. You might also like to add oats for their moisturising effect. 

Bath bomb: Mix a 2:1 ratio of bicarbonate of soda and citric acid, stir in your dried herbs or flowers, mix and spray with water, very slowly increasing the water content until the mixture holds together. Be careful not to add too much water. Dried leaves like peppermint work well, as do flowers like lavender. 

Facial toner: This is basically a cup of tea that you apply to your face! Infusions of rose petals, fennel seeds, yarrow and lavender buds all work well. Willow and witch hazel are also good additions to toners, but the bark needs to be boiled in the water over a stove instead of just making a tea. 

Facial steam: Add dried herbs and flowers to boiling water and place your face over the steam, being careful not to get too close to avoid burns! Flowers like lavender, rose and chamomile work well for a standard facial steam, or eucalyptus and peppermint to help clear sinuses. 

Under-eye gel: Cut off a leaf of aloe vera and scrape out the gel inside. Mix this gel with a cornflower water infusion (i.e. cornflower tea!) and apply under your eyes. Lie back and put a cucumber slice over each eye. Wash off after about 15 minutes. 

Face mask: Mix kaolin clay with an approximately equal amount of water for the basic mask, then add ingredients from your garden like raspberries and strawberries. Instead of mixing with straight water, you could mix with a water infusion of calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose or peppermint. Apply to your face and wash off after about 10 minutes. 

Body scrub: Mix poppy seeds with an oil infusion of any of your skincare garden plants. An oil infusion involves covering your dried herbs or flowers (and they must be completely dry to avoid mould formation) with oil (e.g. sweet almond, grapeseed, coconut or jojoba oil) and leaving on a sunny windowsill for about three weeks. This oil can also be used on its own for oil cleansing or as massage oil. 

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Body butter: Mix your infused oil with a butter such as shea, cocoa or apricot in a roughly 1:2 ratio for a natural body butter. Use cocoa butter in a higher concentration, or add beeswax, if you’d like a solid moisturising bar instead of a lotion. 

The plants in my skincare garden 

For their flowers 

· Rose 

· Chamomile 

· Lavender 

· Calendula 

· Cornflower 

For their seeds 

· Poppy 

· Fennel 

For their fruits 

· Strawberry 

· Raspberry 

· Cucumber 

For their bark 

· Witch hazel 

· Willow 

For their leaves 

· Peppermint 

· Eucalyptus 

· Aloe vera (indoors) 

· Yarrow

You can read more on the Growing Simplicity site which aims to inspire people who are looking to reduce their impact on the environment and take small steps towards simple, self-sufficient living or keep up with Pamela Styles on Twitter or on her You Tube channel.

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