Botanical Facials: Fusing Natural Ingredients with Traditional Treatments

Everyone knows the benefits of incorporating fresh vegetables in their diet, but have you ever thought of bringing them into your skin care practice? Salad ingredients are loaded with beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals, and it didn’t take long for researchers to also ponder the power of plants when used on the skin. Some forward-thinking estheticians have taken up their kitchen tools to formulate signature services that highlight back-to basics natural ingredients.

While making your own products may sound complicated and messy, it’s not. Anyone with a juicer, a food processor, and a fresh market nearby can transform a standard facial into something tangibly earthy, organic, and special.

As an added bonus, you can promote the use of salad ingredients with words and phrases like balancing, green, living foods, and vegan. These treatments will be very attractive to clients geared toward LOHAS—Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.

Refreshing Cucumbers

Images of women basking with cucumber slices over their eyes are practically synonymous with spas. Many people have pooh-poohed it as a cliché, but there’s real power in those slices. Cucumber extract reduces melanogenesis, as it inhibits tyrosinase activity, and is also good for acne. It contains high levels of antioxidants and reduces the production of sebum by modulating transepidermal water loss and fortifying the skin lipid barrier.


Use this water as a toner or for eye and facial compresses.Ingredients:
2 organic English cucumbers (seedless)
24 ounces of warm water Lemon/lime (optional, for scent)
3 sprigs of fresh mint (optional, for scent)

Wash cucumbers and pat dry. Slice cucumber (with peel on) paper-thin. Add slices to sterilized container with warm water. Cover and shake container. Let steep for 10 minutes. Make fresh daily.

The same ingredients can be used to make a pure cucumber juice concentrate by running them through a juicer. The resulting concentrate should be kept in a sterilized container and can be added to many treatments, including clays and dry exfoliants. This should also be made fresh daily.

Jump to: How to Perform a Chemical Peel: Guidelines & SOPs

Botanical oils

The use of oils to condition the skin is as ubiquitous as using water to cleanse it. Historically, oils were used as cleansers, slathered on and then scraped off with an implement called a strigil. Today, botanical oils are used for their moisturizing and healing benefits.

Sunflower seed oil, in particular, has been shown to produce remarkable skin cell healing properties because it contains high levels of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid (EFA) that has been shown to be effective on even the toughest acne vulgaris, as it reduces inflammation and fortifies skin barrier function.

Rice bran oil has also been touted for its multifaceted cell-protective features. This oil is packed with stable EFAs. When used topically, rice bran oil acts as a sunscreen, combats hyperpigmentation, lightens skin, and also scavenges free radicals as it soothes and regulates skin moisture.

Flaxseed oil contains some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and calms skin that is raw and irritated due to conditions like eczema or psoriasis. It helps repair skin cells and hydrates even the driest skin.

If a client has extremely dehydrated, dry, sun-damaged, or tired skin, apply two layers of sunflower seed oil or rice bran oil, and follow with a flaxseed gel mask or avocado mask. Allow each layer 60 seconds to absorb. As with any mask, exfoliate the skin first for maximum benefits.


Use this recipe for gentle exfoliation and skin moisturizing.Ingredients:
8 ounces ground sunflower seeds
4–5 ounces sunflower oil
2–3 drops of lemon, lime, fennel, or orange juice (optional, for scent)

Place whole sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Combine ground seeds with oil. Massage onto skin.


Flaxseeds, when boiled and cooled, make gel. This gel can be used alone as a compress, or other ingredients can be added to it for a customized treatment.Ingredients:
1/3 cup whole flaxseeds
2 cups filtered water or cucumber juice
4 ounces of aloe vera gel (optional)
½ teaspoon of honey (optional)
½ teaspoon of sunflower seed oil (optional)

Bring water to a boil. Stir in flaxseeds and immediately reduce heat. Stir and simmer until the gel forms (about 10 minutes). Strain through a cheesecloth and then transfer to a sterilized container. Flaxseed gel can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Gorgeous Greens

No salad would be complete without greens. There are many that impart cooling, hydrating, and soothing effects on skin, but those of note include dandelion greens, parsley, romaine lettuce, and watercress.

Dandelion green extract has a cleansing and detoxifying effect on skin. The ingredient has been used on eczema and psoriasis, and is known to contain high levels of antioxidants and zinc, which boost immunity.

Parsley is high in vitamin C. On skin, the herb is known to help shrink pores as it regulates the production of sebum. It also stimulates the production of collagen, which aids skin healing and reduces wrinkles. Parsley is a free-radical scavenger and helps repair damaged keratinocytes.

Romaine lettuce can be used not only as a compress or wrap, but also in a juice. The extract of this lettuce is high in vitamin K, which strengthens capillaries, and vitamin A, which normalizes skin cell turnover.

Watercress is diuretic and therefore anti-inflammatory. This mustard green contains high levels of sulphoraphane, which is antimicrobial and a cancer fighter. Watercress extract has been shown to boost the skin’s UV protection as well.

A popular addition to a green salad, or a salad facial, is avocado. The natural oils in avocado offer moisturizing benefits and have gained popularity in skin care products and cosmetics as an organic substitute for petrochemicals. Avocados are high in sterols, which are phytochemicals with an anticholesterol effect that heal dry skin and eczema. Avocado extract has also been shown to boost the skin’s natural sun protection. It also works against skin laxity as it boosts collagen production.


Use only organic ingredients in this facial rejuvenation mask.Ingredients:
¼ cup dandelion greens
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup romaine lettuce
¼ cup watercress
¼ cup sunflower seed oil
Half a ripe avocado (optional)
A few drops of lemon or lime juice (optional, for scent)
¼ cup of fennel (optional, for scent)

Wash and dry all the salad greens. Pulse a few times in a food processor. Slowly add the sunflower seed oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Allow the mixture to set for at least 10 minutes before application.


Use this mask for hydrating and healing skin.Ingredients:
1 ripe avocado (peeled, pitted, and cubed)
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil or rice bran oil
2–3 drops lemon or lime juice (optional)
2 ounces flaxseed gel (optional, see page 16)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

In a blender or food processor, process the avocado until smooth. Add other ingredients to customize.

A Touch of Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. On skin, it is antifungal and antibacterial, normalizes pH, and cleanses skin as it breaks up excess sebum. It is often used as a foot soak to remedy athlete’s foot and other fungal conditions. Combine it with honey for even more antifungal, antibacterial, and humectant (moistening) benefits. Honey never goes bad because it has a high acid pH and low water content. It is good for acne and eczema, as it soothes skin and prevents infections.


Use this tonic as an astringent, to remove product, or to freshen skin.Ingredients:
7 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 liter distilled water
2 tangerines
1 tablespoon baking soda

Add baking soda to water, and soak the whole unpeeled tangerines in it for one hour. This maximizes the amount of oil that will be extracted in the next step. Peel the tangerines, cut the peel into small pieces, and soak the peel pieces in the apple cider vinegar for up to seven days in the refrigerator. Strain and pour into a sterilized bottle.


Use this moisturizing mask to make dry skin supple and conditioned.Ingredients:
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon sunflower seed oil

Combine the honey and the sunflower seed oil. Gradually add the vinegar to the mixture until the texture is consistent. Apply to the face and leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Yields enough for one mask.

Healthy Probiotics

Probiotics—the live cultures in yogurt— exhibit antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial benefits when used on skin. They have been shown to reduce acne lesions by half over an eight-week period. Probiotics increase ceramide production, which boosts skin protection against the bacteria that causes acne.


Use this recipe on skin with acne.
4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil or rice bran oil
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
Crushed mint leaves (optional; remove before treatment)

Combine the ingredients together in a bowl.

From farm to face, salad ingredients can be a wonderful addition to both your lunch menu and your spa menu, fulfilling your goals for both personal and planetary wellness. More and more businesses are looking to become completely sustainable, with zero waste sent to a landfill—and how much less wasteful can you get when you can literally eat your leftover ingredients at the end of the day?

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