One of the things I remember about my long ago high school years is my struggle with acne. My face was prone to breakouts, and I had very little understanding of what was causing it or what to do about it. It was both frustrating and embarrassing and something I just accepted as part of puberty for me.
Once my hormones stabilized I no longer experienced huge breakouts, but even into adulthood, I would have acne pop up now and then, especially if I was stressed or around my period. I used some of those over the counter astringent face cleansers to combat it and base makeup to cover it up, but it was an ongoing issue.
Once I started learning about herbal remedies, I began to wonder if there was a DIY natural facial cleanser that could help and if the herbs could be allies for facial health. I was reading Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal and was excited about the chapter called “Recipes for Radiant Beauty.”
Following her recipe, I made a beautiful astringent facial cleanser called The Queen of Hungary’s Water. I began using this DIY natural facial cleanser as part of a regular routine of facial care that began with a clay, oat, and poppy seed scrub followed with the Queen of Hungary’s Water and then St. John’s wort infused olive oil and finally a spritz of rose hydrosol.
This new routine made my face feel amazing!
And I have not had an issue with acne since I started it about 20 years ago.
I am delighted to be able to share Rosemary’s recipe with all of you so you might benefit from this lovely astringent facial cleanser as well. This can be made any time of year with dried herbs, and it’s particularly beautiful to make in the summer when all of these herbs can be harvested fresh from the garden!
The Queen of Hungary Water is an astringent skin toner that helps remove excess oil from the skin and tighten pores. When used after cleansing, it will also help remove any excess cleanser from the skin and help prepare the skin for moisturizing.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of each of the herbs in this recipe…
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Energetically, lemon balm is cooling and drying. Rich in antioxidants, it is protective for our skin. It is also both antiviral and anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce redness and swelling on skin and is effective in healing both acne and herpes outbreaks. Lemon balm is calming and soothing for our nervous system and also for irritated skin conditions. Lemon balm also contributes its lemony scent to this blend of aromatic herbs.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile is slightly warming and drying. It helps to modulate inflammation and is especially good at relieving itchy or painful skin conditions. Chamomile lends its unique and calming scent to this blend as well.
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Rose is energetically cooling. In typically amazing plant fashion it is both astringent and moisturizing when applied to the skin. Rose’s antioxidant and vitamin-rich qualities make it moisturizing for irritated tissues and helpful for easing wrinkles. As an astringent it helps to tighten and tone tissues. Rose also modulates inflammation, making it a soothing and healing herb for our skin.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is warming and drying. This is a quintessential herb for skin health and is used in many salve and lotion preparations. Calendula helps to relieve inflammation: it is astringent and slightly demulcent and is helpful for itchy skin rashes, scratches, and eczema. As an antimicrobial it helps with healing for wounds and minor infections. It can improve elasticity and skin hydration and is useful for soothing the skin after a sunburn. As it relieves inflammation and pain, it also promotes new tissue growth.
Comfrey Leaf (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey brings some cooling and moistening energy to this blend. It can help decrease pain and swelling and is soothing for burns. Comfrey is best known for its astounding wound healing effects. It is a cell proliferant, helping to increase cell growth and rejuvenation.
Lemon Peel (Citrus limon)
Lemon peels are also cooling and anti-inflammatory. They contain antioxidants, pectins, and phenols, which nourish the skin. The acidic nature of lemon helps with skin cleansing and can help to remove dead skin and stimulate new skin growth.
Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
Rosemary is both warming and drying. The antioxidants in rosemary offer protection for our skin. Rosemary is also a circulatory stimulant that can help move things through the body, and when applied topically it gives us a tingling, fresh feeling. Rosemary also acts as a preservative in this combination and lends its unique scent to the blend.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Energetically sage is warming and drying. It adds its aromatic, astringent, and anti-inflammatory qualities to this blend, helping to tighten and tone tissues while also easing swelling and pain.
Okay, this one isn’t an herb, but it is a central ingredient in The Queen of Hungary Water. Like many of the herbs, vinegar also has anti-inflammatory effects. It also can help exfoliate the skin, remove dirt, absorb oils, and open pores. Vinegar is also particularly helpful in reducing acne outbreaks. It is important to dilute the vinegar when applying to skin so that it doesn’t burn — and remember to rinse after applying it.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe as Rosemary published it with my notes in parentheses.
Queen of Hungary’s Water: A DIY Natural Facial Cleanser
Having an effective facial cleanser is a must-have part of any skincare routine. Learn how to make The Queen of Hungary’s Water, a gentle cleanser that draws on the healing gifts of rose and chamomile to tone and nourish the skin.
What you’ll need…
I find this recipe to be very forgiving and just use tablespoons measurements for the parts, though you could also do it by weight.
- 6 parts lemon balm (12 tablespoons fresh or 6 dried)
- 4 parts chamomile (8 tablespoons fresh or 4 dried)
- 4 parts roses (8 tablespoons fresh or 4 dried)
- 3 parts calendula (6 tablespoons fresh or 3 dried)
- 3 parts comfrey leaf (6 tablespoons fresh or 3 dried)
- 1 part lemon peel (2 tablespoons fresh)
- 1 part rosemary (2 tablespoons fresh or 1 dried)
- 1 part sage (2 tablespoons fresh or 1 dried)
- About 1 quart apple cider or wine vinegar (enough to fill quart jar)
- ⅔ to 1 cup rose water or witch hazel extract
- A few drops essential oil of lavender or rose for scent (optional)
- Place the herbs in a widemouthed jar.
- Fill the jar with enough vinegar that it rises an inch or two above the herb mixture.
- Cover tightly and let it sit in a warm spot out of direct sunlight for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Strain out the herbs.
- To each cup of herbal vinegar, add 2/3 to 1 cup of rose water or witch hazel. (It is important to dilute the vinegar in this way rather than applying it to your skin straight to prevent burning.)
- Add a drop or two of essential oil, if desired.
- This product does not need to be refrigerated and will keep indefinitely. (Note that if you use raw apple cider vinegar to make it, vinegar mothers will form in the jar and need to be removed periodically, and I’m not sure it will actually last indefinitely, but I like Rosemary’s optimism. I know my quart lasts at least six months.)
- (My note: Soak a cotton ball in the vinegar solution and apply to face. You will likely feel a tingly or even slightly burning sensation. Rinse the vinegar from your face with cool water, dry, and then apply your moisturizer of choice — an infused herbal oil or cream, perhaps.)
This is one of my favorite recipes from Rosemary Gladstar’s extensive collection, and you can access so many more of them in her course Rosemary’s Remedies hosted on HerbMentor right here at LearningHerbs. In her book, Rosemary says that a version of this Queen of Hungary’s Water was one of the first herbal remedies that was produced and marketed on a large scale. What’s great about taking Rosemary’s class is you get even more of her personal stories and wisdom.
I’d love to see you on HerbMentor, and I hope you enjoy this beautiful recipe!
Now I’d love to hear from you…
What are your favorite herbs or herbal preparations for skin cleansing and nourishing?
Please share in the comments below.