With the colder season upon us, it’s a great time to make external remedies that support your largest organ: your skin! This herbal face mask recipe features demulcent or mucilage-rich herbs which are naturally moisturizing and help to balance the drying elements of the season.
In this article, you’ll learn how to use whole herbs as a skincare remedy. And I’ll show you how to prepare the herbs to access the mucilage and make it available for the skin to restore moisture, hydrate, and help you feel comfortable all season long.
Why Do We Get Dry Skin in Cold Weather?
Although dry skin can be a year-round condition, the colder weather makes it feel especially uncomfortable. In a dry and cold environment, the outer layer of the skin loses its ability to retain moisture. It becomes dry and brittle, and water-loss can occur.1 I’m someone who’s used to hot and humid weather, so the slightest dip in temperature and my skin begins to crack. It’s downright painful!
Along with the natural elements of the season, our lifestyle changes too. We tend to take longer and hotter showers. We spend more time indoors, sitting by the fire, in the heated and dry air. And all of this has a drying and dehydrating effect on our skin.
Mucilage-Rich Herbs for Dry Skin
When we get a dry, itchy, irritated throat, many herbalists will recommend to drink herbal blends that feature demulcent or mucilage-rich herbs. These herbs have a slippery texture and they moisten dry tissues, bring down inflammation, and restore comfort. They can moisten internal tissues as well as the external tissues of our skin.
Another benefit of mucilage is its ability to check bacterial growth and absorb toxins.2 So it’s a great natural cleanser as well!
Herbs rich in mucilage include:
- Burdock (Arctium lappa, A. minor), roots and leaves
- Chickweed (Stellaria media), leaves
- Linden (Tilia), leaves, flowers, and bracts
- Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), roots
- Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra), inner bark
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), roots
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), leaves
- Aloe (Aloe vera), inner gel extracted from fresh leaves
- Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), leaves
- Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus), thallus
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), seeds
If you have any of these herbs in your home apothecary, you can easily blend up your own Moisturizing Herbal Face Mask, as detailed below.
As a skincare herbalist, I also love showing people how to find skincare ingredients in everyday foods and kitchen staples. To find herbs that are rich in mucilage, you can use packaged herbal teas for cold and flu or sore throat, found in most supermarkets. Read the ingredients list and you’ll probably see marshmallow, slippery elm, and/or licorice. These are great herbal allies for dry skin. Just make sure it’s not a flavored tea, only herbs!
If the blend also includes other herbs (like Echinacea or even a little ginger), you can still use it. Herbalist James Green says, “any herb that you drink, you can bathe in” so it’s going to be safe and good for your skin too
How to Access Mucilage for External Use
When you eat herbs, your body does the job of breaking down the plant cell walls and extracting out the beneficial nutrients and constituents. For skincare, we need to process the herbs first to make those benefits accessible for the skin.
The first step is to grind the whole herb into a very fine powder. This opens up the cell walls.Then, we steep the herbal powder, similar to making tea! This helps to pull out the constituents. For most herbal masks, you can use hot water from the kettle. But, specifically for extracting mucilage, it’s best to use room-temperature water. The herbs will swell up into a creamy, moist consistency that you can apply onto your skin and receive the moistening, soothing benefits!
Moisturizing Herbal Face Mask for Dry Skin
For this herbal face mask, you can use tea bags or choose one or more mucilage-rich herbs from the list above. The recipe also incorporates oats (another demulcent ingredient) as a base and binder for the herbs.
What you’ll need…
- ¼ cup dried herbs, or about 8 tea bags
- ¼ cup oat flour, or rolled oats, powdered
- If using tea bags, open the tea bags and pour out the herbs (you’ll need about 8 tea bags to make ¼ cup).
- Pour the loose herbs into a blender and blitz until it’s powdery fine.
- Add in the oat flour and blitz again for a few seconds to incorporate well.
- Store the blend in an airtight container and label it.
- To use your Hydrating Face Cleanser & Mask: scoop out 1 tablespoon into a small bowl, and pour in double the amount of slightly warm water. Cover it, and allow it to steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
- When you’re ready to use it, if the blend feels too thick or dry, you can add droplets of water until it forms a creamy consistency. Massage it onto your skin, and wear it as you shower. The steam in the shower helps to open your pores and receive all the nourishment and moisture. Wash off at the end of your shower.
- Use weekly, or even daily as a cleanser, throughout the season.
Yield: About 4 applications
How we feel in our skin can make a big difference in our overall sense of wellbeing. So I hope this herbal face mask brings you feelings of comfort, calm and softness — all season long.
- “What to do about dry skin in winter,” Harvard Health Publishing, published February 2011, https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/what-to-do-about-dry-skin-in-winter. ↩
- David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, (Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press 2003), 51. ↩