I recently learned of Fig and Yarrow’s Herbal Steams, which are a blend of dried herbs and flowers that, when steeped in hot water, make a nice botanical steam for your face. While I’m not averse to trying unusual skincare methods, my expenses are not so flexible as to spare more than $20 for a tin of dried flowers. I figured I could probably make my own for less money, and more customised to my own needs, so I did.
Maybe the big question here is whether a facial steam actually does anything—and I think it does, with three different mechanisms.
The first is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy sometimes gets lumped in with things like homeopathy as pseudoscience, but it has a valid basis as long as you’re not using it in replacement of modern medicine. (I mean, you can do that if you’re into it, I guess.) Personally, I’m a big fan of aromatherapy as a form of self-care. I use the This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray when I have trouble sleeping, and I’ve been burning warm, spicy candles for maximum cosiness when it gets cold.
Second is the steam itself, regardless of what’s dissolved in it. Steaming is a component of many spa facials. As long as you don’t get too hot or do it for too long, steaming can soften the skin, increase blood flow (promoting healing) and allow products to permeate better.
Lastly are the therapeutic effects of the ingredients in the herbal blend. Some dried flowers are probably not going to help your skin all that much, but others have evidence behind them. I’m drawing on a mix of science and tradition to choose which flowers to include.
I found dried flowers and herbs online for quite cheap, although I chose a local seller because I’ve seen enough Border Patrol shows to know that customs officers don’t take well to herbal goods being sent through mail. I chose botanicals that are relaxing as well as being good for the skin, so I can use the herbal steam as a self-care treat before getting into bed.
Calendula: Commonly referred to as marigold, calendula flowers have traditionally been used on the skin for anti-inflammatory and antiseptic purposes. You can eat them, too!
Chamomile: Peter Rabbit’s mother gave him chamomile tea, and it’s widely known for being soothing and relaxing. There’s actual scientific evidence that chamomile can be helpful to people struggling with anxiety, too. On top of the feel-good stuff, chamomile is anti-inflammatory.
Red clover: As a kid, I used to pick these on the school field at lunch time and suck the nectar out of the flowers. Red clover blossoms are anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants.
Rosehips: These are the fruit of the rose plant. Rosehips contain lots of vitamins A and C, and have astringent properties.
Juniper berries: Juniper berries give gin its distinctive flavour, but they’re good for skin, too. They’re antiseptic and astringent.
The most obvious way to use this blend is as a facial steam. I put a small handful into a bowl (you only need a little—I won’t be running out any time soon) and steeped it in hot water. After it cooled a little, I put my head over the bowl and enclosed the whole thing with a towel, breathing in the steam and allowing it to really get in my face.
If a facial steam isn’t your jam, you can use this as a bath tea by adding Himalayan salt and steeping it in bath water. I hate having baths because I feel like I’m being poached in my own dirty water, but bath tea infusers exist, so it’s definitely a thing that people do. And if you’re not into bath tea, why not real tea? All of these herbs are safe to ingest.
Although my boyfriend complained that my DIY botanical blend smelled like “a muesli from hell,” I quite liked the fragrance. After 10 minutes of on-off steaming (10 minutes solid under that towel would have suffocated me), my skin was softened, and I was decidedly chill. This isn’t going to create life-changing effects for your skin, but like I said, it’s a nice act of self-care.
Here’s where I put the necessary disclaimer that you should research anything, botanical or otherwise, that you introduce to your skin. Several of the flowers I used are not recommended for use during pregnancy or if you have a kidney condition. Just a heads up!
- What’s your take on facial steams and aromatherapy?
- Any favourite herbs I should have included?