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Plant power

Your guide to botanical beauty

Plants have powerful properties when it comes to supporting our health and wellbeing. These wonderful botanicals also help the health of our skin, making them great natural beauty boosters! We spoke to some experts who picked out their favourite plants and botanicals. Look out for them in your natural beauty products.

“Borage (starflower oil) was originally a native weed in the UK but has been cultivated for both seed oil and for herbal infusions over the last 20 years,” says Apinke Efiong, owner of natural skincare brand Eko Botanicals ( “Borage oil has the highest plant contents of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid which helps combat skin dryness, loss of suppleness and wrinkling. Borage is effective for dry and sensitive skin including photodamaged and ageing skin. GLA is an essential fatty acid for skin because skin cannot synthesise GLA and it must be provided through diet or application. Topical application of GLA has been shown to improve skin problems such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin problems associated with weakened skin barrier. Borage oil topical application improves the barrier weaknesses inherent in these skin problems, meaning the skin is less sensitive and trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) is reduced.”

“Natural beauty care has moved way beyond mashing an avocado and trying to keep it on your face,” says medical herbalist Pamela Spence ( “Nowadays we are a lot more aware of the toxins in many brands of skincare and consumers want to reduce their exposure to these chemicals by buying safe alternatives. Rosewater makes a great spritzer or toner for tired, dull skin. Simply adding your choice of essential oils to an unperfumed base cream allows you to build your own signature skincare. Rose absolute and rose geranium create a heavenly combination.”

“Herbal teas can also make a really versatile addition to your beauty regime,” says Pamela Spence. “Make a strong herbal tea then add to your bath, use as a foot soak or use cool as a wash. Chamomile is an excellent herb for this because it is relaxing and also soothes irritated skin. Meanwhile, cool the used tea bags in the fridge and you can put them over your eyes (think cucumber slices) while you relax to help resolve itching and irritation.”

“Spirulina is a blue-green algae, one of the most promising species because of its precious content of phytochemicals,” explains Dr Mariano Spiezia, founder of Inlight beauty ( “Spirulina is very rich in proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. The more important lipid found is gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6, which is a ‘treasure’ for skin’s health. Spirulina is a great super-ingredient and one of the most sustainable ones because it is easily grown in bioreactors under solar light, thus saving water and soil and without the use of pesticides or herbicides. It’s a great source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, iron and zinc. Finally, it is a youth fountain because of its content of chlorophyll and carotenoids, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-ageing properties. Spirulina decreases inflammation, tones and brightens the skin and encourages cell turnover, promoting a youthful-looking complexion.”

“Papaya (pawpaw) is widely grown in Africa and many tropical regions of the world,” says Apinke Efiong. “This exotic botanical ingredient contains rich deposits of fatty acids such as linoleic and oleic acids that work as anti-inflammatory agents helping reduce redness and skin irritations such as acne. Papaya is a light and decadent oil. It is non-comedogenic, meaning that it doesn’t clog the pores, but instead cleans them out and dissolves dead skin. Papaya seed oil contains a natural but powerful enzyme papain, which helps to rejuvenate the skin by getting rid of dead skin cells and excess sebum, leaving skin with a more toned and tightened appearance. Having a high concentration of vitamin C, it is also a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent against environmental aggressors and slows down signs of ageing. Papaya is effective on hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin.”

“Calendula is a simple but beautiful and powerful flower: a little ‘sun’ hidden in the green of the meadows,” explains Dr Mariano Spiezia. “It is characterised by the heliotropism phenomenon that is the ability to follow the light of the sun. Calendula is rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and xanthophyll: they are all antioxidant, having anti free radical activities and therefore anti-ageing properties. Together with glycoside flavonoids and essential oil, they also act as skin healers. Calendula also has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal action. Because of these properties calendula extract is excellent for external use in many inflammatory skin complaints such as dermatitis, acne, spots, burns and cuts, varicose veins, sun burns, acne and rosacea.”

“Coconut oil is a firm favourite of mine,” says Pamela Spence. “It smells delicious and does wonders for your hands and nails. Simply rub it in, taking care to massage extra around your cuticles and then leave to soak in. To customise your coconut cuticle balm, melt the coconut oil in a bain-marie then pour into a clean glass jar. Drop in your essential oils, stir with a chopstick then just pop the lid on once it’s cool and use within six months. Grapefruit and lemon make a wonderfully zingy combination, while blue chamomile and lavender will reduce redness and soothe the skin.”

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