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What Are Herbal Cosmetics?

By Nicole Etolen
Updated May 21, 2024
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When people hear the term “cosmetics,” they often think of makeup products, but the term also applies to lotions, shampoos, face creams, and any other product designed for external use and used to enhance the features of the user. While some brands of makeup may contain herbal ingredients, herbal cosmetics usually fall in to the other categories of products. Herbal cosmetics typically rely on herbs rather than artificial chemicals to provide intended benefits.

Herbal cosmetics can vary significantly. Some brands may just use a single essential oil to provide fragrance, while others base their entire formulas around herbs. Those who are looking for completely natural products should read ingredients lists very carefully, because even if labels claim to offer herbal blends, products may still contain unwanted chemicals. Cosmetics are not as heavily regulated as medical products designed for external use, so a company can claim to use an herbal formula even if herbs do not make up more than a small percentage of the ingredient list.

Manufacturers use a wide variety of herbs in their herbal cosmetics. Some of the most common include lavender, tea tree oil, and chamomile. These three herbs are generally considered among the safest for the skin when diluted, which may account for their popularity. Lavender and chamomile are popular choices for nighttime lotions and bath products because of their calming properties. Tea tree oil is beneficial to those with a wide variety of skin conditions, and often appears in facial products designed for those with acne.

While some herbal cosmetics may use whole or ground herbs in their formulas, such as by suspending a sprig of lavender in a bath oil so the oil can be infused with the herb's properties, the majority of manufacturers use the essential oils from the plant. These oils are easier to work with and can be added to numerous different types of bases, from lotions to bath salts to oils. The type of essential oil used is one of the factors that determine the price of the product, as certain oils are easier to extract in large amounts and cost much less than others.

One of the benefits of herbal cosmetics is that they are relatively easy to make at home. An herbal hair rinse, for example, requires nothing more than a handful of fresh or dried chamomile, and some distilled water. Taking an herb-infused bath is as easy as adding some herbs to an empty, unused tea bag and placing it in the water. Although herbal cosmetics are typically safe for most users, those with sensitive skin should proceed with caution, as some oils can be irritating. Those with serious skin conditions should talk to their dermatologists before using any new product.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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