Flowers are nature’s gift to man and provide a unique level of botanical energy. They not only delight the senses with their beautiful colours and fragrances, but actually have powerful properties, which help to bring about the ideal harmony of both body and mind. The aromas of many flowers are known to have a calming effect on the mind and help to induce relaxation. During the ancient times, the fragrances of roses, jasmines, lavender, orange flower, etc., were used to treat psychosomatic problems. Actually, flowers provide an ideal defense against environmental stresses and mental stress. In modern cosmetic care, freedom from stress is one of the prime requisites for beauty. Many beauty problems are triggered off by mental stress, like acne and hair loss. The fragrances of flowers help in such stress-related conditions, due to their calming, relaxing and refreshing effect.
In beauty salon treatments in cosmetic products, flowers are used in the form of extracts or essential oils. An essential oil is very different from pressed oils, like sesame seed (til), coconut, olive, almond oils. Essential oils are very complex in nature and constitute the volatile and aromatic part of the plant. They are like the life-force of the plant. Apart from their medicinal properties, essential oils have been valued for their fragrances too. The fragrance of rose, sandalwood, jasmine, lavender and so on is due to their essential oils.
Among the essential oils of the flowers used in beauty, the most common are rose, jasmine, lavender, camomile, marigold, lotus, orange flower (neroli), hibiscus, geranium. One word of warning – essential oils should never be used by themselves. They should be diluted in the right proportions with other pressed oils (like almond, sesame seed (til) or olive oils) and lotions like rose water.
¨ Rose water is one of the best known natural skin toners. Chill some rose water in a bowl. Using cotton wool, wipe the skin with it. Then pat the skin briskly. It helps to keep the skin healthy and youthful and is particularly good during the summer and rainy season.
¨ For oily skin, add 2 to 3 drops of lemon juice to one tablespoon rose water. Dip cotton wool in it and use it to wipe the face. It will help to remove the surface film of oil and stale sweat and leave you with a cool and fresh feeling.
¨ For normal to dry skin, add 2 to 3 drops of glycerin to one tablespoon rose water and apply on the face.
¨ A few drops of rose water can be added to sandalwood paste and applied on pimples, acne or boils, to soothe and cure. It helps to reduce inflammation.
¨ Rose water can also be added to face packs and scrubs. Almond meal (powdered almond) can be used with a little rose water as a facial scrub.
¨ Dip cotton wool pads in rose water and use as eye pads, to remove fatigue and brighten the eyes.
¨ Both hot and cold infusions can be made from hibiscus flowers and leaves, though cold infusions are more common. For hot infusions, the flowers and leaves are added to boiling water and allowed to stand in it for 10 to 12 hours. The infusion is strained and then used as a last rinse after washing the hair. Good for dandruff and related conditions.
¨ For cold infusions, the hibiscus flowers and leaves should be allowed to stand overnight in cold water, in a ratio of one to six. The flowers should be squeezed and the water strained before use. Such infusions can be used to wash the hair and scalp, or applied on the scalp with cotton wool. Infusions, or the juice of the flowers, can be added to henna and applied on the hair. This can be a total hair-food and conditioning treatment.
¨ For marigold (gainda) or calendula flowers, either fresh or dry flowers can be used. In boiling water, add four tablespoons of the flowers. Do not boil. Allow the flowers to be steeped in the hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and cool the water and use it to rinse the hair. It should be used as a final rinse. The cooled water can also be used to wash the face. It has a beneficial effect on oily and pimple-prone skin.
¨ Sunflower oil (pressed oil) can be applied on the face to soothe sunburn.
¨ Add 10 drops of an essential oil, like rose OR lavender OR neroli to 50 ml of carrier oil. Blend in small quantities, so that it does not turn rancid. This makes a good massage oil, leaving the body fragrant. If you wish to blend two oils together, make sure that the total amount of oil is 10 drops to 50 ml carrier oil. Almond or sesame seed (til) oils make good carrier oils for blending with essential oils.
¨ You can use essential oils of rose, orange flower (neroli) or lavender. Essential oils can also be added to rose water, to make a skin tonic. Add 5 drops of the essential oil to 50 ml rose water. Oil of neroli added to rose water can benefit dry and dehydrated skin. Oil of Lavender added to rose water can benefit oily skin. These blends can also be used as fragrance.