Expert guide to beautiful skin Calendula Skin Care | Calendula herb and Health care blog

Calendula Skin Care

Amanda Ursell

“Edo ergo sum” (I eat, therefore I am), said Hippocrates in the 5th century BC while practising medicine and living on the Greek island of Kos. When it comes to what we put into our bodies, this ancient notion that eating healthily affects the core of our day-to-day existence is now well accepted. And buying organic when affordable and feasible has become a part of this attempt to do the best for our bodies. Even in these credit-crunch times, many households are putting some organic basics into the shopping trolley. If I can’t afford anything else in the organic sector, I do at least try to buy organic milk.

The idea, however, of opting for organic versions of beauty products is still largely the preserve of super-rich celebrities. Elizabeth Hurley and Kylie Minogue are both, apparently, organic beauty devotees. And yet the skin is the largest organ of our bodies and absorbs many of the ingredients from the products we use on it. Given that many of these ingredients, such as chemical detergents and preservatives, are at the very best harsh and at the very worst possibly linked to health problems, it seems odd that we take such a different view on the quality of what we put in to rather than on to our bodies. It was this sentiment that brought me to the conclusion that when possible, I would try to go organic in my skincare regimen. As one of the country’s best-known beauty editors once said to me: “The key, darling, is go organic on your body.” In other words, if you can’t manage to splurge on a head-to-toe organic regimen, then at least treat yourself to an organic body cream that will be used regularly on the largest surface area.

While I’m the first to admit that organic face creams can make even the most pricey high-tech facial products look good value, I know from experience that they can give great results. If all else fails, look for other products with as “clean” a label as possible — see the list of nasties below — for day-to-day facial cleansers, toners and moisturisers, and put some luxurious organic versions on your birthday-present list.

To get an idea of which ones to opt for, here are some top tips that I have selected from Margo Marrone’s new book The Organic Pharmacy. As both a qualified pharmacist and homoeopath, Marrone’s passion for organic beauty products is informed and compelling. She has persuaded me to opt for organic skincare when I can and to be much more selective about the non-organic beauty products that I buy. It’s a great read, which covers everything from detoxing to anti-ageing — and it certainly gives food for thought.

ROSE: the star ingredient

Fresh leaves and flowers are steam-distilled to produce rose water and rose essential oil. It takes 40,000kg (44 tons) of rose petals to make 1kg (2.2lb) of rose oil, making it more expensive than gold.Rose (Rosa damascena) is a mixture of more than 300 compounds, some of which scientists have yet to identify. These compounds give rose countless therapeutic qualities; its most important actions on the body and mind are given in the lists below.


Anti-ageing Roses contain plant pigments called anthocyanins. These are powerful antioxidants that protect the rose plant from “photo damage” by the harmful UV rays in sunlight. Amazingly, anthocyanins can also protect our skin cells when applied topically (as an oil) or taken internally (as a tea). They also strengthen the capillaries in the skin and inhibit the breakdown of elastin, making rose a favourite for anti-ageing treatments.

To reduce redness and broken capillaries Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) is a key ingredient in rose oil. This nutrient aids the circulation and helps to keep the skin free from broken veins and redness.

To heal inflammation Rose contains the flavonoid quercetin, which studies have suggested may prevent swelling. It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols and carotenoids. According to research, quercetin may also block the enzyme that breaks down elastin, helping to keep skin supple and smooth.


To increase fertility As it contains astringent tannins, which can harmonise menstrual flow, rose is a great choice for improving reproductive health in women. Rose also helps to cleanse the body and has been shown to increase sperm count.

To improve mood Rose essential oil is well known for its uplifting action on the mind. While there has been no firm research on this aspect of rose’s activity, the oil’s amazing mood-enhancing effect is thought to be a result of its action on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is linked to the limbic system, which, in turn, is involved with the control of emotions.


Parabens (parahydroxy benoic acid)

Artificial fragrances

Detergents (sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate)

Nitrosamine precursors (these are DEA and TEA, which react with nitrites to become carcinogenic nitrosamines)

Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (quaternium 15, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol)

Propylene glycerol, phthalates


The natural world is packed with herbs and nutrients that effectively accelerate and enhance the processes of repair and regeneration if applied to the skin. They contain antioxidants (studies suggest that if they are applied topically they can reverse skin-ageing), nutrients to reverse the natural slowing of the skin’s ability to repair and renew itself, and herbs that promote good micro-capillary action, which in turn feeds your skin with essential nutrients and oxygen and carries away waste products. The following herbs, applied topically, are essential for an effective anti-ageing regime. Look for creams, oils and serums containing these ingredients and apply them twice a day as part of your daily skin-care programme.

PINE BARK EXTRACT (Pinus maritima)

This protects skin by binding elastin and collagen and preventing their breakdown, so reducing wrinkles. This substance also protects the tiny capillaries and restores good blood circulation, assuring the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the skin, and removing waste.

ALOE VERA (Aloe vera)

The active ingredients in aloe vera are so potent that it has clearly demonstrable healing, anti-inflammatory, cell renewal and moisturising effects on the skin. Always use aloe vera extract of the highest quality.

CALENDULA (Calendula officinalis)

The king of the herbs when it comes to beating back the clock, calendula acts on ageing skin in three main ways. First, at a time when blood supply is diminishing, calendula helps to create new blood vessels in the skin. Second, it is packed full of carotenoid pigments and lutein, the antioxidant effects of which fight free-radical damage. And finally, research indicates that calendula stimulates collagen synthesis and cell regeneration for younger-looking skin.

BILBERRY (Vaccinium myrtillus)

When you eat bilberries, the antioxidant-rich fruit works internally to fight free radicals and improve micro-circulation — and they do exactly the same when applied externally, too!


Contains polyphenols (plant chemicals) that are 20 times stronger than the beneficial plant chemicals found in vitamin E. As a result, when applied to the skin, green tea protects skin cells from damage by free radicals. In addition, xanthines (a group of alkaloids) in green tea act as a potent anti-inflammatory. Good natural pharmacies and skincare boutiques will sell products that contain green tea.

KIGELIA (Kigelia africana)

Studies have suggested kigelia (also known by the delightful name “the African sausage tree”) to be rich in derivatives of caffeic acid, a compound with strong antioxidant properties. Kigelia also has a potent anti-inflammatory action on the skin, helping it to repair itself, and contains hormone-like substances that are responsible for firming the skin.

GOTU KOLA (Centella asiatica)

Gotu kola has many different actions on the skin. First, as an anti-inflammatory, this herb activates collagen synthesis and slows collagen breakdown. Its effect on the micro-circulation helps to improve cell nutrition and detoxification. It rebalances the keratinisation process (the replenishment of keratin in cells) of the top layer of the epidermis so thwarting moisture loss and restoring the skin’s integrity.


Your skin is a living, breathing organ, the largest in the body. As well as affecting the way you look and feel, the skin has several crucial functions. First, it forms a barrier against invading microbes. Second, it allows you to touch and feel. And third, it helps to maintain your body temperature, stores and synthesises vitamin D, provides a system of elimination that allows you to expel toxins through sweat, and absorbs oxygen and other nutrients. In short, your skin is busy!


STEP 1 Cleansing is crucial. Dirt, pollution, grime and make-up mix with the skin’s natural moisturiser, sebum and, if not removed with a cleanser, clogs up the pores, which dulls the skin and can cause spots.

What to use As sebum is oily, the best cleanser is oil-based, and is removed with a face cloth that has been soaked in hand-hot water and wrung out. Oily skin will benefit from this, too, because the procedure helps to remove excess sebum.

When to cleanse The most important time to cleanse is at night. In the morning, use a gentle face wash or milk. Cleansing more than twice a day is unnecessary and may irritate the skin.

STEP 2 Toning This removes the residues of a cleanser. Think of it, however, as your primary moisturiser, giving water and nutrients back to your skin.

What to use Use a toner packed with herbal extracts that repair the skin. Aloe vera and rose are great for all skin types; rose on its own is excellent for dry skin. Use a combination of aloe with a herb such as lavender or calendula for oily skin, and with lemon or gotu kola for combination skin.

When to tone You should tone your skin twice a day, morning and night.

STEP 3 Moisturising protects skin from the elements and increases the water content of the stratum corneum — the uppermost layer of the epidermis — by restoring the lipid barrier of the skin’s cells using beeswax, plant oils or a mineral oil known as petrolatum (although petrolatum can hinder other functions in the skin, such as “breathing”). Other ingredients called humectants, such as glycerin and sorbitol, rehydrate the skin.

What to use You need two kinds of moisturiser. The first is a normal cream-based product that includes lipid restorers and humectants. The second is a face oil or, for those with very oily skin, a gel or serum that contains small amounts of oil. Remember that quality is essential. Look for oils that are cold-pressed, organic and rich in colour — these are all signs of a good oil.

When to moisturise Twice a day. Use your full moisturising cream in the morning with a mineral SPF cream (using zinc oxide) over the top, and the face oil or gel at night.


The younger we are, the quicker the renewal of cells in the epidermis, which is what keeps us looking youthful. A facial every 28 days greatly enhances this cycle of skin-cell regeneration, while gentle massage on the face improves blood-flow to the skin. It also stimulates the movement of lymph, which, unlike the blood, has no pumping action of its own. However, even without a salon facial every month, giving yourself this simple, three-minute facial massage as part of your daily cleansing routine helps to recontour your face, reduce puffiness and give your complexion that all-important glow.

1. With a little cleanser or treatment serum applied to your fingers and palms, beginning at the centre of your brow, swipe outward, moving your hands away from one another toward your ears and then down your neck. Repeat this motion, this time beginning beneath your eyes (fingers either side of your nose), then out toward your ears and down the sides of your neck; and then again, this time beginning beneath your nose at the middle of your top lip.

2. Apply more cleanser or treatment serum as necessary, then using the fingers of both hands, begin at your chin and swipe outward toward your ears and down the sides of your neck.

3. Beginning at your temples, swipe down the sides of your face and down your neck. Then finish by gently sweeping your fingers up your neck and across your cheeks, using superficial tapping movements.

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