Right now, everything in Provence literally seems to glow bluish-purple. The color of soft lavender bushes shimmering against a blue sky… rolling up balmy country days and the soulfulness of summer into one pretty package.
But as I’ve come to realise through talking with both beauty industry experts and lavender farmers, this is much more than just a pretty flower.
It is also one of the most powerful beauty remedies in the plant world, offering relief for problems as varied as sunburns, acne and dandruff.
No wonder the ancient Egyptians and Romans treasured the oil extracted from its leaves and flowers.
This amazing spectrum of lavender’s skin benefits is due to the flower’s complex chemical makeup, which is full of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness.
Even a mere whiff of its fragrance has potent aromatherapy benefits. And authentic, good quality lavender is no subtle, old lady fragrance — it’s a heady scent that rivals bottled perfume.
All of which makes working with lavender flowers and essential oil such a luxurious, sensorially uplifting experience.
Yes, there are some lovely lavender skincare products out there but to me, nothing rivals rolling the buds in your fingers, catching a whiff of the heady aroma and bringing a bit of sunny Provence right into your home.
So, what better souvenir could I get from this lovely land than the recipes of some gorgeous face masks, scrubs and body butters that help harness lavender’s benefits for skin (and hair) in its purest form?
Skin rejuvenating lavender toner
How to: Take a handful of fresh lavender and 100 ml water. Boil the water and then pour in the buds, making sure they are completely submerged.
Cover the bowl and leave the brew to steep for a few hours. Then drain the mixture, pour the water into a clean glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.
After washing your face in the morning, spray a little bit of the toner on a cotton pad and gently wipe your face to instantly refresh the skin.
The science: Lavender’s skin benefits include boosting circulation, thereby increasing blood flow and ensuring that skin cells receive adequate nutrition and oxygen.
Lavender anti-acne remedy
How to: Dab lavender oil onto acne blemishes or skin infections with a cotton swab.
The science: Lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. So, it simultaneously attacks acne-causing bacteria, while reducing swelling and redness.
Lavender burn cure
How to: Pour a few drops of lavender oil onto cotton and apply to burns (including sunburns) for healing sans scars.
The science: Lavender oil’s burn-healing superpowers are responsible for the very birth of modern aromatherapy.
In 1928 a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand. He accidentally applied lavender oil to it and noticed the burn healed much faster than expected.
David then discovered that lavender stimulates new skin cell formation. This reduces scarring and helps burns heal quicker.
Lavender also works as a pain reliever, while the antiseptic action helps reduce infection.
Lavender skin detox sugar scrub
How to: Whisk together ¼ cup each of white and brown sugar, then stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil and then add 1 tablespoon honey, mixing until everything is evenly combined and you have a thick paste.
Transfer the scrub to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.
The science: Another reason behind lavender’s skin benefits is that it contains powerful antioxidants, which counter the effects of environmental pollution.
Lavender purifying face mask
How to: Add 3-5 drops of lavender oil to 1 tablespoon of yogurt and apply to your face for 10-15 minutes; rinse with warm water.
The science: Lavender keeps acne-causing bacteria in check, while increasing cellular rejuvenation. This means you will have fewer acne breakouts and infections if you follow this recipe once a week.
Lavender body butter
How to: Combine ¼ cup cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon flax seed oil, 2 tablespoons grated beeswax and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil; gently heat until melted (in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat).
Stir well and add the lavender essential oil, pour into a clean container and allow to cool completely.
To use, massage into your skin, especially rough spots such as elbows, heels and knees.
The science: This rich body butter heals dry areas, soothe the skin and make it glow-y.
Lavender clarifying scalp and hair mask
How to: Crush ½ cup dry lavender flowers; add ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir well. Then stir in one cup applesauce and one teaspoon sea salt. Apply a thick layer of this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo.
Wrap your head with plastic film and cover with a towel. Relax for 8-10 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo as usual.
The science: Lavender has a gentle clarifying action on the scalp, while also helping to normalize sebum (oil) production and restoring a healthy bounce to hair.
Lavender for relaxation
How to: Put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand — or use a diffuser with lavender oil.
The science: Besides lavender’s skin benefits, it also has a powerful soothing action. The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation. It also lowers also heart rate and blood pressure.