We all know the amazing power of flowers. We bring bouquets to hospitals to help friends get well. We deliver roses to express our love. We fill vases on tables to upgrade a special occasion. Unfailingly, blossoms boost our spirits and sometimes even our health. A 2006 Harvard University study showed that people who had fresh flowers in their home felt less worried and had fewer periods of anxiety or depression.
Flowers can also strengthen your skin. “Many floral extracts have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties,” says Rainer W. Bussmann, Ph.D., head of the William L. Brown Center for Plant Genetic Resources at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Mo. To protect their delicate blooms from harsh elements (like strong sunlight, bugs, and bacteria), flowers have compounds in their petals, leaves, or seeds that help restore and nurture life, says Bussman. And those same compounds can protect your skin. Bring some floral extracts into your life and enjoy flowers year-round. Floral extracts can uplift, soften, and strengthen your skin.
Rose essential oil is one of the most precious in the world: To obtain a single kilogram, it takes three to four tons of roses, says Cindy Angerhofer, director of botanical research for Aveda. Used traditionally as a tonic for improving circulation, rose oil has soothing and antioxidant benefits great for aging skin.
Orchid oil is extracted from cultivated orchids. Often considered the “perfect plant” for the skin, says Min–Wei Christine Lee, M.D., cosmetic dermatologic surgeon in Walnut Creek, Calif., the orchid moisturizes, boosts skin immunity, reduces fine lines, and soothes. It also has skin–fortifying minerals like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. And it’s an antioxidant to boot.
Essential oils are taken from the leaves, not the flowers, of the geranium. Known for its toning, anti–inflammatory, and antimicrobial strengths, geranium can also help relax tight muscles.
The word lavender comes from the Latin word lavar, meaning “to wash.” Long before the antimicrobial properties of lavender were discovered, it was used in solutions for bathing and housecleaning, says Angerhofer. It also works as a calming ingredient in aromatherapy and has deodorizing and soothing effects on the skin.
The seed oil of sunflowers is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, which help repair, calm, and soften the skin. In Native American cultures, sunflower seed oil was often applied to help cure skin woes.