A fresh bouquet of flowers can brighten your day, but did you know that some flowers can, among other things, brighten your skin? That's right: pretty blooms can do much more than serve as weeklong desk decor. Flower petals, seed extracts, and oils are popping up in everything from intensive beauty treatments and luxurious spa services to entire skincare lines, and you don't need to be an botanist to incorporate favorites like rose, lavender, and hibiscus into your beauty and relaxation routine.
While botanical-inspired beauty goodies are trendy right now, the use of flowers for their beauty and health benefits is far from a new concept. The calendula, the yellow-orange perennial also known as the pot marigold, was made famous by the Romans and is potent on the skin while packing major anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. Orchid extract is used in the battle against fine lines. The sausage tree, a tree found throughout Southern Africa that produces crimson-hued flowers and fruit that resembles salami, is being researched for its ability to even out hyperpigmentation. The wellness benefits of lavender have been studied for centuries, and some of the earliest research came courtesy of Hildegard Von Bingen, a 12th-century theologian who observed that lavender could be used for sleeping and migraine relief. Then there's Cleopatra, the grand dame of all beauty trends, who is said to have bathed her royal feet in orange flower water and used rose water as a facial toner.
"In Elizabethan England, they believed that roses evened out skin blemishes," says Jennifer Hirsch, a UK-based beauty botanist for The Body Shop and one of the world's leading figures in ethnobotany (AKA, the study of how groups of people use plants within their culture). Hirsch doubts that roses can live up to that task — "roses don't have that kind of chemistry," she says — but they do have their own unique beauty benefits including skin hydration, plumping, and brightening. Roses are in demand for use in beauty products, and The Body Shop has been putting petals in its British Rose Fresh Plumping Mask and Exfoliating Gel Body Scrub since last year, sourcing fresh, organic roses from a British farm for the line.
The blue lotus, a precious water lily dating back to ancient Egypt, is the core ingredient in skincare line Pur-lisse, a collection of rejuvenating products featuring masks, moisturizers, and eye serum. Pur-lisse founder Jennifer Yen developed the idea for the skincare line based on her grandmother's traditions using the flower and white tea. "For beauty, blue lotus is very soothing and super hydrating," says Yen. "It's an antioxidant, so it helps fight free radicals, but overall, it's a beautiful ingredient that works well with other ingredients without overpowering them."
Florist-turned-megafamous perfumer Eric Buterbagh is getting in on the blooms-meets-beauty trend, too. After two decades as a floral artist, he launched the EB Florals perfume line. Now, he's turning the Sultry Rose scent from his unisex line into a series of Smoke & Roses spa treatments available exclusively at the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles. During the Smoke & Roses Body Polish treatment, rose oil is used to tone and revitalize the skin after an exfoliating scrub, while heated rose oil aids in loosening tense muscles during the full-body massage. "When the scent of flowers mixes with your body chemistry, the scent goes a different way," says Buterbagh.
The city of Carlsbad, CA, is taking the blooming beauty trend one step further, with a 10-day celebration of floral wellness. Select hotel spas will offer a slew of botanical-themed renewal treatments and aromatherapy classes during the event, called Petal to Plate, at the end of April. Flowers, specifically hibiscus, will be used in everything from facials to foot scrubs, while aromatherapy classes will teach attendees about the benefits of floral-infused essential oils.
So what's next for the flower-fueled beauty trend? According to Hirsch, chamomile essential oil and extract are poised to become the next hot ingredients thanks to their calming and anti-inflammatory properties. Another ingredient to watch is love-in-a-mist seed oil, another Cleopatra favorite, which is packed with antioxidants. As Hirsch sees it, any interest in plant-based beauty is ultimately a win. "I just want people to be excited by plants," says Hirsch. "I think people forget how closely our lives are tied to them."