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Herbal Cosmetics: A safe and effective approach


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About Author:
Bhuwanchandra Joshi,

Division of Pharmaceutical Science


The concept of beauty and cosmetics is as ancient as mankind and civilization. Women are obsessed with  looking beautiful. So, they use various beauty products that have herbs to look charming and young. Indian herbs and its significance are popular worldwide. An herbal cosmetic have growing demand in the world market and is an invaluable gift of nature. Herbal formulations always have attracted considerable attention because of their good activity and comparatively lesser or nil side effects with synthetic drugs. Herbs and spices have been used in maintaining and enhancing  human beauty.  Indian women have long  used herbs such as Sandalwood and Turmeric for skin care, Henna to color the hair, palms and soles; and natural oils to perfume their bodies. Not too long ago, elaborate herbal beauty treatments were carried out in the royal palaces of India to heighten sensual appeal and maintain general hygiene. The herbal cosmetics manufactured and used commonly for daily purpose include herbal face wash, herbal  conditioner,  herbal  soap,  herbal  shampoo  etc. The industry is now focusing on the growing segment with a vast scope of manifold expansion in coming years. Herbal cosmetics are defined as the beauty products which posses desirable physiological activity such as healing, smoothing appearance, enhancing and conditioning properties because of herbal ingredient. Here we reported the introduction, classification, common herbs used in cosmetics.

Reference Id: PHARMATUTOR-ART-1625

The word cosmetic was derived from the Greek word “kosm tikos” meaning having the power, arrange, skill in decorating.(1) The origin of cosmetics forms a continuous narrative throughout the history of man as they developed. The man in prehistoric times 3000BC used colours for decoration to attract the animals that he wished to hunt and also the man survived attack from the enemy by colouring his skin and adorned his body for protection to provoke fear in an enemy (whether man or animal).(2) The origin of cosmetics were associated with hunting, fighting, religion and superstition and later associated with medicine Herbal Cosmetics, here in after referred as Products, are formulated, using various permissible cosmetic ingredients to form the base in which one or more herbal ingredients are used to provide defined cosmetic benefits only, shall be called as “Herbal Cosmetics”.(3)

Beginning 1990's cosmetic manufacturer adapted a term 'cosmeceuticals' to describe the OTC skin care products that claims therapeutic benefit by addition of plant based active ingredient such as alpha- hydroxy acid, retinoic acid, ascorbic acid and coenzyme Q10.(4) These active ingredients serves many purposes viz. increase in skin elasticity, delay in skin aging by reducing the wrinkles, protection against UV radiation by antioxidant property and to check degradation of collagen respectively.(5)

The skin and hair beauty of individuals depends on the health, habits, routine job, climatic conditions and maintenance. (6) The skin due to excessive exposure to heat will dehydrate during summer and causes wrinkle, freckles, blemishes, pigmentation and sunburns. The extreme winter cause damages to the skin in the form of cracks, cuts, maceration and infections. The skin diseases are common among all age groups and can be due to exposure towards microbes, chemical agents, biological toxin present in the environment, and also to some extend due to malnutrition. (7) The only factor they had to rely on was the knowledge of nature compiled in the ayurveda. The science of ayurveda had utilized many herbs and floras to make cosmetics for beautification and protection from external affects. The natural content in the botanicals does not cause any side effects on the human body; instead enrich the body with nutrients and other useful minerals. (8) The cosmetics, according to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act is defined as articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled or sprayed on, introduced into or otherwise applied to the human body or any part thereof for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance. The cosmetic does not come under the preview of drug license. The herbal cosmetics are the preparations containing phytochemical from a variety of botanical sources, which influences the functions of skin and provide nutrients necessary for the healthy skin or hair. (9) The natural herbs and their products when used for their aromatic value in cosmetic preparation are termed as herbal cosmetics. There is common belief that chemical based cosmetics are harmful to the skin and an increased awareness among consumers for herbal products triggered the demand for natural products and natural extracts in cosmetics preparations. (10) The increased demand for the natural product has created new avenues in cosmeceutical market. The Drug and Cosmetics Act specify that herbs and essential oils used in cosmetics must not claim to penetrate beyond the surface layers of the skin nor should have any therapeutic effect. The legal requirement and the regulatory procedures for herbal cosmetics are same as that for other chemical ingredients used in cosmetic formulations. (11)

The requirements for the basic skin care:
a) Cleansing agent: which remove the dust, dead cells and dirt that chokes the pores on the skin. Some of the common cleansers include vegetable oils like coconut, sesame and palm oil (11)
b) Toners: The toners help to tighten the skin and keep it from being exposed to many of the toxins that are floating in the air or other environmental pollutants. Some of the herbs used as toners are witch hazel, geranium, sage, lemon, ivy burdock and essential oils. (12)
c)  Moisturizing: The moisturizing helps the  skin to become soft and supple. Moisturizing shows a healthy glow and are less prone to aging. Some of the herbal moisturizers include vegetable glycerin, sorbitol, rose water, jojoba oil, aloe vera and iris. (13)

Herbal Cosmetics Can Be Grouped Into Following Major Categories: 
1.Cosmetics for enhancing the appearance of facial skin
2.Cosmetics for hair growth and care
3.Cosmetics for skin care, especially in teenager (acne, pimples and sustaining)
4.Shampoos, soaps, powders and perfumery, etc.
5.Miscellaneous products

Indian Extracts for Herbal Cosmetics: Herbs play a significant role, especially in modem imes, when the damaging effects of food processing and over- medication have assumed alarming proportions. They are now being increasingly cosmetics, foods and teas, as well as alternative medicines. (14) The growing interest in herbs is a part of the movement towards change in life- styles. This movement is based on the belief that the plants have a vast potential for their use as a curative medicine.

Amla (Embilica officinalis): Amla is the name given to the fruit of a small leafy tree (Emblica Officinalis), which grows throughout India and bears an edible fruit. This fruit is highly prized both for its high vitamin C content and for the precious oil, which is extracted from its seeds and pulp and used as a treatment for hair and scalp problems. (15) T is used in eye syndromes, hair loss, and children ailments etc. 

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri): It can be used as a face pack to improve facial complexion. It is used as a hair application to make hair shiny and their beautification. It also removes dandruff and lice in hair. (16) It can also be used to clean jewellery and washing woolen clothes. It is used in Ayurvedic preparations and Herbal Shampoos.



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Shikaka (Acasia cancina): It is a small shrub-like tree, which grows in the warm, dry plain of central India. For centuries the people who have had accessto this tree have used its pod like fruit to clean their hair. It is considered a superior cleanser for "lustrous long hair" and has been reported as "promoting hair growth and preventing dandruff. (17) It also helps in removing dandruff and lice & very effective in removing oil and dirt from hair.

Neem ( Azadirachata indica): "Sarva Roga Nivarini - the curer of all ailments" Neem's role as a wonder drug is stressed as far back as 4500 years ago. Some of its health restoring benefits Effective in skin infection, rashes & pimples, Immunity booster, Anti obesity, Blood purifier for beautiful & healthy skin, Anti diabetic, Anti viral, Dispels intestinal worms and parasites, Malaria, Piles, Hair disorder & Oral disorders. (18)

Reetha Powder (Soap nut): It is used in India as a natural hair and body cleanser. It offers an alternative way of naturally cleansing hair, face and body without Sodium Laureth Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Soap nut powder also makes a great face and body exfoliant. (19) 

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum): Holy basil, called Tulsi in India, is ubiquitous in Hindu tradition. Perhaps its role as a healing herb was instrumental in its "sacred" implication.

Ghritkumar (Aloe vera): is a most ingenious mixture of an antibiotic, an astringent coagulating agent, a pain inhibitor and a growth stimulator (also called a "wound hormone"), whose function is to accelerate the healing of injured surfaces. (20) It is used for pain relief and healing of 'hemorrhoids, applied externally and internally it?s also used for sunburn, scratch and a cleansing purge for the body or skin. It is an aid to growing new tissue and alleviating the advance of skin cancer caused by the sun.

Multani Mitts (Fullers Earth): It is Mother Nature's own baby powder. Clay was one of the earliest substances to be used as a beauty mask to draw oils from the skin, natural moisturizers for hairs, teeth, gums and hair, To remove pimple marks, treating sunburn, helps unclog pores, to cleanse the skin of flakes and dirt. (21)

Indigo: Being blue in color it was used as a bindi / tika (dot) on the forehead and chin. 

Madder Root: Being available in color that suits the lips this was utilized to beautify lips and cheeks. 

Hibiscus Rosa Cynensis (Jaswand or Shoe Flower): With dark color of its own this was used to blacken and maintain hair color. (22) 

Raktachandan: This was another natural component available in attractive color and hence was used as fresh, red bindi / tika (dot) on the forehead. 

Aloe Vera: With the traits that prevent aging and regenerate growth of cells this was used as an essential component to keep oneself fit, protect the skin, prevents and heals skin irritations . (23)

Chandan and Vertiver (Usheer): It was used as scrubs and face packs that were applied on face and whole body to remove dead cells, regenerate growth of new cells and give a young look. 

Haldi (Turmeric): It was used as a face pack along with usheer (vertiver) and also as an antiseptic. (24)

Medicinal Herbs Used In Cosmetics: 
The medicinal herb mentioned in ayurveda by experienced sages basically state that the function of ayurvedic herbs is to purify blood and eliminate vitiated doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) from the body as they are mainly responsible for skin disorders and other diseases. (25) Among the written information on ayurveda like in Charakh Samhita, the sage Charakh stated numerous medicinal plants in Varnya Kashaya. The herbs mentioned can be used to obtain glowing complexion. Various herbs for which description and usage can be foundin ayurvedic inscriptions are chandana, Nagkeshara, Padmak, Khus, Yashtimadhu, Manjistha, Sariva, Payasya, Seta (shweta durva), Lata (shyama durva). (26) There is also the mention of various herbs from Kushthagna Mahakashaya that are effective curatives for skin disorders are Khadira, Abhaya, Amalaki, Haridra, Bhallataka, Saptaparna, Aragvadha, Karavira, Vidanga, Jati. Like the notifications of charakh and other sages, Sushrut said that Eladi Gana contains,- Ela, tagar, kusstha, jatamansi, tvak, dhmamaka, patra, nagkeshar, priyangu, harenuka, vyaghranakha, shukti, stouneyaka, choraka, shriveshta, khus, goggol, sarjarasa, turushka, kundaru, agaru, ushira, devdaru, keshara, and padmakeshara. (30) All these herbs can eliminate toxins from the body, clear the complexion that leads to a glow on the skin and alleviates puritus, kusstha and boils.

Table-1 Skin Types and Their Care









Has even tone, soft, smooth texture, no visible pores or blemishes and no greasy patches or flakyareas.

Pomegranate leaves juice, Herbal Face Pack, Gingili Oil

Chamomile Fennel, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Rose,Sandal Wood, Patchouli.


Low level of sebum and prone to sensitivity. Has aparched look, feels “tight. Chappingand cracking aresigns of extremelydry, dehydrated skin.

AloeVera, Olive Oil, Calendula Comfrey

Chamomile Fennel, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Rose, Sandal Wood Patchouli, Almond, Avocado


Shiny, thick and dull coloured Chronically oily skin has coarse pores and pimples and other embarrassing blemishes. Proneto black heads

AloeVera, Burdock Root chamomile Horse tail, Oat Straw, Thyme, Lavender, Lemon Grass, Liquorice, Rose Buds, Witch Hazel

Bergamot,  Cypress Frankincense Geranium, juniper, Lavender, Lemon, Sage Evening Primrose


Some parts of your face are dryor flaky, while the center part ofyour face, nose, chin, and forehead (called the T- zone) is oily.

Witch Hazel, Menthol, AloeVera, Turmeric, Wheat Germ, Sweet Flag

Citrus Oils, Jasmine Oil, Sandal  Wood Oil

Table 2. Special Skin Problems and Herbal Remedies





Chapped Skin

Roughtexturewhich some times causes the skin to crack

Application ofoils of St.John Wort, Olive Oil or Mashed Avocado after bathing or massaging with warm Olive Oil, Mustard or Coconut Oil half an hour before bathing


Withered Skin

Very  tough  texture, full of wrinkles

Carrot Juicealong with a mixture of egg white and honey


Sallow Skin

Nocolor look,  skin becomes lusterless and shows lack   of vitality

Inclusion of Vitamin Bin diet.


Sensitive Skin

Reactquicklytoboth heat and cold. Sunburns and wind burns occur easily. Skins become dry delicate and prone to allergic reactions.

Use  of  essential  oil of Chamomile, Lavender Neroli, Rose and Sandal Wood Oil.



Pockets of  infection that mani fest as red sores, boils and pimples.

Usageof Red Sanda Wood Oil.



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The Benefits Of Herbs May Include The Following:
1.Enhance physical and mental well- being
2.Strengthen the immune system
4.Aid in sleeping, digestion
5.Increase stamina and reduce fatigue etc.

Herbal products in cosmetics or herb in cosmetics can also be referred as botanical origin products in cosmetics.(31) According to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 cosmetics may be defined as, any substance intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or otherwise applied to human being for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness. Cosmeceuticals are the cosmetic products which contain biologically active principles or ingredients of plant origin having effect on user or they are combination product of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals intended to enhance the health and beauty of skin. (32) Herbal cosmetics are defined as the beauty products which posses desirable physiological activity such as healing, smoothing appearance, enhancing and conditioning properties because of herbal ingredient.

Table 3. List of Plants with cosmetic application for skin care

Scientific Name



Part uses




Sweet flag,


Aromatic, Dusting

powders, Skin lotions





Skin disorders

Allium sativum




Promotes skin healing, Antibacterial





Moisturizer, Sun screen, Emollient





Aromatic,      Dusting






Moisturizer, Skin tonic

Azadiracta indica

Azadiracta indica



Antiseptic, reduce dark spots, Antibacterial




Barkand   leaves

Skin disorders





Skin care, Anti inflammatory, AntisepticCreams.

Centella asiatica




Wound healing, Reduce Stretch marks



Cobras saffron









Zizyphus jujube




Skin Care





Skin Care

Advantages of Herbal Medicine
1.Herbal medicine have long history of use and better patient tolerance as well as acceptance.
2.Medicinal plants have a renewable source, which is our only hope for sustainable supplies of cheaper medicines forthe world growing population.
3.Availability of medicinal plants is not a problem especially in developing countries like India having rich agro- climatic, cultural and ethnic biodiversity.
4.The cultivation and processing of medicinal herbs and herbal products is environmental friendly.
5.Prolong and apparently uneventful use of herbal medicines may offer testimony of their safety and efficacy.
6.Throughout the world, herbal medicine has provided many of the most potent medicines to the vast arsenal of drugs available to modern medical science, both in crude form and as a pure chemical upon which modern medicines are structured.

Limitations Medicines of Herbal
Like any other branch of science and technology, present scenario of herbal medicine has its own limitations arising out of its own technical constituents. The prominent limitations of herbal medicines can be summarized as follow

Dry Treatment Coconut oil Skin
Coconut oil comes from the fruit or seed of the coconut palm tree Cocos nucifera, family Arecaceae. The melting point of coconut oil is 24 to 25 ºC (75-76 ºF) and thus it can be used easily in both liquid or solid forms and is often used in cooking and baking. Coconut oil is excellent as a skin moisturizer and softener. A study shows that extra virgin coconut oil is effective and safe when used as a moisturizer, with absence of adverse reactions. (3) A study found that coconut oil helped prevent protein loss from the wet combing of hair when used for fourteen hours.

Sunflower oil It is the non-volatile oil expressed from sunflower seeds obtained from Helianthus annuus, family Asteraceae. Sunflower oil contains lecithin, tocopherols, carotenoids and waxes. In cosmetics, it has smoothing properties and is considered noncomedogenic. 

Aloe A native of southern Africa, the aloe vera plant has fleshy spiny-toothed leaves and red or yellow flowers. It is an ingredient in many cosmetics because it heals moisturizes, and softens skin. Simply cut one of the aloe vera leaves to easily extract the soothing gel.



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Anti-Aging Treatment
Golden Root

Rhodiola rosea (Roseroot, Aaron's rod), is a plant in the Crassulaceae family that grows in cold regions of the world. The Rhodiola root has long been used in the traditional medical systems in Europe and Asia to increase an organism’s resistance to physicalstress (5), currently; it is widely thought to have antioxidative properties.

It is obtained from the plant Daucus carota belonging to family Apiaceae. .It is a valuable herb since ages as it is rich natural source of Vitamin A along with other essential vitamins. Carrot seed oil is indicated for anti-aging, revitalizing and rejuvenating. As it promotes the formation of new cells and helps in reducing wrinkles. It acts as Natural toner and rejuvenator for the skin.  Ginkgo  Ginkgo comes from the ginkgo tree,

biloba belongs to family Ginkgoaceae, which grows to a huge size. It is best known, as a circulatory tonic, in particular for strengthening the tiny little capillaries to all the organs, but especially to the brain. The capillaries become more flexible and as a result more oxygen is delivered to the brain and eyes (to protect against degenerative eye diseases like macular degeneration), so important as we age. Ginkgo also protects the nervous system and fights oxidation.

Dandruff Treatment
Ayurved has numerous natural medications wherein the most common herbs include Neem, Kapoor (naphthalene), and Henna, Hirda, Behada, and Amalaki, Magic nut, Bringaraj, Rosary Pea, Sweet Flag, Cashmere tree and Mandor.

Henna comes from the plant, Lawsonia inermis family Lythraceae, which contain a dye molecule called Lawsone, which when processed becomes Henna powder. Henna has a natural affinity with the proteins in our hair, making it able to “stain” the colour onto the hair shaft.

Skin Protection
Green Tea

Green tea is tea made solely with the leaves of Camellia sinensis belonging to family Theaceae .Whether applied topically or consumed as a beverage or dietary supplement, green tea is a premiere skin protectant. It protects against direct damage to the cell and moderates inflammation, according to research from the Department of Dermatology, Columbia University, New York. Studies suggest that the catechins in green tea are some 20 times stronger in their antioxidant powers than even vitamin E. Men, women and children need to position this super shield on their side against the ravaging effects of the sun. 

Turmeric, Curcuma longa is a rhizomatous herbacessential oilsus perennial plant of the ginger family Zingiberaceae Turmeric is used in many celebrations of Hindus. Especially in Hindu wedding brides would rub with turmeric on their bodies for glowing look. New born babies also rubbed with turmeric on their forehead for good luck. Traditionally women rub turmeric on their cheeks to produce a natural golden glow.

Hair Care

Amla is obtained from the plant Emblica
Officinalis, Family Euphorbiaceae. Amla is rich in vitamin C, tannins and minerals such as phosphorus, iron and calcium which provides nutrition to hair and also causes darkening of hair.(15) Hibiscus consists of calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B1, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C, used to stimulate thicker    hair growth and prevents premature graying of hair.(16)

Almond oil
The almond oil is obtained from Prunus dulcis. The almond oil basically contains about 78% of this fat. This oil contains very small amounts of super-unsaturated Omega-3 essential fatty acids. It proves to be very nourishing, and softens and strengthens the hair. The almond oil also proves to be a very good cleansing agent. Almond oil has been used for many centuries, even before it's spread as a commercial agro-product.(18)

The knowledge of medicinal plants used by the people of seems to be well known to its culture and tradition. In the present study we identified many plants used by the people to cure dermatological disorders and as cosmetics. Some of the plants were found to have dualuse, both as curative and cosmetic. Further extensive ethanobotanical and ethanopharmacological study may lead to the discovery of  plants and compounds for skin care and cure.

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