Foraging for beauty: The experts' guide to Mother Nature's top ingredients

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One of the joys of moving back to an area with a countryside is the prospect of foraging again. Okay, that makes me sound like the Bear Grylls of Canterbury when what it really means is I get to go blackberrying again.

Going blackberrying as a child is one of my happy memories. It felt so Enid Blyton posh. Now, however, I’m as likely to mush them up and put them on my face as pop them in my mouth.

There’s something about going back to basics with beauty routines that is so refreshing. And when we try so hard to remove chemicals in our food – not to mention all the wasteful packaging that comes with it – why don’t we do the same with our beauty products?

I mean, what sounds nicer: a nice mask featuring blackberries or roses or a lovely pack of benzoyl peroxide, dihydroxyacetone, and emollient?

If you want to look good naturally, then nature is the way to go. It’s time to release your inner child and get foraging again.

What is foraging?

Ever picked an apple from a tree in the countryside? That’s foraging. Put simply, it’s getting out into Mother Nature and finding ingredients.

There are loads of natural ingredients that have skincare benefits out there. Use them individually or mix and match with other natural sources for a gorgeous organic treat for your face or body.

But don’t forget that unlike supermarket shelves, nature has seasons so you won’t find everything all year round.

And please be careful with what you pick and make sure it is safe, especially if you want to eat it. (Thankfully I’ve developed an allergy to mushrooms – see more unknown symptoms here – so I don’t have to worry about that! But I still found myself in a patch of poison ivy once. No, it wasn’t while foraging. More that we were in the country and I needed a wee. It could have been very nasty if the nature gods hadn’t been watching over me!)

If you do fancy a bit forage for your face, here are the top tips from beauty experts. They’ll tell you what you can forage each season, where to find them (and you’ll be surprise) and how to use them to look naturally beautiful.

Spring

Chickweed

Where: You can find chickweed in shady, moist locations – even your garden.

Benefits: Chickweed contains natural antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to help treat a number of skin issues. It’s brilliant for skin irritation so get it on that menopausal itching.

Dandelion

Where: Dandelions love moist, sunny areas and are easy to find. They’ll vanish in the cold months, mind.

Benefits: Dandelions are strongly alkaline so are great for combating germs, bacteria and fungus. Herbalists often use the juice as a natural detoxifier, or to help treat acne as it is high in vitamin C.

Wild Garlic

Where: I love wild garlic! Look for it near marshland or water drainage ditches.

Benefits: Garlic gets its smell from allicin, which is anti-viral, anti-fungal and antiseptic. It’s often used in products to cleanse the skin and, because it helps remove bacteria, treat acne. It is also rich in vitamin C, which can help boost collagen and reduce to effects of UV exposure.

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Summer

Chanterelle mushrooms

Where: You’ll find them in clusters in mossy coniferous forests, as well as mountainous birch forests.

Benefits: Like a lot of wild fungi, chanterelle mushrooms are packed with vitamin D, which can help prevent skin ageing (cultivated mushrooms are often grown in the dark, so they have very low levels). Chanterelles are also great sources of niacin (vitamin B3), which can help reduce redness, inflammation and irritation.

Blackberries

Where: My favourites can be found in brambles in most woods (or woodland areas. Try by the train track – no, that does not mean jump over the fence or go anywhere near the tracks whatsoever! You often find brambles have been planted near the path, to deter people from doing just that.)

Benefits: As well as tasting yummy, blackberries are rich in antioxidants, which fight free radicals that can speed up your cells’ ageing process. You’ll find it in face masks because of its acne-busting astringent properties, while the high levels of vitamin C helps boost collagen production, making your skin appear more vibrant and healthier.

Hazelnuts

Where: One of my favourite nuts. You’ll find them in moist, lowland soil and under the shade of oak trees.

Benefits: Hazelnuts’ high level of antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamin E can help hydrate the skin and preserve its elasticity. They’re also brilliant to snack on, too – a small palmful of 21 nuts is about right.

Honeysuckle

Where: Who doesn’t want to be called Honeysuckle? This lovely plant can be found growing close to home – check the exterior of the buildings around you.

Benefits: Honeysuckle extract is great for tackling many skincare problems and is often found in products for eczema, acne and rosacea because it is so soothing. Its oil can also strengthen your hair – both the roots and the strands – and is often used in aromatherapy to help treat headaches, open your sinuses and relieve stress.

Autumn

Plums

Where: Plums grow in hedgerows in the wild.

Benefits: With their high concentration of vitamin C, plums help protect your skin and reduce dark spots and hyperpigmentation, which can leave you looking brighter for longer. Its antioxidants will also fight the free radicals generated by pollution, reducing the damage done to the skin over time.

Rosehips

Where: Rosehips are found in residential gardens and parks throughout autumn and winter.

Benefits: Like many natural remedies, rosehips are known for their astringent properties, which means they help to tighten the skin and close the pores. They can also help reduce the effects of the hyperpigmentation that can occur with hormonal changes.

Hawthorn

Where: You’ll find hawthorn in hedgerows, woodland and scrub.

Benefits: Hawthorn berries are found in a wide range of hair products as they're supposed to be amazing for helping stimulate fast hair growth.

Walnuts

Where: If you’re in the south of England, head for the woodlands.

Benefits: Applying walnut products can help protect the skin from free radicals while their roughness means they’re a fantastic exfoliant.

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Winter

Nettles

Where: You no doubt encountered these as a kid – look by rivers, streams and lakes.

Benefits: They sting, but nettles are one of nature’s wonders. Not only are they rich in antioxidants, the leaves are overflowing with vitamins A, C, D, E, F, K and P, plus vitamin B-complexes. It’s also thought nettle leaves can help hair loss and it’s often used to rinse and stimulate the scalp. Meanwhile, nettle tea has long been used to flush the body out and help the skin at the same time. Go get the gardening gloves out!

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What natural remedies have you tried? I’d love to hear. Leave me a comment below!

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