22 May 2019

5 plants your skincare routine relies on

Meet the skincare heroes growing at Kew Gardens.

By Ellen McHale

 Aloe mitriformis

Plants provide not just the food we eat, but the materials we use in our every day lives. Their delicate fragrances, their sap and even their fibres could be an active ingredient in your daily skincare products. Here are 5 of our hero plants growing in the Gardens. 


There are over 500 species of Aloe.

They have thick waxy leaves and are well-adapted to harsh climates with little rain.

Aloe vera is the most well-known of the species. Originating in the Arabian Peninsula, it's grown around the world as a crop for its colourless jelly-like gel which comes from its leaves. The gel is used to soothe and hydrate skin, and repair skin after sun damage.

See our spiky Aloe jucunda in the Temperate House. Native to Somalia, this endangered succulent is used to treat burns and wounds. 

Aloe jucunda
Aloe jucunda on the Ga'an Libah peninsular, Tomas Maxuch


The coconut (Cocos nucifera) comes from the coconut palm tree which grows throughout the tropics and subtropics, and can survive for 100 years in the wild.

It's probably the most useful tree in the world – its leaves can be woven to make baskets and mats, and its wood is used as a building material, and the nuts provide food, drink, medicine and oil. 

Coconut oil is a common ingredient in body lotions, as it's very moisturising for the skin. 

Check out our coconut palm tree, which is thriving in the Palm House

Coconut palm, Palm House
Coconut palm, Palm House, Solene Dequiret/RBG Kew


Producing masses of beautifully scented flowers, lavender (Lavandula) is a drought tolerant plant that thrives in sunny spots.

Known for its relaxing scent that promotes restful sleep, lavender oil is used in a variety of hand creams, soaps, and shampoos. 

Get a whiff of our beautiful lavender plants in the Queen's Garden.

Lavender, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew


You’ve probably used a loofah sponge to give your skin a deep clean. But did you know that traditionally, loofah sponges were made from a vegetable?

Luffa is a tropical vine belonging to the cucumber family. The fruit is very fibrous when ripe, and once peeled the flesh is made into the sponge. 

Our collection of Luffa are at their peak in autumn in our Waterlily House.

Gourds hanging in the Waterlily House
Gourds hanging in the Waterlily House © RBG Kew


There’s more to the rose than just a pretty face.

Rose is a popular ingredient in skincare, and many different parts of the plant are used. Rose essential oil comes from the flower itself, and rose hip oil is extracted from the small fruits that sit behind the flower. Rose water, a bi-product from rose oil production, is often used as a facial mist or toner.  

Our Rose Garden is currently home to 170 different species and cultivars of roses. Highlights include the bright scarlet Rosa ‘Trumpeter’, and the Rosa ‘Lady of Shallott’, which is a beautiful apricot colour with a fragrant scent. 

Head to the Rose Garden between June and September to see our stunning collection for yourself. 

Peach coloured, yellowy flowers of Rosa 'Crown Princess Margareta'
Rosa 'Crown Princess Margareta', Ellen McHale © RBG Kew
Tulips at the Nash Conservatory

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