Skin Clearing Gel_thyme and white willow by The Floral Mixtress

This one is for the Earth Mamas – the wood nymphs who like  the smell of leaf litter in their nostrils and the earthen sprites who like the feel of mud between their toes. I say this because this gel has a very distinctive odour. A decidedly unfloral and earthy odour. When I was receiving my nightly tucking in…

**the Big D and I keep quite different hours so the intimacy of pillow talk has been replaced by a nightly tucking in and a jolly good job of it he does too: lying on the bed by me for a chat before pulling the covers to my chin, tucking the duvet cover in around my body, giving me a goodnight kiss and turning out the light. I demand a full service tucking-in and will brook no attempts to skip a step. However, I digress**

..the Big D tentatively sniffed my face and announced that I smelt like our kitchen. I guess our kitchen does sometimes smell like vinegar and bark so that is a fair description.

Acne develops because the inside of your pores doesn’t shed skin properly and your skin produces too much sebum. Dead skin cells and sebum build up in your pores and clog them creating the perfect conditions for P. acnes to proliferate. Your pores become infected and inflamed i.e. you have pimples. In order to treat acne you need to exfoliate inside your pores, reduce sebum production and kill P. acnes. The ingredients in this gel do just that. In order to cure acne you need to regulate your skin cell turnover and sebum production but that is the topic for another post.

This gel was inspired by Lola Zabeth’s Thyme Aloe-Apple Facial Toner. Lola does a 50/50 blend of thyme vinegar and aloe vera – in this recipe I’ve chosen to use orange flower water instead of aloe to help combat the vinegar smell. When I can be bothered dragging my neglected aloe vera plant out of its corner and harvesting some I shall try a version with some aloe vera gel. Aloe is anti-inflammatory so should be jolly useful for treating acne too.

I made my own Thyme Vinegar from some flowering thyme I had growing in a pot on my deck – my instructions for making a fresh flower vinegar (acetract) can be found here.

Fresh Herb Vinegar_Flowering Thyme by The Floral Mixtress

The acidic nature of vinegar creates an environment that inhibits the growth of P. acnes – the bacteria that contributes to acne development. The volatile oil thymol in the thyme is antibacterial and thyme also contains tannins which may help constrict pores and reduce sebum production. So thyme vinegar is a fantastic addition to a skin clearing gel. And I happen to like the smell perhaps in no small part because I made it myself (in the same way children are more interested in eating vegetables they’ve grown).

White Willow Bark contains salicyn, the precursor to salicylic acid, which is a chemical exfoliant and is anti-inflammatory. White Willow Bark is not as effective as pure salicylci acid but it is more natural and more importantly I had some in my “beauty pantry” (to quote Lola Zabeth).

I’ve added some panthenol as it is moisturising and anti-inflammatory.

Note that I am still working on the perfect one person method for incorporating a gum into a formula. I thought I had it figured out when I hit upon using my mini food processor but I found that the gum sprayed up the sides of the bowl due to the air movement when I turned the processor on. I scraped it down and mixed it again but the gel still has some lumps in it. If you can rope someone in to help you you might have more luck with the two person stick blender method below.


  •  76.5% orange flower water
  • 15% thyme vinegar
  • 5% white willow bark extract
  • 2% pro-vitamin B5 (Panthenol)
  • 1% xanthan gum
  • .5% liquid germall plus (Propylene Glycol (and) Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate)


  1. Weigh the all ingredients except the xanthan gum into a glass jug. If you want to make 100g then just use the numbers above, if you’d like to make a different quantity then practice your maths skills by converting the percentages above to decimals (e.g. 15% becomes .15) then multiply the weight of product you would like to make by each decimal to work out how much of each ingredient you need (e.g. if you want to make 150g then to work out how much thyme vinegar to use multiply 150 by .15 = 22.5 g of vinegar). 
  2. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine to recover from the horrible shock of realising you really do need maths in real life. Who knew?! I’d like to go back and tell 15 year old me this.
  3. Mix together and pour into a mini food processor or rope in a friend to hold a stick blender in the jug while you sprinkle over the gum as per # 5.
  4. Weigh out your xanthan gum and turn on the food processor.
  5. Sprinkle the xanthan gum slowly over the surface of the mixture with the processor on, using the chute.
  6. Turn off the food processor and pour the gel through a small funnel into a glass lotion pump or dropper bottle.
  7. Did you notice my fancy labels? I used the Jam Labelizer to create them, printed them out on ordinary printer paper and used a glue stick to fix them to my bottles.

Directions for use

Apply once or twice daily to clean skin. Acne takes six weeks to form so judge the results after six weeks of consistent use. It may help to take before photos and do a pimple count to help you judge whether it is helping you or not.

If you cannot stand the vinegary smell on your face, convince your spotty-backed boyfriend or son that this is just the ticket to give him clear skin. Lavishly apply all over his back once or twice a day and congratulate yourself on your canniness .