Horsetail for Cosmetics

That brushy looking thing up there is a plant with the common name horsetail.

We're going to be making some shampoo bars around here in a moment that include horsetail, so today we're going to take a look at what the plant can do, why it is both loved and hated, and how to prepare it for use.

Why Horsetail

Horsetail is a fabulous ingredient for makers of cosmetics, but a scourge to some homeowners because the plant is quite invasive.

A neighbour (who hates horsetail with a passion) explained recently how "the roots grow to the very core of the earth and the plant will thereafter forever spread and you will never, ever, ever have a normal lawn again. Ever!"

I checked about the down to the core of the earth thing. The roots go down about 2 meters / 6.56 feet. That's definitely deeper than, say, dandelion roots.

This picture might well be a gardener's worst nightmare: an entire field of horsetail.

What's in Horsetail

Horsetail (INCI: Equisetum Arvense) has a natural content of beneficial components such as calcium, magnesium, saponins, and vitamins A, C, and E, as well as copper and zinc.

But the main component of this plant is silicon – horsetail contains about 10%. The reason for this high content (which I am told is quite unusual for herbs) is because horsetail has the ability to absorb silicon from the soil.

Do not confuse silicon with silicone.

Silicon is the second most abundant naturally occurring element in the earths crust, while silicone is a synthetic substance.

Silicon is one of the likely reasons horsetail has been popular for haircare and has been attributed with the ability to help strengthen and encourage hair growth.

Apart from hair care, horsetail also has a history of use in herbal medicine for numerous skin disorders where it was traditionally applied as a poultice or added to baths to help heal and soothe.

Science has been taking a look at this plant in recent years for its antioxidant activity.

I have been working with horsetail for a couple of years now - mostly for haircare, but have plans of testing it in a few skincare products as well.

Whether you choose to pick and dry your own or purchase dried horsetail, there's still a bit of preparation before it is ready to become an ingredient in a shampoo bar.

Horsetail Prep Session

Now this isn't a huge complicated thing, but there are couple of tools and a little time involved, and if you're anything like me, you like to have all your ingredients ready-to-go when you want to make your products.

The horsetail I used was bought dried and looked like what you see on the left in the picture below.

To get it to look like the (almost perfect) powdery substance you see on the right, you need to grind, then pass the herb through a fine-mesh sieve.

I used one of my dedicated cosmetics coffee-bean-grinders for step one, and a hand-held metal sieve for step 2.

If you make a larger portion than you need and package the powder dry in an airtight container, then you're all set to make a few batches of shampoo bars.

Next up

We make shampoo bars with horsetail!

Fun fact: Despite it's name, horsetail is toxic to horses.

More About Horsetail

A-Vogel on horsetail:
Horsetail as a natural antioxidant:
Science Direct:
Horsetail History of use:


Just Botanicals said…
This is so exciting! When will the shampoos bar blog post? I can’t believe how in synchronized we are :). What surfactants will you use?
LisaLise said…
Hi Just Botanicals - It's coming up in a day or two and you are going to have to wait for the big reveal! :)
Genna said…
What part of horsetail is used? I have horsetail at a relatives home and they want it gone... Obviously not that easy. But I can use it all. Is it the stem, the "branches or leaves?", the root?
LisaLise said…
Hi Genna - the ariel parts are used (leaves and stem above the ground). Best of luck!
leesee said…
I'm trying to find a way to use a natural source of silicon in homemade makeup to achieve a smoothe finish like cosmetic creams with silicone. Do you think this is possible with horsetail powder?
LisaLise said…
Hi Leesee -- My initial thought would be to try and see how it works. I would probably also have a go at making it myself, but it's going to need some serious milling equipment for the powder to become fine enough.