28 Jul 2021

Rose water for skin

author Ashley Owen
Rose water is much more than an irresistible perfume. Discover the benefits of rose water for skin and why the ancient Damask rose is the superior species.

The first beauty guru

An ancient staple to beautiful skin, rose water was famously one of Cleopatra’s ‘beauty secrets’. She would bathe in it regularly. She also used its scent to seduce her lover, Roman general Mark Antony.

When Antony visited her home for a feast, she covered everything with rose leaves and petals. Shakespeare even mentions rose water in his play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. On Cleopatra’s trip to visit Antony in Rome, Cleopatra drenches her sails in rose water. They were ’so perfumed that the winds were lovesick with them’.

What is rose water?

The hint is in the name. Rose water is rose-flavoured water made by steam distilling Damask roses. To make one litre of our Organic Damask Rose Water we use roughly 650g of fresh Damask rose petals.

Why Damask, you may be wondering? One of the oldest species of rose, the Damask rose — Rosa damascena — is a highly fragrant and delicate flower, perfect for perfumes and rose water. The Damask rose is a hybrid rose, meaning it was created by breeding two other species, and it cannot be found in the wild.

Though the origins of the Damask rose aren’t crystal clear, it’s believed that the rose was carefully cultivated in Persia (Ancient Iran).

Some sources say that the rose was discovered by the Sasanian Empire in Persia and became a hot trade commodity in the 8th century. It wasn’t until the Persian scientist Avicenna promoted rose water’s beneficial effects on the heart and brain that this special water gained wider attention. It quickly became a profitable source of trade for Persians.(1)

The name itself comes from the French crusader Robert de Brie, who brought the rose back to Europe following the ‘siege of Damascus’ in Syria.


The difference between rose oil and rose water

You may have also heard of rose oil. There are two types of rose oil extraction — rose otto, or ‘attar’, is extracted through steam distillation. Rose absolutes, commonly used in perfumery, are made through solvent extraction.

Legend has it that rose oil was discovered by accident in the late 16th century during a royal Persian wedding. It was a very hot day and the wedding couple noticed that the rose water in the garden canals began separating due to the heat. When they skimmed a bit of the water off the top, they discovered the exquisite essential oil.

While rose oil is prized in perfumery, rose water is the one to look for if you’re interested in skin health.

Whether or not the Damask rose originated from Ancient Iran, as of 2019, Iran supplies 90% of global rose water demand.(12)

Rose water festival

Tens of thousands of tourists travel to the county of Kashan in Iran to witness the rose water making festival, called Golabgiri (literally ‘making rose water’). This festival takes place every year from mid-May to mid-June.

During the festival, Damask roses are at full bloom and ready to pick. This tradition of picking roses and making rose water has been passed down through generations for thousands of years.

The Iranians certainly believe in Damask rose’s health benefits, especially for the most sensitive skin of all. Another tradition of theirs is ‘Gol-Ghaltan’, where they bathe babies in Damask rose petals to keep them healthy and and the mind happy.(2)

Rose water soothes the skin

Rose is overall soothing for the body and has been used as a natural remedy for hundreds of years. In medieval Islamic medical texts, rose water was prescribed for stomach pain, ulcers, liver and mouth diseases, and sore throats.(1)

In the 9th century, Islamic botanist Al-Dinawari noted rose water’s refreshing effects and recommended those with a high temperature to put rose oil to the head to alleviate the fever.(1)

While Iran may be the spiritual home of rose water, its appeal has spread around the world. Many people now consider Bulgaria to be the producer of the world’s finest rose water.

We still study rose oil’s soothing properties today. A 2009 study on rose oil for aromatherapy concluded that applying rose oil to volunteers’ skin led to decrease in breathing rate and subjects overall felt calm, more relaxed, and less alert than the control group.(3)

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