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.June 20, 2022 11:26 am July 28, 2021 10:52 am
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-flavored 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)
"Rose water has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties."
Rose water is high in antioxidants in the form of phenolics. These antioxidant properties help strengthen skin cells, regenerate skin tissue, and fight free radicals, which could damage to the skin and break down collagen.(5)
The freshness of the flower is important here, as fresh flowers have a total phenolic content five times higher than spent flowers. If you want to try making rose water at home, make sure the flowers are fresh so you can reap all its benefits.(4)
Rose water has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties as well. The effects on swelling was proved in one study on swollen rat paws, where Damask rose extract applied to the paw significantly reduced swelling.(5)(6)
If you have eczema or psoriasis, a few drops of rose water applied onto affected area could reduce the redness and swelling. Rose water could also reduce puffy eyes and calm the pain of sunburns.(5)
Maintaining your skin’s natural pH
Our skin has a pH ranging between 4 and 7 in the pH scale, meaning it’s slightly acidic. A pH level just below 5.0 is best for our skin.(7)
There are many factors that can affect the pH level of skin, with cosmetic products such as soaps and skin cleansing products as culprits for significant changes in pH levels.
Even just rinsing the skin with water alone increases the pH level. It can take hours for your skin to recover. In a 2018 scientific review, scientists suggest that cleansing and skin care products with a pH level between 4.0 and 5.0 could help.(8)
Rose water has a pH level of 5.5, which makes it an excellent cleansing product for keeping your skin’s pH level steady.
Rose water for acne
There are no scientific studies on the impact of rose water on acne—yet. Though rose water’s beneficial properties on the skin suggest that it could help fight and prevent acne.
Acne is caused when pores are clogged or blocked and become infected. That’s why unsightly red bumps with pus form. Astringents are commonly used to combat acne. This chemical helps cleanse your skin, tighten pores, and dry out excess oil. Though alcohol-based astringents could dry out your skin and worsen acne.
Rose water is a natural astringent. Cleansing your face with rose water will remove excess oil, dirt, and bacteria that could clog your pores and cause acne.
Rose water’s anti-inflammatory effects may also reduce red, swollen, and painful acne when applied directly. Though there are no studies to back up whether rose water could treat un-inflamed acne.
Antioxidants and acne
There is hope for more rose water and acne studies in the future.
In 2016, a study was conducted to see if free radical oxidation played a role in acne (referred to as acne vulgaris). Scientists applied the antioxidant vitamin E to the skin of seventeen patients with mild-to-moderate acne to test the effects of free radical oxidation.
Free radicals are molecules in the body with an uneven number of electrons. They take electrons from other molecules, causing a chain of damaging chemical reactions and this is what’s called oxidation.
The study concluded that free radical oxidation could contribute to the cause of acne and that more exploration on using topical antioxidants to limit free radicals needs to be conducted.(9)
Although rose water does not contain vitamin E, it does contain other antioxidants that fight free radicals, therefore it is possible that applying rose water to your skin could help with preventing acne.
Rose water is great for the skin in so many ways. It can heal damage, remove oil, hydrate, eliminate bacteria, cleanse, and calm your skin. It’s especially good for those with sensitive skin, as it is delicate and natural.
There are many homemade rose water recipes you could try, and we’ve made a list of a few to get you started.
Rose water beauty recipes
This is a super easy recipe — just pour rose water into a spray bottle and voilà, your very own natural fragrance! You’ll smell just like Egyptian royalty!
It’s also perfect to bring in your carry-on to give your skin moisture. Flight cabins are known for dry air and a spritz of rose water will make your journey restful. Hold the bottle in front of your face (not too close), close your eyes, and spray for a cooling mist.
You could also spray your hair if you’ve got overly oily hair or a dry scalp. As an astringent, rose water can help reduce excess oil.
Mix equal parts rose water with apple cider vinegar, another natural astringent, and spray onto your sunburn to reduce irritation and soothe pain.
A spray bottle of rose water or the above sunburn solution can be used as toner. Dab a little of either onto a cotton ball and apply to your face. This helps balance out pH levels and wipe off any dirt or oil.
For glowing skin, mix together 2 tablespoons of ground oats and 2 tablespoons of rose water, with 1 tablespoon of honey until it becomes a coarse paste. Apply to your skin and scrub gently in small circles. Rinse off with water.
For skin flare ups, try wrapping fabric soaked in rose water around the infected area. The National Eczema Association advises you use a piece of clean cotton clothing or gauze for the wet layer and then dry pyjamas or loose clothing on top of it. You can leave the wrap on for a few hours or overnight before removing it.(10)
How to use rose water
You can apply rose water topically or — as long as it’s food grade and in small amounts — consume it, as its chemical properties will help protect the skin from the inside.
Our Organic Damask Rose Water is 100% pure rose water made from organic Damask roses sustainably grown in Bulgaria.
Remember rose water’s antibacterial properties? In 2008, a study conducting the antimicrobial activity of rose oils from Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, Iran, and China concluded that the Bulgarian oil had the highest activity against all microorganisms.(11)
As a drink, take rose water as a shot or mix a teaspoon with water. Or you could try a refreshing rose cocktail. There are tons of recipes that call for rose water. Surely you won’t be surprised that one is called ‘Persian Love Cake’.
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