My love affair with rosewater started out as a strictly culinary relationship. I was using it to flavor sweets and drinks, and I became a little obsessed with the smell. I would even say I much prefer it to the taste.
But I was in for a real treat when I discovered how it made my skin glow.
I incorporated this to my routine about 18 months ago, and every time I purchased a new bottle, I learned a little more about what is actually in that bottle! Though I LOVE the smell of Heritage Products’ rosewater and the performance of their fine mister, it's a bit pricey. When I decided to go for the big bottle that they have at my favorite import store, Dual Specialty Store in the East Village, I learned something even more delightful. The counter guy is pretty helpful, and when I asked him if the rosewater they carried by brand 7 Roses was food-grade, he explained to me that it is beyond food-grade; it is cleared for use in religious ceremonies and practices in over four religions, as well as eaten.
7 roses brand still smells good, though slightly different than the Heritage one, and is extremely cost effective. I now decant it into a small bottle with some glycerin, and it makes my skin look red-carpet-level perfect.
What makes this stuff so pure? It's the vaporized essence of roses condensed and collected--a process known to us as distillation. Distillation is also used to produce liquor from fermented substances. Without distillation, we would only have beer and wine!
Using this process is not restricted to roses, though rosewater is one of the most commonly found hydrosols. Heritage Products also makes a gardenia water (great for stress), a lavender water (for sleeping), and a few other scents. These are classified as hydrosols because they are a distilled product. Sometimes, you will see things called flower waters--those are generally essential oils diluted with water, not suitable for use on the skin.
A hydrosol collects the water-soluble compounds of the plant, as well as a small amount of essential oil, which is suspended in the liquid. Flowers are not the only plants that this works for! Many herbalists make hydrosols from various herbs and barks. A great example of this is witch hazel, which is a distillate of the twigs of the witch hazel shrub. Many different types of hydrosols are available for purchase, and they are also surprisingly simple to make.
When we previously discussed how to keep your homemade products fresh, I noted that using distilled water in any aqueous preparations would help to keep bacteria out of your formula. Now, putting it all together, you can use hydrosols in place of plain water in your formulations. MIND BLOWN. The possibilities are endless! My bacne spray, hair refresher and makeup setter (all DIY formulas) just got a hell of a lot more interesting.
So to illustrate how simple it is to make your own hydrosol, I set up my big stock pot with a pyrex measuring cup in the center. You will want to use a high-quality, heat-proof collection vessel; anything else could break from the heat of the pot. I poured roughly 3 cups filtered boiled water around the measuring cup. I tossed in 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary that had been washed, and turned on the heat.
The next step is to take the lid of the stock pot (cleaned) and invert it so that the handle is facing into the pot. If you like, you can unscrew the handle for the process, and then put it back afterwards. Place a few ziplock baggies full of ice on the top, and expect to replace the ice every 7 minutes or so.
While the water is boiling, it is evaporating the chemical compounds in the rosemary into steam particles, which then gather on the cold glass lid as water molecules. They run towards the center and drip into the Pyrex, and that is that!
This process takes about 30 minutes. Just use basic heat precautions and you are golden on this simple DIY.
Hydrosols last longest when refrigerated, and rosemary is a pretty awesome natural antibacterial and anti-fungal, so it is a bit more germ insurance to use in an at-home product. The easiest way to use them is as a facial toner, depending on the herb. I tried this rosemary on my face after oil-cleansing with jojoba oil, and my face felt tight, smooth, and balanced. I used it in my hair and it made it smell like a forest while being smooth and shiny!
If you do not have access to fresh organic herbs, you can actually use dried organic herbs instead. The dried herbs actually are more fragrant than fresh, and you can use significantly less herb to produce a more vibrant-smelling end product. It is also a bit easier to obtain pesticide-free dried herbs and flowers than fresh.
Next on my list will be making a lemon thyme hydrosol. I get bacne, and I usually use ACV diluted with water and crushed lemon thyme to help keep everything clear, especially in the summer. But to be safe, this has to be made frequently to avoid contamination. I think using a distilled thyme water with ACV will have a much longer shelf life as well as be more of a potent dose of the phenols in thyme that combat acne. Plus, I bet it will smell like frigging heaven. Lemon thyme smells more delicate and sweet than French thyme, which is bitter and herbal. French thyme has loads of thymol, a very potent terpene that is present in thyme, rosemary and oregano. Lemon thyme has thymol plus amounts of D-limonene, another antibacterial terpene that is also extremely fragrant of--you guessed it--lemon. The combination is great for acneic skin, and you don’t end up smelling like tomato sauce.
Try using a hydrosol as a base for a clay mask, added to bath water, to spritz on your pillow before bed, or to dampen roots before a hair touch up.
This was so easy to do, and a bit on the fail-proof side. I really recommend this project if you have an hour or so and some organic starting material to spare.