You've probably heard the term "hydrosol" before, but what exactly is it? A hydrosol is the water left behind after extracting an essential oil from a plant through water/steam distillation. Here at Oil + Water, we created a Face Mist that incorporates two hydrosols: rose and witch hazel. In this guide, we'll show you exactly what these floral waters are, how they're made, and how to use them.
WHAT IS A HYDROSOL?
Hydrosols are often referred to as "flower waters." This is because they are produced by distilling fresh flowers, leaves, fruits, and other plant materials. When you distill a plant, either through water or steam distillation, you are left with two end-products: the essential oil, which contains the oil-soluble constituents of the plant, and any condensate water, which contains the water-soluble constituents as well as microscopic droplets of the essential oil. This condensate water is what we call the plant hydrosol.
Not surprisingly, hydrosols and essential oils have similar therapeutic properties. However, hydrosols are much less concentrated. Their scents are much softer and subtler when compared to those of their essential oil counterparts. Due to their high water content, they're also very gentle and can be applied directly to the skin without any sort of dilution.
HOW IS A HYDROSOL MADE?
Most hydrosols are made by steam distillation. In steam distillation, plant material rich in botanical extracts (leaves, buds, etc.) is placed into a steam distillery. The steam distillery is then injected with hot steam, which causes the plants to open up and release their extracts. The steam mixes with the botanicals, forming a hot herbal distillate that then rises to the top of the distillery. Once it reaches the top, the distillate condenses upon contact with the cool roof and the resulting liquid runs down a tube into a completely different chamber.
This is where the essential oil and water is then collected. The oil, which contains the most concentrated amount of oil-soluble extracts, floats to the top and is skimmed off to make the essential oil, while the remaining water is bottled up to produce the hydrosol.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A HYDROSOL?
Not all hydrosols are created equal. There are a lot of companies who manually blend essential oils with water and sell them as false hydrosols. To avoid this, make sure to check the ingredients label every time.
Here's what to look for in a hydrosol:
- Make sure "hydrosol" is listed in the ingredients. A high-quality hydrosol's primary ingredient should be the actual hydrosol, not a mixture of essential oils and water. Look for "___ (plant name) hydrosol, distillate, or hydrolat" in the ingredients list. For example, our Face Mist lists rose hydrosol and witch hazel hydrosol as the very first two ingredients.
- It's okay if there are other ingredients listed in your hydrosol. Many companies like to add additional essential oils and ingredients for their benefits and/or therapeutic effects. In our Face Mist, we also include aloe vera juice, calendula extract, and leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate. Aloe vera and calendula soothe and soften your skin, while the radish root ferment is used as a natural preservative. These are the only additional ingredients in our Face Mist, and all of them are organic and vegan (including the hydrosols).
- No added fragrance or perfume. Hydrosols don't need any added artificial fragrance - they're aromatic on their own.
- Nothing with water as the first ingredient. This is the biggest sign of a poor-quality hydrosol. Either the product was not produced from distillation or the company diluted the product to save money.
- No added colors or dyes. This is completely unnecessary, so make sure to avoid products that list any in their ingredients. Not all hydrosols will have a color, and that's perfectly fine.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON PLANTS USED TO MAKE HYDROSOLS?
There are so many different plants used to make hydrosols, but here are some of the most common ones you'll find on the market. As we mentioned, here at Oil + Water, we use rose and witch hazel hydrosols (listed below) in our Face Mist.
- Rose - You probably already know this one: rosewater. Rosewater is one of the most common hydrosols on the market, as it smells amazing and has some great benefits. Rosewater is a wonderful lightweight moisturizer - it acts as a humectant to draw moisture into the skin and help retain it. It's also mildly astringent and aids in minimizing the appearance of pores while controlling oil production and restoring the skin's pH balance. The hydrating and toning qualities of rosewater make it great for reducing the appearance of wrinkles too, and it has great antioxidant properties that can help prevent future signs of aging. Overall, rosewater is balancing and calming and suitable for all skin types, especially mature, dry, and/or sensitive skin.
- Witch hazel - Witch hazel smells slightly herbaceous and green. The scent can take a little getting used to, but isn't unpleasant. Like rosewater, witch hazel is a gentle astringent and can be used as toner to cleanse the skin, control sebum production, reduce the appearance of pores, and restore the skin's pH balance. It makes a great replacement for alcohol-based toners, which can be harsh and drying. It's naturally anti-inflammatory, which can help calm red or puffy-looking skin. It's incredibly soothing and suitable for all skin types, especially oily or acne-prone skin.
- Lavender - This lovely smelling herb makes a wonderful, light-smelling hydrosol. It's great for cooling and soothing irritated skin (especially from bug bites) and may help improve the appearance of skin that's been damaged by minor cuts and burns. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it's great for reducing redness. And, of course, its natural aroma is extremely relaxing. It's suitable for all skin types, from oily to dry.
- Helichrysum - This hydrosol smells earthy, herbaceous, and somewhat tea-like. It's great for restoring or enhancing the skin's natural health and beauty. Because it's so powerfully rejuvenating and renewing, it's especially great for mature or sensitive skin types.
HOW DO YOU USE A HYDROSOL?
Hydrosols can be used multiple times a day, since they're super gentle on the skin. You can use our Face Mist the same way you would use a hydrosol, since hydrosols are the primary ingredients in it.
Here are a few ways to add a floral water to your beauty routine:
- Use it in combination with a face or body oil to help the oil absorb into the skin. Spritz your skin generously with the hydrosol, then apply the oil while your skin is still damp. This process delivers the same benefits as using a cream or a lotion, only without the additional emulsifiers and preservatives.
- Spritz your face 3 to 4 times a day to replenish your skin. This will keep your skin plump, nourished, hydrated, and looking its absolute best.
- Use it to set your makeup. Spritz some on after your makeup is all done to help it stay in place. A post-makeup misting will also lend a gorgeous dewy finish to your skin and will help your makeup look more natural.
- Spray some hydrosol on a cotton pad to remove your makeup. You can do this prior to cleansing your skin or after cleansing to remove any leftover makeup or residue.
- Use it to balance your skin's pH after cleansing. Most of the water in our homes is neutral or slightly alkaline, whereas the acid mantle of our skin has an optimal pH of 5.5, which is slightly acidic and helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin. A toner is also slightly acidic and can help restore your skin's pH after cleansing or rinsing with tap water.
- Use it in place of water when you mix powdered masks for added benefits. This also allows you to customize your mask, using different hydrosols depending on what your skin needs most at any given time.
Erika Martins is the founder of Oil + Water. Read about her here.
Ariana Palmieri is a green beauty blogger who strives to live as eco-friendly as possible. In July 2015 she started her blog, Greenify-Me, to document her own journey with eco-friendly products, makeup, and the environment. The site features beauty product reviews, natural DIYs, healthy recipes, and more. Her work has also been featured on MindBodyGreen, Motivation Grid, The Penny Hoarder, Antonym Cosmetics, Plant Makeup, Jeannine Morris, Basmati, Beezy Beez, and National Viral.