Hydrosol, also known as floral, herbal or essential water or hydrolate or herbal distillate (phew!) is a water solution that remains after producing an essential oil in the process of distillation. Hydrosols contain water soluble plant compounds, water-loving acids and approximately .02% essential oil: high acidity (pH 3.6-6.1) means they're antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, while the tiny amount of essential oil imparts a beautiful aroma making it a safer and less irritating alternative to the essential oil itself. Hydrosols can't be obtained by mixing water and essential oil, and the best hydrosols aren't byproducts of essential oil distillation, but are distilled specifically for their therapeutic benefits.
Hydrosols' subtle aroma, astringency and anti-bacterial properties make them an ideal ingredient in facial toners, body and room sprays, bath products and creams. However, being water-based products, they're less stable than oils and usually require a preservative to prevent contamination.
People have been using hydrosols in food, religious ceremonies and healthcare for centuries: rose water or orange flower water are common ingredients in Arab, Mediterranean and French desserts, such as delicious madeleines, marzipan and marshmallows. Sweet treats aside, many natural and organic skincare companies have started using various hydrosols in their formulations for the benefit of our skin.
Let's take a look at some of the most common hydrosols:
Lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia) hydrosol - gentle, soothing and balancing, ideal as toner for all skin types, especially those which are damaged or sunburnt; also great as a compress to relieve stress or headache
Rose (Rosa damascena) hydrosol - again, fabulous toner for all skin types that smells exactly like a rose garden. It's both moisturizing & beneficial for dry or mature skin types, as well as balancing, as it controls sebum production in combination/oily skin types. It's gentle enough to use on troubled skin and works great in facial masks or combined with other hydrosols.
Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) hydrosol - great for cellular regeneration, balancing for both dry and oily skin types, it's also useful for baths. When inhaled, it has a cooling and antidepressant effect and can be also taken internally to regain hormonal balance.
Neroli/ Orange Blossom (Citrus aurantium) hydrosol - smells good enough to drink, like sweet, freshly squeezed oranges :) Neroli hydrosol has uplifting, calming and refreshing properties and, being mildly astringent, is best suited for oily or acneic skin, but gentle enough to use on sensitive skin as well.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) hydrosol - you guessed it, this hydrosol smells like freshly sliced cucumbers with a sweet, melonlike note. Cooling and anti-inflammatory, it's amazing for rashes and irritated skin, and used as an eye compress, relieves puffinnes and redness. As a toner, it firms the delicate facial skin and combats fine lines, and can also be used as a refreshing mist throughout the day to keep skin cool and matte.
Witch Hazel (Hammemelis virginiana) hydrosol - witch hazel distillate is the most common hydrosol and has been sold in the US for over 150 years. However, what is available commercially usually has alcohol added to it for preservation, so read the label carefully before buying (I've seen some witch hazel hydrosol-based toner without alcohol in my local Whole Foods, so you could try there). It has antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and because it has little odor, is also readily used by men. It's wonderful for both teenage skin as well as mature skin since it's packed with antioxidants. Heals blistered or cracked skin, which makes it a wonderful treatment for soothing eczema and psoriasis.
I think my next choice of facial toner will definitely be a hydrosol, but I'm torn between witch hazel and rose... I guess I'll just get both and mix them; that's another fabulous thing about hydrosols, you can mix them together liberally to create your own blend tailored specifically to your skin's needs and taste. Have you ever tried hydrosols or hydrosol-based toners? xxx