Rose water has been used for centuries in natural skin care and beauty products, perfumes, household cleansers, and even in cooking. According to dermatologists, due to its natural antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory abilities, rose water can make a valuable contribution to your skin care and beauty routine.
For example, according to a 2017 systematic review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, studies show rose water uses include cleansing, hydrating and healing dry, inflamed, acne-prone, red or damaged skin. It also makes a great addition to your laundry detergent, as well as a natural room, laundry and body spray.
What Is Rose Water?
Rose water is made by steeping or steam-distilling rose petals in water. It’s considered a byproduct of the manufacturing process of rose essential oil, a process that uses steam distillation to isolate rose’s volatile oils.
While not as concentrated as rose oil, rose water is a solution that contains beneficial compounds found in rose petals. It even has small amount of rose oil.
Usually rose water is made using petals from damask rose plants (Rosa damascena), but it can also be made using cabbage rose plant petals (Rosa centifolia). The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients formal name for distilled rose water is Rosa damascena flower distillate.
Rosa damascena belongs to the Rosaceae family, which has around 200 different types of rose species. Rose plants are naturally rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids, plus a number of vitamins. This is why rose water is considered a gentle astringent, cleanser, skin soother and moisturizer, both for your skin and hair.
The rose plant is considered to be a “holy ancient herb.” Some records show it has a very long history of use, dating back to the Ancient Romans.
Long before commercial perfumes and cleansers were available, rose water was utilized for its sweet floral scent and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s even believed that Cleopatra herself used rose oil and water to help preserve the appearance of her skin and for its aphrodisiac properties.
In Ancient Babylonia, rose oil and water were used in a variety of medicines and rituals. Historically, it’s also been used in India and Iran to add flavor to royal cuisines, as well as for its medicinal qualities, including the ability to soothe pain, infections, abdominal pain, digestive issues, heart issues and menstrual cramps.
1. Has Antioxidant Effects and Fights Free Radical Damage
As a rich source of antioxidants, rose water can help strengthen skin cells and regenerate skin tissue. It’s even a great choice for people with aged or sensitive skin.
Additionally, studies show that rose’s antioxidants give it anti-diabetic, pain-reducing, antiviral, antibacterial and possibly even anti-cancer properties (although these are more apparent in rose oil than rose water).
You may be surprised to learn just how many therapeutic compounds are found in rose petals. These include:
- Geraniol, which has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-cancer effects
- Citronellyl acetate, which gives rose its pleasant flavor and aroma
- Citronellol (also found in citronella)
- Eugenol, a powerful antioxidant that fights oxidative stress
- Methyl eugenol, a natural antiseptic and anesthetic
- Nerol, a natural antibiotic compound
- Citral, which has antimicrobial properties
- Carvone, which acts as a digestive aid
- and others
How can rose water help to reduce signs of aging? Research shows that roses contains antioxidants that fight off free radicals that encourage skin damage and signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles, dark spots, dryness, etc.
By combatting effects of free radicals, rose water may help skin retain its moisture, even texture and tone.
2. Soothes Skin Dryness, Inflammation and Acne
Why is rose water good for your skin? Its ability to fight bacterial infections and soothe inflammation may help those who suffer from acne, dermatitis or rosacea. One 2010 study found that compounds present in rose petals exhibit strong bactericidal activities, even compared to other essential oils.
It can also refresh, soften, brighten and tone skin that has suffered in the past, possibly helping reduce the appearance of dark spots and scars. Other uses include soothing dryness, red skin, razor burns and ingrown hairs.
Using rose water can help prevent your skin from getting too oily or too dry. Simply pour several drops onto a soft cotton pad, and then sweep it over the irritated area of your skin to help with hydration and promote healing.
Finally, it’s been shown to have natural pain-fighting effects, since it works as an analgesic.
3. Fights Infections in the Mouth and Eyes
Because it has antimicrobial effects, rose water is added to some mouthwashes and eye drops. Certain studies have found it can reduce ulcers and sores in the mouth, plus help to treat eye infections, such as pink eye or conjunctivitis.
Its ability to help prevent and treat infections is due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory potential. It may also help ease pain due to infections because it’s a natural analgesic.
Does rose water do anything for bad breath? Because it can strengthen teeth and provide protection against gum infections and bacteria, it can likely help make your breath smell fresher.
4. May Help Fight Dandruff and Nourish Hair
While there hasn’t been much research proving its effectiveness, some claim that rose water makes their hair stronger, shiner and less prone to dandruff. Its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties can also help defend against dermatitis on the scalp and ingrown hairs.
5. Provides Aroma and Taste
Rose water can be used as a fragrance base to make perfume or room spray. Rose oil and water have a very rich floral scent that is both sweet and slightly spicy. The aroma is even said to have calming and natural mood-boosting abilities, making it beneficial for those who deal with anxiety, depression or headaches, according to some research.
While its culinary uses may not be very popular in places such as the U.S., cooking with rose water is common in the Middle East, North Africa and India.
You’ll find rose water in recipes for lamb stew, rice dishes and salads. You may also be familiar with rose water drinks and cocktails, such as spritzers made with Campari, Aperol or sparkling rose.
Other uses of rose water when cooking include making jams, salad dressings, sorbet, cupcakes and fruit-flavored beverages.
Types and Forms
You can buy rose water in many health food stores, beauty supply stores and online. Pure rose water can either be used on its own or mixed with a number of other skin, hair and cleansing ingredients.
According to the Dermatocare website, “Rose water prepared by steam distillation is transparent and has a faint aroma of fresh roses. Rose water that has a strong smell of roses is made by adding rose ark (fragrance) to water rather than steam distillation.”
Because many popular brands contain chemicals in the form of preservatives or additives, there are a few things to look for when buying rose water:
- Ideally, an organic certification
- A product made by steam distillation
- Rose water listed first or high on the ingredient list, not lower on the list (Look for the name Rosa damascena flower distillate. If you see rose hydrolat on the ingredient list, this also indicates that this should be a distilled rose water.)
- An appearance that is transparent
- A faint smell of roses rather than a very strong smell
- An opaque bottle or glass to avoid degradation
You may want to seek out rose water made in Bulgaria’s Kazanlak Valley (also known as the Valley of the Roses), which historically has been one of the world’s most prolific regions for the production of rose oil and rose water. Other places where quality rose products tend to me made today include Turkey, Morocco, India and France.
Pure rose water and rose essential oil can be a bit expensive, which makes sense considering it takes around 10,000 pounds of rose petals to distill just one pound of rose essential oil and a large volume to create concentrated rose water. The best products are 100 percent pure, certified organic and therapeutic grade.
While it’s most convenient to purchase store-bought, you can also make your own at home. Commercially prepared rose water is usually made using distillation, but you can also simply simmer/steep rose petals in water.
DIY Rose Water Recipe:
- Combine 1 cup of firmly packed rose petals with 2 cups of distilled water. Ideally use rose petals that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
- Wash off any dirt, and place petals in a glass bowl. Then cover with two cups of distilled, nearly-boiling water.
- Cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture and transfer into a glass bottle.
- Store in the fridge. Rose water will last one week.
Can you use rose water daily? Yes, as long as you don’t experience any irritation, you can use it every day.
Rose Water vs. Rose Essential Oil
Rose water is different than rose essential oil (which is not to be confused with rosehip oil, another natural skin care ingredient). Like rose water, rose essential oil has been used to help manage health conditions and used in natural beauty treatments for thousands of years.
Some of the conditions that rose oil may help improve include:
- anxiety and depression
- tension headaches
- slow-healing wounds
- a number of conditions tied to inflammation
You can use rose essential oil aromatically by diffusing some in your home or by inhaling the oil directly. It can also be applied topically and has many skin benefits.
However, it’s always a good idea to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba in a 1:1 ratio before applying it topically.
After diluting the oil, perform a small patch test first before using the oil on larger areas. Once you know you don’t have a negative reaction, then you can add a few drops of essential oil to a face serum, warm bath, lotion or body wash.
Can you ingest rose essential oil? No, this oil is not recommended for internal use.
You may also come across “rose absolute” in certain stores. This is a mix of rose absolute (solvent extracted) and a carrier oil like jojoba oil. It has a strong fragrance and can be used like rose water.
If you’re using rose absolute, there is no need for dilution, because it is already diluted.
How to Use and Dosage Info
When it comes to using rose water (and rose oil) in homemade products, it helps to know that rose blends well with other products, oils and fragrances, including:
- apple cider vinegar
- witch hazel
- clary sage
- ylang ylang
How to use on your face:
- If using rose water for acne, try applying a rose water face mist regularly and using this rose water toner recipe. You can make your own rose water toner or astringent by combining a few drops along with other cleansing and toning ingredients, including pure apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. Once you’ve combined your ingredients, blend, and then transfer to a small glass spray bottle. To apply, cleanse the face well, perhaps using a pure cleanser like Castile soap. Then, eyes closed, spray the toner onto the face. You can rub it around if you like or just let it air dry. Finish with your favorite facial moisturizer for dry skin, such as jojoba oil or a little shea butter. Apply makeup as usual, or use before going to bed.
- Another option if you suffer from acne is to dab one drop of pure rose essential oil on blemishes three times a day. Make sure you use a sterile cotton swab. If the antimicrobial power is too much for you, dilute it slightly with some coconut oil.
- You can leave rose water on your face overnight by adding some to your serum. Make your own moisturizer by combining a few drops of coconut oil and rose water with lavender essential oil, then apply to your face. Coconut oil plus rose water also makes a good cleanser or makeup remover.
- Try this DIY recipe for a natural facial mask: Combine pure turmeric and rose water with aloe vera gel, and then let it sit on your skin for about 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water and applying coconut oil. You can also try this turmeric face mask recipe.
How to use on your body:
- If you have dry skin, after showering, spritz rose water from a spray bottle all over your body, and then apply your favorite body lotion.
- Mix up a fragrant rose water spray that you can apply to your skin by combining it with essential oils like lemon or lemongrass oil, orange oil, grapefruit oil, or lavender oil.
- Add several drops of pure rose water to your bath to help hydrate and soothe your skin (plus make it smell good).
- Dealing with headaches? Apply a rose water-soaked compress to your forehead for 45 minutes, or try diffusing rose oil as an alternative.
- Leave your laundry with a pleasant floral smell by adding a few drops to your laundry detergent. (This works best if you use an unscented detergent.)
How to use for hair:
- Simply mix a few drops of rose water into your shampoo and/or conditioner. You can also try this DIY rose water recipe for shiny hair: Add two tablespoons of pure rose water to a cup of water, and then mix with a few drops of jojoba oil and one capsule of vitamin E. Massage into hair, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before you shampoo, condition and style as usual.
How to use in cooking:
Because it works well with both sweet and savory flavors, try pairing rose water with complementary aromatics and spices, such as cardamom, coriander, cumin, saffron, ginger, black pepper and vanilla.
Keep in mind that a little rose water goes a long way, so you only need to use about a teaspoon or so in recipes to get the taste. One way to use rose water at home is by making herbal rose water tea, such as by adding some to saffron, lemon, orange or hibiscus tea (iced or hot).
Risks and Side Effects
While it’s generally well-tolerated and safe, certain people might experience allergic reactions to rose products. This is considered rare.
If you experience any symptoms like burning, redness, hives, etc., then stop using these products. You should tell your doctor if you develop unusual changes in your skin (e.g., turning white, very red, etc.) and this persists after you’ve discontinued use.
Rose oil should also not be used during pregnancy. However, rose water used topically on the skin appears to be safe.
- Rose water is a natural skin and hair solution that is made by distilling rose petals in water.
- Benefits are due to its antibacterial, astringent, hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help hydrate, soothe, clean and protect skin as well as reduce redness, acne, inflammation, rosacea, ulcers and razor burn.
- Rose water is also cleansing and hydrating for your hair, can help clean your mouth, protects against infections, and can be used as a natural perfume.
- The best products are those that are organic, pure, steam distilled and are mostly transparent with a subtle rose smell.