The History of Rose Water and Rose Oil in Beauty and Skincare
Rose is undoubtedly the most popular flower in the world. During Valentines Day, it’s the favorite flower for lovebirds everywhere - the oh, so romantic gesture of love for your significant other. In all things beauty, things are no different, roses are our skin’s favorite flower!
Roses have been the VIP flowers in skincare and cosmetics for thousands of years now. Way, way back in time, the beautiful and fragrant petals of roses have been used for their healing and beautifying properties. Whether in rose water or oil form, many cultures dating back thousands of years ago have known about the wonders of the prized flower.
Let’s take a look at the lovely roses’ long history in the world of beauty.
Greeks, Romans, and an Egyptian Queen
In Greek and Roman culture, roses were revered as symbols of love and beauty. Roses stood as a symbol for the Greek goddess Aphrodite and her Roman equivalent, Venus. In Greek mythology, rose bushes were said to bloom from the ground through the tears and blood of Aphrodite and her lover, Adonis. But aside from mythology, there may have been more reasons why roses became an emblem of divine beauty and love.
The Romans actually had writings about the healing wonders of natural rose water. Get this, they used rose water as a treatment for over 30 ailments! A Roman naturalist and historian Pliny the Elder described rose as an astringent and wrote that the petals, flowers, and heads of roses have medicinal properties in them.
There was also the Greek physician Dioscorides who used a pomade made by steeping rose petals in oil. Dioscorides wrote about the cooling and astringent properties of roses as well. In some of his writings, he claimed that rose tonic cooked in wine can be used as a treatment for headaches and diseases of the eyes, ears, mouth, and womb.
In cosmetics, roses were a definite favorite. Rose petals, water, and rose extracts were applied as beauty masks, eyeshadow, and rouge. Pliny the Elder also wrote in his Naturalis Historia that powdered rose petals can be used as a deodorant or perfume and burnt rose petals can be used to give a darker tint to eyebrows -eyebrows on fleek!
So the Romans and Greeks knew all along! No wonder Egypt’s beautiful and famous queen, Cleopatra, became a fan of rose water herself. The Egyptian beauty was said to have rose water baths regularly and she washes her face and body with the magical liquid. Shakespeare has written about the queen’s beauty ritual in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ and he even mentioned that Cleopatra’s cedarwood ships bore the scent of rose water. The queen was clearly impressed with the powers of rose water.
An Ancient Egyptian remedy also involves boiling down rose petals to turn them into cosmetic and healing balms. Rose scented oils were used as cleansers that double as protection against dry desert winds too.
A 10th Century Persian alchemist named Avicenna is said to have been the man behind the refined rose water closest to what is used today. During the same century, a new way of distilling rose petals was also developed in Persia. The process made use of two thousand roses to come up with a single gram of the beloved rose oil or rose absolut. Because of the extremely expensive and taxing process of manufacturing rose oil, the product remained an exclusive commodity reserved for the elites.
Rose balms and rose oil became such a profitable trade across empires and by the Middle Ages, the use of rose water continued to spread. It was then used as a handwash before meals and physicians prescribed it for varied ailments and as a supplement to their wealthy patrons. The physicians claimed that the tonic made from roses could strengthen the organs and protect the heart.
The medicinal and beautifying wonders of rose inevitably caught Europe’s attention. Soon enough, rose water ointments, cold creams, toners, and facial cleansers became popular in medieval Europe. Because of rose water’s anti-inflammatory properties, people have started using them as treatments for skin disorders such as eczema and rosacea too.
During this time, pale, light skin was in fashion in Europe. Rose water became a great addition to the white powder they applied as makeup. The medieval version of foundation! Also, since porcelain skin was in, rose oil became more popular as it was believed to be an effective scar remover.
Europe’s finest nobilities were very much into rose products that it became a huge moneymaker. Towards the 1800s, roses were added to all sorts of skincare and cosmetics. From rose lotions, soaps, toners, to face creams, rose products were everywhere!
Rose in Today’s Beauty and Skincare
All thanks to the 10th century-developed extraction process for rose oil, we can still get the benefits of the wonder oil. Although it’s still very much an expensive product since the process hasn’t changed much.
For the practical rose fans, though, there is still the ever-reliable rose water! To this day, it continues to be a safe and super effective hydrating toner for all skin types. It helps get you a clearer and brighter complexion and it also balances the skin’s natural oil production.
Rose water can also help soothe skin irritation, puffiness, and redness because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. There’s a reason why it was revered for its healing properties in the ancient times. If you have skin sensitivity, eczema, and rosacea, rose water can be your best friend! For cuts, burns, and potential scarring, rose products can also be a helping hand for faster healing and scar prevention.
You know our skin loves antioxidants, right? Well, both rose water and rose oil have those too! Antioxidants help protect our cells and ultimately help prevent premature skin aging and wrinkles.
Maybe roses were really blessed by God –the beautiful flower that has been our skin’s most favorite for thousands of years now! If you’re looking to get your skin some rose lovin’, try out Souffle Beauty’s The Balm - Rose Cleansing Balm, The Elixir - Probiotic and Rose Serum, and the Prebiotic & Rose Sheet Mask. After getting a hold of these, you’ll find out yourself the wonders of rose in skincare!