Hydrosols, alongside essential oils, have gained a lot of popularity. They’re very useful in skin care, hair care, and health. But what is a hydrosol and what is it used for exactly? Does it have therapeutic effects? These are just a few of the many questions about hydrosols. They certainly have my attention, and now yours too.
In this post, you’ll be reading about:
- Frequently asked questions about these herbal infusions and their properties. Find out what makes them great for skin care and not only. How to use and choose your hydrosol, plus tips on how to make your own floral water.
- Some popular hydrosols and/or floral waters, with their respective beauty benefits.
- Finally, some simple hydrosol-based beauty recipes for skin and hair.
What is a Hydrosol? Most Frequently Asked Questions & DIY Floral Water
In ancient times, plant-infused waters used to be very popular. They were used mainly for beauty purposes or to scent the body. And they were produced almost exclusively for nobility.
In time, due to transportation costs and a short shelf life, floral waters slowly faded. Their place was taken by essential oils, which lasted a lot more.
Nowadays, floral-infused waters have gained some of their popularity back. They’re an important part of Aromatherapy and Hydrotherapy. The latter uses hot or cold baths, steam baths or compresses.
Over the years, I’ve found these byproducts very intriguing. I thought now was the perfect time to share with you everything I know about them. This will, hopefully, help you find new beauty products that work for you.
1) What is a Hydrosol?
Before diving into its benefits and uses, we must first know what a hydrosol is. Here’s a comprehensive hydrosol definition:
A hydrosol is a byproduct of essential oil steam distillation. It’s a plant-infused and condensate water with certain therapeutic properties. The correct term for this product is in fact “hydrolat”.
In France, a hydrosol is an essential oil water infusion. If you find a product that’s made in France and labeled hydrosol, this is what you’ll get. They call the byproduct of steam distillation a hydrolat.
The good part about hydrosols is that they can be produced from non-aromatic plants too. What does this mean? It means that we can obtain/make hydrosols without essential oils.
We can use all sorts of flowers and plants that aren’t usually used for oil extraction. In this category, we have lilac and witch hazel, among others.
A hydrosol is also known as a hydrolate, hydrolat, and floral water. Flower water and distillate water are two more names for the same product.
In the U.S., the term hydrosol refers to pretty much all plant-infused waters. They can be infused with flowers or with other plant parts (roots, leaves, etc.). When someone refers to a hydrosol, we know exactly what they mean.
However, there are a few differences between these terms. This difference comes from the fact that now we have a wide variety of distillate waters. A floral water is a hydrolat but made only from flowers.
Aromatic waters (a.k.a. flavored waters) can be hydrolats, obtained from steam distillation. Or they can be made from an essence.
For example, we can flavor water with citruses. They are usually extracted with the cold press, and have the coumarins removed manually. These constituents cause phototoxicity.
To get Lemon aromatic water, one can use the cold-pressed oil instead of plant material. The steam will infuse the water without turning it into a hydrosol.
In conclusion, you can call any plant-infused water (aromatic or non-aromatic) a hydrolat. If you don’t live in France, you can use the term hydrosol to refer to:
- Floral water,
- Condensate water,
- Even aromatic water.
The hydrosol you’ll be referring to will always be the leftover of steam distillation. When you buy one, you need to make sure that this is how it was made.
2) How is a Hydrosol Produced?
Steam or water distillation gives us two separate products. We have an essential oil and a hydrosol (floral water). This process extracts most of the plant’s nutrients and aromatic oils.
The steam forces the plant glands to open up and collects the oils into a tube. That steam condenses there and turns into hydrosol.
That’s also when the separation begins. The oil molecules separate themselves from the condensed steam. This condensed steam is what we call a hydrosol/hydrolat or floral water.
How do you separate the essential oil from its hydrosol? They usually separate themselves at the base of the pump or funnel where they emerge.
You can store them both in the same recipient and leave them to rest and fully separate. Then, extract the oil on top with a pipette. Or, depending on the steam distiller you use, it may come with a small faucet. You can open it just enough to release the hydrosol.
A very high-quality hydrosol/hydrolat can also be produced by cohobation. Cohobation is an extraction method, also known as double distillation. It involves repeating the distillation of the same plant material until there’s nothing left.
Basically, the resulting condensed water is poured over the plant/flower many times over. This makes the hydrosol very potent. This extraction method, however, needs to be very closely monitored. Cohobation is often used to produce Neroli hydrosol, among others.
Hydrosols don’t mix with fats (carriers or essential oils). They mix only with water, gels or juice.
3) What is the Chemical Composition of a Hydrosol?
What is a hydrosol? Well, now you know what it is, but do you know what it contains? What makes it so sought after? Let’s see.
Many sources say that hydrosols contain traces of essential oil molecules. This is not exactly right because the oils don’t mix with the water and would float.
A hydrosol does contain a small part (0.1 – 2%) of active oil constituents. They can be the same as the ones found in the aromatic oil or they can be different.
The rest of active constituents are different from those found in an essential oil. They are so because they are water-soluble. When extracting essential oils, water-soluble constituents are left behind.
This makes the hydrosol have the same properties as the essential oil. Its therapeutic action is milder though. Because of that, a hydrosol doesn’t have any contraindications or side effects.
A hydrosol may contain oligo-elements and minerals, and acids. Alcohols, phenols, and ketones can also be found in trace amounts.
Hydrosols can also contain furocoumarins, just like some essential oils. This means they cannot be applied to the skin before sun exposure.
Since an essential oil hydrosol or plant hydrosol is water-based, it’s also very sensitive. The risk of mold growth is very high, and so is bacterial contamination. It’s best to spritz the hydrosol to avoid contamination.
This makes it have a small shelf life. If all the storage conditions are proper, you can keep a hydrosol unopened for a year. Once you open the bottle, keep it in the fridge and used within a month.
4) What are the Benefits of Hydrosols?
Hydrosols or floral waters have many benefits. I’ve seen many people asking whether the hydrosol is good for skin or not. The answer is a big yes! Floral waters can:
- Tone the skin by shrinking the blood vessels and pores. This gives the skin a firmer aspect.
- Disinfect and prevent further infections.
- Cleanse the pores and makeup residues.
- Cool and soothe irritated or sunburnt skin.
- Speed up tissue healing.
- Add moisture and shine to the skin.
- Reduce dark under eye circles.
Hydrosols are great for hair care also. They can make it shine and condition it, as well as lend it a nice fragrance.
Some pure and organic floral waters can also be taken internally. They’re usually taken for an improved digestion and gut flora. Or they’re used to stimulate other body functions.
Consumed in excess, however, even hydrosols can cause some problems. Please talk to your doctor before treating yourself internally with hydrosols! He should be able to give you the right dose and the right time of treatment.
Hydrolats make a great compromise for pregnant women, children, and pets. They are gentle and mild and don’t usually cause side effects.
5) What is a Hydrosol Used For?
A hydrosol has many uses. You’ve already seen its benefits and you can probably already imagine many ways in which you would use one.
How do you use a hydrosol? You can use it as it is, sprayed directly on the hair or skin. Or if taken internally, you can mix it with juice or water.
Floral waters don’t need to be diluted. Instead, they can be mixed with one another and create beautifully scented toners.
You can add these aromatic waters to many DIY lotions, serums, and creams. This works great as long as you use a natural emulsifier to bind the water and oils together.
The uses of a hydrosol:
- Nourish and tone the skin.
- Add a glow to the skin.
- Fixate on makeup.
- Remove makeup impurities.
- Soothe sunburns and dry skin.
- Reduce and prevent acne.
- Regulate sebum production.
- Close wounds and speed up healing.
- Reduce pruritus (itching).
- Reduce puffiness around the eyes.
- Refresh your skin and makeup.
- Add luster to hair.
- Scent the body and hair (light summer perfume).
- Improve sleep quality.
- Improve digestion.
- Add scent and flavor to pastries and desserts.
Now you know what a hydrosol is used for, but this list is non-exhaustive, of course. Feel free to get creative and maybe let me know what you came up with. I love hydrosols and I’m always looking for new ways and ideas to use them.
6) How Do You Choose a Hydrosol?
Hydrosols have pretty much the same benefits as their essential oil counterparts. This means you should pick one that suits your skin type and hair needs.
Astringent and anti-inflammatory hydrosols are best for acne and oily skin. Soothing and anti-itching floral waters are great for eczema and burns.
You should also choose your hydrosol for specific needs. If you want to reduce eye puffiness, you can go for Chamomile hydrosol. If you have acne-prone skin, you can always choose Lavender or Tea Tree. As an excellent anti-aging hydrosol, you have Rose.
Check the expiry date of the product and always keep it in the fridge after opening. You have about a month to enjoy the benefits of your hydrosol. In my opinion, that’s plenty of time of daily use.
You can also ask for the GC/MS report of the product. You can check there the production method and if it has any additives or preservatives. The best quality hydrosols must be:
- 100% pure,
If the label or the quality report state more than the water and the plant material, the product is most likely impure.
7) How Do You Make a Hydrosol?
The purest and most powerful hydrosol can be made with a steam distiller. If you don’t have one, you can improvise, just like others did it. Now, there are several ways in which you can make your own hydrosol, with kitchenware.
The simplest one involves boiling/simmering the plant material for a while. You can then strain it and store it in a spray bottle. The resulting water is your hydrosol, but I would call it more an aromatic water.
This method infuses the water with the nutrients and color of the plant. It can also lend it a characteristic scent.
You can make a true hydrosol with a method that’s a bit more complex. The idea here is to create the condensation that the steam needs to turn into hydrolat/hydrosol.
Have you ever wondered if Rosewater is a hydrosol or not? Well, the answer is yes, rose water is a hydrosol, a hydrolat, and a floral water. It depends on how you make it.
If you want to learn how to make a hydrosol of your own, you can follow the steps in this video here:
This video shows you how to make Rose hydrosol, which is the most popular. But you can make any type of floral water or hydrolat you wish.
You’ll need a wok-like pan and a small bowl to set into the center. The plant material will go into the water around the small bowl. You will then place another small bowl on the bottom of the central one and put the lid on too.
The lid has to be upside down. On top of it, you’ll put some ice cubes that will create the condensation. The hydrosol thus created will drip into the small bowl placed inside the pot.
Your hydrosol will be more or less scented, depending on the plant or flower used. A good quality hydrolat uses equal parts of water and plant material.
Some French sources mention an unwritten rule of “1 to 1” or 50/50. This refers to using equal parts of plant material and water and can apply to any amount.
Popular Hydrosols and Floral Waters, and Their Beauty Benefits
Hydrolats are slightly acidic, which means they can balance your skin’s pH. The hydrosol itself has a 5 – 6 pH. This makes it a great toner for the skin and gives it antibacterial properties too.
Next, you’ll find details about some of the most popular hydrosols or floral water to use for skin and hair benefits.
1) Witch Hazel Hydrosol/Floral Water
- Great for oily and combination skin types and heavy legs (poor leg circulation).
- It has astringent and anti-itch effects, and can also improve the circulation.
2) Roman Chamomile Hydrosol/Floral Water
- Great for all ages, including babies.
- Use it for baby insomnia, eye infections, and even hair loss.
- It has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. It can also soothe sensitive skin and relax the nervous system.
3) Rose Hydrosol/Floral Water
- It is especially useful for mature skin types.
- The hydrosol is antioxidant and can help with aging signs.
- Rose is very soothing and smells incredibly sweet and floral. You can use it as a perfume too.
- Calming for sensitive skin.
4) Tea Tree Hydrosol/Floral Water
- It’s a great antibacterial water.
- Perfect for problematic skin and infections (acne, athlete’s foot, etc.).
- It can improve circulation and uplift the mood.
5) Neroli (Orange Blossom) Hydrosol/Floral Water
- Excellent tonic for the mind and body.
- Neroli improves anxiety and depression, eases emotional shocks, etc.
- Great for skin and hair care. It has stimulant properties.
- Smells very fresh and uplifting and can be worn as perfume.
- It can also help ease addiction symptoms.
6) Lavender Hydrosol/Floral Water
- Another excellent anti-anxiety and stress ingredient.
- It can also help with sleep problems.
- Lavender is very soothing and calming and can be used for all sorts of skin inflammations.
- It’s anti-inflammatory and sedating.
- On top of it all, Lavender hydrosol can also repel some insects.
There are lots of other different floral waters and hydrosols. You can find many of them online or in natural products stores. But there are also many other hydrosols that can be made at home.
Like I said earlier, you can make a hydrolat from any type of plant/flower. You can do that without extracting essential oils too.
Recipe Ideas for Skin and Hair Care
Natural Hydrosol-Based Toner for Oily/Combination Skin
- Tea Tree hydrosol: 1 Oz (30 ml)
- Witch Hazel hydrosol: 1 Oz (30 ml)
- Rose hydrosol: ½ Oz (15ml)
- Spray bottle
Mix these waters together and spray onto a clean, damp skin and neck. You can also spray onto a cotton pad and wipe the skin clean. For morning and nighttime use.
Soothing Hydrosol Recipe for Sunburns
- Aloe Vera gel: ½ Oz (15ml)
- Lavender hydrosol: 1 Oz (30ml)
- Neroli hydrosol: 1 Oz (30ml)
Spritz this mixture on the sunburn and avoid further sun exposure.
Anti-Aging Hydrosol Toner
- Rose hydrosol: 1 Oz (30ml)
- Roman Chamomile hydrosol: ½ Oz (15ml)
- Rose Geranium hydrosol: 1 Oz (30ml)
Spritz it all over the face after removing makeup or to fixate/refresh it.
Here we are, at the end of this guide in which I addressed many common questions about hydrosols. What is a hydrosol? It’s a steam-distilled by-product of essential oil extraction. It’s a water-infused therapeutic beauty product. It’s a very gentle and pleasant ingredient to use on ourselves, kids, and pets.
Are you currently using any hydrosol? Have you ever made one yourself, and if so, do you have any tips for us? I’m looking forward to reading your comments, so don’t be shy. Tell me more about your experience with water-infused botanicals.