Last Updated on August 7th, 2020
Rose water for acne, hundreds of websites tell us, is the easiest way to get rid of acne and the scars it leaves behind. 🌹💧 But is rose water really a workable treatment for acne?
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Rose water is a mixture of essential oils from rose petals suspended in water. It is a byproduct of distilling rose petals for their concentrated essential oils known as rose attar.
It takes about two metric tons of rose petals to make one kilo of rose attar, or one common ton of rose petals to make a pound of rose attar. Workers pick rose petals and deliver them to a processing shed so they can be crushed before distillation in a huge copper pot. In this still, the petals are covered with water and heated for about two hours. Then a valve is opened to allow steam to escape from the still to be collected in a cooling flask.
The steam carries essential oils of rose and water to the flask. About 20% what arrives in the collection flask is essential oil, and about 80% is water with small amounts of essential oil mixed in. This water is known as rose water. The rose attar is a dark green syrup. As it cools, the green syrup forms white crystals. But the rose water stays liquid at room temperature and can be used in a variety of ways.
Some of the favorite foods of Greece and Turkey are flavored with rose water. Loukoum, also known as Turkish delight, is flavored with rose water. In India and the Arab world, rice is flavored with rose water. 🍚🍷 Rose water is used as a substitute for cooking sherry, vermouth, and wine in the Muslim world, and it is an important ingredient in fruit drinks in Malaysia and Singapore, marzipan in Europe, a French dessert known as a madeleine, and in the cookies and candies popular in the early United States.
Rose water contains a variety of natural bioactive chemicals. Depending on which kinds of roses are harvested, how fully the roses have opened when they are picked, and the length of the distillation process, rose water contains varying amounts of citronellol, geraniol, methyleugenol, linalool, and various kinds of complex sugars.
Does this make rose water helpful for acne? The research we have so far suggests that yes, rose water could be an excellent tool for getting clear skin.
There are two main reasons: first, rose oil, which is present in rose water, can effectively kill acne-causing bacteria, and second, rose water helps reduce inflammation, which is one of the main causes of acne.
One study published in Molecules looked at 10 different essential oils to determine how effectively they could kill Propionibacterium acnes, or p. acnes, the bacteria associated with acne. It found that rose oil was highly effective, killing p. acnes at concentrations as low as 0.25%. Although p. acnes are a natural part of our skin’s bacterial biome, too many can cause a problem, leading to pimples or even cysts, so effective acne treatment often involves killing p. acnes.
Scientists at the Freiburg University Medical Center in Germany discovered that the rose oil component of rose water affects the activity of skin cells known as keratinocytes. These cells produce new skin cells that gradually migrate up to the outermost layer of the skin, protecting it from injury and infection. They can further protect the skin by releasing inflammatory chemicals if they detect an infection. Although this can help curb the infection, it also constricts the pores, leading to more acne.
So how does rose water affect these cells?
Research in mice demonstrates that it actually decreases the immune response of the keratinocytes, reducing inflammation. 🐭 One study found that rose water significantly reduced acute inflammation, but another study found that it could also reduce chronic inflammation. It’s because of this ability to reduce chronic inflammation that we believe rose water could be a powerful tool for treating rosacea.
Rosacea is closely related to acne but often requires very different treatment. Rosacea is an inflammatory condition that causes redness and bumps that look somewhat similar to acne. Because inflammation plays such a vital role in rosacea, many sites advise people with rosacea to avoid essential oils, since they can be irritating and sometimes cause inflammation. 💡 However, rose water actively decreases inflammation, meaning it could be a powerful treatment.
The best way to use rose water for acne is to use as a wash or facial spray. Start by washing your face with your usual cleanser. Rinse off the cleanser with warm water and pat your face dry with a clean towel. If you have a rose water spray, simply hold the container a few inches away from your face and spray several times. If you have non-spray rose water, then place a clean soft washcloth to the opening of the rose water and gently turn the bottle over several times until a small area of the washcloth is soaked. Then close your eyes and place the rose water-soaked washcloth over your face. Let the washcloth sit for 30 seconds to moisten your skin. Then remove the washcloth, wait 15 minutes, and rinse the residue off your skin with warm water and pat dry again.
Rose water can be a useful treatment for dry or sensitive acne-prone skin, but it won’t clear up your acne entirely. 🍃 For a comprehensive acne care program, try Exposed Skin Care.