Rosewater is a very useful adjunct to the use of essential oils, particularly in skin treatments and in the care of the eyes. It is obtained from rose petals by distillation. Steam is passed through the mass of rose petals, and collected in a tube which then passes through a cooling tank. The liquid which is obtained when the steam is cooled is rosewater. This is the same processed described under DISTILLATION by which essential oils are most usually extracted, but only minute quantities of Rose oil can be extracted by this method, and commercial production is almost always by the ENFLEURAGE or solvent extraction methods.
Rosewater has soothing, cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a gentle antiseptic, and very mild astringent, all of which makes it useful in skincare. It is often incorporated with natural oils to make creams, both commercially and for home preparation, and can be used alone as a gentle skin toner, or mixed with alcohol and essential oils to make a somewhat more powerful preparation.
In treating the eyes, it is important to remember that essential oils should never be used near them, and where rose is mentioned in many books and herbals, rosewater should be chosen, rather than oil of Rose. Pure rosewater on pads of cotton wool can be placed over the eyes to rest and refresh them, and rosewater is a very good treatment for conjunctivitis. Swab the infected eye with rosewater on cotton wool, and repeat at intervals. Throw each swab away immediately after use and never use the same piece of cotton wool for both eyes, as infection can be passed from one to the other.
Many people love the aroma of roses, and rosewater can be used as a perfume, taking the place of the very expensive essential oil. Rosewater can be safely used on the most sensitive skins, and is the only toner recommended for dry skins. Oily skins are better treated with orange-flower water.