Roses have become increasingly popular as an ingredient in skincare, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Legend has it that Cleopatra used to fill her chambers with rose petals before visits from Marc Antony, ensuring that he would think of her every time he smelled one. Cleopatra even soaked her ships’ sails in rose water before traveling to ensure the scent followed her wherever she went!
As a symbol of romance, roses are a staple in most American houses on Valentine’s Day - but roses aren’t just pleasing to the senses. In addition to their delicious and memorable scent, the benefits of roses for skin are immense.
Appearing at least 35 million years ago in the fossil record, roses have a long history of use in medicine and beauty since their domestication. In fact, they were considered so valuable in the 1600s, they were often used as payment and were highly prized by royalty.
Today, there are over 150 distinct species of roses. Not only are rose petals full of antioxidants, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals - they also have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Early Native Americans used roses for medicinal purposes including the treatment of colds, fevers, the flu, burns, cataracts, sore throats, and various stomach upsets. One species of rose, Rosa chinensis, has long been used as an element in Chinese traditional medicine.
Rose hips (the seed pods of the rose plant)contain very high levels of vitamin C, which boosts the immune system, prevents oxidative stress, and helps prevent many heart and blood vessel disorders. During WWII, the British made syrup from rose hip oil that was distributed to children in order to help prevent illness.And, rosehips are still popular sources of vitamin C in supplements and in skincare.
No matter where you look across the world, roses have had multiple applications in many cultures across thousands of years.
Rose essential oil is typically formulated through steam distillation, and the most common type used in skincare is from the Damask rose (scientific name Rosa damascena). Damask roses are so potent with antimicrobial and anti-aging compounds that they are even effective against highly dangerous bacteria like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria that can resist even the strongest of pharmaceutical antibiotics.
This power makes Damask roses excellent for wound healing! It takes tens of thousands of rose petals to produce a single ounce of rose essential oil, which makes it so concentrated that only a few drops are required to see its benefits.
Rosa centifolia is another common variety used in beauty, commonly called the cabbage rose. This variety is high in vitamin C and tannins, offering toning and antioxidant benefits perfect for preventing signs of aging.
You also may see Black Rose, Baby Rose, French Rose and even Alpine rose, although these are more rare. All varieties contain antioxidant and antiaging actives that lend themselves to beautifying skin.
Antioxidants are molecules that prevent free radicals from causing oxidative stress within the body. Oxidative stress is a process through which unstable molecules with an unpaired electron, called free radicals, attempt to steal electrons from other molecules, leaving them fundamentally unbalanced.
If free radicals leave important molecules (like DNA molecules) with an unbalanced structure, the damage can be serious, and can even result in life-threatening diseases, like cancer.
In the skin, free radicals can cause a decrease in the strength of skin’s structure, resulting in premature aging. Thankfully, rose essential oil and rose hip oil both contain high levels of antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and keep us looking young longer.
Rose essential oil acts as a superb emollient to moisturize skin, protecting the skin from moisture loss and preventing free radicals and toxins from entering the skin. The skin’s moisture barrier is a critical part of the immune system, and helps the skin maintain its proper level of nutrients.
If you strip your skin of moisture using harsh cleansers, your skin is likely to start over-producing oil to compensate. Roses can help balance the hydration of skin, which in turn can help prevent excess oil production.
Vitamins A and C are well-known for their necessity in collagen production. Collagen is the structural protein in skin that maintains its firmness and suppleness.
As we age, collagen levels in the skin start to decrease dramatically (causing sagginess, wrinkles, and loss of volume). Vitamin C helps to stimulate skin cells and the production of collagen, resulting in more youthful, revitalized skin.
Vitamin C can also increase the skin’s brightness and tone, help pores appear smaller, and even fade acne scarring. It is worth noting that many people have had great success in using rose hip seed oil to fade hyperpigmentation and sun spots.
Unlike rose essential oil, which is derived from rose petals, rose hip seed oil is derived from the small fruits that appear on rose plants. It is the only natural plant oil that contains retinol, known to be an anti-aging powerhouse!
Rose hip oil is an excellent alternative to retinol treatments, as it is much gentler on the skin, yet still highly effective. Due to its high content of both fatty acids and antioxidants, rose hip oil is fantastic for soothing skin inflammation, including eczema and severe redness.
With consistent use, rose hip oil has also been shown to help with acne scarring (because it inhibits pigmentation), while still maintaining hydration and a firm, youthful appearance. It can also help reduce the appearance of capillaries as it has astringent qualities.
Maintaining proper pH is absolutely essential to healthy skin. Our skin has what is called an “acid mantle,” a thin layer that naturally fights infection and environmental factors. If the skin is too alkaline or too acidic, the skin’s ability to protect itself decreases.
Pollution, environmental toxins, and the sun all play a role in breaking down the skin’s pH balance. Conveniently, the pH of roses is almost identical to that of human skin, making it perfect for adding hydration and anti-inflammatory properties without causing pH imbalances. And in the form of rose water, it can be quickly and easily applied before makeup or other skincare products!
Rose water can also help provide skin with a quick boost of hydration when needed, and can help fight free radicals when used daily.
Roses have several qualities which are ideal for fighting acne. First and foremost, since many types of acne are caused by bacteria within the skin, the antibacterial properties of roses can effectively reduce bacteria while still being gentle to sensitive, damaged skin while the harsh chemicals in common acne treatments can cause sensitive skin to experience unpleasant (and sometimes painful) reactions. Rose water can act as an excellent toner for cleansing acne-prone skin as its proper pH balance will not increase redness or irritation.
The high levels of antioxidants and fatty acids in rose essential oil and rose hip seed oil can also help maintain a proper balance of moisture in the skin, which is absolutely essential to effectively fight acne! The high vitamin C content can also help fade acne scars and prevent new hyperpigmentation from forming.
The scent of roses isn’t just for Valentine’s Day - it can actually provide a year-round mood boost. The scent of rose essential oil has been proven to provide relief from the symptoms of depression and anxiety, and in one medical study even provided burn victims with pain relief.
The aroma of pure roses is so luxurious, it’s difficult not to enjoy! And so the best rose-containing skincare products help boost not only your skin’s health, but your mental health as well. Adding rose-infused products to your skincare routine before bed can help you sleep anxiety-free.
The numerous benefits of Damask rose essential oil and rose hip seed oil make them absolutely ideal as an addition to moisturizers. You can purchase rose essential oil on your own (but be aware that it’s the most expensive essential oil), or you can search for moisturizers and products that already contain rose extracts.
If you’re struggling with acne, rose water is an excellent choice as a skin refresher and antibacterial toner, and you can follow up with a rose essential oil-infused night moisturizer to reap all of its antioxidant and antibacterial benefits. To add an even larger boost of moisture and help fade scarring, add a few drops of rose hip seed oil to your moisturizer before you apply it each night.
If you have dry or sensitive skin, search for a balm containing rose waxes and extracts, as they can help maintain moisture over a longer period of time. Other ingredients that complement rose essential oils include shea butter (which also contains vitamin A, and helps skin produce collagen), and black rose extract which contains high levels of Omega-3s.
While rose essential oil can contribute to a dramatic reduction in premature aging, it’s important to ensure that your skincare routine helps prevent skin damage caused by skin’s number one enemy: the sun.
Cell damage from the sun can cause abnormal cell mutations that result in everything from sun spots and hyperpigmentation to skin cancer. In order to make your rose extract products most effective, be sure to wear at least SPF 30 every day before any type of sun exposure!
In addition, consistent use of skincare products is important. Make sure that you give each product around four to six months to demonstrate its full results. Use products from reputable skincare companies that are transparent about their ingredients.
Full of antioxidants, antibacterial properties, nutrients, and minerals - rose essential oils and extracts are some of the best kept secrets in skincare. These skincare heavy-hitters are so versatile, they can treat everything from acne-prone skin to mature, dry skin with ease. While a rose by any other name will smell just as sweet, rose ingredients will also help keep your skin revitalized, youthful, and glowing.