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October 19, 2021
“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”
—— from Gertrude Stein's poem Sacred Emily, 1913
More than just a pretty face with intoxicating smell, roses, the ‘Queen of Flowers’, are one of the most studied and efficacy-proven natural remedy with thousands of years of research behind it. It all started with Ancient Egyptians boiling down roses to make healing salves, and also infusing rose scent in their oils to cleanse and protect the skin against harsh dry desert winds. Rumour has it that Cleopatra even bathed in petal-infused milk, soaked the sails of her ship in rose water so that the breeze would surround her with scent, and filled her home with rose petals whenever Marc Anthony would visit, in the hope that every time he smelt a rose he would think of her.
Whether you like roses or not, the proven benefits of roses simply cannot be denied. Here’s the catch however. Not all roses are created the same. Subject to things like species, origin, extraction method, and formulation, the benefits they provide can be quite different.
Rosa Damascena: The best Rosa Damascena comes from Bulgaria and Turkey and blooms for only a month between May and June. Considered the most powerful species of roses found in skincare. Mostly used in rose oil and rose hydrosol.
Rosa Centifolia: Also known as Rose de Mai or Cabbage Rose, the best Rosa Centifolia is found in Morocco, France, and Egypt. Mostly used in rose hydrosol and rose extracts.
Rosa Rubiginosa & Rosa Canina: While it grows in many countries, Chile and Lesotho produces the best ones. Mostly used as the source of rosehip oil.
Rosa Alba: White rose grown primarily in Bulgaria. Mostly found in rose hydrosol only, as twice as much Rosa Alba is needed to produce the same amount of oil as Rosa Damascena, and is thus extremely rare and only produced on demand.
Roses are found in skincare products in four major forms——(in order of potency) rose oil, rosehip oil, rose hydrosol and rose extracts. While they share mostly the same benefits, some extra distinct qualities can be observed in each category.
Only a few oil producers from Bulgaria and Turkey for Rosa Damascena, and Morocco, France, and Egypt for Rosa Centifolia, have the unique climate and soil conditions with the right air humidity, cloudiness, and rainfall to grow these roses without compromising the correct process for the harvest and processing of rose oil. Combined with the fact that 4-6kg of rose petals are needed to create just 1ml of pure Rose Oil (extracted by distillation), and a bit more for Rose Absolute (extracted by solvent), no wonder why true rose oil, or true rose oil-infused products, are incredibly expensive. In other words, do not trust any products that claim to contain rose oil but are relatively cheap, because they likely do not use real rose oil and would not deliver the same skin benefits.
Brimming with a hundreds of components including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients, rose oil used topically is anti-aging, collagen boosting, rejuvenating, toning, firming, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, detoxifying, and can help reduce acne, pigmentation, scars, and stretch marks. Studies have also shown it to improve eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and help heal wounds.
Remarkably, even the aroma of rose has a direct impact on the skin——a 2011 study conducted in Japan found that inhalation of the scent of rose essential oil decreased the effects of chronic stress on skin, inhibiting transepidermal water loss and the disruption of skin barrier function.
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Unlike rose essential oil, which is derived from rose petals, rosehip oil is distilled from the fruit that is left behind after the rose has bloomed. Rosehip oil usually comes from the Rosa Rubiginosa (also known as Rosa Mosqueta) or Rosa Canina species. It’s a great source of vitamins A, C, D, and E, carotenoids, flavonoids, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants, and therefore is beneficial in promoting cell regeneration and collagen synthesis, smoothing wrinkles and fine lines, strengthening the lipid barrier, inhibiting melanin production, fading pigmentation, reducing redness, acne and inflammation, and soothing eczema and rosacea.
The main attribute that makes Rosa Rubiginosa stand out against Rosa Canina is its Trans-Retinoic Acid content, as this natural active is effective at repairing the skin, accelerating skin renewal, restoring and regenerating scar tissues, as well as fading fine lines, wrinkles and stretch marks.
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Rose hydrosol, also called rosewater or rose flower water, is filled with vitamins, especially vitamin C, and antioxidants such as polyphenols. It also has strong anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Beneficial for all skin types, not only does rose hydrosol calm, hydrate, balance, and fight free radicals, it also helps prevent and treat infections, speed up wound healing, reduce skin redness, and soothe inflammations like eczema and rosacea.
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Rose extract, which also comes from the rose fruit, is rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and vitamins, especially from the rosa canina variety. Studies show that rose extract is effective in finding and scavenging free radicals that can cause cell damage, hydrating skin, reducing redness, soothing inflammations, brightening skin, whilst smoothing wrinkles.
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