Even if you´ve never heard of hydrolates, you probably know rose water and witch hazel water --- probably the most popular of them all. They are very therapuetic, and are a gentler yet more potent replacement for essential oils.
What are hydrolates ?
The essence of plants or flowers in a water base. They are by-products of essential oils, made by distilling plants in spring water. At least, that´s how it started out --- distillers in the west actually threw away the water, till they realised that it could actually be more valuable than the essential oils ! In the orient hydrolates were know since ancient times, and north american Indians traditionally used witch hazel.
Hydrolates are also known as:
Hydrosols, herbal distillates, flower water and herb water.
Difference between hydrolates and essential oils:
- Hydrolates are more gentle and less concentrated than essential oils.
- They are not oily (they are basically water).
- Hydrolates often do contain tiny amounts of essential oil, because the distillation does not manage to get all of the oil out. This means the hydrolate contains both the water-soluble and the non-water soluble chemical constituents of the plant (the essential oils contains only the non-water soluble ones). This makes them much more similar to the original plant than the essential oils.
- They don´t have the intensive aroma of the essential oils. Some of them may not smell like the plant at all.
- The properties of hydrolates are very similar to those of their corresponding essential oils.
How do they work ?
Hydrolates are mildly acidic (their pH is similar to the skin´s own), this makes them anti-bacterial and restores the pH level of the skin. Depending on from which plant they are made of, they have different properties, like antioxidant, healing, antiseptic, astringent, moisturising, and so on. You name it and there is a hydrolate for it.
How to use:
Hydrolates can be used directly on the skin without diluting, and are good even for sensitive skin that doesn´t tolerate essential oils. Here are some ideas, I´m sure you can come up with more:
- On their own, as toners. Toners can be used as light cleansers in the morning, as serums to cure the skin´s problems, to balance the skin´s pH, and to refresh it.
- As ingredients in DIY cosmetics: wholly or partially replacing water. In scrubs, masques, herbal rinses, spritzers, creams, cleansers, shampoos... you name it.
- In food (not all of them though). Rose water adds aroma to many oriental desserts and sweet drinks.
Check whether you are buying the real thing, since some companies produce cheap fake versions by mixing perfumes or essential oils in water. All hydrolates should contain not extra ingreinets (except witch hazel, which is very fragile and contains alcohol as a preservative). So instead of buying hydrosols at your local pharmacy, find a bonafide online store or a health food shop.
Coming soon: which hydrolate for your skin and hair ?