Monday, March 8, 2010


Hydrosols are defined as "an aqueous solution or colloidal suspension of essential oils, usually obtained by steam distillation from aromatic plants". They are also called floral waters, hydrolates, herbal waters, or essential waters. They contain the water soluble molecules from the plant material, and generally have a pH of 5 to 6, which is perfect for skin care products!

The key to the hydrosols is the phrase "water soluble molecules", meaning anything oil soluble - like the phytosterols - are likely not found in the hydrosol. When you are buying a hydrosol, ensure it is an actual distillation not a combination of water and the essential oil of the plant (I've seen some that are water, emulsifier, and essential oil, so check the INCI or ingredient list carefully). They may be preserved or unpreserved - again, check this before buying the product. (The Herbarie notes their hydrosols are preserved with Cosmocil CQ, which may not work when introduced into an anionic environment - like a facial cleanser - so make sure you preserve these well! I couldn't find information on the hydrosols I get from Voyageur.)

How much hydrosol should you use? This is a very hard question to answer. Few suppliers have good information on their sites, but you can use most of them at 100% in a toner or linen water. (Always check with your supplier for suggested usage rates!) I like to use them at about 20% or so in my toners and liquid creations - this seems to be a nice level for getting the active ingredients and scents. You'll have to play with your hydrosols to see what you like.

Chamomile hydrosol - Like chamomile extract, it is known to offer great anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing properties. It offers good anti-irritancy qualities as well.

Clary sage hydrosol - Clary sage is good for oily skin and hair, and can benefit those with acne or dandruff. It can create a mucilaginous film that offers extra moisturizing and soothing.

Honeysuckle hydrosol - Like honeysuckle extract, it is a great anti-inflammatory ingredient, one of the best, with great free radical scavenging and chelating abilities. It offers good during and after sun exposure qualities and anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Good for acne prone skin, or those with reddened or irritated skin.

Lavender hydrosol - Lavender is good for soothing weather chapped or damaged skin. It offers cooling and soothing, and some anti-irritancy properties. Good for oily, dry, or mature skin - in short, everyone's skin!

Melissa hydrosol - Also known as lemon balm, it is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It can be considered astringent, so dry skin types might not like it.

Orange flower or orange blossom (neroli) hydrosol - Filled with all kinds of astringent goodies, this is a great hydrosol for oily skin, not so great for dry skin. It can reduce redness and inflammation, and helps control sebum production.

Peppermint hydrosol - Peppermint offers a lovely cooling sensation and is great in summer or foot related products. It can increase circulation, act as a mild anti-septic and astringent, and can help with itching, although you want to keep it away from open wounds.

Rose hydrosol - Good for all skin types, it offers anti-bacterial properties and may help control sebum. It also smells really lovely.

Rosemary hydrosol - Like rosemary extract, the hydrosol offers all the wonderful water soluble polyphenols, and is good for oily skin. The ursolic acid creates a light film on your skin or hair, offering extra moisturizing. (Click on the rosemary extract links for more information!)

Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with hydrosols and extracts!


andreja said...

What do you think about the use of a tea (lets say chamomile tea)in lotion)? I know that it can't give as much goodness as hydrosols, but can it hurt?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm definitely against the use of a tea in a lotion for two reasons. I would guess a nice tea made from herbal tea bags or green tea would be chock full of good things, but you can't guarantee the levels of various polyphenols and other things, for one.

The second reason is preservation. I've tried this experiment myself. Brew up a pot of tea (herbal tea of any sort) and leave it out on the counter. Now check it every day. It won't take long for ick to grow in it. Even in the fridge, you'll find some ick in there. You'll have some little bits of the tea in there somewhere, and that's hard to preserve. It's hard to compensate for those little pieces we can't see when we are preserving lotions.

The hydrosols tend to be preserved by the manufacturer or supplier, and they have the know-how and the testing facilities to ensure these things stay good for a long time. We can't do that at home.

A note: I know some people are really good at making infusions and the like. They know who they are and have spent a great deal of time figuring this all out. For those of us who aren't willing to spend countless hours perfecting this art, it's a bad idea to try.

andreja said...

Thanks! Makes sense. I guess I will have to wait and order me some hydrosols. :-)

More Cowbell said...

Yikes. Now I've got that 3 gallons of hydrosol coming, I'm going to either have to figure out the best preservative to use immediately - Geoguard Ultra? - or watch it die on me.

Or I could ad alcohol.

More Cowbell said...

Well, nertz! Where did my maniacal laughter go?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi More Cowbell! You can use any of the different preservatives in your witch hazel, but I wouldn't use alcohol! It can be very drying on your skin! Personally, I'd go with liquid Germall Plus or Germaben II, but you can use any of them but Phenonip and I think Optiphen (Optiphen ND, would work).

Pam said...

Susan I was just reading about hydrosols on From Nature with Love's website and they recommended at 2% of high proof vodka. Your thoughts?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Pam. I looked at their website and they suggest adding 2% vodka as a preservative to their unpreserved hydrosols. That's a terrible idea. 2% alcohol isn't going to do anything for preserving hydrosols. 20% might, but then you have a hydrosol with 20% alcohol that can be very drying.

If you buy an unpreserved hydrosol, adding a preservative is the only logical thing to do unless you're going to use it all in one day. I bought some unpreserved aloe vera (didn't realize it was unpreserved) and it went bad on me in about a week. I noticed some browning in the container, and there I found a giant floating mass of browny-greeny sludge in the bottom of the jug. It was disgusting!

Use any preservative that works for water based produts - I'd use 0.5% liquid Germall Plus - in a hydrosol.

Anonymous said...

Hey Susan,

I saw this on a website in regards to their powder extract:

Method of Extraction:
Hydro-alcoholic extraction of the macerated dried roots.

Extraction Solvent:
60 % v/v Grain alcohol.

Is grain alcohol used a lot in the process of extraction? Thanks.

La Nedeia said...

Dear Susan,

What would be the preservative to use with a floral water for a mouthwash? I'm thinking to add a few drops of EO (peppermint, tea tree), but I have no idea what preservative should I use for this situation... Any thoughts?


p.s. also fora toothpaste, I was wondering if the same preservative can be used

Goya & Fig said...

Hello Susan!
I went to use some of my Blackcurrent hydrosol today (which I keep in the fridge and opened 3 months ago) to find that it had growth in the bottom of the bottle. Aroma-Zone's site says that, kept in the fridge and used within 6 months, the HS are fine to use. Obviously not. THat bottle went in the garbage, but to ensure my next HS's remain contaminant-free, I will be adding 0.5% LG+. My question for you, O Knowledgeable One, is this. If the HS I use already has a preservative, and I use, say 30% of it in a face cream, shoudl I still use 0.5% LG+ in the cream, I should I decrease the amount, seeing as the preservative in the hydrosol is including in the overall composition?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Goya & Fig! Great question. I'm using it in today's Weekday Wonderings. The short answer is no, don't worry about it. The long answer is in the post!

Melanie said...

Do you really think hydrosols are worth the expense? It would be one thing if you were using 1-2% but at 20% or more that is a really expensive product! Hydrosols are so expensive! Wouldn't we be just as well off using water, aloe vera and some extracts? For scent a nice fragrance oil? All those can be used at much less expense. I love my products but I don't want a $20 bottle of shampoo!

Ivona said...

Hi Susan!
I want to ask you what do you think about those hydrosols that have no preservatives, but the manufacturer/distributor says that they use no preservative because they micro-filtrate the flower water at 0.2 microns? I was wondering if making a toner (for example) using different hydrosols that are micro-filtered like this would be possible without using a preservative?..and of course last for as long as the producer says on the hydrosol bottle..

Anonymous said...

I've used unpreserved hydrosols for years, some not even stored in the fridge, and have never had a problem with them turning. (Oh except for some frankincense that I had in the humid bathroom...)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

What were the results of your challenge tests?

Susan M. said...

Hi Susan,
Reading your post on Hydrosols, I thought that I would check mine to make sure they had a preservative in them. I have several from Voyageur (they call them Floral Water) and the INCI on the website is for example Chamomile INCI: Anthemis nobilis flower water, similar to what you noted for Lavender Floral Water. So I send them an email to inquire about whether or not a preservative was in their Floral Water. The response was interesting: "The floral waters are a combination of essential oil, peg 40 castor oil and distilled water it is different from a hydrosol. Also we do include a small amount of preservative to extend shelf life. With our formulation you will get approximately 12-18 month shelf life with proper storage out of direct sunlight and in a temperature regulated area." I have been using their Floral Waters interchangeable in recipes that call for Hydrosol (assuming they were the same ... my bad!). Kudo's that there is a preservative (I don't store mine in the fridge), but now that I know this, I'm wondering what I should be cautious of going forward? I did a little research on Peg 40 castor, and it seems to be used in a lot of body products without any issues, and the only warning was not to use on broken skin. So, going forward I will only use a true hydrosol in things like a sunburn spray or Owie spray (for kids scrapes). Thank you for this, If I hadn't come across this specific post regarding preservatives in hydrosols/floral waters, I would have never checked! I am contacting Windy Point, Creations from Eden, and Soap n More as well :)
Susan in Calgary