A buyer's guide to rose water for the face


Rose water – a buyer’s guide

Do you want to buy rose water for your skin and are trying to navigate through all of the options?  Want to know if there’s really a difference between a high-priced rose water and a cheap one?  Or, if a rose floral water and a rose hydrosol are the same?

If you’re looking for high-quality rose water made from real roses this article is for you.

At a glance: how to buy high-quality rose water made from real roses

Buy rose water made via distillation. Floral waters and extracts have a different production process and are not considered traditional, natural rose water.

Check how far down the rose water ingredient appears on the ingredient list. The lower on the list, the less actual rose water the product contains.

Check whether the marketing highlights only the scent of rose, which indicates the rose ingredient is there for fragrance rather than benefit for the skin.

Think twice about products with lots of ingredients. Many ingredients are included not because they benefit your skin, but because they extend shelf life or lower production cost.

Buy from a brand that can answer your questions about exactly how the rose water was produced and what’s in it.

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Buy rose water image

What you’ll learn if you read on

  • The difference between distilled rose water and lab-made rose water.
  • The important things that influence rose water quality.
  • The five terms you need to know to navigate rose water ingredient lists with confidence.

First and foremost in importance: ‘real’ rose water is distilled

Buy rose water - Khloris Damask roses in the still

The only ingredient in authentic, traditionally distilled rose water should be rose petals. Pictured are the Damask roses ready to be distilled for Khloris Australian Damask Rose Water 2016 distillation.

Rose water, as it’s most famously known and used in caring for skin, is made by distilling rose petals.

In traditional rose water steam distillation, fresh roses are packed into a still, steam rises through the petals their cells burst open releasing plant compounds. When the steam is cooled and turns back into liquid, this water is enriched with these compounds including microscopic particles of rose oil.

There is a big difference between rose water produced by distillation and rose waters prepared in a lab.

Things that influence the quality of the rose water you buy

How the roses were grown

Buy rose water - Khloris rose fields at dawn

Just as it is for food and wine, the quality of a rose water starts with the health of the plant, the soil, and the growing conditions.

The specific action of a distilled rose water on skin will depend on the rose compounds that are carried over into the water during distillation. The plant and soil health and growing conditions impacts the composition of these compounds. If pesticides were used, evidence shows that these may end up in the final rose water product.

The quality of a rose water also depends on how it was distilled

Because rose oil is so highly prized, rose water is often re-distilled one or more times to remove as much oil as possible to sell separately. This leaves the remaining water very low or without oil, and it also removes the water-soluble compound that accounts for the rose aroma. Rose fragrance (possibly synthetic) may then be added back in a lab afterwards.

A rose water that is distilled only once, will retain more precious rose oil.

The speed, heat and proportion of water to petals used in distillation also matters; if these are ramped up to increase profits (shorter distillation = less production cost), the quality of the rose water will be lower.

Buy rose water - Damask rose botanical drawing

Many rose waters are highly processed and have other ingredients added

Even if the rose water you buy may have started out as sensitively distilled and pure, by the time it gets into a bottle on shelves, it may have been altered significantly for mass distribution.

A rose water may have been cleaned and preserved by processing such as irradiation, and/or by adding alcohol, parabens and fungacides.

It may also have had other ingredients such as essential oil or synthetic rose fragrance added to sweeten and standardise the scent, and/or to colour it.  Unfortunately when a rose water passes through many hands in the industrialised beauty supply chain, it’s almost impossible to know what has been done to it at each stage.

Some rose waters are fully or partly synthetic

Some rose waters are not distilled at all and have been created in a lab to mimic a distilled rose water. 

A lab-prepared rose water may be fully synthetic.

Or, it may be made by mixing water with another type of extracted rose product, such as rose essential oil or rose extract. A product that is made from plain water mixed with rose essential oil won’t contain the beneficial water-soluble plant compounds that you find in rose water that’s created via the distillation process (because they don’t carry through into oil).  The essential oil or extract used in these preparations may be partially synthetic and of low quality. Other additives are also needed to get the oil and water to mix.

Rose oil is an extremely valuable commodity and is one of the most commonly adulterated oils on the market. 

As for wholly synthetic lab-created preparations that have never been near a rose petal – this is not rose water in our opinion!

Buy rose water - Damask Roses

Is there a difference between a rose water made from Rosa damascena versus one made from Rosa centifolia?  They are thought to have similar attributes. Rosa centifolia is a newer cultivar originating in France, whereas damascena is much older and is the staple in Bulgaria. There is more clinical literature published on Rosa damascena so its attributes are more easily verified. Pictured is a damascena in bud and full flower.

How to buy rose water with confidence

So, you’re looking for an authentic and traditional distilled rose water made from real roses.  You look at an array of facial mist products all called rose water and each uses a different term to describe the rose ingredient. Huh?

Below are the five terms you’ll need to know to make an informed choice about which rose water to buy.


If you are after authentic, traditional, natural rose water, this is the term to look for on the ingredient list. The use of the word ‘distillate’ means that this is rose water produced from distillation.

The INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) formal name for distilled rose water is Rosa damascena flower distillate.

FAQ: Why does distillation make a difference?

Traditionally distilled, high quality rose water contains both microscopic particles of rose essential oil, and water-soluble plant compounds. These both come through distillation and account for the traditionally known benefits of rose water for skin.

Khloris Australian Damask Rose Water is a distillate.

Australian Damask Rose Water


Hydrolat is the French term that specifically means a product of distillation. So rose hydrolat on the ingredient list indicates that this should be a distilled rose water.

FAQ: Is a rose hydrolat the same as a rose hydrosol? 

Because hydrolat should only refer to a product made via distillation, if the hydrosol is distilled, yes these should be the same. Hydrolat is the term more commonly used in Europe, whereas hydrosol is more common in other parts of the world.


Hydrosol is a common term in the beauty industry for distilled plant waters, so this is likely to be a distilled rose water.

But…the word hydrosol means a suspension of particles in water, so it can also technically refer to a rose water that is made by mixing rose essential oil with plain water. This is not the same as a traditional distilled rose water.  If a product is labelled rose hydrosol, it is likely to be an authentic natural rose water, but if you want to be sure, we recommend confirming with the product maker.

Buy rose water image

Check whether the marketing highlights only the ‘scent’ of rose, which indicates the rose ingredient is there for fragrance rather than benefit for the skin and is likely synthetic.


This product is not likely to be a traditionally distilled rose water.

It may be either a mix of rose essential oil and water, or a wholly synthetic preparation with no plant-derived content. We recommend seeking more information from the product manufacturer. This is unlikely to be the product for you if you’re seeking traditional natural rose water.

FAQ: What should I be aware of when it comes to floral waters?

This type of product will not contain the same beneficial water-soluble plant compounds that come through distillation into traditional rose water and are not contained in rose essential oil.

Also, if it’s a prepared dilution of rose essential oil in water, the rose essential oil may be of good quality, but … it may not (rose oil is very commonly adulterated).  It will almost certainly have other additives to help the oil and water mix. If it’s a wholly synthetic preparation, you really don’t know exactly what you’re buying.  We recommend asking for information from the product maker.


A flower extract is a concentrated ingredient and may need dilution to create a product resembling rose water. This is almost certainly not the product for you if you’re seeking traditional, natural rose water.

FAQ: What should I know about extracts?

An extract is likely to have a very different chemical composition to that of traditional rose water.  It may have been produced by macerating roses in a solvent such as alcohol, it may be a high quality prepratation for therapeutic use, or it may be partly or wholly synthetic.  Without full transparency from the maker, you cannot know what it contains, or if it’s included for its benefit for your skin, or for fragrance.

More questions!

Is there a difference between Bulgarian rose water and others?

This is complex to answer. Bulgaria’s Kazanluk Valley, also known as the Valley of the Roses, was historically one of the world’s most specialised and prolific regions for the production of rose oil and rose water. It is famed as such, and this has given Bulgarian rose water its international cache.

The chemical composition of any rose water will depend on many things including temperature, light, soil, pruning, nutrient supply and harvesting time.  The quality of the final rose water is also dependent on the skill of the distillation, whether it has been re-distilled to extract all rose oil (leaving it without), and whether it contains other additives.

A Bulgarian rose water that has been produced to the highest quality in all of these factors will be an example of what rose water can be at its best.

If you’re a rose water lover, explore and compare! Turkey is another region with an extensive history in rose water production and is now one of the biggest global suppliers. India, France, Morocco and new world producers such as ours in Australia, all make lovely rose water if you put the time and effort into finding them at the quality you want.

If a rose water contains controversial ingredients, such as parabens, sulfates or phthalates, will my skin still benefit if I use it?

This depends on many things, including the type and quality of the actual rose water in the product as well as your skin’s condition. If you have an impaired barrier, any benefits from the rose water for your skin’s health may be counteracted by issues caused by these other ingredients being absorbed in a way that they wouldn’t if your barrier was healthy. 

If your skin shows any signs of inflammation (redness, flaking, scaling) or noticeable dehydration or dryness, it would be wise to avoid rose waters with these ingredients.

Rose water – the case for pure

Don’t be fooled by fake rose water imposters!

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