Are you a label reader? We hope you are – whether it’s your food or your skincare, ingredients matter. If understanding what they are make you feel like you need a science degree (or two), you’re not alone. A lot of even simple ingredients come with fancy sounding names, like hydrosol. What is this ingredient, and why is it in your (and our!) skincare products? It’s not as fancy as it sounds, actually.
A hydrosol is a botanical water usually made with flowers, but any botanical will work, like leaves, fruits, barks, or other plant material. Unlike essential oils – the pure, concentrated essence of a botanicals — hydrosols are mostly water.
These dilutes typically contain less than one percent (usually 0.01 – 0.04 percent) of the essential oil. A plant that contains more water naturally will be less concentrated than a denser ingredient.
Essential oils, if you’re not familiar, are extracted from a plant through various means. These highly concentrated oils are extremely potent (thus the reason they come via such small bottles). A little goes a long, long way. Not only are they usually fabulous to smell, but they’re most often recommended to be diluted via a carrier oil. While hydrosols aren’t oils, they are by definition, already diluted.
You can compare hydrosol to a diluted herbal tea. But even though a cup of ginger tea is less potent than a whole ginger root, it’s still got much of the root’s potent benefits, which is why hydrosols are often found in skincare instead of just plain water. It’s like a naturally enhanced water that is both hydrating and medicinal, delivering a boost of plant nutrients, be they anti-inflammatory effects, toning properties, wound-healing, calming, or rejuvenating aspects. You’ve got this perfectly useful water that’s going to do great things for your skin.
Because hydrosols are less concentrated than pure essential oils, they’re also less likely to irritate the skin or cause allergic reactions when used in a product or on its own.
If you’re a fan of essential oil fragrances, you’ll still pick up notes of the botanical in a hydrosol, but it will be less potent, and may have a greener or grassier scent more like the botanical would smell in your garden.
While hydrosols are often used in skincare products, they can be used on their own as a skin toner or as an aromatherapy spray. Still — be sure to read the label on your hydrosols to make sure it’s a clean and natural product.
If you’re a fan of natural beauty products (and we hope you are!), then you’re likely familiar with essential oils. Whether they’re used as a source of natural fragrance or other benefits, essential oils are in everything from skin cleansers and moisturizers to shampoo and deodorant.
But you can go deeper with essential oils than just finding them in your beloved personal care products. In fact, they can be a natural beauty lover’s BFF. Check out our favorite reasons why.
What are Essential Oils?
First things first, what are these peculiar (and pricey) little bottles, anyway? Essential oils get their name from “essence” or the pure extraction of a botanical—usually a fruit, seed, leaf, flower, root, or bark. There are hundreds of botanicals used in making essential oils. While a bit more complicated a process, if you’ve ever squeezed a lemon rind until you get an oily residue on your fingers, you’re getting the “essence” of this extraction method.
Why Use Essential Oils?
Botanicals in most any form are nature’s first healers. Many of our medicines come from botanicals, so do our personal care products, and of course, so does our food. Unlike synthetic fragrances that can be irritating and even cause allergic reactions, essential oils are about as natural as you can get—and that concentrated aroma can have some pretty amazing results. While the scientific research is still being created around the use and benefits of essential oils, they’re commonly relied on for relief of minor ailments.
How to Use Essential Oils
Because essential oils are so concentrated, they should always be diluted before using with a carrier oil like jojoba, almond, apricot, or grapeseed. This is particularly true for topical applications. Some inhalation methods or recipes that use essential oils may require full-strength. Essential oils are never for internal use.
Here are some of our favorite reasons to use essential oils:
- Stress-busting: No matter how big or how small, we’ve all got stress levels to manage. Essential oils might be a good choice in reducing your stress. Lavender is regarded for its calming and balancing effect without making you drowsy or irritable. Other stress-reducing essential oils include frankincense, rose, and chamomile.
- Energize, naturally: Running out for a latte at 3 o’clock can help push you past the mid-day slump but it can also lead to our next issue—insomnia. Boost your energy and focus levels without the caffeine boost (and crash) with essential oils. Try orange, lemon, peppermint, bergamot, lemongrass, or thyme.
- Improve sleep: Insomnia—both chronic and acute—affects as many as one out of three people. If you’ve experienced insomnia, you know how challenging it is to go without a good night’s rest. Essential oils of tangerine, lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood may help.
- Aide during allergy season: Watery, itchy eyes, runny noses, difficulty breathing, and irritated skin are among the lovely symptoms of allergy season. Essential oils like rosemary and eucalyptus may assist in opening up your sinuses, and lavender may help to calm irritation.
- Clear skin: While chronic acne is usually a sign you should schedule a visit with your dermatologist, mild occasional breakouts affect us all. A dab of tea tree essential oil (or tea tree and lavender) can help to dry out and speed the healing of the blemish.
It smells a bit like perfection. Like, if a nose could tell you exactly what its favorite smell was, it would be lavender (and, maybe, a whiff of coffee for good measure). But lavender is much more than an olfactory-pleasing fragrance. Lavender essential oil benefits do the whole body good.
Lavender is a relative of mint, best known for its long stems tipped with tiny and fragrant purple flowers. It’s been used in folk medicine around the world for a wide range of conditions and is a natural fit in personal care products if for no other reason than its most pleasant scent. Here are just a few more common ailments it treats.
- Sleep assistance: In this busy, tech-addicted age, many of us have experienced sleep issues at least once, if not frequently. Lavender may help. Whether you soak in a hot lavender-scented bath, sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before bed, or even drink a lavender-infused tea, the benefits of lavender may assist you in relaxing and falling asleep more quickly—and staying asleep.
- Skin relief: Whether it’s sunburn, blemishes, dryness, or other skin irritations (scalp, too), lavender may help heal them all. Its anti-inflammatory properties can quiet stressed skin, soothe irritation, itching, and dryness. Its antibacterial properties can keep breakouts at bay as well.
- Boosts digestion: Because of its antibacterial properties, lavender may help reduce gas and bloating in the digestive tract. It can also reduce the risk of an outbreak of harmful bacteria that can cause cramping and diarrhea. While a whiff may calm your senses, and may even help to settle a queasy stomach, you’ll need to sip on a lavender tea or take a tincture for digestive relief.
- Stress reduction: Like its benefits on your sleep cycle, lavender is a known calming agent. A quick whiff of the fragrant flowery essential oil may bring relief from work, relationship, or even traffic stress. The scents go right to your brain, triggering a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Reduces blood pressure: Lavender may be an underappreciated tool in controlling high blood pressure. While it is no substitute for doctor-prescribed medication (never stop taking your medication without first discussing with your physician), it may help to reduce blood pressure levels and aid in preventing atherosclerosis, which may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Now, that’s some flower!