Also known as floral waters (but not flower waters), hydrosols are a byproduct of steam distillation, created while extracting essential oil. Hydrosols have properties similar to those of their related essential oils, although inevitably in a less concentrated form, but they are enriched with various water-soluble active ingredients.
Their gentleness makes them an excellent way to tone, hydrate, and rebalance the pH of the skin, so they are frequently recommended as final cleansers/toners after cleansing or nourishing masks. Most also have antibacterial and antiviral action and can disinfect sensitive or damaged skin without the harshness of detergents or alcohol-based lotions. All are available from specialty shops or by mail order.
Hydrosols can be applied to the face twice daily. Use cotton pads or a mister, but be careful to avoid the eyes. Allow to dry naturally. Hydrosols can also be added to a bath as a general skin tonic (use three tablespoons) and are sometimes substituted for water in preparing clay masks.
Chamomile. Suitable for all skin types, chamomile is a very gentle antiinflammatory, good for over-exposure to sun and wind.
Clary sage. Suitable for dry and aging skin, clary sage relieves skin problems associated with fluctuating hormone levels and menopause.
Cornflower. See chamomile. Cornflower is often used around the eyes because, unlike most hydrosols, it does not burn in contact with them.
Lavender. Though slightly drying, lavender is suitable for all skin types. It has cooling, anti-inflammatory properties that can ease sun- or wind-burn.
Orange blossom (neroli). Inflammation-reducing, this hydrosol is particularly good at soothing dry or sensitive skin and for treating rosacea.
Rose. Appropriate for all skin types, especially aging, rose is recognized for its balancing, tonic, and astringent properties.
Rosemary. Excellent for balancing and toning all skin types, rosemary stimulates circulation and is a superb hydrosol for hair.
Witch hazel. Suitable for all types of skin, witch hazel is mildly astringent.
Read more on hydrosols.
Learn how to make your own rose water.
Adapted from Anti-Wrinkle Treatments for Perfect Skin by Pierre Jean Cousin (Storey Books)