Rosewater adds a subtle, feminine scent to lingerie, flavor to cakes, and anti-inflammatory moisture to a range of beauty products.
Cleopatra so loved the scent of roses, she impregnated the sails of her ships with rose water, and doused her face in it for a flawless complexion. It’s been a Persian beauty secret since at least 800 B.C.E., and an Ayurvedic health tonic for even longer. Today, the essence of rose petals can be used in everything from aftershave to martinis. Here are 20 unusual uses for rosewater, including beauty applications, culinary delights and household recipes that take advantage of its calming, classic aroma.
The best quality rosewater is obtained either by distilling rose petals yourself, or purchasing a bottle of pure rosewater created as a byproduct of the commercial rose oil distillation process. Quality brands include Mymoune, Elma Sana Moroccan Rosewater and Organic Bulgarian Rosewater. Avoid rosewater with lots of unnecessary ingredients, and those made using artificial fragrance, which won’t have any of the soothing benefits of the petals.
1. Moisturizing, Pore-Reducing Facial Toner
Rosewater naturally helps skin retain moisture content and tightens pores, so it’s a great toner for dry and mature skin when simply wiped on the face with a soft cloth at full strength. It can also be used to balance combination and oily skin, with the addition of 3:1 witch hazel for a bit more astringent, oil-fighting power.
2. Makeup-Setting Mist
Pour full-strength rosewater into a small bottle with a fine misting nozzle. After applying your makeup and allowing your mascara to dry fully, spritz your face. The rosewater will eliminate any unnatural ashiness from face powder, giving you a youthful glow, and help hold your makeup in place throughout the day.
3. Relaxing Bedtime Drink
In Malaysia and Singapore, rosewater is mixed with coconut milk, sugar, and pink food coloring to create a relaxing drink called bandung. Mix a couple tablespoons of edible rosewater like Cortas (or homemade rosewater made with organic rose petals) and a tablespoon of sugar or honey into a cup of coconut milk, and warm if desired. You can use the kind of coconut milk beverage that comes in a carton for a lighter drink, or the canned stuff for a special, extra-creamy treat.
4. Pillow Spray
The same mood-enhancing benefits that make rosewater a relaxing addition to a bedtime drink will help you drift off to sleep at night. Just spritz your pillow right before you go to bed and you’ll be ready for pleasant dreams.
5. Acne Relief
Rosewater has an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effect, so it can help reduce redness, swelling and irritation from bothersome acne. Mix one tablespoon of rosewater with one tablespoon of lemon juice and apply to affected areas after washing your face. Leave it on for ten minutes, then rinse. If your skin is too sensitive for the acidity of lemon juice, use honey instead.
6. Hair Rinse
Make your hair extra soft and shiny (and of course, infused with an absolutely amazing scent) by applying a final leave-in rosewater rinse after you’ve washed and conditioned. Add three tablespoons of rosewater to two cups of cool water and either pour it over your hair, or mist it on with a spray bottle.
Rosewater – or rose syrup, made at home with rosewater and simple syrup – makes for an exotic twist in cocktails. Try the Cardamom Rose Cocktail by Design Sponge, the Ginger-Rose Sparkler by Eat Boutique, or the Rose Martini by Renee Rodriquez.
8. Lingerie & Linens
Beds aren’t just for relaxing, after all, and rosewater is an enticingly feminine scent. Use that same spray bottle full of rosewater to mist your lingerie and sheets when you’re expecting some company.
The same benefits that make rosewater great for acne control help soothe skin after shaving. Use it straight on your legs, underarms and bikini line, or mix it with distilled water, a little bit of 100 proof vodka and a few drops of rose oil for a more conventional aftershave product.
10. Rosewater Clay Face Mask
Mix 1/3 cup of powdered clay like bentonite of French green clay (Mountain Rose Herbs has several options, or check your local health food store) with 3 tablespoons of rosewater and 2 tablespoons of honey. Apply to your face, avoiding the eye area, and leave on until fully dry. This rejuvenating facial mask will clear pores while infusing the skin with moisture.
11. Cookies and Cakes
Infuse sweet treats with a little bit of the scent and flavor from fresh rose petals in the form of rosewater shortcake cookies, English rose cake or fluffy rosewater frosting on dark chocolate chiffon cake.
12. Sunburn Soother
The anti-inflammatory action of rosewater makes it a soothing topical treatment for sunburn. Mix it with a little bit of aloe, let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes and then apply with a cotton pad.
13. Bag-Reducing Eye Compress
Reduce swelling and water retention around your eyes with a cold compress of frozen rosewater and witch hazel. Mix 1/3 witch hazel to 2/3 rosewater in a small container, soak cotton pads or a terrycloth eye mask in the mixture, and then place the pads or mask in the freezer for ten minutes before applying to the eye area.
14. Rosewater Bath
A cup or so of rosewater really enhances the scent of a bath, even more than simply adding fresh rose petals to the water. It also makes the water softer on the skin.
15. Rose Syrup
Add rose flavor to pancakes, drinks, or anything else you’d use syrup on. Making your own rose water syrup is very simple, requiring just a handful of ingredients. Get the recipe at Epicurious.
16. Rosewater Glycerin Skin Balm
Nourishing rosewater combined with glycerin, an ideal oil-free moisturizer, makes for a lightweight skin balm that smells beautiful. Mix 1 cup of rosewater with 3 teaspoons of glycerin in a sterilized jar; store it in the refrigerator and use within a month or so.
17. Room Freshener
While rosewater doesn’t quite pack the odor-quashing punch of, say, white vinegar, it’s a great way to temporarily infuse a room with a pleasant scent. You can either spritz full-strength rosewater wherever you’d like to smell it, or add a few teaspoons of it to a spray bottle of vinegar and mist away.
A teaspoon of rosewater adds a subtle floral flavor to a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade (or, if you feel like cheating, a bottle of the pre-made stuff.)
19. Leave-In Conditioning Spray
If your hair needs a little extra moisture and detangling, or you prefer light leave-in conditioners, try diluting some of your normal conditioner with 60-70% rosewater in a spray bottle. The ratio of conditioner to rosewater will vary depending on the viscosity of your preferred conditioner.
20. Ice Cream
This might be one of the most delicious uses for rosewater of all: adding it to homemade white chocolate ice cream. Get the recipe from Yuppie Chef.
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