Hydrolats, Hydrosols, or Floral Waters are sometimes still considered second-class citizens compared to essential oils and are largely unknown to the general public. Water along with atmospheric gases is the basis of life. Water itself is a bit of a mystery.
Most people know the formula H2O but probably never thought too much about why two inflammable gases, joined in the right proportion to make water, end up putting out fires. It is a quirk, a miracle of nature.
Likewise, hydrolats and the distilled water obtained from essential oil distillation have some unexpected values. It is all too easy to rely on chemistry to explain healing results by analytical chemistry. In the case of hydrolats, it is easy to establish that the hydrolats contain weak acids carried from the original plant material and any water-soluble components found in essential oils. It is undoubtedly the pH level of the hydrolat that contributes to the efficacy of their use in skincare.
Skin pH is featured in my new book A Nose Through History, the birth & growth of Aromatherapy, which every therapist interested in healing should read. The skin acid mantle is key to the health of the skin. Many skin diseases such as eczema show a higher-level pH than is natural. The ideal skin pH is around 4.5 to 5.5. At this level, the skin is comfortable and not stressed.
This mantle further consists of the detritus and debris of our skin surface a soup of sebum, sweat and our resident sustaining microflora disposing and recycling this micro world which I call the terrain of the skin. Raise the pH and the system breaks down to irritation, inflammation, disease, and so on. Many of our everyday toiletries, shampoos, creams, and soaps are aggressive and destructive of this skin biome system. It is no good arguing my skin care product is neutral pH7 when the bacteria require an acidic environment to thrive. If you use a higher pH, it will be alkaline and a microbe killer for the good bacteria and a home to many pathogenic bacteria.
Got the message. Hydrolats are a skincare number one and that includes the scalp i.e., hair care. Any inventive and thoughtful therapist can take advantage of these to create new blends and products. A Fragrant Earth Gel base is most often the vehicle used to create something soothing and cosmetic or medicinal. The addition of a fixed oil or an added essential oil creates an aromatherapy product with properties beyond the scope of mass-produced products from stores.
It all begins with the hydrolat and most have a pH in the right area between 4 and 6. Rose Floral Water is the most popular hydrolat I guess because it smells nicely of roses whereas many do not have such a great odour. Often used as a cooling spritz it can be considered a tonic and I often suggest that another firm favourite, Lavender Floral Water is combined in equal proportions to make a great de-stressor, after-sun, sleep aid and even being mildly antiseptic good for first aid. Think this through and you have a great travel companion.
This simplicity of action and using powerful aromatics was my thinking behind Fragrant Earth’s ‘Style Aroma, brand which was made for travellers, business people and students. Check it out!
My last but almost favourite hydrolat is Wych Hazel water, most known as witch hazel. This has just as many traditional medical uses as cosmetic ones. It makes it an adequate antibacterial cleanser, and the soothing elements of the hydrolat help lessen the irritation of bug bites, nappy rash, or other minor infections. Use it for windburned or sunburned skin and many old herbals will say to use it for sprains and bruises in a compress and I have found this to be a good use.
Never underestimate the hidden power of Hydrolats for all aspects of Natural Aromatherapy. Use in baths, compresses, as is, on a cotton ball and in cosmetics and toiletries.
ENDS 3/3/23 J Kusmirek