Hydrolats, or hydrosols, are aromatic waters obtained after steam distillation of a plant or flower. Floral waters are part of a sub-group of hydrolats and are obtained solely from the distillation of flowers.
Floral waters and hydrolats: where does it come from?
The manufacturing process of a hydrolate is similar to that of an essential oil. First of all, the plant or flower is mixed with water and heated and the steam, containing aromatic molecules, is then recovered in another container. After cooling, the steam, which has become liquid, separates into two parts: a watery part and an oily part. The oily part of the liquid is separated and is transformed into essential oil. The remaining water, now slightly aqueous, contains aromatic particles and it’s this mixture that is called "hydrolat".
Hydrolat and essential oil: what are the differences?
The hydrolat, which is produced using the same production process as essential oil, therefore has the same properties as the latter. However, its therapeutic properties are less important since it is diluted in water. Aromatic water therefore has a softer action than essential oil and has fewer contraindications than essential oils.
Floral water is particularly appreciated by people who are too sensitive to essential oils, such as children and pregnant women. Vigilance is nevertheless recommended because a reaction is always possible even without contraindications.
The different virtues of floral waters and hydrolats
There are many different hydrolats in the shops but not all have the same properties. To choose a suitable hydrosol, there are two factors to take into account: the type of skin and the desired action. Here are a few ideas to guide your choice according to your skin type.
For dry skin: cornflower, orange blossom or camomile.
For acne-prone skin: sage, rosemary, tea tree or noble laurel.
For oily skin: lavender, noble laurel, geranium, myrtle, rose or mint.
For combination skin: cistus, immortal or pink
Which hydrolats and floral waters to choose?
When buying a hydrolat, it is important to check its quality. Indeed, some hydrolats intended for cosmetic use contain alcohol or preservatives. These are bad for the skin and cannot be used for other purposes. It is therefore more interesting to use 100% pure hydrolats without the addition of other ingredients. They can therefore be used in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom.
There are a multitude of different aromatic waters and each one has very specific properties, both physically and emotionally. To choose one, you can let your nose decide for you. Trust your sense of smell, it will not deceive you.
If you wish to choose according to the properties of the hydrolat, these are the same as for essential oils.
Here are the properties of some well-known plants:
Matricaria chamomile is a calming plant. It is useful for soothing sun allergies and calming hay fever.
Rose has firming, moisturising and toning properties and relieves eczema.
Rose water also supports in case of emotional shock.
Mint has purifying and astringent properties and helps to tighten the pores of the skin.
Cinnamon, thyme and rosemary help in case of intestinal problems.
Orange blossom is useful during a nervous breakdown or for fears and anxieties.
True lavender calms impatience, nervousness and mental agitation.
Directions for use
Hydrolats are increasingly recognised and used in aromatherapy for their very diverse properties. They can be used orally, by swallowing a spoonful of water or by skin application.
As hydrosols are less concentrated than essential oils, the proliferation of bacteria is faster and their storage time is therefore slightly reduced. Where an essential oil can be stored for five years, a hydrolate and a floral water can be used from six months to two years. They should preferably be stored in a cool place, away from light and air. If white filaments appear, this indicates a proliferation of bacteria and it is best not to use it again.