Volumes have been written about the ancient traditional uses of Distillates - or Hydrosol Waters. Hydrosols have been crafted for thousands of years by collecting the steam rising off a pot of boiling water in which leaves, flowers, roots, needles and such are stewing. Steam distillation is one of the oldest methods of capturing the pure quintessence of a plant and is surely woven into the fabric from which the very first expressions of human cultural were spun.
A NOURISHING TRADITION: An amount of leaves, flowers, roots, etc. are placed in a pot of water. The water is heated to boiling causing the plant glands to burst, releasing the plants compounds into the water. As the steam carrying these rises, it condenses on the lid and returns to a liquid state. This is the hydrosol water. It is then carefully collected in various ways.
Every culture crafted these healing waters and incorporated them into their cuisine, medicine and skin care for centuries. They were, and still are, used to formulate medicine for treating acute and chronic internal and external ailments, and are part of religious ceremonies and cultural rituals throughout the world forever. Hydrosols have been, and still are, consumed, cooked with, bathed in and applied to the skin. We revere them also for their beautifying qualities and magical, almost sacred aromas.
Like so many nourishing traditions, our ancestors didn't know the names of the chemicals compounds in the plants which were precipitating into the boiling water, nor the science behind states of matter which help us know how those components are able to rise from the pot on the steam. They just learned from their forebears how and why to make them. They knew they worked and that it was probably magic that made it so.
So that said, I just want to give you a quick and VERY brief overview of just a tiny fraction of the properties of hydrosol waters and how you could use them to nourish, condition and beautify your skin. I am just scratching the surface here to say the least!
Few people know that the Hydrosol Waters have been used for much longer than pure essential oils. Hydrosol waters were, and still are, created through simple steam distillation methods employed today by modern herbalists as well as indigenous people around the world. This process captures the quintessence of the plant and differ chemically from their essential oil counterparts.
Once stills were developed and perfected more and more plants could be distilled yet pure essential oils could not be produced with these crude methods. In the 16th century the invention of the condensing coil made it possible to collect the pure essential oils released during distillation, as well as capture the hydrosol steam.
There is some confusion surrounding what is a Hydrosol (or Distillate) versus a Floral Water or Essential Water. "Floral Waters" or "Essential Waters" are not always Hydrosols and are often created by adding essential oils to distilled water, NOT by steam distillation! "Floral Waters" or "Essential Waters"vary so much from one another it is hard to really know the strength of the beneficial properties they contain. TRUE steam-distilled hydrosols contain all the components the plant has to offer.
Steam distillation produces a pure, unadulterated, entirely plant-based elixir which captures the true essence of the plant in ways quite different than the plant's pure, volatile essential oils. Hydrosols do all contain microscopic amounts of these essential oils, but better still, the beneficial water soluble plant compounds are extracted, compounds not present in the essential oils. Rose Hydrosol water has been studied and shown to possess close to 300 beneficial plant compounds!
Hydrosols are much less concentrated than pure essential oils. The microscopic amounts of essential oils captured during the distillation of hydrosols and very finely dispersed making them a good choice for people with sensitive skin, and for those who get skin irritations when using products with pure essential oils. Furthermore, unlike essential oils which must be diluted prior to application on the skin, hydrosols are water soluble so they are much milder and much less likely to cause any skin irritation. They can generally be used directly on the skin without being diluted. Pure organic hydrosols are considered safe for babies when applied with a spritzer.
Spritzing with hydrosol water is especially beneficial prior to applying facial oils. 100% facial treatment oils are not "moisturizers" per se. They help your skin in lots of way but they have no water - so no moisture. BUT you can transform them into a totally awesome, natural, simple, POWERFUL one by simply spritzing with a hydrosol, then massaging in your facial oils and allowing your face to air dry.
Hydrosols are naturally hydrating - they are afterall, WATER! They are a soothing, gentle way to add moisture back to your skin, especially after using a foaming cleaner or soap. Spritzing the skin prior to using moisturizer adds more ... well, moisture! Plus all the other goodness in the hydrosol. Another favorite way to use hydrosols is when using my Foaming Exfoliating Powdered ALA Cleanser - substitute water with hydrosol when you make up a batch. Spritz again right after will nourish and preserve the skin's acid mantle.
The surface of the skin is covered with a protective acidic film called the acid mantle. The acid mantle is a vitally important part of the skin’s protective capability as a barrier between you ... and everything else! We forget that the skin is a really REALLY important organ - you can live with half of your kidneys, but not 1/2 your skin!
A compromised acid mantle often leads to dry, hydrated skin vulnerable to acute and chronic inflammation which can lead to numerous skin problems, dis-ease, and premature aging. The acid mantle is where your skin's microbiome resides. We are just starting to understand the role this biome plays in informing and toning the immune system.
Since hydrosols are neutral to slightly acidic, they closely match the skin’s natural pH. They won't disrupt or alter the vital functions of this barrier. Hydrosols also contain carboxylic acids, which may explain their observed anti-inflammatory activity making them a good choice in helping your skin stay strong and resilient as you age.