When it comes to beauty, everything's coming up roses this spring.
Used for centuries in the Middle East and Europe for improving skin tone and circulation and for anti-aging and aromatherapy properties, roses are also inextricably linked to romance and seduction. They signify relaxation, femininity and luxury, due to their fragrant scent, pastel hues and lush blooms.
The roses used in the new wave of personal care products hail primarily from Morocco, Bulgaria, Kashmir, Iran and France. Not just any rose will do — Damask, Bulgarian, Moroccan and cabbage roses are the ones most often used, according to Dr. Lamees Hamdan, dermatologist and founder of Shiffa Beauty. And she says they must be picked at dawn when there is still dew on the petals. Hydrosol and rose essential oil are then extracted from the flowers via steam distillation for use in products.
The intricate process for harvesting and processing the flower can result in a premium price tag.
"It takes 60,000 roses to make 1 ounce of rose oil," Hamdan says. "It's why rose can never be cheapened and in people's minds. It always resonates as luxury."
Part of the allure lies in the scent and its psychological effect. "You can be using a rose cream and forget all about the anti-aging benefits because of the powerful scent," says Hamdan. "The scent permeates the limbic system of the brain and has been used to treat insomnia, stress and depression."
Considering the look, scent, wellness properties and romantic history of the bloom, it's no mystery why so many beauty brands are promoting rose-based products. "The rose connotes beauty, and its [essential oil] contains antioxidants and a naturally soothing fragrance," says Dr. Amy Wechsler, consulting dermatologist for Chanel.
Luxury beauty brand Chantecaille, which recently launched a rose de mai face oil — a veritable bouquet packed with rose hip, evening primrose, rose damascena and rose geranium that claims to nourish, regenerate and restructure the skin — has been using the rose oil as the base of many of its products for years. The brand also replaces regular water with rose water throughout the line, even in its mascara.
"By incorporating pure rose water, we are starting with a base that's healing, anti-aging and loaded with Vitamin C," says Sylvie Chantecaille, creator of Chantecaille.
Chantecaille Pure Rosewater has become something of a cult favorite among beauty lovers who mist it onto skin to access the claimed toning and hydrating properties of the product.
Hamdan says the beauty benefits of rose are delivered most effectively in products that are left on the skin. "I wouldn't use it as a cleanser," she says. "I would put it in a serum, oil, cream or emulsion, giving it time to really soak in."