Where the rose fragrance lingers, peace reigns. Whoever uttered this — an 18th-century French aristocrat strolling through her gardens or an Egyptian princess lulled by her rose-oil massage — may well have been referring to the many calming benefits of rose extracts on irritated, marked or aging
skin. People have been praising the aromatherapeutic uses of rose oils and waters for thousands of years, says Leanne McCliskie, education manager at the International Dermal Institute in Toronto. But it’s only recently that we have started documenting their effects on skin.

Deep hydration “Hydration is the number one benefit of rose-based lotions and toners,” says McCliskie. The natural sugars contained in rose petals soothe, soften and moisturize the skin when applied as a mist or cream. Straight rose oil (rose absolute), extracted from the petals through steam distillation, is also a good moisturizer, like any plant oil, but you would never spread it all over your face, says Marcia Dixon, a Toronto-based medical herbalist. “Five millilitres of Rose Absolute costs $300. Next to jasmine, it’s the most expensive essential oil you can buy.” That’s why rose oils usually come in a carrier oil, like sweet almond or jojoba. Add a few drops to a warm bath, then soak up the surface oil with your washcloth and hold it against your face, neck and chest. Note: You can spot a poor-quality extract by its faint aroma
of caramel, usually the result of the oil being overheated during the distillation process.

No fade on this bloom Much has been made of the anti-aging properties of the rosehip (the ovary of the flower). The oil from all species of rosehips is a powerful antioxidant due to its high concentration of vitamin C. For example, the Rosa rugosa Thunb contains up to seven percent of vitamin C, making it the richest known source on earth. (A peeled orange contains a mere .05 percent.) However, you won’t find this particular rose on many product ingredient lists, but rather more econom-ical varieties like the Rosa damascena, Rosa centifolia and Rosa gallica. Maintaining the stability of the vitamin C is still the biggest challenge. Scientists feel more confident extolling the benefits of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) in rosehip oil: EFAs strengthen cellular membranes and regenerate skin tissue-especially in the sensitive area around the eyes-while fading minor scars, burns and stretch marks.Cooling and calming The rosehip is packed with flavonoids and astringent tannins, both of which cool down mildly inflamed skin when added to toners. “The rose is exactly what you think it should be,” says Dixon. “It’s physically calming and very nurturing.” Tannins also contain natural bactericidal properties that cut down on the number of preservatives needed, making rose products ideal for sensitive skin. Dixon believes that you can’t tease apart the physical benefits of rose from the emotional. Rose is recommended for people who have a lot of heartache and loss in their lives and who suffer from digestive complaints that are often associated with grief. “You have to remember that your olfactory glands are in your face-inside the nasal cavity,” says Dixon. “When the rose essence hits your olfactory system, it’s absorbed transdermally.” This sets in motion an all-encompassing intercellular and sensory healing process that no one has quite figured out yet. But the results speak for themselves: skin that is refined, renewed and beautifully scented.