The rose is the queen of flowers and its fragrance has infatuated women all over the world since Cleopatra.
But the tender flower with the thorny stem is more than just a beautiful flower with a pretty fragrance. Its properties are valued in cosmetics for their harmonizing and anti-inflammatory effects on sensitive skin. Thus the raw material, rose oil, is not only precious, but also expensive.
Very expensive, says Monika Ferdinand of Germany's association of cosmeticians. Depending on the type and where it is grown, the cost ranges between 3,000 and 8,000 euros ($4,230 and $11,277) per kilogram, she says.
The reason lies in the laborious cultivation of the flower. As lovely as the rose smells, the job of cultivating them can really stink, says horticulturist Rauf Oenal of Izmir, Germany. The rose is very susceptible to fungus and pests, and harvesting roses is very tedious, Oenal says.
There are only 30 days in the year when roses can be picked in the early morning hours, and it takes 4 tons of blossoms to make a single kilogram of oil.
"That makes the rose an especially precious commodity," says Oenal. It's worth the trouble, however, because rose oil has several hundred individual substances. The blossom holds not only essential oils, but also valuable lipids and waxes. These protect the skin from losing moisture, says Britta John of the perfumery cooperative Beauty Alliance. Rose oil is especially ideal for raw, red or irritated skin.
Oil from the seed of the Mosqueta rose is extremely rich in trans-retinol acids, says Lillith Schwertle, a cosmetician at the German natural cosmetic maker Weleda.
Rose flowers are valued in cosmetics for their harmonizing and anti-inflammatory effects on sensitive skin.
"This acid is important for the skin's collagen production. Rose oil provides for more elasticity and smoothness," says Schwertle. The high content of unsaturated fatty acids can make skin more supple and support the healing of scars. But the most important quality of the rose is its aroma.
"In the eyes of the aromatherapy community roses have a harmonizing and balancing, even calming and consoling effect," says aroma expert Jean Claude Richard of Farfalla, a company based in Switzerland. "Its scent is really unique."
This is not only true of expensive rose oil, but also of a by-product of the rose oil extraction process, rose water.
"Rose water is not a waste product, rather it contains simply water soluble substances of the rose and is a very important raw material used in natural cosmetics," Richard says.
Its refreshing, antiseptic and calming effects make it suitable as a toner, tonic or body spray. But rose water is also used in making an array of products from perfumes and essences to aerosols and from mouthwash and compresses to hair care products and air freshener, Ferdinand adds.
As soon as the first tiny wrinkles appear, rose oil or rose water can help fight aging skin's decreasing tension and dryness, Schwertle says. "It gives the skin back not only what it is lacking, it also stimulates the skin to regulate itself."
A spray of pure rose water is a simple way to refresh the skin while out on a hot day. It can be easily carried along in a small atomiser kept in a handbag. Rose cream can be useful in the office applied gently around tired eyes that have been staring at a computer screen.
At the end of a stressful day when wrinkles appear that weren't there in the morning, a suggested remedy is rose oil massaged into the face after warming it up with a compress. A rose oil-based peeling mask also helps.
"It has the most beneficial effects when enjoyed in peace and quiet," Schwertle says. "But in a pinch, it can be applied while cleaning or ironing."