Every city has its own smell. In New York, it’s hot dogs and stale air. In Paris, it’s concrete and wet grass. And in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, it’s flowers. It’s impossible to walk down Sofia’s streets without being wrapped in a bouquet of fresh petals. Linden flowers and rose blossoms line the city sidewalks, releasing their sweet, floral scent into the air. And while their natural beauty can make every day feel like Valentine’s Day for residents and tourists alike, the potent blooms have found a far more practical implication by making their way into people’s skin-care routines.
Thanks to Bulgaria’s diverse, Mediterranean climate and low toxicity, research has shown that its traditional medicinal plants possess high antioxidant activities, which means good things for our skin. “We have the understanding and knowledge and appreciation that our herbs are really potent, so people love using them,” says Orpheus Skincare founder (and Bulgarian native) Sara Kyurkchieva. “They’ve been a part of our homemade remedies and rituals for centuries—I remember as a little girl, every woman I knew carried a vial of rose oil in her purse—but now people are more interested in the innovation surrounding them, so you can also go to the pharmacy and find all kinds of floral products.”
While you’ll have to take a trip to Bulgaria to experience its floral-smelling streets for yourself, you can steal some of the nation’s skin-care secrets without taking a plane or a train. Read on to see the four floral ingredients that Bulgarian women swear by, and then shop the brands that source their ingredients directly from Bulgaria.
Bulgarian skin-care ingredients
“It’s hard to think of Bulgarian skin care and beauty and not think about rose,” says Kyurkchieva. “Rose water and rose oil are deeply appreciated in Bulgarian beauty. A lot of women use rose oil on their eye area, and rose water is widely used as a toner or a refreshing mist.” Bulgaria is one of the world’s top producers of rose oil—it’s got its own rose valley where hundreds of thousands of flowers are handpicked every June. Rose oil and rose petal extract have been proven to have anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties, which means they help calm inflammatory skin conditions like acne and rosacea, and also have the ability to reduce the appearance of scarring and signs of aging.
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Rose isn’t the only flower that has made its way into Bulgarian women’s routines. “In general, I would say Bulgarians use a lot of floral water to prep their skin as the first step in their regimens,” says Kyurkchieva. These mists help to dampen the skin, allowing for the products layered on top of them to permeate more deeply. Linden (a common ingredient in mists and other skin-care products) is known to be full of flavonoids, which act as an anti-inflammatory and offers antioxidant protection. It also has natural moisturizing properties to give skin an extra boost of hydration whenever it’s applied.
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You’d be hard-pressed to find a wellness routine that doesn’t include lavender in some form (after all, it’s one of the best natural sleep aids there is), but the flower doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its skin-soothing properties. As a natural antibacterial, it can be used as a spot treatment on even the angriest pimples and helps heal wounds. It can even blur signs of aging thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen. Plus, ya know, it smells like heaven, which means it will help transform any stressful parts of your day into a truly relaxing routine.
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“Calendula is something we have used forever,” says Kyurkchieva, adding that calendula-based healing creams are a mainstay in Bulgarian pharmacies. The plant, which is a part of the marigold family, has been shown to reduce the signs of photo-aging and stimulate collagen synthesis (hence why it’s become such a favorite in the “healing” department) and has both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also helps to address inflammation without drying out your skin, making it an excellent pick for acne or rosacea-prone skin.
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