Any time I spot a skin-care product with rose on the ingredient list, I’m instantly enamored and cannot resist adding the toner, cleanser, cream, oil, or mask to my shopping cart—be it online or IRL. And while favorite flowers, such as rose for me, are often tied to a memory or event like a wedding bouquet, I’m in love with the romantic bloom purely for its skin-boosting properties. In its various forms, extracts from roses can help temper inflammation, act as an antibacterial agent, create a pollution-proof barrier with its multitude of antioxidants, and obviously smell incredible, too, says Olivia Clementine, an herbalist and holistic well-being expert.
But it turns out, that simply seeing the term “rose extract” on a label isn’t a one-size-fits-all moniker. There are actually a slew of different forms of the flower used in skin-care products, which affect not only the price tag but also the beauty benefit. For example, “rose essential oil has been proven to be efficacious in treating acne,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Rosehip oil, alternatively, contains vitamin A and essential fatty acids, that soothe dry or inflamed skin.”
What’s more? According to Adeline Koh, the founder of Sabbatical Beauty, a small-batch skin-care brand based in Philadelphia, both “rosehip oil and rose essential oil are derivatives of the rose plant, but rosehip oil is extracted from the seeds, while rose essential oil is extracted rom the petals.” Translation: Yeah, there’s a difference in your average rose product, and a little bit of knowledge pre-product shopping could greatly alter how happy you are with a product’s payoff in the long run.
Keep scrolling to know how to tell your roses from one another.
“Rosehip oil commonly comes from the fruits of Rosa rubiginosa, Rosa moschata, or Rosa canina bushes, which are all wild forms of the flower,” explains Clementine. These varietals are easily sourced and found all over the world, making them wallet friendly. Once rosehip oil is produced from these species, it’s used as a vitamin- and mineral-rich carrier oil (something that delivers an essential oil to skin) similar to jojoba or avocado oils.
“It can do wonderful things for your skin from firming and tightening the complexion to fading dark spots and scars,” notes Clementine. Koh, however, doesn’t use a super heavy concentration of rosehip oil in all of her formulations because it “can feel heavy,” she says. Instead, she taps its powers when the skin needs to be quenched. Likewise, Dr. Zeichner says it’s an excellent treatment for eczema. “There’s even some data to support that rosehip oil may prevent the development of stretch marks because of its protective, barrier-like benefits,” he says.
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Rose essential oil
Rose essential oil, however, is harvested through a steam distillation process of Rosa damasca petals, a hybrid rose that has been used for centuries in beauty rituals, explains Dr. Zeichner. This type of rose also produces the skin-care darling rosewater, found in many products, especially floral waters and sprays. It’s harder to produce, which is why products that contain it—especially in larger quantities—are often pricier.
“Rose essential oil is created through a process of releasing the delicate flower’s oil through steam,” says Clementine. And it’s this complex distillation process and low output that makes it way more expensive than all the other rose options on the market. “It takes around 60,000 roses to produce just one ounce of rose essential oil,” explains Clementine.
But its beauty benefits are myriad, she says, making it worth the splurge. Clementine loves using rose essential oils to help “balance moisture in the skin as well as reduce the appearance of dark marks and imperfections,” she says. It doesn’t hurt, either, that “it has an emotionally uplifting fragrance, too,” she says. My takeaway: Rose is potent, regardless of how it’s sourced and used, but it’s good to know the difference between its many forms. Talk about flower power.