What is hydrosol? 2024 Guide

If you’re one of my newsletter subscribers, you’ll know I  LOVE hydrosols.  But what are they?

You may have read about hydrosols and wondered what they were and if you could make them yourself.

You’re in the right place! I’m a hydrosol geek, aromatherapist and natural formulator.

And I make my own hydrosol. I’ll show you how.

What are hydrosols?

These are the clear liquid component produced in steam distillation of plants that are beneath the layer of essential oils.

Often though you won’t see a layer of essential oils if the still is really small..


Another name for hydrosols. Some even call them hydrosouls. These are producted during distillation. They are NOT fragrance added to water, nor essential oils dispersed into water..

Where do  hydrosols come from

They come from distillation. They used to be discarded after the essential oils were removed, because of the high cost of transport.  Essential oils weigh very little vs the heavy watery component from distillation.

Are Hydrosols good for skin?

Yes – they rebalance your skin’s micro flora. They are the perfect pH for your skin, slightly acid.

What are hydrosols used for?

Hydrosols can be used in shampoos, face creams, natural toners, hand creams, serums, gels and facial mists.  They can be used in any product that has a water components and are excellent to be used instead of the usual tap water used in skincare products.

How to hydrate skin

Flower hydrosols restore calmness to your skin  by rebalancing your skin’s pH, and they lock in hydration which plumps up your cells giving a fresher, smoother effect.    When paired with Empress Elixir or a Glow face cream, they nourish and protect your skin against environmental stresses and help prepare your skin for sun protection and cosmetics.

Lavender hydrosol

This is extracted through steam distillation of lavender blossoms. Freshly harvested lavender is placed into large vats and steaming water ruptures the cells so that the soul of the plant, escapes. This hydrolat is an excellent alternative to lavender essential oil, especially for younger, delicate skins. Hydrosol can be applied neat to your skin, unlike essential oil that has to be diluted.

What is lavender hydrosol used for?

Lavender is one of the best hydrosols for mood, skin and general wellbeing. It’s safe enough to use in babies bath water and cleaning wipes, and suits all skin types. It is also excellent in face creams and cleansers, as a luxurious replacement for Aqua (water).

What does lavender hydrosol smell like?

It smells sweeter than lavender, almost sugary. It’s a very mild scent, not like the essential oil. In terms of energetics, it is a neutral effect, drier than rose.

How do you make lavender hydrosol?

You will need freshly harvested lavender and a distillation unit, as well as a time and quiet.  You will then need to be trained and spend a lot of time practicing. Safety equipment should be available at all time.

What is the difference between hydrosol and essential oil?

Hydrosol is the water from distillation, while essential oil is the floating part that sits on top of the hydrosol.

drench facial tonic with rosewater
Rosewater and MSM facial tonic


One of the most precious, but most of what is sold has been re-distilled to extract more of the rose essential oil, so that scent is inferior to a hydrolat produced especially for the hydrolat.

Rose hydrosol

What is rose hydrosol used for?

Ah yes.. skincare! Mood, wellness, baking, non alcoholic drinks, menopause, natural perfume and facial products.

It’s costly, and can be used neat as an acidic  facial toner albeit less harsh than synthetic facial toners.

Rose water toner

Can rose water be used as a toner?

My mother used to use rosewater and glycerine as a facial toner. It still works today. I use both in Drench along with other hydrating actives that plum up tired skin and give your collagen a boost.

Rosewater can also be used in ice cream, puddings, cookies and cakes.  It’s used in Turkish, Greek and Persian cooking.  If you make your own gelatine gummies, consider adding rosewater for flavour.  This is a divine almond, cardamom and rosewater cake in The Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan. 

Neroli orange blossom hydrosol

Neroli is extracted from orange blossoms. The hydrolat is divine in scent but the hydrolat has a very short shelf life. It has a tendency to go off- it starts smelling off and rather like sour shoes. When it is fresh, it’s euphoric, so don’t buy this in bulk!

What is orange blossom neroli hydrosol used for?

Usually combination or oily skin.  It is excellent in hair care too and lifts mood, especially for those suffering from heartbreak or depression.

It can be used in shampoos, hair tonics, facial cleansers, night creams and spritzers.

Witch hazel hydrosol

This is made from the leaves of the witch hazel shrub/tree.

It was traditionally blended with rosewater and glycerine to make facial toner.

Witch hazel is astringent and so tightens skin, and it can be used on spots

Can witch hazel be used on maskne

Yes! Blend it with lavender hydrosol or rose hydrosol to rebalance your skin after mask wearing.  Witch hazel helps your skin rebalance, and after wearing a mask, skin does feel oilier and clammy. Witch hazel is an excellent option. Blend it with a little bit of lavender, rose or neroli hydrosol to improve the scent.

Hydrosol UK

How to make hydrosol

Obviously there’s an art to this. And lots of reading and practice to produce a quality hydrolat/hydrosol.

You will need:

  • the still and all it’s components including tubing, water pump
  • room to store all the equipment
  • clean glass bottles and lids, waterproof pen and labels
  • safety gear- gloves, heat proof tiles, fire extinguisher, first aid
  • flowers, herbs leaves of known provenance
  • clock, paper, pen, thermometer
  • a space free from pets and children
  • patience and sense of humour

Setting it up for distillation

Before any distilling, you need to clear your diary. No texting, casual telephone conversations… no pets and no kids. Stills can explode if you muck up the seals.

First you need to connect all the parts of your still – the base unit, hood  and condenser.  Mine is made of traditional beaten copper, a small hobby-size ideal for making 500ml or less hydrosol.

Large scale production stills are stainless steel while modern alchemists use glassware in their labs.

small copper still for extracting rosewater
unpacking my new copper still

Then you need organically grown flowers or herbs. Weigh them and keep a note. Usually for 1 kilo of fresh flowers you can extract a maximum of 1 litre hydrosol. Don’t expect essential oils.

The flowers are popped into the still. Add the appropriate amount of still water.

fresh calendula flowers going into the still

Connect everything together.

Seal it up with traditional rye or plumbing tape. In the early days I used the traditional copper seal with rye flour and water. It worked really well although took more cleaning.

sea joints with tape or rye flour
seal the joins

Switch on the heat – fire or electricity.

The boiling water  releases steam that ruptures oil glands within the plants, releasing the plant essences into the steam.  The steam passes through the neck of the still into cool water, so that it condenses into droplets.

copper still
when distilling indoors use heat proof surfaces

These droplets are collected and termed hydrosol or hydrolat. If it was roses inside the still this would be your rosewater. And yes, this clear liquid is highly fragrant.

comfrey hydrosol droplets
first droplets of comfrey hydrosol

Depending on what plant you distilled, you may find an oily slick or shimmer on the sides of your collecting flask. This is a fine layer of essential oil.

If you have enough oil-rich plant material you may find droplets of essential oil floating on the collected liquid.  This is the essential oil that is removed and sold in those tiny glass bottles 2ml, 5ml or 12ml in size.

The liquid underneath the essential oils is the hydrosol.

What happens in typical Bulgaria rose harvests –  the hydrosol is put back inside the still to remove any essential oil remaining in the water.  With every return to the still, the hydrolat looses components.. the smell isn’t as rounded and complete either.

This is why artisanal distilled rosewater can smell so much more complete and complex -m because it hasn’t been put back inside the still – you are getting minute droplets of essential oil naturally dispersed inside your hydrolat. Incredible and once you have distilled your own you will spot the fakes and inferior versions

Why are hydrosols used?

They are the perfect pH for your skin.

They are packed with water-soluble components that your skin loves

They can replace tap water in luxury cosmetics like facial products, shampoos etc

They often small amazing

Hydrosols are safe to use undiluted

Hydrosols and face care

I love hydrosols. The ones I use on my own face and for clients are either distilled by me here in Devon, or bought from small organic farms. I’ve been distilling for just over ten years. It’s a hobby and the very small amount of rose hydrosol from my Kazanliks is a treat to use.

face cream with hydrosol
moisturiser with flower hydrosol

Best hydrosols for oily or combination skin

Lavender, rosemary, lavender and frankincense hydrolats are easy to find.

Useful are clary sage, cypress, rooibos, green tea, bamboo and tea tree.

Best hydrosols for dry or sensitive skin

Rose, rose geranium , chamomile, frankincense, cistus, ylang, palo santo, wild carrot, white rose, sandalwood, helichrysum.

The best hydrosols for hair

Rosemary, chamomile, lavender. sage, ylang ylang, palo santo, sandalwood, rooibos and peppermint.

Best hydrosols for menopause

Must haves for the hormones are rose, sage, agnus castus and sandalwood. To cool the heat, rose,  rose geranium, peppermint and clary sage. To perk up skin and mood, frankincense, palo santo, clary sage, ylang ylang, sandalwood and rose.

Best hydrosols for kids

The magical trio of lavender, chamomile and rose. You can blend them together for an all purpose spray , lovely to mist the pillows before dreamtime. For an extra boost, add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to your spray.

Can be added to bath water or taken on long car journeys to keep them calm.

Best hydrosols for pregnancy & lactation

These are ideal alternatives to essential oils during this delicate time of life. Hydrosols are not intense in scent and  do not interfere with lactation of child bonding.

Lavender, rose and chamomile are lovely and can be used singly or in combination.

Hydrosols and cats, dogs and horses

If you plan to use them for your pet, ALWAYS have plain drinking water available.

Pets can self medicate. You can spray some hydrolat into a separate drinking vessel.

Lavender hydrosol can be added to their bath water.

Hydrosols for formulators

All the benefits of hydrosols make them ideal for use in emulsions, tonics, mists, gels, lotions, natural makeup, shampoo and conditioner.

Yes it makes the product costlier to produce and store… BUT it adds so much goodness and power to your recipe! Should you not be doing that for your clients?

For more inspiration, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

wendy gardner

About Me

Wendy Gardner

Skincare specialist helping business women look and feel their best through menopause. 🌺Potent skincare handcrafted with premium organics.🧴✨Trusted Advisor for Introverts, Empaths & HSPs🌌

Diploma in Aromatherapy (ITHMA London, 2003)

Usui Reiki Master.

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