What's So Special About Water
Water is everything – most especially in skin care. Depending on our age, we humans consist of over 55% water (babies are as much as 75% water). We thrive on water – most especially our skin. Did you know that it is the water in a skin care product – not the oil – that is adding the moisture to your skin? The function of the oil is to help trap the water so it can do what it is supposed to do: moisturize. (Oils and fats are also carriers of active ingredients, but we'll get into that in when I enthuse about oils).
It's Number 1
If you check the ingredients label of a cream, lotion, skin tonic, or gel, you will find that water (INCI: Aqua) is listed first. Because it is required by law to list cosmetics ingredients in descending order, the first ingredient is always what there is most of in that product.
One Better Than That – 99% Of The Time
Now, what if we can do one better than using 'just water' in that skin cream, tonic, lotion, gel or even deodorant? We can – with hydrosols. Aside from being purified and steam distilled, a hydrosol contains the water-soluble goodness from the plants it passed through during the steam distillation process. Hydrosols carry active ingredients as well as the aromatic signature of the plant it is processed from. A hydrosol is pure, skin-loving luxury, and it just kicks everything up a notch when it replaces water in a product (not to mention how fabulous it is as a stand alone product.
Being able to do 'one better' with every ingredient has become a mantra for me. I do everything I can to replace water with hydrosol (or floral water) in every product. 99% of the time, I succeed.
What Happens the Remaining 1% of the Time
Sometimes an ingredient has specific requirements. Example: I learned some time ago that trying to make a gel with guar gum and hydrosol instead of guar gum and water was both an interesting and educational experience. I'll spare you the details of how many different attempts were made (if I scoured all my notes from way back when, I could actually tell you, but I'm pretty sure you and I can both live without knowing the exact number). Long story short: guar isn't a fan of direct contact hydrosols – until after it has been mixed with water.
The Floral Water Option
In some products, I will use a floral water instead of a hydrosol. A floral water is, in short, distilled purified water with added essential oil and a dispersing agent (a surfactant to keep the oil and water from separating). Some of my rinse-out products (hair & body washes) have a floral water base. And even though it isn't 'the real thing', there are instances where using a floral water is preferrable to a hydrosol. Not every hydrosol has the same scent as its essential oil counterpart. Lavender hydrosol, for example, has a more earthy and 'dark' aroma as compared to the fresh, clean scent of the essential oil. I have several customers that specifically request the floral water instead of the hydrosol for this very reason.
If you're curious about how hyrosols are made, find a short description of the steam distillation process for hydrosol in the middle of this post about Rose.