Week 4: Rose Oil (Rose Damascena)

This blog is part of the Farm to Face collection, which launches on November 1st. Each week we show you exactly how we made one of the ingredients that go inside of your beauty products. If you want to follow along the process, subscribe to updates here.


Rose Oil (Rose Damascena)

This week we’ll cover rose oil: how to make it, rose oil’s skin benefits, and how we used it in our Farm to Face products.

rose damascena


Not to be confused with Rose Hip oil, Rose oil (or rose damascena), more commonly known as the Damask Rose or Castilla Rose, is one of the most luxurious oils you can find.

Actually finding pure rose damascena oil would be quite the feat, considering a steam distillation or similar method yields oil at a rate of 1:3,000 (source).

Here – for example – on Amazon, where oils are usually quite competitively priced, a true dram of Bulgarian rose damascena oil runs for $30. That’s $30 for 1/8 an ounce, or $240 per ounce.

For that reason, you’ll typically find blends at about 10% rose damascena oil, and up to 90% of other forms of geraniol–the main component of rose damascena oil, which is also found in geranium and palmarosa. Whether the retailer tells you that (or even knows it’s adulterated or not) is a totally different story. Ah, the world we live in.

Most high-end brands won’t even pretend to give you 100% pure rose damascena. In this* high-end “Ren Moroccan Rose Otto Bath oil 110ml” for example, you pay $49 for an approximately 3oz bottle of oil–which is “enhanced” with rose damascena oil and palmarosa oil. It’s expensive, but hey, at least they’re being honest about the composition.

Dior’s Rose de Granville is the only 100% rose beauty oil that I know of.. but the set costs $1550. Good luck to you, my friend.


Why We Chose It: Rose Damascena Oil

Rose damascena oil is another one of those fragrance-type oils that Paula Burgeon doesn’t really support, although she admits that “Extensive research has shown it has mixed benefits. In the pro column, inhaling this flower’s scent seems to have relaxing properties and the plant’s petals contain skin-soothing and antioxidant compounds that can benefit skin. 

On the flipside, the numerous chemicals that create this rose’s distinctive fragrance pose a risk of sensitivity.” (source)

Lucky for us, we used the oil extraction method, not a steam distillation or other potentially volatile method–like solvent extraction or supercritical CO2 extraction–to extract the geraniol and other compounds inside the rose damascena. The pros should therefore outweigh the potentials cons.

According to this extensive 2011 review of the pharmacological benefits of the rose damascena, it is “an ornamental plant and beside perfuming effect, several pharmacological properties including anti-HIV, antibacterial, antioxidant, antitussive, hypnotic, antidiabetic, and relaxant effect on tracheal chains have been reported for this plant.”

The composition of rose damascena oil is as follows:

citronellol, geraniol, nerol, linalool, phenyl ethyl alcohol, farnesol, stearoptene, α-pinene, β-pinene, α-terpinene, limonene, p-cymene, camphene, β-caryophyllene, neral,citronellyl acetate, geranyl acetate, neryl acetate, eugenol, methyl eugenol, rose oxide, α-damascenone, β-damascenone, benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, rhodinyl acetate and phenyl ethyl formate

Pretty comprehensive list if you ask me. Citronellol and geraniol lead the way–and there’s linalool again (also found in lavender and spearmint in high quantities). The constituent parts of the rose have been isolated and studied, but since the oil as a whole has been studied so completely, I’d prefer that we look at that research, as it gives a more complete picture.

This 2013 study showed that rose geranium oil – which has a very similar composition to rose damascena oil but is easier to produce – shows very promising anti-inflammatory effects in skin.

Overall, rose damascena oil is very highly researched and has been used for centuries in the middle east and parts of Asia as a medicinal plant. There are powerful anti-oxidant and calming effects, and in the case of our extraction method, very little opportunity for sensitization, the only possible side effect of using the oil.


Where We Got It: Rose Damascena Oil

The Damask Rose is widely grown in Syria, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Iran and China… and evidently, my grandma’s yard, too.

Harvesting the rose oil was a little frustrating, because one day the rose bud comes out. The next two days it blossoms. It will stay open for a day or two, then all the petals fall off at once. What?! I wasn’t paying attention and missed two sets of flowers. Once because there was a rain storm during the bloom, and once because I just wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t think it would all happen so quickly!

how to make rose damascena oil

Anyway, this was a very, very small batch project, but I loved the rose oil because of how lightly, perfectly fragrant the flowers and petals were, and how beautiful the oil looked in the beginning.


How We Made It: Rose Damascena Oil

The rose petals quickly lost their luster, but they stayed a light earthy yellow color, and turned the oil just a hint more yellow.

how to extract rose damascena oil

Organic pomegranate oil was used for this solar extraction, by the way, because from the beginning I planned to include the rose oil in an anti-aging blend, and pomegranate seed oil is a naturally high-vitamin C source, and therefore a great brightener. Although the rose vis a vie pomegranate oil concentration would be moderate in the blend, a little extra vitamin C never hurt anybody. ? I mean, who doesn’t want to glow?

The flower petals were thin and very easy to extract the oil from; they held on to very little.

extracting rose damascena oil

The final oil smelled lightly fragrant, but nothing strong like a steam distillation would create. This is the theme of all the extracted oils: the carry the light fragrant scent of their mother plants without creating an overly strong scent. They are perfect inoffensive to the nose.

Make your own! Start with one of these oils:

How We Used It: Rose Damascena Oil

I’ve alluded to it already, but we only used the rose oil in REWIND, our anti-aging face oil. REWIND is made to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant blend, and this 100% fit the bill. Rose oil is powerfully anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, as is its carrier oil, pomegranate seed oil.

In the future we may choose to create and sell a 100% rose damascena blend, because this oil was simply amazing to the smell and touch. Look out for it soon ?


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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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