Rose water has been a part of beauty routines for centuries. Originally from Iran, the rosa damascena, or “dusk rose” as it is popularly known, has been cultivated for its essential oils since the 7th century A.D. Created by combining dusk rose essential oil with water, rose water is a solution that can be misted or poured. Due to its medicinal capabilities and its significance in their religious beliefs, Iranians have a strong connection to this plant. These roses are symbols of love, purity, faith, and beauty, leading to their popularity worldwide.
With its pleasant scent and antioxidant properties, rose water has more recently gained popularity in skincare. Studies have shown that the extracts in rose water may have anti-inflammatory capabilities and can help prevent aging. And while many scalp concerns can be traced back to irritation and inflammation, skincare enthusiasts have experimented with rose water on their scalp and hair.
To find out if rose water is what’s missing from our regimen, we turned to BosleyMD Certified Trichologist Gretchen Friese and board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling for their takes on using rose water for hair and scalp health.
Meet the Expert
Type of Ingredient: Astringent and antioxidant for the scalp
Main benefits: Reduces oiliness, prevents dandruff, and smoothes frizz
Who should use it: In general, anyone concerned with oil production on the scalp. Those with curly or dry hair may benefit from its moisturizing properties. Rose water is not recommended for anyone with an allergy to roses or other flowers as it may cause irritation.
How often can you use it: Rose water can be applied to the hair and scalp 2-3 times per week as a mist or rinse.
Works well with: Witch hazel can be used in conjunction with rose water to reduce inflammation in the scalp. Both should be used in moderation to avoid overuse and a doctor should be consulted before beginning use.
Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interfere with rose water.
Benefits of Rose Water for Hair
Applying rose water topically can have many benefits for the hair and scalp. A mild astringent, rose water can prevent excess oil production on the scalp. And an oily scalp environment can (counterintuitively) lead to dandruff and other hair issues caused by an unbalanced scalp. Further, rose water contains vitamins A, B3, C, and E, and has been shown to prevent inflammation. Sperling notes that rose water's anti-inflammatory properties can even help with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis of the scalp. If not for the medical benefits, many people use rose water on the skin and hair simply for its pleasant, fresh-cut rose aroma.
- Mild scalp astringent: Rose water works as an astringent on the scalp, constricting skin to prevent excess oil production.
- Defense against dandruff: In reducing oil production, rose water works to prevent dandruff formation on the scalp. Sperling recommends targeting scalp oiliness to stop dandruff, as it is a byproduct of oil overproduction.
- Anti-inflammatory agent: Rose water has natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe irritation on the scalp. Friese adds that this elixir can especially benefit those with eczema or psoriasis of the scalp.
- Frizz-fighting moisturizer: Rose water can provide hydration to dry and curly hair. Friese shares that people with curly hair often use rose water to fight frizz and increase shine.
- Prevents hair loss: A healthy scalp environment is key to preventing hair growth and loss issues. Friese explains that "The anti-inflammatory properties of rosewater can help promote a healthy scalp environment and reduce hair loss."
- Aromatherapy stress-reducer: Stress is one of the leading contributors to hair loss. Rose oil, which is found in rose water, has been shown in studies to ease nervous stress and tension. It has even been credited with alleviating allergies and headaches.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that rose water is appropriate for all hair types and textures, including natural and color-treated hair. Oil production on the scalp can vary across hair types and textures, and almost anyone can benefit from managing the oiliness of their scalp. Additionally, the moisturizing effect of rose water makes it a great choice for those with dry or curly hair, as it's not as drying as other astringents. Finally, irritation and inflammation of the scalp caused by eczema, psoriasis, or other conditions can happen to anyone. Rose water's anti-inflammatory properties can work to reduce the pain and itchiness associated with these conditions, while restoring balance to the scalp environment.
Those with sensitive skin or previous reactions to essential oils should proceed with caution. Friese noted that there is a potential for allergic reactions when using rose water. She explained that "Rose water is safe for most people to use. However, if you’re allergic to roses (or possibly flowers in general) I wouldn’t recommend using it. Speaking with an allergist may help you determine whether rose water is a good choice for you." Sperling echoed these concerns and stressed that a known allergy to roses would result in an allergic reaction, preventing the user from seeing any benefits from using rose water.
How to Use Rose Water for Hair
Rose water can be applied directly to the hair and scalp to obtain its many benefits. Both experts recommend applying rose water to both the hair and scalp in order to see results. And while there are many rose water products available for purchase that can be used on the skin and hair, you can also easily make your own rose water at home by steeping organic rose petals in boiled, distilled water to capture their oil and essences. It's important to note that Friese does not recommend using rose water more than two-to-three times per week, as "excessive use can cause an imbalance to the PH of the scalp, making any benefits counterproductive."
- Post-shampoo rinse: Friese recommends rinsing your hair with rose water after you shampoo (or after both shampoo and conditioner). She adds that you can either leave it in or rinse it out after a few hours.
- Add it to shampoo or conditioner: Some shampoos and conditioners may contain rose water, but you can also make your own by adding rose water to your favorite shampoo and conditioner, Sperling suggests.
- Misting the hair and scalp: Rose water is often found in the form of a mist, or you can create your own by pouring rose water into a misting bottle. Applying it as a mist is best for smoothing frizz and giving hair a great scent.
- Dab onto the scalp: When looking to reduce dandruff and itching, Friese recommends applying rose water directly onto the scalp. Using a cotton ball or swab, gently massage the rose water into the skin of the scalp. Follow with shampoo and conditioner.