Can Rose Essential Oils Save Your Skin? Plus: Aromatherapy 101

Mais oui, according to a new study.

We told you a few weeks ago that thyme has been shown to be more effective than benzoyl peroxide—that skin-destroying ingredient that, in my opinion, totally doesn’t work if you’re over the age of 15. Many of you jumped with joy (which is to say posted comments about how awesome that is), and now we have even more interesting news: Rose essential oils can block the effects of stress on skin when inhaled—not applied topically.

This is the kind of research that gets me excited. As anyone with skin woes can tell you, the impulse to reach for a product to fix the problem is tough to beat. Unfortunately, as we’ve said many times, this doesn’t do much for you in a big-picture way. It’s the old “treating the symptoms, not the condition” thing. When it comes to just about everything, and especially our skin, this kind of spot treating (ha) does not work. Or if it does, it doesn’t work for long.

Rose has been shown—in a human and rat study—to significantly inhibit cortisol, the stress hormone that causes inflammation (which causes zits). It also blunted transepidermal water loss, which happens when your skin’s barrier function is compromised.

There are many ways you can put this into play in your life. has recipes for both thyme and rose skin solutions here.

Or you can seek out a potion that contains rose and huff the stuff when you’re stressed. Here’s some things that are worth knowing about aromatherapy:

1. Not all oils are created equal. The tidy rows of bottles you see lining the counter at health food stores? Not what you’re looking for. To work, essential oils need to be super-concentrated and carefully crafted, and when they are, they are incredibly powerful for your mind, body and your spirit. Many of these plants and flowers have incontrovertible evidence supporting their use to heal us, but you’re not going to get these benefits unless you’re working with high-quality oils. That means organic, wild crafted and, ideally, made in small batches.

2. You can use them anywhere, anytime. I basically always have aromatherapy and flower essences in my handbag, as anyone who’s been to a bar with me can attest. (I like dosing people whether they ask for it or, as with our friend Erika, violently protest.) I also keep some on my desk at work, which many a coworker has gotten in the habit of popping by to borrow. This makes me happy.

3. Understand that they can seriously affect your mood. This is important! Essential oils should not be used willy-nilly. The sleep potions I use, for instance, feel almost narcotic when I take them (looking at you Hope Gillerman and Essence of Vali). But investing in high-quality oils can be an amazingly effective (and completely drug-free) way to reduce stress, sleep better, and even look better.

Different ways to use them:

—Drip a few drops on a tissue and hold it to your nose taking 10 deep, meditative breaths.

—Put a few drops on your hand and rub them together, warming the oil and releasing the fragrance. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale as above. Remember that oils are super-concentrated, and can irritate or even burn the skin if you use too much. You may be better off skipping this approach altogether, though I’d be lying if I said this isn’t what I usually do.

—Put four or five drops in the bath for a sinus—and stress—clearing bath.

—Bring it with you in the shower and apply a few drops to your hands, rub them together and pretend you’re at a spa.

—Dab a few drops on the corner of your pillowcase at bedtime.

Have you ever tried rose essential oils?

36 Responses to “Can Rose Essential Oils Save Your Skin? Plus: Aromatherapy 101”
  1. Anna says:

    Do you guys recommend any vendors for concentrated rose oils? The ones at WF, for instance, are always blended with jojoba since rose is so expensive.

  2. E says:

    Nope — what’s a good brand for this? Have some gnarly zits that could use some fixin!

  3. a says:

    I really, really love Phoenix Botanicals Rose Supreme solid perfume that I got from Spriit Beauty Lounge. It smells simply divine. It is a mix of other things, too, mainly shea butter, jojoba oil, and sandalwood oil…does it still count for the stree-relieving benefits? Even if it doesn’t, it’s still amazing. :)

    I’ve also recently discovered rose water at my local coop, inspired by a past Morning Routine, and that’s really nice, too.

  4. Heglaé says:

    I use 2-3 drops of tea tree oil mixed with my shampoo every time I wash my head. It make my scalp dandruff-free!

  5. Erin says:

    Has anyone tried tea-tree oil for acne spots? I found a lot of praise for it online. When I tried it, the tingling feeling just kept getting more intense and it drove me crazy!

  6. therese says:

    I get my essential oils from Mountain Rose herbs. They are all organic and pure. They also have bulk spices and herbs. I will have to look into the rose oil. It is expensive but you won’t need to use that much.

  7. Annette says:

    I’ve always heard Mountain Rose Herbs recommended as the place for oils. They have absolutely everything.

  8. Lolly says:

    I was wondering if there is any appreciable difference between absolute of rose and rose EO for therapeutical purposes. The price difference between the two is quite dramatic ($28 vs. $129 on Mountain Rose Herbs), so I would rather not spend well over $100 on the essemtial oil if I didn’t have to do so in order to get the same benefits.

  9. Amy says:

    @Erin – I use tea tree oil on my acne spots and it works really well. If it’s too intense for you, you can dip a q-tip in distilled water and then put a drop or so of oil in it, and apply to your face with the q-tip. I’ve never experience intense tingling, but once i did put quite a bit on my face with a bad breakout and it made me very flushed. I heard it’s good to dilute it if your skin doesn’t agree with it.

  10. Rebecca says:

    @Erin, tea tree is not my choice, but those who do use it dilute it – so maybe you need to dilute it more?

    Many sources advise against putting undiluted essential oils directly on skin, but there are some (like lavender) that I often use straight on my skin. I like lavender as a topical antiseptic/anti-inflammatory.

    I’m not fond of the smell of rose so I doubt it would have a positive effect on me. I really do like lavender and vetiver and sandalwood, and I like using those for stress.

  11. ania says:

    @erin i’ve tried tee tree oil and found it too harsh for my skin, lavender oil is way milder and works well to calm down any inflammation (at least for me:)

  12. Pepper says:

    @Erin, I add a couple drops of tea tree oil into my face serum and I think it helps my acne a lot! Straight out of the bottle onto the skin though, it is intense. I think you can dilute it with a little water too.

    I’d love to know too what “counts” as rose oil! I adore the smell of stuff like Weleda wild rose oil so I’d happily add it to my routine

  13. Elem says:

    Wow…loving this

  14. Katherine says:

    I’ve heard using essential oils directly on your skin can be very irritating. Is this only certain oils or depends on the person’s skin sensitivity? I’ve always been told to mix it into something like a lotion or oil so it’s not the straight oil. I love adding essential oils to my homemade cleaning and beauty products.

  15. Rebecca says:

    @Katherine, I believe there are certain oils that tend to be strong/irritating (like tea tree) but individual sensitivity is also a factor. I am very sensitive and I regularly use lavender and vetiver undiluted on my skin, and sometimes sandalwood and helichrysum with no problems. But I react strongly to certain oils on my skin even when they are diluted. I suggest doing some research on the oils you plan to use. If you try an EO undiluted, do it in a small spot and somewhere you won’t be too bothered if you react.

  16. jen says:

    “The tidy rows of bottles you see lining the counter at health food stores? Not what you’re looking for. ” —not sure what you mean by this? Do you mean, like, Aura Cacia and Simplers essential oils (which is what lines the shelf of my healthfood store)?

  17. ela says:

    Im so excited to come here and read all of this amazing things about essential oils, i’ve known about them but was too scare to try them, (and also because they are so hard to find here in Panama in central america and organic and holistic isnt really BIG) just today I bought some new ones, like lemon, sage and rosemary for my dandruff, i’ve already tried jojoba oil and first i tried tea tree oil and nothing seem to work, i guess there’s nothing that will make it dissapear but mostly just keep it under control.

    Also I bought this vegan product from LUSH, its a tonic with rosewater and lavanda, its not completely clean, but wanted to know if anyone has any feedback on that brand?

    If anyone can please recommend any good oild for my acne i would really appreciated, i’ve been using tea tree oil diluted in water to dry some spots, but what can i do to prevent them? maybe a combination of oils by night? anyone?

  18. Micaela says:

    I dilute tea tree oil with aloe vera before putting it on my skin. You can also use vitamin E. I find it’s kind of hit or miss. Sometimes it clears up the spot in a few days, sometimes it just makes it become a whitehead a lot faster, and sometimes it doesn’t do much at all.

  19. Meghan says:

    I’ve never used Rose essential oil but have used a handful of others. I get mine from Young Living, as recommended by a friend. I love them! Some are mild enough to apply directly to the skin and others are not – YL will note this on the bottle, but it does depend on how sensitive your skin is. I use Peppermint oil for headaches and the bottle recommends dilution, but I apply it directly. It tingles but has not caused any irritation. Lavender is gentle enough to apply directly and I’ve found it reduces redness in the skin.

  20. Rebecca W says:

    I still don’t understand the difference between EO and Flower Essences…?

    I have Essence of Vali sleep blend and the Flower Essences mini vials. If I want to order something to wake me up or set the mood…I don’t know which route to go. I don’t like smelling too “hippie” so maybe that’s a reason to go with the flowers but otherwise I have no idea how to choose between the two.

  21. jenn pesce says:

    thanks for spreading the good word about rose oil! we can’t get enough of REAL essential rose oil! it’s great for soothing skin post hair removal, (and you already known a vibrant complexion everyday).

  22. Erin says:

    Thanks everyone for your responses! I usually mix 100% pure argan oil (Josie Maran) with some lavender and put that on my chin and it has been helping a lot.

    When I tried the tea tree, I put the argan on as usual, then put a spot of tea tree on the acne spot with my finger. I could try diluting it. The tingling is like that menthol minty tingle, but the problem was instead of going away it kept getting more intense as it absorbed into my skin. This is also why I never liked tea tree shampoo. My whole scalp felt tingly!

    On a totally unrelated topic – sorry if it’s inappropriate for comments here — has anyone cleansed with jojoba oil? It’s working pretty well, but I’m getting whiteheads and more oily in areas on my face that had previously balanced (or so I had thought).

    I’m also curious to know, as @jen asked — what is wrong with the 100% pure EO in the health food store?

  23. Nancy says:

    Love the topic. And love to learn from others’ experiences.
    I’m yet to try rose essential oils though..
    Love lavender essential oil and this past week had the pleasant experience of having a seat mate on a flight that just before take off, got some lavender essential oil from her purse, dropped some on the palm of her hands and inhaled it for a few seconds.. Needless to say, our row ( and maybe a few rows around us) all benefitted from her act. lovely!

  24. jessica says:

    Eee!! This is giving me tingles!!
    I was going to keep it a surprise but our NEW and upcoming lip balm will be very, very rosy! Real rose, too, naturally!
    If anybody wants to keep in touch about the release date, just join our non-spammy newsletter (I send one out monthly).

    Our contact sheet is still a little fugly, haven’t redesigned and cleaned it up yet, lol.

  25. Emma says:

    Essential oils are extremely powerful, and should be treated with great respect.

    I once went to a well-trained aromatherapist who created edible aromatherapy mixes for me, to combat/prevent health issues like flu or the common cold – let me tell you it was the most intense thing I have ever tested. I had to dilute a few drops of the EO mix to a spoonful of honey, and still it took me about 5 minutes to go through it (and I LOVE honey…).

    So, he told me that you should NEVER EVER EVER use undiluted essential oils on your skin. They can cause severe reactions and can make you become intolerant to the smell/origin for your entire life. They should always be diluted in a carrier oil/cream and in the right proportion. Therefore, I would suggest you do your research properly and if not familiar with a particular brand/essence, not to put them on your skin undiluted.

    Extra care should be taken if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (basically most EO are not allowed), have epilepsy, heart or kidney problems.

    Please read the relevant warnings/hazards page on Mountain Rose Herbs and you’ll get an idea on how powerful they are:

  26. Erika says:

    Just BTW- Siobhan drops the stuff in my water AND MY WINE, if I’m not vigilant. It’s a crazy world out there.

  27. Julie says:

    You will not want to use Rose Absolute. That is a hexane/solvent extracted product and traces of the hexane will remain in the final product. Absolutes are used just for perfumery purposes.
    Yes, real rose oil is quite costly. You should dilute it way, way down for application to skin. It is *incredibly* strong. I usually dilute it to 1/4 its strength and then add 1 or 2 drops to my base oil. Anything more than that and it is going to blow you away with how strong it would be. A little dab will do ya! Once you have it you can use it for a body oil, inhalation, sachets, diffusion… whatever!
    I do not recommend Young Living, as their application techniques that promote direct use for many oils are improper and highly likely to promote sensitization. Most people trained or well versed in aromatherapy would not recommend them either.
    If you would like to explore a nice list of suppliers you may not find via google search there is a good list at the Natural Perfumer’s Guild site:
    One of my absolute faves is Eden Botanicals, which is on the list. They are AH-MA-ZING and I have never once received even a sample from them that wasn’t great quality. They’re not the cheapest site but they are incredible at sourcing quality oils and super nice people.
    Mountain Rose does have a nice selection of organic oils and lots are fairly priced. I buy from them sometimes.
    I also wrote 3 articles that pertain to Stress and skin inflammation, some time ago before this series of posts came out….
    I have been a big aromatherapy geek since 2000 or so when I first got my hands on a bunch of EOs. I still spend most days totally doused in natural aromas, as they fill our studio. I’m smitten!

  28. Hope Johnson says:

    We are offering a very potent Rose Essential Oil via our website,


  29. Julie says:

    Also, Ela, I know Lush uses quite a few fragrance oils in their products. I would not trust them as a source for anything therapeutically valid.
    And Jen, I can’t say as much about Simplers, but if you are interested in getting really good quality essential oils I wouldn’t buy Aura Cacia. Their stuff is commercial grade and once you’ve smelled some of the better quality oils available from online or mail order suppliers there just isn’t any comparison.
    I also received some samples from Amrita Aromatherapy at one time and they were very nice, and they have a wide range of certified organic products. :)

  30. We offer complete solutions in natural ways. At apteka store you can find a range of ahava, DAX Bust Modeling Serum, eveline and various other body care products at one place. For more detail please visit us at Essential Oils

  31. Alyssa says:

    Would anyone know of a place to purchase EO or flower essences in the store? It seems like the only places to find them are online…are there any brands that you can buy in the store that are worth it, or should I just stick to the recommended online suppliers?


  32. Mike says:

    Therapeutic-grade rose (Rosa damascena) oil is steam distilled not solvent extracted. It has an ORAC of 160,400. Wow!! You can get it here

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