The rose has been incorporated into beauty regimes for centuries. It is said that Marie Antoinette, the queen of France in the late 18th century, used to have rose petals added to her bath, while rose oil has been highly regarded throughout history as a moisturiser.
According to Monique Simmonds, deputy director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, the Damask rose (rosa damascene) species is particularly noted for its anti-ageing properties. This rose is produced most prevalently in Turkey, specifically in the Isparta area in the south west of the country. Over the last few years, the botanical powers of the Damask rose are being increasingly researched and, as scientists start to better understand these properties, leading beauty companies are using Ispartan Damask rose in anti-ageing products and moisturisers, and as a radiance booster.
Known as the City of Roses, Isparta is the world’s biggest producer of Damask rose and its oil, with around 4,000 acres of land dedicated to cultivating the flower. As it is so important to Isparta, a vast pink rose sculpture has been set up in the main square, and a two-day rose festival is held here each year.
Damask roses from Isparta are harvested over a six-week period in May and June. Rose tours for visitors are arranged by the Dutch travel company Alia in conjunction with Sebat, one of the leading producers of rose oil in the region. On the tour you’ll be able to help pick the roses, relax on a rose ‘bed’, visit the Sebat factory to see how roses are traditionally distilled and to sample cosmetics made with organic rosewater (see Alia’s website, essentialtravel.nl, for details).
The harvested roses from Isparta are sent to distilleries to be used ultimately in a wide range of beauty products, in particular in anti-ageing items which harness the roses’s scientific properties. ‘A good-quality oil from the Damask rose will contain a naturally occurring ingredient called kaempferol, which has been shown to be an effective antioxidant. It reduces oxidative stress on the body brought on by free radicals, which are the result of everything from stress to environmental pollutants,’ Simmonds explains. If the signs of oxidative stress aren’t treated, they can cause fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation (age spots).
There are a number of ways in which to include Turkish rose in your beauty routine. A simple step is to add a serum underneath your moisturiser, after cleansing. REN’s Rose O Moisture Defence Serum, contains Damask rose oil alongside omega oils, ceramides and vitamin A. REN’s products are available in pharmacies throughout the city and this formulation is said to deeply hydrate the skin and lock in moisture. For a double hit of rose, use this in combination with Dr Hauschka’s award-winning Rose Day Cream which has been reformulated to include a higher concentration of Damask rose. This extra dose comes from the condensed steam that is produced when rose essential oil is distilled. Known as rose distillate, this ingredient gives an additional layer of hydration to the skin, making it appear smoothed and soothed.
When it comes to anti-ageing products, many top beauty brands are now trying to incorporate the most beneficial elements of rose into increasingly effective formulations by using stem cell technology. One cosmetics brand putting this into practice is By Terry. At the company’s laboratory, scientists have spent the last decade researching the active ingredient potential of roses for its Cellularose Hydradiance range.
Their work has led them to the centifolia rose, which has excellent moisturising properties. From just 1 miligram of centifolia rose leaf the team can extract millions of rose native cells. Under controlled conditions, these rose stem cells will maintain their structural integrity and retain 100% of their benefits, making this range ideal for those who are looking for products with moisturising and radiance-boosting properties. Visitors to Istanbul can find out more at one of the By Terry stockists in the city, such as Harvey Nichols.
Turkish rose ingredients can also be found in contemporary fragrances. Christian Dior's Gris Montaigne, the scent inspired by the French couture house's first home, was launched in 2013 and contains Turkish rose alongside jasmine sambac from India and Indonesian patchouli. Turkey's own elite perfume brand Nishane has turned to the Ispartan rose for its Rosa Turca Extrait de Parfum; this makes a perfect souvenir of your trip to Istanbul or an ideal gift.
Although science is harnessing their potential, there is still something eternally poetic about roses. Marie Antoinette would have never believed that the same petals used to fragrance her bath water are now at the forefront of pioneering skincare technology.