Common Scents: Rose Absolute

Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll be talking about Rose Absolute!

Think of a flower. Was it a rose? If it was, that’s no surprise; the rose is one of the most recognizable flowers in the world! Besides being the symbol of love, romance and beauty, roses are widely used in soaps and cosmetics and have been revered throughout history for their intoxicating aroma.

Rose oil comes in two different forms and is extracted from the petals of the rose flower, from the genus Rosa of the plant family Rosaceae. The rose is native primarily in temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, and is grown in Asia, North America, Europe and northwest Africa.

What’s in a Name?

The word rose comes from the Latin word rosa and transformed into the spelling we know today via Old French.

A Sweet Smelling History 

Roses have a long history of inspiring love, temptation and promoting beauty. Let’s take a stroll into the mythical history of this beautiful flower to find out why it has stood the test of time as the prevailing material way to show affection.


In ancient Persia as well as in ancient Indian literature, the rose is used symbolically as a tool in the creation of the world and of manking. For example, Vishnu (the supreme god of India) created Lakshmi, his bride, out of 108 large rose petals and 1,008 smaller rose petals.


In Greece, it was believed that Aphrodite created the rose after her love, Adonis, was wounded on a hunt for a boar. When she heard that he was suffering, she rushed to him and her tears mixed with his blood to form red roses. It was also believed that the sea foam from which Aphrodite was formed created white rose bushes wherever it touched land!


The Romans believed that Flora, the Goddess of Springs and flowers, was so distraught when she found the dead body of her most beloved and beautiful nymph that she called out to the other gods to help her transform the nymph’s body into the Queen of Flowers (widely considered to be the rose). Hearing her call, Apollo gave the nymph the breath of life, Bacchus bathed her in nectar, Vertumnus gave her fragrance, and Flora gave the nymph petals so that she would always be remembered as being beautiful.

In Religion

Christians widely believed that the rose did not have thorns until Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, and the thorns were formed because of mankind’s wickedness. In the Muslim religion, roses are said to be formed from the perspiration of the Prophet Mohammed.

Types of Rose Oil

There are two types of oil that you will come across in your search. The extraction and distillation of rose oil dates back to before the French Revolution, when the French would distill roses specifically for the use of their famous rosewater!

Rose Otto: Rose otto, also called attar of roses, is an oil produced via steam distillation of roses, specifically the Damask rose. This oil is usually either olive green or a pale yellow and has a scent that is described as floral and spicy.

Rose Absolute: The more commonly used of the rose oils, rose absolute is produced using solvent extraction and is favored for its lower price point. Rose absolute is noticeably thicker than rose otto and is usually olive green or red/orange in color. The scent of rose absolute is described as light and floral, and is the closest to the popular rose scent of the two oils.

To produce one ounce of rose absolute, approximately 60,000 roses are needed. This is why rose absolute is more expensive then many other popular essential oils; the process of extraction is much more time consuming and costly. Flowers are typically picked by hand before sunrise and then the extraction process begins!

Benefits of Rose Oil

Besides allegedly inciting feelings of love, rose absolute has been used throughout history for many ailments, including:

Stress relief

Anxiety reduction

Menstrual and menopausal symptom relief

Wrinkle reduction



Remember: this information is being provided strictly for educational and entertainment purposes. The FDA has not approved rose absolute or rose oil in general for medical use. The HSCG does not give medical advice and does not advise using rose absolute for medicinal purposes.


Because it is so expensive to produce, some dishonest merchants dilute their rose oil with other oils like geranium and palmarosa. Sometimes, these oils will still be marketed as pure rose absolute oil; be sure to buy from respectable and historically honest suppliers and ask questions about the oil’s origin to make sure you don’t spend rose absolute money on mostly geranium oil!

Final Thoughts 

Using rose absolute oil in your soap and cosmetics can add a light, romantic scent that is both uplifting and inspiring. With the storied history behind the rose, you have many talking points for your rose-scented products; don’t let the expense of the oil dissuade you! A light touch with a high quality rose oil will make any soap or cosmetic positively float off the shelves. Get creative with fragrance blending and invent your own warm and romantic aroma to keep your customers coming back time and again.

Do you know what pairs well with rose absolute? Find out by taking a look at our article about Fragrance Blending:

A Beginner’s Guide to Castile Soap

Castile soap is arguably one of the most simultaneously simple and complicated soaps in existence! From debates on its origin, to arguments about what it should and should not contain, castile soap means something different to just about every soap maker.

The Debatable History of Castile Soap 

It is difficult to find a definitive answer as to where castile soap originated. Some say that it dates back to Levant, where Aleppo soap makers historically and presently produce hard soaps based on olive and laurel oils. Others say that the soap originated in Castilla, Spain. Whatever the true root of castile soap may be, one thing is for certain; soap makers have been utilizing the benefits of this hard, luxurious soap for thousands of years.

Contents in Flux 

Finding the definitive answer of exactly what castile soap should contain was no easier than learning its history! Some believe that true castile soap is made using 100% extra virgin olive oil and sodium or potassium hydroxide. Others believe that the scope of ingredients encompasses all soaps made with only vegetable derived oils and lye, as long as the recipe is devoid of any and all animal tallow (also known as animal fat). Because of this, it is possible to see a castile soap made from almost any vegetable based oil; but many soap makers still believe that a true castile soap should contain only olive oil as its main ingredient.

The Benefits of Castile 

Finding the benefits of castile soap was easy; this beloved soap is revered for its multi-purpose cleaning skills. In liquid form, many people use it to clean their floors, toilets, sinks, countertops or as a spray-able solution for plants to help repel pests. In bar (and liquid form), castile soap is used to wash the body, hair and face. It is a truly versatile product that is very simple to formulate, and has the added benefit of being vegan-friendly by nature because of its all-vegetable based oil ingredients. Because of its simple formulation, it is also customizable with colors, scents and oils, which means the options for making your own standout soap are limitless.

The Drawbacks of Castile 

Although there are few drawbacks of castile soap, it is important to take them into consideration before making it.

Castile soap can be made using either the cold process method or the hot process method. The biggest difference in these two processes when it comes to castile soap is most definitely the cure time. Cold process castile can take between 4-6 months to cure, with unmolding after a two week initial wait. This can be a big drawback for soapmakers who intend to offer this at an upcoming show or event; make sure to give yourself plenty of time. As with any soap, a longer cure time is desired to produce a harder bar, but this is a must with castile soap.

Using the hot process method will drastically cut down on the cure time, but will not produce as smooth a finished product as cold process. However, the cure time for castile soap using hot process is only about two to four weeks, with unmolding after 24 hours. Although this is a faster turnaround for this particular kind of soap, it is important to note that the longer the cure time, the better your bar will be.

Formulating Your Castile 

Formulation of your castile soap is going to depend on a few factors.

  • Are you making liquid castile, or bar castile? If you are making liquid castile, you will need to use potassium hydroxide. If you are making a bar castile, you’ll need sodium hydroxide.
  • Will you be sticking with the traditional 100% olive oil method, or mixing a few vegetable-only oils?
  • Are you using hot process or cold process, and what is your timeline for a finished product?
  • What will your superfat percentage be? Although superfatting between 5% and 10% is standard, consider reducing your superfat to 3 or 4 percent instead. A lower superfat percentage will help your bar become harder in a shorter amount of cure time.

Final Thoughts 

Castile soap is a simple, traditional product that appeals to a wide consumer base. If you plan around the cure time needed to have a quality, hardened bar, your customers will come back time and again for this amazing soap!



Color Me Clean: Colorants in Soap and Cosmetics

If you make your own soap and cosmetics, and especially if you make soap and/or cosmetics with bright colors and beautiful patterns, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “It’s so pretty, I don’t want to use it” more than once! While breaking the barrier between decoration and usable product is a challenge in its very own category, another challenge that Handcrafters face in formulation is finding  suitable colorants to perfect those stunning swirls and creative color combinations.

A Good Clean Art Form 

Your creativity shines through your product. Whether you are making brilliantly colored soaps or mineral makeup, choosing one of the approved colorants based on its quality and stability is tantamount to choosing your oils and fragrance! Using an improper colorant will likely result in a disappointing or unexpected final product; in this article, we will talk about a few of the colorants available today, and what they are best used in.

Types of Colorant 


Mica is a mineral mined from the ground. After it’s mined, it is then finely ground and colored with iron oxides or FD&C colors (which we will discuss later on in this article). While mica itself is considered a “natural” ingredient because it is mined directly from the earth and refined, it becomes a synthetic ingredient when it is colored with FD&C colorants. It is important to remember this when labeling your products; be sure that if you are using mica, you have done research on the specific color to find out if it is a naturally occurring mica color, colored with iron oxide (considered natural), or synthetically colored with FD&C colors.

If you plan to use mica for soapmaking, there are a few things to consider. Mica will retain its truest color and sparkle if used in a transparent melt and pour soap; however, in an opaque cold process soap, it may morph or disappear altogether, with no trace of the sparkle you’d see in melt and pour. It is strongly recommended that you color a small test batch first to make sure that your usage rate and resulting color are what you’re looking for!

Micas are very popular in makeup products, too! Due to its sparkly nature, it is perfect for lipsticks, eye shadows and blushes; just make sure to specifically buy micas that are considered safe for the eyes to avoid irritation or unwanted reactions to your finished product.


When you hear oxide or ultramarine, think pigments! These lab-created colors are not natural, but are considered as close to nature in composition as possible. Pigments are typically very stable and have a low risk of morphing in cold process soap, making them a safe choice if you are looking for vibrant colors.

Although many people shy away from lab created colors or products, keep an open mind with ultramarines and oxides. Synthetic in this case still means that the resulting product is kept as close to nature’s original contents as possible, and is still widely considered natural by many handcrafters. Although they can be a bit more prone to clumping than mica, they are very cost effective and safe due to FDA regulations.

FD&C Colorants

FD&C stands for Food, Drug and Cosmetic, and is the name for a group of synthetic, lab made colorants. These colorants are often used in processed food as well as soap and cosmetics.

FD&C colorants are relatively inexpensive, and are great in melt and pour soaps; many recommend steering clear of these colorants if you are using the cold process method, however.

Natural Colorants

Did you know that carminic acid extracted from female cochineal insects can be used to produce a beautiful red dye? It’s true! Natural colorants are all around us, and although the colors may not always be as vibrant as a lab created color, they are still gorgeous in their own way.

A few natural colorants include:


Madder root can be used to create a red shade, but be sure to test it first as it can also darken or shift to a more purple hue. Paprika can also be used to create red, but be mindful; it can also cause irriation. Moroccan red clay can also be used to create a rich, bold red.

Orange & Yellow 

Annatto is a popular natural colorant used to produce yellows or light orange. Beet root powder, calendula and carrot can also produce yellow and orange. Saffron is also used often to give a desired golden color.


Cholorphyll is one of the most popular natural colorants to attain a green hue. You can also use spinach or spirulina; keep in mind that spirulina may produce a more blue-green tint.


Indigo powder is one of the go-tos for a beautiful, rich blue color but beware-this powder stains easily! Woad powder is also used as a natural blue colorant, but carries the same risk of staining as indigo.


Alkanet root can be used to get a purple hue, while madder root can often produce a purple color too.


Activated charcoal is a popular choice for a black natural colorant. Finely ground coffee can also produce a black color.


You may use either instant or fresh, finely ground coffee to attain a medium to dark brown color. Adding chocolate as an ingredient to your soap will also produce a brown color (and a delicious smell!).

Final Thoughts 

There are many different colorants to consider, and although this may seem intimidating, it really presents the opportunity for unlimited combinations and designs. There are thousands of color combinations and possibilities available for your consideration. That’s an enviable palette for any artist, except your finished masterpiece will be good for the eye and body!

Need a little inspiration? Check out last week’s blog post, BAR-twork: Pencil Lines to learn how to incorporate elegant lines into your soaps!