Floral waters have always seemed like a pointless beauty product to me. It's water. That smells like a garden. Big whoop. But when you're a beauty editor for as long as I've been, you start to realize that there's more to many of those seemingly basic products than meets the eye. High-tech, multi-ingredient solutions are wonderful in their own right, but sometimes single-ingredient, old-school beauty remedies are just what the skin needs. Case in point: orange blossom water.
Also known as orange flower water, the bloom in question is a bud from the bitter orange tree. According to Lush brand and product trainer Amanda Sipenock, this flower's extract is predominately used in perfumes and is rumored to have aromatherapeutic benefits that include feeling uplifted and happy.
When used in perfumes, the focus of the flower is the essential oils within, which are distilled by using alcohol to separate the oil from the blossom. Waters, on the other hand, are basically fancy tea — you just steep the petals in hot water. Boom — instant herbal skin remedy.
Now, why would you want to go through this bizarre tea ceremony in the first place? Because orange flower water is a crazy good skin tonic. "Orange flower is soothing and toning," says Sipenock. "We use it in our Imperialis Moisturizer and it balances oil and brightens the skin." Fun fact: Almost any product with citrus in it will impart brightness to your complexion.
I first started using orange flower water whilst replicating Marie Antoinette's skin-care routine in my "Famous Ladies In History Had Weird Beauty Rituals" series. Her royal highness used two floral waters on her face every day. Of course she did. Rosewater I'd used myself in a spray (hey Chantecaille!) but orange flower was a new one. Being the good beauty editor that I am, I doused myself with what I thought was going to be total snake oil. And then, I immediately ate my words because that innocuous little bottle of pretty-smelling agua cast a clarity spell on my complexion. Looks like Marie was on to something. Except for the pigeon water — that stuff was nasty.
Full disclosure: I did not DIY my water — I am not Snow White frolicking through a forest and making flower chain crowns for Disney Coachella. Instead I used Shea Terra Organics Moroccan Blossom Purifying Facial Water. After cleansing and swiping on Caudalie's Moisturizing Toner (which, for the record is pretty freaking awesome in its own right), I dabbed a few drops of orange flower water on a cotton pad and gently applied on my skin in circular motions.
When the liquid dried, I continued on my merry little way getting ready for bed. When I walked by the mirror again — about 30 minutes later — I was confused and ecstatic. My angry spots were calm, and looked more light pink than murder-scene crimson. And for someone going through the unending hormonal breakout from hell (six months and counting you demon bumps), that's huge. When I woke up, the red was still subdued and the pimples were less, for lack of a better word, bumpy.
I started applying that combo morning and night, followed by a healthy serving of Skyn Iceland's Pure Cloud Cream (again, another stellar essential) and saw an immediate boost in redness control and texture. Plus, my skin was Lupita-wrapped-in-silk-cuddling-kittens soft.
Reality check: This isn't a magic disappearing act in a bottle. Don't expect to wake up with aforementioned Lupita perfection. For me, this is a good stopgap to help make this soul-crushing skin riot more bearable. I'll take any help I can get on that front. I imagine, for anyone suffering from a bit less dramatic of a breakout, that this would be that extra nudge your complexion needs to get its shit together and stop being a brat. In other words, kick that inflammation — and the ensuing zits — to the curb.
And, if you're more DIY than I am and don't want to drop the $16 for that bewitching pre-made potion, you can make your own at home. All you need are some bitter orange tree blossoms (you can use fresh or dried) and some hot water. Steep it in the water until it is no longer warm, funnel it into a bottle and there you go. How very Betty Crocker of you.
Shea Terra Organics Moroccan Blossom Purifying Facial Water, $16, available at Shea Terra Organics.