Rose Water: From Mughal Tradition to TikTok Trend

Your favorite skincare secret dates back centuries. So why is the West now obsessed with it?

Nur Jahan (illustration c. 1850)

Ayesha Le Breton


December 1, 2023


5 min

Legend has it that Empress Nur Jahan, celebrated for her intelligence and beauty, bathed with rose petals. Her betrothed, Mughal Emperor Jahangir, wrote passionately about the essence of rose, “It restores hearts that have gone broken and brings back withered souls.” 

“Everybody has rose flowers in their houses,” said Nisha Saini, who grew up in Himachal Pradesh, India, and now owns an Ayurveda practice in New York. She still remembers her mother’s beauty recipe that used the fresh petals of the paneer or Damask rose, glycerin, store-bought rose water, and some honey. “We would keep that in the fridge and that’s the liquid we would use to cleanse our face,” Saini said. She swears by the concoction and makes it at her practice. 

The rose is the flower we think we know — prominent in Shakespeare, bodega bags, and proposals. But it’s also made its way into mainstream skincare. Today, multinational retailers are burgeoning with rose water toners, sprays, and cleansers. As one of the world’s oldest and most popular flowers, roses are usually more associated with their heady scent and romance — their uses in skincare are usually relegated to South Asian and Middle Eastern homes. So how and why did the rose become so popular in Western beauty today?

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in