Extracts, Distillates, Hydrosols, and Tinctures – What are they and What’s the Difference?

Written by: | February 22, 2016 | 2 responses

Extracts, Distillates, Hydrosols, and Tinctures are effective and fun ingredients to use in your skincare. They can add color, scent, and can even replace water to add extra beneficial attributes to your formulations, but you may be asking yourself “What exactly are extracts, hydrosols, distillates and tinctures and what’s the difference between them?” You’re not alone!

Distillates by Any Other Name …

Let’s start with Distillates, which are also known by many other names such as Hydrosols, Hydroflorates, and Floral Waters. Distillates are made by taking a raw material (flowers, leaves, roots, wood) and loading it into a distillation still with up to five times its weight in water. The water steam passes through the raw material, lifts and carries the essential oil particles into the column and then into a condenser. The mix of water and Essential Oil is collected in a decanter where the separation of the two happens. The water that is collected from the bottom of the decanter is the distillate or hydrosol. This water will contain up to .02% essential oil giving the distillate its scent and usually will smell bright and pleasantly fragrant. The essential oil, which naturally floats on top, is collected from the top of the decanter. Distillates can be used directly on the skin for their astringent qualities or used to replace water in any cosmetic formulation.

Extracts and Tinctures

Let’s move on to extracts and tinctures. The important, although somewhat confusing distinction here is that all tinctures are extracts, but not all extracts are tinctures. Tinctures are concentrated extracts that use alcohol as the solvent. Imagine making a nice cup of your favorite tea, but instead of boiling water, you’re using alcohol. Using alcohol will increase the concentration of your tea, as alcohol is a much more powerful solvent than water, and will probably make you pretty tipsy if you drink it. Extracts use any other solvent besides alcohol. This would include your morning cup of coffee or tea. Some extracts are made using parabens as a solvent. The parabens impart their preservative properties which then can act as a preservative in cosmetic products. If you prefer to use extracts rather than tinctures and are opposed to having any parabens in your products, be sure to ask what solvent was used before purchasing your extract. Essential Wholesale & Labs makes all our tinctures using natural, wild-crafted, or certified organic raw materials infused into 190 proof, certified organic grain alcohol.

The resulting concentration is diluted with pure deionized water making these lovely tinctures suitable for replacing water in cosmetic formulations. Organic alcohol extracts the widest spectrum of a plant’s phytochemicals and is ideal for extracting natural alpha hydroxy acids such as citric and malic acid from lemon peel, ascorbic acid from orange peel, glycolic and lactic acid from cane sugar, malic and citric acid from bilberries, and citric, malic, tartaric and oxalic acid from cranberries. All of which make up Essential Wholesale & Labs’ Multiple Fruit Tincture. When you use tinctures, remember that alcohol is not drying to the skin when part of a carefully formulated product with balanced, moisturizing and humectant ingredients. Alcohol can also serve as a natural emulsifier, carrier, and preservative, in addition to helping ingredients to penetrate the skin.

Now that you know the difference between Extracts, Distillates, Hydrosols, and Tinctures you can choose which you prefer to use. Remember this quick guide: distillates impart their fragrance and astringent properties to your formulations; tinctures  impart the widest spectrum of the plant’s phytochemicals.

We’d love to hear about your preference – tinctures or distillates or both and how you use them. Feel free to comment below.

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