Rose oil, also known as rose attar, is often used as the primary selling point in beauty products, and its miraculous qualities are touted across the wellness spectrum.
There are few things more luxurious than rose oil.
In romantic novels, drops are added to bubble baths and dotted behind ears to heighten the romance.
This kind of love and admiration comes with a price tag.
Let’s dig in and figure it out.
Why Is Rose Oil So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. It Takes A Whole Lot Of Roses And Labor To Make Rose Oil
Rose oil is expensive because it takes a sizable number of roses to yield a small amount of oil.
The ratio can be 6000 to 8000 lbs. of roses for a yield of 2 lbs. of rose oil.
Another way to look at it is that a single drop of rose oil is made from approximately 30 rose plants.
What rose oil manufacturers are harvesting is the oil in the petals of the rose (different from rosehip or rose seed oil, which are from the fruit of roses. Yes, they do have fruit).
Roses are delicate flowers; therefore, the time of year and time of day is essential to the harvesting process.
The rose’s fragrance is most potent in its pollination phase.
The two most popular varieties of rose oil are harvested in late April or early May.
The flowers are handpicked at dawn, while the roses are still dewy from the previous night, and pickers must select only the blossomed flowers.
The purest rose oils are processed immediately after picking.
Side note: Rose oil is easy to make, considering it can be more expensive than gold. Many recipes and videos online offer a few different preparation methods with several steps but nothing especially difficult. No special equipment is needed. However, it’s essential to know that these methods are infusion, not distillation. Using the infusion method means that you will need to have scent-free or lightly scented base oil (almond or jojoba, for example), and you put rose petals into the oil and allow it to sit.
Keep reading to find out how oil is extracted from the petals.
2. Bulgaria Is The Biggest Producer Of Rose Oil
The two most common rose varieties for oil are R. damascene, also called the damask rose, and R. centifolia, also known as the May rose of Grasse rose.
While it’s possible to buy rose oil manufactured in many different places, some of the world’s best are bottled in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian roses are believed to have the most potent fragrance in the world.
The other ingredient that makes Bulgarian rose oil distillation is the water acquired only from rivers and dams.
It is then passed through multiple filters to eliminate all impurities.
Side note: Rose oil production goes back hundreds of years in Bulgaria, with some sources saying it began as early as 1680. Bulgaria uses the distillation method, which means that the roses are placed in a vat with rose petals. The vat is heated for an hour or more. What remains is the vaporized water (rose water) and rose oil. The distillation process was invented in Persia in the 10th century AD. The region known as the Valley of Roses is in central Bulgaria, near the city of Kazanlak, where the first rose plantations developed in the 16th century.
3. Turkey Is The Second Biggest Producer Of Rose Products
Turkey’s Turkish rose oil has also been around for hundreds of years, perhaps predating Bulgaria’s rose industry by 30 years (1650) one of the most significant rose-producing regions is Isparta, where there is a favorable climate and soil for a blooming rose industry and a critical rose oil producer.
Turkey uses the solvent extraction method, which requires it to be placed in a vat with a solvent and then agitated.
Side note: Turkey’s rose water and oil were historically primarily identified with funerals and religious ceremonies. As the demand for rose oil increased worldwide and Turks saw its popularity in other contexts, they also began to take advantage of its rich bonanza, transforming the economy of Isparta. While the extraction process might differ in each country, the rose oil industry hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years. It is labor-intensive, delicate work.
Let’s get into the economics of rose oil beyond its manufacture.
4. Rose Oil Is Extremely Popular
Despite all the effort it takes to extract rose oil, it is still one of the world’s most in-demand essential oils and has been for thousands of years.
Its authenticity becomes a critical selling point, and companies go out of their way to distinguish themselves as carrying the real deal.
One of the best ways for a company to define itself as a producer of luxury is to charge luxury prices.
An ounce of pure Bulgarian rose oil can go for as high as $1896.
Side note: Natural rose oil tends to linger on the skin, unlike alcohol-based products, which evaporate quickly, meaning the wearer of the scent continues to smell it throughout the day. One of the benefits often cited when using rose oil skin products is that the user feels a greater sense of clarity and calm due to having the odor of roses all day.
5. Rose Oil Is An Ingredient In A Wide Variety Of Products
- Beauty products – In addition to moisturizing, the oil can be used to heal scars and some skin diseases; it also helps reduce inflammation. Its antioxidant activity can lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and skin discoloration.
- Health benefits – Rose oil has been used for pain relief for centuries. It has effective antibacterial and antifungal prospects, and research has found that rose oil can also increase the sex drive in both men and women. It can also be used as a stimulant. Rose oil massaged into the skin can relieve muscle spasms and headaches. Rose oil is a superstar in the wellness industry due to its many homeopathic benefits.
- Perfume – Rose oil has been used over the centuries as a base for some of the world’s most famous perfumes. It has a sweet and appealing scent, particularly effective at masking bad smells. Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar, two of the world’s most famous fragrances, have rose oil as an ingredient. Rose oil or rose water are ingredients in three-quarters of women’s perfumes and a tenth of men’s fragrances. Currently, the smell is making a resurgence as new perfumers combine it with other ingredients in new and creative ways. The manufacture of luxury perfume is an expensive and complicated endeavor. In addition to essential oils, perfume houses use the glands of a Kashmir musk deer or Whale Ambergris to add the scent of musk; both are endangered species. Another cost to consider is the perfumer, a profession that requires a chemistry degree and training at a perfumery school and general natural talent.
- Rose oil and rose water are used in various recipes, including Turkish Delight, hard and soft candy, or drunk as a beverage.
It’s crucial to read labels because of rose oil’s popularity when buying.
Some oil is synthetic, and some are highly diluted with other cheaper oils (even if the label says pure or organic).
These products can cause skin irritation.
Rose oil is one of those items where the price does indicate its value.
Side note: There is evidence of roses from 35 million years ago. Ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese and Egyptian cultures, to name a few, prized roses and insisted on extensive rose gardens in both public and private spaces. In the 17th century, roses and rose oil were even used as currency. Roses were initially found mainly in Asia and the Middle East before arriving in Europe. In the 10th century, Persian physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna) recommended using rose oil compresses and wound treatment.
6. Consumers Have Grown Increasingly Environmentally Conscious
The rose oil market will continue its dramatic increase over the next few years, growing from $8.9 billion in 2020 to $12.89 billion by 2028.
As the demand for rose oil has increased, so has its price.
Consumers insist on environmentally friendly production procedures or use strictly organic or natural products throughout all industries.
Items that use synthetic forms of the rose scent are in far less demand, and so, things like air fresheners, lotions, toners, colognes, massage oils, soaps, and so on, are using pure rose oil.
Side note: The market for essential oils will grow to USD 18.25 billion by 2028. Three of the most popular oils are orange, lemon, and davana oil. Vitamin C tablets, liquids, and serums drive the increased need for orange oil. Lemon oil usage is mainly in cleaning products, soaps, toners, and air fresheners. And finally, davana oil is popular in natural perfumes, antiseptics, flavoring agents, and various medical applications.
Other popular essential oils include Clary Sage, used for menstrual cramp relief, pain management, and as an aphrodisiac.
Cypress is used as an astringent for respiratory treatments and skin issues.
Eucalyptus is used as an expectorant and is beneficial for respiratory ailments, such as bronchitis.
7. Usage Of Rose Oil Increased Dramatically During The Pandemic
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people turned to all-natural remedies to ward off the virus.
Research indicated that individuals who had come down with the virus were more likely to regain their sense of smell if they used rose and other essential oils for aromatherapy.
Rose oil is said to improve the immune system.
Emotional and mental issues increased due to the necessary isolation at the height of the virus.
Rose oil became a staple to ease anxiety and depression through aromatherapy.
Side note: Essential oils could neither prevent nor cure COVID-19, but they could mitigate the stress of the virus and encourage a strengthened immune system. While oil on the skin helped deal with pain and inflammation (especially rose oil), the benefits were primarily through inhalation. Rose oil is combined with other essential oils to increase its efficacy.
8. Everything Old Is New Again
Rose-smelling products, such as perfumes, lotions, sachets, etc., became an everyday part of households around the 1920s.
As the middle class grew, advertising and marketing made the scent of roses a symbol of delicate feminity, although it was popular with both men and women in prior years.
The smell became so common that there was a backlash.
Rose-scented perfume fell out of favor sometime between the 1930s and 1980s because it was considered old-fashioned.
In the 1990s, rose perfume made a comeback and has become more widely used.
While the scent of roses still causes sharp disagreement in the perfume world, there is a new appreciation for its simplicity.
Over the early 2000s, there was a movement toward simple living and homemade products.
As DIY culture grew in popularity, so did the scent of roses.
As more and more consumers simplified their lives and budgets by growing and preserving their own food, the simplicity of rose oil became a staple both for its timeless smell and its uncomplicated ingredients.
Side note: Some of the most popular baby names for girls in America are throwbacks to the 1920s. Gone are the days of Ashley, Alexis, and Sydney. Examples of the most popular names in 2022 include Imogen, Flora, Betty, and Olivia, which coincides with the green consumer movement and the increasing visibility of rose oil.
9. Unstable Governments And Shaky Economies Affect Supply Chain/Shipping Issues
The pandemic affected every industry, and rose oil production was no different.
Things become more complicated due to the Bulgarian government’s history of corruption and bribery.
Countries with medium to high corruption issues are always subject to suspicion because they often avoid transparency, the rule of law, and ethical standards, making other countries less inclined to do business.
The current prime minister, Kiril Petkov, has pledged to clean up the corruption that plagues his country.
In Turkey, challenges to its economy resulted from the pandemic and the withdrawal of support from investors.
The Turkish economy wobbled in 2021 as the lira’s value plummeted.
Economists are concerned that the worst is yet to come.
Coupled with these events, the space for rose production has fluctuated as property has been sold for other purposes.
While rose oil production has jumped, the amount of space devoted to roses has shrunk.
It takes time to cultivate a new harvest of roses, causing Turkey to trail the increased need.
In both of these countries and for rose growers around the world, the harvest is subject to weather conditions, worker shortages, and poor growing seasons.
The cost of rose oil can fluctuate wildly.
As a result, inventors are working to create the smell of roses from other sources to increase the perfume industry’s stability.
One of the first products used was a petrochemical whose smell was noticeably different from natural rose oil as it did not have the necessary complexities.
Scientists even attempted to use yeast.
A perfect synthetic has still not been invented.
Before the Bulgarian parliament passed anti-corruption laws, it was believed that graft and governmental corruption cost the country as much as 7 billion dollars a year.
Due to COVID-19, global shipping came to a halt, creating havoc worldwide.
While rose oil doesn’t necessarily expire, it can oxidize and deteriorate over time, losing its fragrance.
As stated earlier, the production time from harvesting to shipping is a very tight window, and the harvesting occurs within about a month.
While these pressures didn’t wholly upend the rose oil industry, they did assist in increasing prices.
Side note: Bulgaria spent decades as part of the Soviet Union. After the communist regime collapsed, Bulgaria’s leaders maintained control of the country through corruption and graft.
Another interesting fact: The grand mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia purchases a portion of its rose water from Isparta. Roses are everywhere in Mecca because they symbolize the prophet Mohammed and devotees use rose water to wash the Kaaba, the stone structure at the center of Mecca.
10. Plain Old Inflation
The final reason that rose oil is so expensive is that the world is on track for an extended period of inflation.
The costs of goods are going up while the purchasing power of money is going down.
Our money doesn’t go as far as it once did.
While a certain amount of inflation can be healthy for the economy, if allowed to go unchecked, it can topple a country’s economy, which occurred in 2018 in Venezuela.
The other side of inflation is deflation, which is a more significant worry than inflation.
With deflation, goods prices go down, causing consumers to delay spending as they wait for prices to decline even further.
Out-of-control deflation can freeze markets, crash wages and paralyze an economy.
During inflation, rose oil can become even more expensive.
An item that, while expensive, was well within reach of the middle class becomes a luxury item that is purchased sparingly.
As the product becomes exclusive, it attracts wealthier patrons, and over time, prices and marketing focus on that more affluent class, finding greater profits with less product.
Side note: One of the events that can bring about monetary inflation is when the government prints a lot of money while the demand for goods stays the same.
So when there’s a lower price for the dollar, it takes more dollars to make purchases.
As mentioned above, this is not always a bad thing.
Interestingly, in 2020, the United States printed forty percent of all the American money EVER in the country’s history.
The government felt comfortable doing this because of the demand for the US dollar generated by other countries.