Discovering Ylang Ylang Hydrosol for Skin Care

by Jirbie Go
Did you know that Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is a plant native to the Philippines?

Ylang Ylang or “Ilang-Ilang” (pronounced as EE-lung EE-lung) in Tagalog, the Philippine national language, which means “flower of flowers.” And though the plant has its origin in the Philippines, Comoros (a group of islands just north of Madagascar) remains to be the top global producer of Ylang Ylang oil that supplies most of the perfumery houses in Europe.

The French introduced the tree on the island of Reunion in the 1700s and in the early 1900s its cultivation spread to the nearby islands of Comoros and Madagascar. Each year, Comoros produces between 30 and 40 tonnes of Ylang Ylang essential oil mainly on the island of Anjouan, home to 350 distilleries.

In the past decade, however, there has been an effort here in the Philippines to reclaim and propagate the Cananga tree in different parts of our country–but mostly in Luzon–to start producing our very own Ylang Ylang essential oil. Now, hectares of land in Zambales, Pangasinan, and Aurora are just some of the known Ylang Ylang oil producers in the Philippines.

In 2015, with the support of the national government, 700 hectares of land was acquired by a private Filipino distiller that turned it into an Ylang Ylang farm to bring back to the country the business of exporting the ylang-ylang oil. In 2020, the Philippines had ready buyers of this first-grade Ylang Ylang essential oil from the world’s top fragrance houses in France and Germany.

Ylang Ylang is one of the oils that got me further into aromatherapy. Being one of the first few oils I got for my kit, I felt lucky to chance upon a locally distilled Ylang Ylang Complete essental oil when I was just starting with my aromatherapy studies four or five years ago and instantly fell in love with the distinct sweet and sensual floral scent of the oil. In 2021, I was fortunate to meet the Ylang Ylang producer from the northern-most part of the Philippines in San Luis, Aurora where I was able to try their locally grown and distilled Ylang Ylang essential oil and hydrosol.

While the world continues to fall in love with the delicate, feminine aroma of the Ylang Ylang essential oil, Ylang Ylang hydrosol is something not commonly used by aromatherapists worldwide.

In the Philippines, while the use of essential oils have multiplied exponentially in the past 5 years, the use of hydrosols or hydrolats is a new concept to most essential oil enthusiasts.

Photo Credit: EA Real Agrofarm, Philippines

Working with our local distillers gave me the opportunity to try their aromatic plant products and provide feedback accordingly. The Filipino distiller of Ylang Ylang hydrosol was one of the first farmers we got in touch with when I started the Alliance of the Philippine Aromatherapists (APA) where we not only provide quality accessible education to the essential oil users, but also to provide support to our local aromatic plant product distillers.

I remember the sheer excitement when I held my very first 1L bottle of Ylang Ylang hydrosol, thinking of all the things I wanted to formulate with it. As an aromatherapist, one of my greatest passion is to create botanical body care products that help alleviate skin concerns (being someone who has perennially sensitive skin and would get skin reactions here and there).

Photo Credit: Jirbie Go

The aroma of the clear floral water is absolutely divine. When making lotions and creams with it, I hardly ever need to use Ylang Ylang essential oil as the delicate playful floral scent of the hydrosol is enough to carry on to the final product. I have made countless lotions for myself and my family using my bottle of Ylang Ylang hydrosol and it’s almost always a delight to make another rendition of my original skin-loving Hemp Ylang Ylang lotion.

With the turning of the seasons in the Philippines as we usher summer in, you can just imagine how uncomfortable having to wear double mask in a tropical country is. Having someone who has dry/combination skin, you can just imagine the havoc these weather changes affect my skin. And so I grabbed my bottle of Ylang Ylang hydrosol, mixed in some Lavender hydrosol (in equal parts), and used it as my “Balancing Face Mist”– NO ESSENTIAL OILS NEEDED!

The heat, and perhaps stress, also causes my skin to have flare ups. I would have this random itchy patch of skin that would normally require hydrocortisone cream to heal. But I discovered that the lotion I made using Ylang Ylang hydrosol, Aloe Vera Oil, and a dash of Elemi essential oil to replace the contricosteroid cream works just as well.

Ylang Ylang promotes skin cell regeneration, along with Lavender, Neroli, Frankincense, and Helichrysum, to name a few. Ylang ylang is known to boost the healing process of the epidermis and is even effective in regulating sebum production. Energetically, Ylang Ylang supports the heart chakra as it cradles the emotions of joy. Ylang Ylang provides emotional balance as it helps release feelings of axiety, stress, and depression.