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Retro Beauty

By: Steve Herman
Posted: July 13, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Little Johnny watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. “Why do you do that, mommy?” he asked. “To make myself beautiful,” said his mother, who then began removing cream with tissue.

“What’s the matter?” asked Johnny. “Giving up?”

An all-natural skin treatment formula with multiple benefits containing polyphenols and antioxidants, free of petrochemicals, fragrance, parabens and phthalates—it is certainly a cutting-edge product for today’s consumer. Incredibly it can be found in Galen of Pergamum’s ceratum refrigerans—cold cream—a 2,000-year-old blend, which proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Tracing the history of Galen’s cream through the millennia illuminates the way skin care evolved from crude concoctions to modern emulsion formulations.

Claudius Galenus (Galen of Pergamum A.D. 130–200), one of the greatest medical minds of antiquity, created the world’s first efficacious skin cream—ceratum refrigerans (“cooling wax”). It was made by mixing one part beeswax in three to four parts of olive oil and then adding as much rose water as possible. It wasn’t elegant and barely stayed together, but it was state-of-the-art skin care for more than a thousand years.

A Closer Look at the Ingredients

Galen’s formula contains another modern formulation positive: All the ingredients are good enough to eat. Beeswax isn’t exactly eaten, but it is food-grade and often used to coat cheese. Olive oil is a great staple in food preparation and is a key component of healthy diets—and rose water can be consumed for a variety of health benefits.