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Retro Beauty

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

page 4 of 5

The cleansing comes from the high dose of mineral oil, which allows it to dissolve sebum, grime and makeup without soap. Since traditional soap (not the gentle cleansing bars) is very harsh on skin, this is a great improvement. And because it also softens and moisturizes skin, a good case can be made for this being as close as one can get to an all-purpose skin product.

Besides solving the rancidity problem, the mineral oil makes it a cleansing cream, far better than olive oil for dissolving sebum and grime. The other classic cleansing cream is Noxzema (i.e. No Eczema), although its ingredients* are so far removed from Galen (and the original formula made in 1914 by Dr. Francis Townsend) that the trail has gone pretty cold.

However, it aptly illustrates how cosmetic trends go in cycles. In 300 BC, the ointment of Galen was innovative technology. When science reached a new plateau in the 19th century, improvements were made in stability, but this also resulted in the introduction of “chemicals”—petroleum derivatives, nonsustainable resources. The naturals trend, green movement and consumer desire for active ingredients from plants has completed the circle, and Galen is innovative technology again.

*Water, stearic acid, Linum usitatissimum (linseed oil), Glycine soja (soybean) oil, fragrance, ammonium hydroxide, camphor, menthol, Eucalyptus globulus leaf oil, propylene glycol, gelatin and calcium hydroxide.


  1. (Accessed May 9, 2011)
  2. AP Tulloch, The composition of beeswax and other waxes secreted by insects, Lipids, 5 2 247–258 (Feb 1970)