It's impossible to tally the number of articles over the years that have espoused the benefits of the beauty products and practices our moms and grandmas swore by, but let's be real: How much of that advice do you actually follow in your day-to-day routine? After all, emerging science and rapid innovations means more elegant and efficient products than ever before. But when we started noticing a skin-care comeback straight out of the early 20th century, we started to wonder if we'd been missing out on one of the most gentle, versatile skin-care products to have stood the test of time.
We're talking about cold creams, the onetime vanity must-have that's back on our radar in a big way, thanks to brands like Lush, Ole Henriksen, and Kate Somerville (whose latest take on the classic officially made converts out of us). But what exactly is a cold cream, and why is it worth adding to your lineup over any of the other numerous cleansers on the market?
To start, it's a cream-based cleanser — supposedly so named because it's cool to the touch — that is, according to Jessica Wu, an LA-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC, "ideal for dry or sensitive skin, including the rosacea-prone." That's because the oil-rich formulas are able to melt off makeup and dirt and oil buildup without stripping the skin, like other foaming cleansers and bar soaps tend to do.
What's more, many formulations can work double-time as a moisturizer in a pinch to spot-treat dry, flaky skin. And unlike the cold creams used 80 years ago, these newer versions have a lighter, almost whipped consistency, feel less greasy, and can be spiked with botanicals ingredients and nourishing extracts where heavily perfumed scents and borax used to be.
And one additional reason why you should add this bathroom-sink stalwart to your decidedly modern routine: Cold creams are incredibly gentle, and even work to remove waterproof mascara with minimal irritation. Indeed, we were blown away by the latest crop of makeup-melting formulations, which also have a few extra tricks up their sleeves. Ahead, Wu's tips for giving this worthwhile throwback a go. Turns out that Grandma might have been wrong all along.
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For decades, this French-drugstore classic has had an entire line of products built around its cold cream formulation, including a lip balm, hand cream, and more. But allow us to let you in on a little secret: This baby works beautifully as a lip balm, body moisturizer, and makeup remover, despite its singular marketing. Of course, the trick when using cold cream as a makeup remover is to wipe it away with a damp washcloth instead of water alone; skin is left too greasy otherwise. As Dr. Wu notes, a less efficient rinse can cause the next application of makeup to slide like crazy.
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The neroli and rosemary in this organic formula may be included as a natural preservative, but man if we can’t stop taking deep whiffs of the dreamy botanical bouquet. Factor in the inclusion of neem oil and beeswax in place of old-school ingredients like borax and mineral oil, and the fact that it deletes a full face of foundation with zero irritation, and we think we’ve just found our new favorite makeup remover. Did we mention that the blend also doubles as a foundation primer, lip balm, and body moisturizer? Win, win, win.
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Normally, eye-makeup removers do the job with a mean sting to our sensitive eye area. But not this bad boy, which we massaged into lids with eyes partly open with zero irritation. Not that Dr. Wu would recommend the technique: “Be sure to keep your eyes firmly shut when massaging around your eyes, and wipe thoroughly before opening them,” she suggests. Still, this cream, which is designed to be wiped away with a washcloth, lifted all our makeup and left skin feeling soft.
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Don’t be fooled by its tube housing: This creamy cleanser, which is bundled with its own cleansing cloth, is really a cold cream in disguise. It cuts through layers of colored eyeliner with zero irritation, and doesn't leave our skin feeling slimy, either.
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This jar reminded us of an O.G. cold cream in the best way possible: for one, its curvy shape, white-on-white embossing, and silver emblem are a nod to when beauty products were made to pass the vanity test. The stuff inside is white, viscous, and smells ever so slightly of camphor. Most importantly, it easily removed layers of pancake makeup (you know, like 50s screen stars wore) and the teeniest bit hydrated dry elbows without leaving a greasy residue.
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Scroll through reviews of this cold cream by another name on Lush’s website and you’ll see titles like “saved my skin!” and “fixed my face!” Among its diehard fans are those with sensitive skin, eczema, and the acne-prone, all of whom swear by its ability to gently cleanse and remove makeup without causing redness, flareups, or clogged pores. The creamy beeswax-and-glycerin-based formula is boosted with calming rose water and balancing honey for smooth, healthy skin.