What is Cold Cream? How Does it Work?

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If you ask your mother (or grandmother!) about the time she visited the drugstore to buy her first jar of cold cream, she will probably recall fond memories. It was one of those big steps on the road to adulthood.

Before the skincare product market exploded, you removed your makeup and moisturized your face (after washing it with soap!) with the same product: cold cream.

End of story.

But this whipped wonder is now having a bit of a beauty revival. So, what is cold cream, exactly? And should you use it?

We’ll explain it all below.


One Jar Wonder

Ponds Cold Cream

A beauty staple of glamourous Hollywood starlets (and your grandmother, mom, and their friends), cold cream is a decadently rich face cream made with oils and waxes.

It was most commonly used to cleanse the face of makeup but was also used as a moisturizing balm to heal dry skin on the face, body, and even on the lips.

Cold cream got its name, because it is physically cooling to the skin when applied. It was first created in the second century by Galien, a Greek physician. He mixed olive oil, beeswax and rosewater together to provide a soothing and protective cool balm for the skin.

Its simplicity of use has made it a product that you’ll still find in the beauty section of Parisian pharmacies to this day.

But it was the Pond's brand  that gained popularity after its launch as Pond’s Extract Cold Cream in 1906.

During the Second World War, when many women went out to work doing the manual factory jobs left by their men, who were now fighting on the frontlines, Pond’s became popular.

It was the world’s first moisturizer that didn’t require any refrigeration.

And it made women feel more feminine after a day at the factory.

These days, cold creams come in both scented and unscented versions. And depending on the brand, the oils used can vary. Most popular name brands like Pond’s use mineral oil.

The olive oil used in Galien’s original recipe can go rancid in hot climates, or if debris is introduced into the container.

Ways To Use Cold Cream

In this section, we’ll look at the most common uses for cold cream.

Makeup Begone

Because of its high oil content, cold cream is and was an ideal way to remove makeup, before makeup remover and micellar water became a thing.

You simply apply a small amount to your face and massage it in a little, before wiping away any dirt and debris with a tissue or cotton ball.

It’s as simple as that!

If you’re prone to breakouts, though, stick to using your usual makeup remover (again, micellar water is great for acne-prone skin).

Mask Up

Cold cream can also be used as an intensive facial mask.

Just apply a thin layer over your cleansed and still damp face, then leave it on for an hour or two. Do this once a week if your skin needs an extra boost of hydration and to condition your face.

Skin Softener

Some women have also traditionally used cold cream to soften rough skin on the hands and feet by rubbing it into the skin before going to bed, and wearing gloves and socks to keep the moisture in.

The result: waking up to beautifully moisturized hands and feet.

Exfoliating Exemplar

A classic remedy your grandmother may remember is using cold cream as a moisturizing exfoliant. When combined with ground oats, cold cream can be gently rubbed into the skin to remove hard and scaly dead skin from the elbows and knees. Rinse or wipe off, and you’ll find a soft, smooth surface.

Reasons To Avoid Cold Cream

Cold cream isn’t for everyone if you plan to use the old-school mineral oil formulation. This is because, like Vaseline, mineral oil is a by-product of petroleum… yes, that substance that fuels the car you drive.

Mineral oil coats the skin with an almost impenetrable layer, which locks in moisture. This makes it a popular ingredient in many old-school and modern formulations. And because it’s really cheap, it also helps the bottom line of the corporations that sell it.

But this means if you have oily skin or skin that’s prone to breakouts, this added layer can cause your pores to become blocked. Plus, the coating of your skin will look greasy and unpleasant, so you will probably want to avoid cold cream all together.

Read to the end to find a cold cream alternative that may be suitable for you to try.

The OG Classic

Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser 6.1 oz (Pack of 3)
  • It deep cleans and removes dirt and...
  • Dermatologist tested, suitable for...
  • Suitable for sensitive skin.

Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser  is the OG of the cold cream crew.

It will easily remove all makeup and dirt with the swipe of a cotton bud to leave your skin feeling as soft as a baby’s bottom. It will also improve your skin’s smoothness and texture when used as a moisturizer, due to its high moisture content.

Pond’s contains mineral oil, so if your concerns are sustainability or your skin is simply sensitive to this harsh chemical, then read on for another alternative.

The Cleaner Alternative

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Acure Seriously Soothing Cleansing Cream  is a new age cold cream blend of organic argan oil, peony extract, and sunflower amino acids. This soothing and gentle cream also contains chamomile to hydrate your skin and leave your face feeling clean and calm after use.

Formulated especially for dry and sensitive skin, this cream is free of parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, paraffin, and mineral oil.

It’s also cruelty-free and suitable for vegans.

Cold Comfort

So now that you understand what cold cream is, as long as you’re not suffering from either acne or oily skin, then you can decide if you want to add this classic beauty staple to your modern skincare routine.

Most drug stores and beauty supply stores sell different versions of cold cream with varying ingredients at a good price, so there’s a lot of room for experimenting until you find one that works best for you.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).