A plain bland cream. Creamy-coloured. Creamy texture, think thick heavy cream. Unscented. In a 25g tube. Costs somewhere in the region of $10.00 – 18.00, depending on where you buy it. Count around about $12.00 on average. Has different names in other countries; some of these other versions substitute olive oil for sesame oil.
WHAT’S IN IT
* depending on your definition of “active”; conventional medicine would at least consider calendula to be a benign soothing thing. Unless you are allergic to that plant. In which case, as with all allergens (which can, to be fair, be anything…), avoid. That calendula extract also contains some alcohol.
WHAT I USE IT FOR & WHY IT’S GOOD
Moisturising. As a barrier cream. As an eye-area cream, and on other dry areas. The other thick defensive barricades in the current arsenal, in order of increasing thickness:
- Allergenics emollient cream
- Badger unscented balm in the tin (extra-virgin olive oil + beeswax), and others of that ilk
- Madre Bees unflavoured lip balm (extra-virgin olive oil + beeswax + hemp seed oil + vitamin E)
- Badger balm mixed and melted together with refined shea butter = the DIY multi-purpose balm
- drugstore unbranded petrolatum. Yes indeed. For when desperate times call for desperate measures. The stuff has been sitting at the back of the medicinal drawer for ages, it lasts forever, consider it one of these long-term first-aid things to keep around, just in case. When I say it lasts forever, I kid ye not. I’ve used petrolatum (thanks Grandad) from the 1930s.
- UPDATE: and Prevex protectant cream (petrolatum + dimethicone).
HOW I FOUND IT (AND WHY I’M SO PROUD OF THAT)
Some things recommended for creating a moisture-retaining barrier on the skin:
- oils and waxes, and some non-volatile silicones
- of plant, animal, or synthetic origin
Of these, some of the most potent are
- petrolatum or equivalent
olive oil + beeswax is one such near-equivalent (though not exactly as efficient); I’m using balms that are more or less that
Looking to branded products:
- Lansinoh and other lanolin-based concoctions for the relief of chafed nipples, mostly for lactating mothers, also for runners
- Eucerin: large range in the Aquaphor series of things based on petrolatum + lanolin
So I had a look around for some alternatives. Eucerin and the Beiersdorf group are, the last I checked, still cruelty-free. But I’d like to check the sourcing of the lanolin. You know, discreetly removed from happy sheep with minimum intervention, like when they’re asleep or having a scratch on a drystone dyke. Rather than as a byproduct of the meat-is-murder industry.
And I was also interested, for environmentalist reasons, with the lanolin being in an oily base that’s made from something sustainable. Now, before you think I’ve been hanging out in Whole Foods for too long and got the crazies through infection at close contact, or lost brains c/o diffusion gradient: I’m not fussy as to whether it’s plant-based and edible or not. I’m aware that that does not matter. I do not believe in sympathetic magic. I am not what I eat: I’m a happy functional co-operative biochemical factory-cum-multispecies-commune, thankyouverymuch. I will use silicones. Not least as they may be produced in a more eco-friendly fashion than, say, some rare exotic oil marketed to chichi yogabunny eejits.
So: I had a look around, and found lanolin (nicely harvested) in one Weleda cream, one of those most heavily-touted for extremely dry skin and weather protection. Key moisturizing barricading emollient ingredients are in bold:
- Skin Food ($19.00 / 50 ml)
Water (Aqua), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Lanolin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Alcohol, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Glyceryl Linoleate, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Fragrance (Parfum), Viola Tricolor (Pansy) Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Cholesterol, Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, Citral,Coumarin.
That cream’s not originally intended for face, please note, and I can’t use it on mine. Sneezing plus zits. Unattractive, anti-social, not to mention uncomfortable. It’s only quite recently I’ve seen is touted as such. Nice as a hand-cream so long as you’re OK with the scent. Weleda do make nice hand-creams, strongly scented to my nose, YMMV as ever.
So I had a look around the aisle devoted to cosmetic facial skincare for adults whose skin is—if the stuff on WF’s shelves is anything to judge by—of tough-as-old-boots all-resistant super-strength. But on the outside of individuals who like to think their inside is a sensitive special flower, so they like to spend lots of money and believe lots of marketeering BS on packaging, in trying to resolve this paradox. I’ve tested out most of Weleda’s moisturisers over the years, and here are the ones that were either wearable (usually for a certain short period, or only in certain areas) or at least didn’t cause major explosive expectoration. Again, the moisturising stuff in bold:
- Almond Soothing Facial Cream ($24.50 / 30 ml)
Water (Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Prunus Domestica (Plum) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid.
- Everon Cold Cream ($16.50 / 30 g; usually more expensive in shops here)
Water (Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Arachis Hypogaea (Peanut) Oil, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Glyceryl Linoleate, Fragrance (Parfum), Hectorite, Limonene, Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral.
Then two thoughts struck me:
(1) “Skin Food… weather protection… that rings a bell…” and
(2) “their baby stuff is less pungent.”
Ah yes, the baby Weather Protection cream. More of an ointment, really. In my local Whole Foods, some stocks of it plus a tester-tube have moved into the “adult face” section, so I’m not the only one to have had this idea. If you have a look at reviews online (MakeupAlley, Beauté-test.com, and so on) others have too. Here are the baby calendula moisturisers, from lighter to heavier; I’ve used all of these. Note the lanolin in all of them except the first; that first one is a very near dupe, texture-wise (albeit not scent-wise), for Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. By the way.
- Calendula Lotion ($15.50 / 194 g)
Water (Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Alcohol, Glycerin, Glyceryl Oleate, Calendula Officinalis Extract, Sodium Beeswax, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol.
- Calendula Face Cream ($12.50 / 45 ml)
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Water (Aqua), Lanolin, Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Geraniol.
- Calendula Baby Cream:
Water (Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Lanolin, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Kaolin, Alcohol, Hydrolyzed Beeswax, Glyceryl Linoleate, Silica (Silica), Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Geraniol.
- Calendula Weather Protection Cream ($12.00 / 28.3 g)
Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Lanolin, Beeswax (Cera Flava), Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Limonene, Linalool, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Geraniol.
But I’d rather use something unscented, with no added essential oils. Especially if using in more sensitive areas that dry out fast, such as the area from around my nose down to my chin. An area that also happens to be horribly prone to irritation-breakouts. Gah.
Then another thought occurred. Go forth to the “medicinal” aisle. Depending on the country you’re in, the marvellous thing I found may be labelled over-the-counter medicine, first aid, homeopathic, and/or anthroposophic medicine (hence why it’s there), and that’s the sort of area it usually is if you’re looking for it in shops or online. I don’t believe in that sort of medicine, and that’s important as it’s a matter of belief. But if something works, I’ll use it, whatever the label or maker’s idea might be of what it does and why it does it.
So. Compare the ingredients, and manufacturer’s retail price, of the Calendula Ointment. Which is really a cream (unlike the Weather Everything Cream, which is actually an ointment, just to confuse us all). It’s got the useful stuff—lanolin and beeswax in a neutral stable oil base, plus water and alcohol (acts as a preservative)—but without the essential oil scents. Score for price, a successful search-and-find mission, and the whole reasoning process. You can be “green” without switching your brain off:
- Calendula Ointment ($15.00 / 25 g)
Beeswax, Lanolin, Lanolin Alcohols, Sesame Oil, Water, Calendula extract