Cold cream is an emulsion of fats and water that can be used to clean and soften the skin. Traditionally, it has been used to remove makeup gently at the end of the day, and it can also be used to soften tough skin on the knees and elbows or to keep skin protected from harsh winter weather. Many drug stores and beauty suppliers sell the cream, often in a variety of styles; different brands have different ingredients, and some people experiment with several before finding one that works best.
The concept of cold cream is quite ancient. Credit for the invention is usually given to Galen, a second century Greek physician who developed an emulsion of beeswax, oil, rose petals, and water. The cream was designed to moisturize and condition the face, and to help remove the harsh makeup of the period. In some regions, this product is called “cream of Galen” or “Galen's cream” in a reference to this; the “cold” in the name comes from the cool, refreshing feeling that it leaves behind.
There are several ways to use cold cream. To remove makeup, a thin layer is spread on the face, allowed to sit for a moment, and then wiped off. Tissues or washcloths can be used to remove the it. The moisturizing agents in the cream will condition the face and help it recover from harsh beauty products.
Cold cream can also be left on trouble spots overnight; some women, for example, rub it into their skin before bed, wiping it off in the morning, and it can be worn with gloves or socks to condition the feet and hands as well. It is also used in some home remedies; a classic remedy for scaly elbows is a mixture of this cream and ground oats, rubbed gently into the skin and then wiped or rinsed off.
The oils in some products can leave the skin feeling greasy, so people with oily skin may want to take a pass on this cream unless they have been introduced to a brand that does not leave an oily feeling. Creams can be scented or unscented, depending on preference, and the oils used can vary widely. Most companies do not use the olive oil recommended by Galen, for example, since it can go rancid quickly. Generally, cold cream keeps well at room temperature, and it should not go bad unless the climate is extremely hot or impurities are introduced to the container.