Article by: Perry Romanowski
I just opened up a box I had in storage and rediscovered a formulation series of books called Benett’s The Chemical Formulary. I actually have the entire series. The first volume was published in 1933. It’s fascinating to look at these old formulation books for a number of reasons.
- It’s cool to have an old book from 1933
- It’s interesting to see the names for the chemicals they used. This was prior to the INCI nomenclature system
- The types of formulas they list are interesting
- Just the way they list the formulas is cool. It’s like having an old cooking recipe book
Old time cosmetic formulas
Let’s take a look at a formula. Here is one for a Freckles Treatment
- Alcohol – 4 oz.
- Stronger Rose Water – 2 oz.
- Tincture of Benzoin – 15 dr.
Directions: Apply every night after scrubbing.
I would be interested to make some of these formulas but it will be a challenge. First, I’d have to figure out what all the ingredients are. For example, I have no idea what is “stronger rose water” or “tincture of benzoin”. Luckily, there is Google. Stronger Rose Water is a monographed ingredient in the US Pharmacopeia and is a “saturated solution of the odiferous principles of the flowers of Rosa Centifolia. And the Tincture of Benzoin is Benzoin resin in alcohol. That is the power of Google. 15 years ago it would have taken much longer to figure out what those ingredients are.
The next step would be to get samples of those raw materials. It turns out there are a number of suppliers of Benzoin. You can also find suppliers for stronger rose water.
Does it work?
I have no idea how effective the formula would be. I’m guessing not very. If an old formula was effective, it would still be in use today right? Or maybe there is some old forgotten technology that wasn’t optimized and this might be worth trying out. Maybe I’ll spend some time tracking down ingredients and attempt to make some of these old time cosmetic formulas. It could be fun.