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What Is a Cold Cream Cleanser?

Drue Tibbits
Drue Tibbits

Cold cream cleanser, sometimes simply referred to as cold cream, is a compound that cleans the face without drying out the skin. Cleaning the face involves removing excess oil, and most facial cleansers achieve this with soaps or other surfactants. Cold creams do not contain soap or soap products; their base ingredient is oil. The cleanser’s oil combines with facial oils, loosening them so they will wipe off while allowing the skin to retain its natural moisture. Most commercial cold creams are naturally hypoallergenic, nonirritating, and are appropriate for every skin type.

Facial cosmetics are often oil based. Part of the popularity of cold cream cleansers are their ability to remove makeup without drying out delicate facial skin. Most soap-based cleansers recommend the application of a moisturizer after use. Cold creams, on the other hand, clean and moisturize at the same time. Some women use cold cream their entire lives, never allowing soap to touch their faces.

Cold cream.
Cold cream.

Variations of cold cream cleanser have been around for thousands of years. While some of the ingredients are slightly different from the original versions, such as replacing olive oil with mineral oil to extend shelf life, the basic composition remains the same. Throughout the years, the cleanser has spawned numerous imitations and adaptations of its formula. In 1924, the popularity of cold creams inspired the invention of facial tissues as a means for removing the cleanser.

Safflower oil can be a base for cold cream cleansers.
Safflower oil can be a base for cold cream cleansers.

There are many recipes for making cold cream cleanser at home. Most recipes start with the basic ingredients of mineral oil, water, beeswax, and borax. Additional ingredients, such as honey, help with softening the skin, and the inclusion of fragrant oils creates a highly personalized mixture. Different ingredients can replace the base ingredients to mix up a cold cream cleanser with slightly different properties. Rosewater or distilled water can take the place of plain water, and a wide assortment of specialty oils, such as safflower oil, work as well as mineral oil.

Cold cream cleanser gently removes makeup and temporary tattoos.
Cold cream cleanser gently removes makeup and temporary tattoos.

Cold cream is a versatile product that has several other uses. A light application of the cream provides temporary sunburn relief. It gently removes temporary tattoos without irritating the skin. Its oil base works well for dissolving residual adhesive, such as from stickers or tape. The addition of a few ingredients turns cold cream into a kind of paint, for example, mixing the cleanser with cornstarch, water, and food coloring is an easy substitute for commercial face-painting products.

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Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- I don't think we can make a generalization about cold cream cleansers working for or not working for people with oily skin. I think it could go both ways depending on that person's skin type, their sensitivities and the ingredients in the cold cream.

I have patients with acne who have used cold cream cleansers and it cleared up their acne. I've also had patients where cold cream made it worse and caused more breakouts.

I think the good part about cold cream cleanser is that it doesn't dry out skin and cause more sebum production. So it can help balance the oil production for some people, thereby reducing acne. Cold creams also don't contain too many ingredients so there is less chance of an allergic reaction.

The down-side is that it does have oil in it so it could exacerbate an acne problem. But there are cold cream cleansers on the market made specifically for problem skin. So you could try those.


@ddljohn-- That is absolutely true! Both my grandmother and mother have been using cold cream for years and they have beautiful skin. No one can guess their age and people are shocked when they hear their real age.

I have also heard many of my friends say the same thing about their mothers who use cold cream. I think keeping skin moisturized is a great way to stay young. I'm in my late twenties and just started using cold cream as well. I hope I'll look like my mom and grandma when I'm older!


I have heard that women who use cold cream regularly tend to look younger and avoid wrinkles. Is this true?

And is cold cream cleanser also suitable for oily skin?

It sounds like it's perfect for dry skin because it won't dry out the face more. But since it's oil based, it will make oily skin even oilier right? It would probably make acne-prone skin break out too.

Is there a cold cream that people with oily or acne-prone skin can use?

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    • Cold cream.
      By: picsfive
      Cold cream.
    • Safflower oil can be a base for cold cream cleansers.
      By: chungking
      Safflower oil can be a base for cold cream cleansers.
    • Cold cream cleanser gently removes makeup and temporary tattoos.
      By: xalanx
      Cold cream cleanser gently removes makeup and temporary tattoos.