Last spring, as the pandemic was just taking hold and everyone was vigilantly washing and sanitizing their hands like never before, Twitter was ablaze asking for recommendations on the best hand cream to relieve the damage our new habit had wrought. My immediate response was the same as it had always been: Weleda Skin Food, you ignorant fools!
I’ve used the German product for as long as I can remember and have burned through more than one tube in the course of a few months during my darkest days tending to eczema. As a beauty editor for the last 20 years, I’ve tried my fair share of multipurpose moisturizers, but this is the one I always return to. It’s never failed me and the soothing salve in the Kelly green tube, which turns 95 this year, has rightly earned the title “cult classic” in the beauty world. From its formula to its functionality, it has maintained an identity that has defied trends.
Originally developed as a panacea for those who worked with their hands in various trades, it’s got a thick, buttery texture that might seem too intense to first timers. To that I say, just give it a moment to let it do its magic; it will absorb quickly to immediately soothe whatever offending dry or chafed area you are treating. (I am currently forcing my 13-year-old daughter to apply it to her hands nightly because the industrial sanitizer they are using at school has left hers looking like they have third-degree burns.) Beyond hands, I’ve also dabbed it on my nose when it’s been chapped from excessive blowing, as well as worked it into my unsightly, cracked heels. And it’s got an additional, off-label use that many makeup artists swear by: Patting it on the tops of cheekbones as a highlighter imparts a true, authentic glow, nothing like the holographic ones that line the shelves of Sephora.
A pioneer in natural beauty long before the category was cool and trendy, Weleda has only tweaked the formula twice in all this time and minorly so, swapping out peanut oil for sunflower and updating the emulsifiers. The rest of it still stands as low-tech as it did when it was created: a base of lanolin, sweet almond oil, beeswax and glycerin is blended with calendula, wild pansy, rosemary leaf extract and camomile. All the ingredients are certified biodynamic – a type of farming that goes beyond just organic, taking an ethical and ecological approach – some of which are grown on the company’s own 50 acres of gardens in Schwabisch Gmund, Germany.
Two years ago, Weleda swapped Skin Food’s aluminum tube for plastic, saying doing so would mean less energy consumption across their supply chain. Of course I applaud this. But if I’m being honest, this robbed Skin Food of part of its old school, health food store charm. Sure, the aluminum had a tendency to crack at the sides as you made your way through the product, rolling it down to squeeze every last bit out. But what others viewed as an imperfection that needed to be resolved, I saw as part of the overall user experience. It was part of my relationship to the product. When an extra bit of cream leaked out, I just wiped it away with my finger and applied it directly to me. Because there is simply no reason not to put it on, ever. There’s always a spot that can use it.
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