300 Years of Pommade Divine
The last time I was visited the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art, I stood before Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun’s exquisite portrait of her royal patron, Marie-Antoinette, and marveled at the artist’s skill at rendering the delicacy of the ill-fated queen’s chemise a la reine gown, as well as the perfection of her creamy complexion.
The latter was no doubt enhanced by regular application of the renowned multi-tasking beauty ointment, Pommade Divine. This remarkable balm was first mentioned in a letter written by Marie-Antoinette’s great-grandmother, Princess Élisabeth Charlotte, dated 1720, in which she extols the many virtues of the Pommade Divine: “You won’t believe, dear Louise, what a good thing this Pommade Divine is. I am sending you a box, so that you can carry it with you at all times. Another thing this pomade is good for: if you have burned yourself badly with sealing wax and treat it immediately with the pomade, it reduces the pain. I don’t know how one could not like the smell of Pommade Divine…”’
Although I can’t say I’ve burned myself with sealing wax lately (I’m exceedingly careful), I did find Pommade Divine to be of great benefit during my recent horseback riding holiday in Ireland; it soothed the bruises and soreness resulting from brisk canters and gallops over rugged terrain and long days in the saddle. Ninety-seven percent natural, Pommade Divine is composed of five natural skin-saving ingredients blended into a rich, nourishing base of lanolin and shea butter. This cocktail of exotic, aromatic essences gives the balm its gorgeous scent: benzoin, clove and nutmeg from Indonesia, resinous liquidambar from Turkey and cinnamon from Sri Lanka are all known for their antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Each essential oil brings unique benefits to create a first-rate skin restorative. Benzoin effectively treats dry, cracked skin, liquidambar heals cuts and wounds, clove is an excellent insect repellent and itch reliever, cinnamon is an anti-coagulant and nutmeg reduces scarring.
Fortunately, this versatile cream survived the French Revolution and made its way to Great Britain, where it began being produced by the chemist Butler and Co. in 1800. The product, despite its ubiquity in British homes and longtime status as “nanny’s cure-all,” suffered from a lack of promotion, and its manufacture ceased in the late 1980s. However, the pomade has been recently resurrected and is now available at select stockists in the UK, and online.
For over three centuries, Pommade Divine has been efficaciously relieving cuts, bruises, burns, insect bites and itchy skin. It’s been known to reduce eczema and psoriasis skin rashes. I am also impressed by its numerous applications: it’s a great lip balm, is wonderful as an intensive hand and foot treatment, cuticle and nail cream. It can be used as a supercharged night time moisturizing masque. It’s fantastic as a fly-away hair tamer. It truly is an indispensable product. In another letter from Versailles, Princess Élisabeth Charlotte described how she suffered a nasty cut on her right buttock by accidentally sitting on her watch. However, the wound was quickly and perfectly mended by a few applications of Pommade Divine — if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is!