Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant is a cult beauty product. Few skincare products have such a longevity on the market.

Overall, the Eight Hour Cream is an old fashioned skincare product, based on antique cosmetic technology… Its skin feel is not modern, and could even be qualified as greasy, shiny, oily. But what still makes the trick, is the efficiency. It is one of the last products on the market that uses petrolatum AND lanolin, two traditional raw materials with undisputable efficacy for dry and damaged skin. This probably explains the longevity of the formula.

The story starts in 1930, when Florence Nightingale Graham alias Elizabeth Arden, a canadian nurse moving to New York to create her business in beauty, creates the Eight Hour Cream, a multi-purpose cream, initially design to care horses’ feet. That was the initial hook she used to sell her cream. The legend says that the name “Eight Hour Cream” comes from a loyal customer of Elizabeth Arden who used the balm on the scratched knee of her son, which healed in the night, in “eight hours”.


The Eight Hour Cream is sold as a multi-purpose beauty product. On Arden’s website, it is claimed as a “versatile formula going beyond moisturization, working wonders to shape brows, add shine to cheeks, soothe dry hands, smooth cuticles and nails, and more.”

Arden promotes 8 uses of its product :

  • on face, to “seal in moisture”
  • as a hand cream
  • as a foot cream
  • an highlighter to bring a “flash of brilliance”
  • as a lip care
  • as a hair treatment for dry ends
  • as a protection against windburn
  • as a grooming product for brows


Here below the ingredient list of the Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant


The Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant is clearly not a standard face care. Nowadays, mosts of the face creams are Oil-in-Water emulsions. This technology has many benefits, which made it the most popular technology used in leave-on skincare products : it is easy to prepare, can hold hydrophilic and lipophilic active ingredients, stable for several years, with nice feel during and after application, and cheap (thanks to its high water content > 50%).

The Eight Hour Cream is an anhydrous formulation, not an emulsion. It is made only with lipophilic ingredients, blended together :

  • Petrolatum : distilled fraction of petroleum, petrolatum is in US an OTC ingredients, approved by FDA as a skin protectant. Nonetheless, petrolatum and other petroleum derivatives (like mineral oil, or cera microcristallina) are questionned due to their non-renewable / fossil origin, and traces of chemicals found in some analysis. It still resonates a lot in consumer minds, especially in US, as used for decades for many purposes on skin (healing burns and scratches, soothing lips,…etc)
  • Lanolin : waxy blend of esters, fatty acids and fatty alcohols naturally produced by sebaceus glands of wool-bearing animals (like sheeps). From animal origin (so not suitable for vegan cosmetics), its composition has some similarities with human skin’s sebum. It has emollient and long lasting skin soothing and skin barrier repair properties.
  • Mineral Oil : another distillate of petroleum, this oil is also called paraffinum liquidum, liquid paraffin, paraffin oil. It is used in cosmetics for different reasons : it is lightweight, odorless, colorless, inexpensive, and very stable (not sensitive to oxidation). It is an emollient, and prevents dehydration.
  • Castor Oil : vegetable oil extracted from castor beans (ricinus communis). This triglyceride is know to be a source of ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, with an unusual hydroxyl functional group (-OH) on its 12th carbon. This makes Castor Oil a valuable vegetable oil as more polar than other vegetable oils. It has a thick and viscous texture, which makes it suitable for moisturizing and smoothing dry skins, or using on hair.
  • Vegetable Oil : triglyceride from vegetable origin.
  • Corn Oil : triglyceride oil extracted from corn.

Additionally to these fats and oils, the formula also contains :

  • Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxyacid, with antibacterial and keratolytic properties.
  • Caprylyl Glycol, a molecule with preservative efficiency, used these days to avoid phenoxyethanol and parabens.

In the modern era of cosmetic products, the technology of the Eight Hour Cream designed by Florence Nightingale Graham is very unusual :

  • it is not part of the current mainstream types of skincare product : it is not a daily moisturizer, it is not an anti-aging formula. It is “multi-purpose” product, primarily called a “Skin Protectant”. All the 8 suggested uses described above fit well with the texture : extra brilliance (the formula is shiny on skin due to the petrolatum / mineral oil / vegetable oils), “sealer” for moisture (that’s a property of petrolatum), protective against windburn (petrolatum & lanolin create a protective film on skin), brow conditioner and grooming (the formula is thick and greasy, it holds in place combed brows), …etc
  • it is not a standard emulsion : it is an anhydrous formulation. It is was not design to provide a nice, light, smooth, fresh, … skin feel and after feel, but was design initially to be efficient on slightly damaged skin.
  • it does not contain and focus on specific marketing ingredients, but on “traditional” and even old-fashioned raw materials with well known skin benefits : petrolatum and lanolin.

By A.B.

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