Lipstick, hair removal sticks, teeth whitening products, hand creams…there is no one in the world who doesn’t know about these products and, every year, major brands come up with more new products for the consumers. However, few people actually know about the faces of the past who’ve contributed to the development of these products. Without those people, we wouldn’t have our products today. One of the most notable faces, is a Muslim man from Spain.
Al-Zahrawi, also known as Abulcasis, was an Arab Muslim physician and surgeon from Al-Andalus, now known as Córdoba, Spain. Apart from his reputation as the “father of surgery”, it is also thanks to this renown scholar that we have our cosmetic products of today. One can find this contribution in his famous work Kitab al-Tasrifi (the method of medicine). This encyclopaedia consisted of 30 volumes and European university scholars used this as their main textbook between the 12th and the 17th century.
In the volume Adwiyat Al-Zinah (medicine of beauty), Al-Zahrawi writes about the care and beautification of hair, skin and other parts of the human body within the boundaries of Islam. He discussed many beauty products for personal care like perfumes, scented aromatics and incense. They were perfumed stocks, rolled and pressed in special moulds, which are similar to the lipsticks and solid deodorants used today. Al-Zahrawi even suggested to keep clothes in an incense-filled nook so that they would have a pleasant fragrance. This is similar to what people do today with detergents, washing powders and conditioners.
Cosmetic products also served an important medical purpose, when they were, for example, used to help those disfigured by syphilis or smallpox. Other cosmetics for medical use which Al-Zahrawi discussed were nasal sprays, mouth washes, hand creams, Ghawali and Lafayfe, for epileptic fits, and Muthallaathat, which consisted of camphor, musk and honey, for the treatment of cold relief.
Al-Zahrawi has therefore written about important ways to use cosmetic products, whether for the beautification of oneself, or for healing purposes, which have left their marks in the 21st century all around the world.