In cosmetics history

Peanut pomade: George Washington Carver’s patented peanut-derived beauty product

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

Among George Washington Carver's many inventions, he only obtained three patents, one of which was a peanut-derived pomade.  © Getty Images - Nemanja Potkonjak
Among George Washington Carver's many inventions, he only obtained three patents, one of which was a peanut-derived pomade. © Getty Images - Nemanja Potkonjak

Related tags Hair care Patent cosmetics history Innovation Hair

George Washington Carver’s innovated with peanuts across many consumer categories, including one of his three existing patents, a peanut pomade.

Carver created many peanut innovations, spanning from food products, animal feed and cosmetics, according to the National Parks Service​. While he was responsible for a number of inventions, he only holds three patents, including a 1925 patent for a peanut-derived pomade.

According to NPS, Carver typically worked alone and left behind few formulas, but his pomade formula is still publicly available through his patent.

Carver peanut pomade

In the patent​, the product is described as a “pomade or cream made from peanuts”​ and as a “vanishing cream”​ which could be made to any desired color, texture, thickness or creaminess.

The pomade was made as follows:

  1. Grind raw, blanched or boiled peanuts to the desired texture. The patent notes that a fine texture is suggested to create a smooth cream, but if one desired a granulated pomade that could be achieved by grinding to a coarse texture.
  2. Next, one would add 100 cubic centimeters of water and stir thoroughly with the peanut grounds.
  3. That mixture is strained through a cheesecloth and boiled until oil can be seen on the surface of the water.
  4. That mixture can be used or two cubic centimeters of peanut oil can be added as a thickening agent.
  5. When the desired texture is achieved, the mixture is removed from heat and a “toilet powder”​ like kaolin is added and mixed until a “thick heavy cream”​ is achieved. The patent notes that specific powders can be used to achieve the desired color, from “dark brunette shades through the pinks, lavenders, to pure white.”
  6. A small amount of salicylic acid, benzoin and any desired perfume can be added at this point.
  7. The entire mixture is then macerated again until absolutely smooth if that is the desired texture.

Tuskegee University says Carver's developed the following products with peanuts:

Hand and Face Lotion
Face Cream
Vanishing Cream
Face Bleach and Tan Remover
Baby Massage Cream
Shampoo and Peanut Oil Shampoo
Oil for Hair and Scalp
Shaving Cream
Pomades for Scalp and Skin
Face Ointment
Face Powder
All-Purpose Cream
Fat Producing Cream
Tetter and Dandruff Cure
Toilet and Antiseptic Soaps

According to men’s haircare brand Topgun Montreal, most pomades up until this time were derived from animal fats and the first petroleum and wax pomades were released around when Carver filed his patent. 

Carver’s other cosmetics contributions

While his pomade formulation was his only cosmetic patent, Tuskegee University​ lists 20 cosmetic products Carver developed with peanuts, ranging from lotions and creams to shampoos and soap.

The NPS also notes that Carver explored using peanuts in massage therapy, saying that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used peanut oil occasionally.

Carver also allowed for the creation of a small cosmetics company named the Carvoline Company, a portion of which’s profits were donated to the Carver Foundation, though more information on the company is scarce. 

Related topics Formulation & Science Hair Care

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