The Secret to the Croatian Skincare Routine

In the last few decades, the idea of a skincare routine has become increasingly popular. Effective products based on natural ingredients are especially valued. And which multi-functional product hides the secret of the Croatian skincare routine?

.Photo: courtesy of Magdis Grupa
.Photo: courtesy of Magdis Grupa

Some people like to use one cream for all skin problems or an all-in-one hair and body soap. (Let’s face it – it’s mostly men who opt for that kind of beauty regime.) They will be pleased to know that there is a Croatian cream that can be used for almost all skin-related issues. It has been available on the market since 1977 under the name Melem.

What’s the story behind the creation of the cream? Its inventor, Ninko Nikšić, found himself at a newspaper printing shop and heard the workers complaining about their dry hands and wanting some skin protection cream. Ninko thought for a long time until he came up with a suitable idea and combined beeswax, lanolin, castor oil, and vaseline into a unique product initially sold only in pharmacies.

The name of the cream itself was not chosen by chance. The word melem is of Turkish origin and denotes something that is beneficial. The word came to Southeastern Europe during the Ottoman Empire, and long before the creation of skin cream itself, it was used as a word for mild and effective. Therefore, you should not be surprised that Ninko originally named the cream Zagreb’s Melem to emphasize its origin. As it was the period of authoritarian Yugoslavia, the cream could not have been called Croatian Melem not to encourage the awakening of national consciousness. The cream quickly achieved success and hit great sales figures, partly because of its effectiveness and partly because of good marketing and dermatologist recommendations.

The Melem era

The new era for Melem cream began in the early 2000s when it began to be sold in stores of various types. The cream is strongly branded as multi-functional, so you can use it to heal burns, treat sites of various insect bites, treat skin after scratches and depilation, etc. The Melem cream provides a universal answer for almost every skin problem in Croatia, and, in this way, it represents the biggest secret of the Croatian skincare routine. Also, in addition to the basic version of the cream, Melem body oils, different cosmetics, deodorants, etc., have recently become available.

In Croatia and neighboring countries, even before the invention of the cream, there were idioms “melem for the soul” and “melem for the wound.” Today, these sayings strongly connotate with the cream. Therefore, it can be argued that the product has managed to change the meanings of centuries-old idioms. Although the recipe is originally Croatian, the name of the cream is of regional origin. In addition to the original Melem, there is a number of cream recipes that you can make yourself at home. Among those, probably the most famous one is the one based on calendula flowers.

In the end, like most of today’s cosmetic products, Melem aims to be based on all-natural ingredients, which can be a challenge. Thus, in recent times, you can come across Melem products based on lavender oil, rice oil, and avocado oil. So, if you ask anyone in Croatia which product is the pinnacle of the Croatian cosmetics industry, you will surely get the answer that it is the Melem cream.

Danijel Bačan

is a final year master's student in geography at the University of Zagreb. His specialization is political geography and regional geography of Europe, he is the author of several scientific articles on geopolitics and tourism. He grew up and lives in Zagreb and is an active member of the Zagreb County Youth Council, the national representative of YATA Croatia and a young European ambassador in the EU Eastern Partnership.

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