Healing Cream

Birgit V. - Penaten CremeEvery time Birgit V. returns to Germany, the first thing she buys is a pretzel at the airport and then a tin of Penaten-Crème at a chemist’s. Max Riese created the Penaten-Crème in 1904 as a protective cream for babies. Over a hundred years later the tin still looks the same: ‘Even the very traditional German chocolate Kinderschokolade has changed its packaging, but the Penaten-Crème tin still has the familiar shepherd on its lid’, Birgit explains.

Although intended to cure rashes on baby bottoms, Birgit like many other Germans still uses the cream when her skin gets particularly sore. Although there are equivalents like Sudocrem in England, she believes none are as effective and none come in such a beautiful container: ‘I keep all the tins. I do not know why because I do not use them, but it would be such a shame to throw them away!’

Birgit is originally from Starnberg in Bavaria and moved to the UK in 2009 to be with her British husband. She now works at an insurance company called AIG. The Penaten-Crème tin is a very physical reminder of being ill – because she uses it only if she is unwell. Yet it is also comforting because in promising to heal the wounds it also signifies home and stability: ‘When feeling ill in a foreign place, it is reassuring to use something so familiar’.

Object Information

  • Year of Purchase: 1993
  • Producer: Johnson & Johnson
  • Material: Aluminium
  • Size: 5 x 5 cm
  • Colour: Blue, gold; Image of shepherd with sheep