We Three Kings

15th December 2017

Gold, frankincense and myrrh: the precious gifts that the Wise Men delivered to the baby Jesus are enshrined in theology and legend. Lisa Botwright explores why these precious minerals are no less valued today…

At the time of the Nativity, gold had begun to be pressed into coins and used as currency, thus paving the way for a new global economy. Gold brought wealth, status and power, and was seen as a fitting present for a king. Today, still synonymous with luxury, the lustrous metal makes a surprising ingredient for a beauty product, but a popular one nonetheless. It can be added as a real ingredient: take Guerlain’s L’Or Radiance Concentrate, a luxury face primer which incorporates tiny leaves of 24-carat gold to reflect light and enhance its illuminating properties; or metaphorically – the precious ‘liquid gold’ of Alpha H’s revitalising glycolic peel; and visually, as in Ren’s dry oil, which gives the body a golden, glossy sheen.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin of the Boswellia sacara tree that’s native to the Arabian Peninsula and north-eastern Africa. It’s been used as incense for thousands of years – in pre-Christian religions it was believed that its scent could carry prayers to the gods – and so would have been symbolic of divinity. Today, it’s recognised as a potent essential oil that can offer a variety of health benefits, including helping to relieve stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation and boosting immunity. It’s been used to add a calming, soothing element to the Neal’s Yard Remedies serum, as a gorgeous spicy note to Molton’s Brown Christmas-y liquid handwash, and as an antioxidant to boost cell renewal in Balmology’s nourishing moisturiser.

As one of the oldest known perfume ingredients, myrrh was historically a sought-after ingredient for rich households to use to embalm their dead and to purify the air. As such, its place in the trio of precious nativity gifts has been recognised as symbolising the death and suffering that was to come to the baby in due course. But despite this slightly macabre connotation, the smoky, sweet or sometimes bitter smell of myrrh oil remains an incredibly popular base note for fragrances. Perfumer Azzi Glasser has blended myrrh with musk to make the irresistibly sensual Grey Myrrh Eau De Parfum. It’s also been used since Egyptian times as a way to maintain healthy skin, and makes an effective anti-ageing ingredient, as channelled by NIOD in their high-tech firming face mask, and by Crabtree & Evelyn in their delicious body wash.

And so the mystical gifts given by the wise men ‘who traversed afar’ remain just as relevant today for their prestige and potency. Quite what the ancient kings would make of our modern day beauty interpretations, we’ll never know.


Moroccan Rose Gold Dry Oil £27


L’Or Radiance Concentrate £47


Alpha-H Liquid Gold £33.50



Frankincense Intense™ Lift Serum £75


Nourishing Beauty Balm £29


Fine Liquid Hand Wash £18



NIOD Myrrh Clay £28


Grey Myrrh Eau De Parfum £95


Moroccan Myrrh Body Wash £16


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