Concept of Cosmetics in Unani System of Medicine

Concept of Cosmetics in Unani System of Medicine


Unani traditional medicine has its root in India since long and it is in practice in larger part of country, South Asian countries, African and Arabian countries etc. in recent years the demand of Unani medicine is increasing globally because of people’s faith in the safety and efficacy of Unani drugs.  Most of the treatment options available worldwide have ignored the cosmetic aspect of an individual while Unani system has discussed it in detail.

The term cosmetology is used for the study and application of beauty treatment or the study or art of cosmetics and their uses or the science of practice of beautifying the skin, face, hairs and nails etc. The word cosmetics means any single substance or compound product intended for local application of external parts of human body or teeth and mucosal membrane of oral cavity for the purpose of beautification called as cosmetics. The cosmetics help in presenting and enhancing the beauty and personality aspect of human being. Beauty is not only a source of joy but it also gives confidence and proud up to some extent.

The word cosmeceutical was first coined by Raymound Reed, a member of U.S. society of cosmetic chemist. Further the term was popularized by Dr. Albert Kligman. He used the term cosmeceutical to address the substances having scientific based cosmetics property in 19th century.

The term cosmetics is derived from Greek word “Kosmeticos” which means “pertaining to cosmetics or beautifying substance or preparation” or "Kosmein" means “decoration”.  It is used for two things.

  • The preservation, restoration or bestowing the bodily beauty.
  • The surgical correction of disfigured physical defect.

The science of cosmetology has been practiced since centuries. The desire and dream of good looking, beautiful appearance, gorgeous, charming, attractive and younger look exist in people eyes with the beginning of civilization. At that time only the natural things were used as cosmetics like henna, turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.), sandal surkh (Pterocarpus santalinus), elwa (Aloe barbadensis Linn.), Agaru (Aquilaria agalbeha) etc. The knowledge of these natural cosmetics are successfully compiled by Unani scholars in their classical texts.

Unani system of medicine is evidence based medicine enriched with several single drugs and compound cosmetic formulations used since beginnings to beautify the skin, face, hairs, eyes and nails. It is the world’s ancient science of health care and healing, works on four humours i.e blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. When these humours are in perfect harmony, a person radiates with inner and outer beauty. Unani scholars believe that the presence of toxic materials inside our body make a person ugly and diseased. In such condition blood purifiers (Musaffi-e- khoon Advia) are the best therapeutic intervention to eliminate them.

Initially Unani cosmetics were dealt under the heading "Amraz-e-jild wa zohrawiya (Unani dermatology and venerology)". Now it is upgraded and termed as Amraz-e- jild was taziniyaat (Unani dermatology and cosmetics). A great emphasis has been given in Amraz-e-jild wa zohrawiya by department of AYUSH as of priceless literature on natural cosmetics mentioned in it.  The Unani cosmetics are mainly based on medicinal herbs and partially on mineral or animal sources.

History of cosmetics:

Cosmetics were used by both of the genders since antiquity. The exact date and period of origin of cosmetology cannot be traced but the earliest evidence of use of cosmetics was found in Misr (Egypt) in 4000BC. The ancient Egyptians were used a compound prepared by lead, mercury, ashes etc. used for eye makeup without knowing about the toxicity of the compound. At that time female slaves (cosmatae) prepared cosmetics. They used eye cosmetics for enhancement of beauty of eye as well to cure certain eye diseases named as kohl (surma). Now-a-days the word kohl is used for a product of eye cosmetic available in market. In the Middle East, the Persia and the Arab has also history of cosmetology. With the rise of Islam in the Arab, importance of personal hygiene and use of fragrance gain the popularity. The early cosmetologist was Al Zohrawi (936-1013 CE), the Arab physician wrote voluminous medical encyclopaedia in which 19th chapter based on cosmetology. He described cosmetology as a branch of medicine and the drugs used to improve the beauty as “Advia Muzayyenah”.

When we go through the history of uses cosmetics in different civilizations we find that ancient Romans used oil and animal fat for cosmetic purpose. They used to apply the oils or greasy material over the hairs to maintain style and shape of hairs. The ancient Chinese people also used to paint their finger nails. The brightness of colour of the paint symbolized the status of the person. Similarly the earliest evidence of use of lipsticks was found in Japan. The Japanese Geisha (Traditional Japanese female entertainers) used crushed petals of safflower over their lips and they also used it to maintain the shape or as outliner of eyebrows. In ancient Greece culture, Luffah/Yabrooj (Atropa belladonna Linn.) is known as ladies killer due to its alkaloid atropine, a pupil dilator used as an eye drop to make their eyes attractive and beautiful.

In the 20th century movies, television, life style becomes the major cause of cosmetics popularity. In present time even several cosmetics surgeries are also in practiced. With the passing of time desire of good looking, attractive, younger than actual age develops new forms of cosmetics.

Description of cosmetics in Unani medicine:

The boundless literature on natural cosmetics were mentioned in Unani classical literature specially in “Kitab-ul- Mansoori” and Kitab Al Hawi Fil Tib in  23rd volume of  by Rhazi (850-950 CE), Kamil-us- San't by Majoosi (994 CE), Al- Qanoon fil Tibb by Ibn-e- Sina (980-1030 CE), Zakheera-e- Khwarzam Shahi by Jurjani (1135 CE), Ghina Muna by (Ismail Jurjani).In ancient Unani scriptures and mythological epics, references of many cosmetics like zaafran (Crocus sativus), haldi (Curcuma longa), Agar/ ood hindi (Aquilaria malaccensis Lam. Syn.: A. agallocha Roxb.) and Sandal surkh (Pterocarpus santalinus) are described.  

Natural products are comparatively safer and the human body responds very well to natural ingredients/ products. They activate the dormant processes in the body and create an ideal environment in which healing takes place. Natural drugs care is vital to a beautiful, healthy & radiant wellbeing.

In Unani classical literature several single drugs as well as compound cosmeceutical preparations/ formulations are described. These cosmeceuticals were meant for complete decoration/ beautification of personality. They are used not only for face, eyes, hairs, nails but also for upper abdomen, lower abdomen, uterus, axilla, for contracting the vagina, to reduce the breast size or some time to enhance breast size, to mask the scar, halitosis, excessive sweating etc. In classics several preparations are also mentioned to cure skin disorders like leukoderma, acne vulgaris, blemishes and blackening of skin, moles and warts etc. Among them skin and hair colour are the most important criteria in defining once beauty because it shows the external appearance of a person.

Advantages of Unani Medicine in Cosmetology

  • Unani medicines/ ingredients have a long history of safe human usage although not tested scientifically on animals. They offer safety from after effects.
  • The human body easily develops resistance to synthetic drugs. Simultaneously our body responds well to natural substances.
  • The skin and scalp are influenced at the cellular level, helping to improve normal function. Unani medicines particularly suites our skin and hair.
  • Natural products and entities promote the capacity of skin to easily excrete toxic materials.
  • They help to restores the normal pH balance.
  • Herbal/ plant source drugs have a mild effect but have powerful and specific healing properties.
  • They are particularly suited to skin and hair care as the ingredients selected have no toxicity/ side effects.
  • Natural fragrances of flower and herbal extracts help to calm the nerves and induce relaxation.

Unani Medicine as Cosmetics

Unani cosmetic products are safer healthier and better for our body and the environment as they are composed of all natural ingredients. For example Kunjad Siyah/ Til ka tel known as sesame oil (Sesamum indicum Linn.) is used as a base in preparing fifferent oils in Unani medicine. It contains “Lignan” compounds called “Sesamin” and “Sesamolin”, which are biologically active. These compounds have the property to enhance oxidative stability of the oil. These compounds have the potential to be used as antioxidant compounds as well as having a moisturizing effect. Butter milk and goat’s milk powders are traditionally used in Indian face mask preparations have soothing and emollient properties. They also contain vitamin A, B6, B12 and E. They make beneficial alternatives to chemical bases and emollients. Shika kai (Accacia concinna) is a traditional herb used in hair shampoos. Acacia pods are rich in “Saponins” and make a mild detergent, which has a neutral pH. Reetha powder, extracted from Soapnuts Sapindus pericarp (Sapindus laurifolius Vahl) also contains “Saponins”, which acts as a foaming agent. The oils also maintain integrity of cosmetic products and could be used as a base instead of petroleum and plastic derivatives. There are significant evidences already generated for Unani skin care in vitiligo, psoriasis, eczema and acne vulgaris.

The Unani cosmetics may group as under

  • Cosmetics for enhancing the appearance of facial skin (Facial beauty)
  • Cosmetics for hair care and hair growth
  • Cosmetics for skin care, especially in teenagers (pimples, acne and sustaining).
  • Shampoos, powders and perfumery, soaps etc.
  • Miscellaneous products

Types of Unani cosmeceuticals

Several Unani cosmeceutical are described in Unani classical literature. These can be broadly classified as follows:

Types of Unani cosmeceuticals on the basis of physical state of dosage form

  1. Solid cosmeceuticals: This includes ghazaghalliyanawwerakohalkajal etc.
  2. Semisolid cosmeceuticals: This includes zimadtila, ubtan etc.
  3. Liquid cosmeceuticals: this category includes ghusoolpashoya, roshoya etc.

Types of Unani cosmeceutical on the basis of their pharmacological actions

  • Corrosive (Akkal Advia): Drug of this category possesses keratolytic action by which it is helpful in treatment of abnormal growth of skin like warts, acne etc. Some of examples of akkal are as choona (Lime), hartaal (Orpiment / Arsenic trisulphide) etc.
  • Abluent / lave (Ghassal Advia): Drug of this category possesses dead skin or debris peeling off activity, used to clean the skin of face, hand etc. Some of the e.g. are Asl-e-khalish (honey), aab-e-lemun (Citrus limon) etc.
  • Detergent (Jali advia): Drug of this category possesses detergent activity, used to clean the skin. These drugs have the ability of clean the pores of skin. Some of the the drugs mentioned are Aqarqarha (Anacyclus pyrethrum), Baladur (Semecarpus anacardium) and Chadela (Parmelia perlata) etc.
  • Astringent (Qabiz Advia): If the drugs of this category are applied locally they increase the tone of skin. Some of the drugs mentioned in classical Unani texts are gil-e-multani (Earth of multaan / Fuller's earth), gil-e-surkh (Red ochre) etc.
  • Absorbent (Jazib Advia): They are having absorbing properties, used all over the body to absorb sweat. Some examples of these drugs are Jund bedaster (Castorium), tukhm-e- panwad (Cassia tora) etc.
  • Antiperspirant (Mane'y arq Advia): These drugs acts on sweat glands of skin and diminish the perspiration through skin. Some of examples are jauz masil (Datura stramonium), kuchla (Strychnos nuxvomica) etc.
  • Hair remover/ Depilator (Haliq Advia): Local application of these drugs used to removes the unwanted hairs. E.g. are Hartaal (Arsenic trisulphide), Safeda (Zinc oxide), Choona (lime) etc. Noora is a Unani cosmeceutical dosage form compounded by using of haliq as an ingredient, used to remove the hairs.
  • Rubefacient (Muhammir Advia): If the drugs of this category are applied externally, they produce/ cause redness of the skin. Some of examples are Khardal/Rai/Laaee/Laahee (Brassica nigra (Linn.) W.D.J. Koch), Unsul/ piyaz (Allium cepa), Laung/ qaranfal (Syzygium aromaticum) etc.
  • Peeler / Stripper (Qasir Advia): Drugs of this category possesses powerful detergent activity. Used to remove the dead skin. Some of examples are kaf-e-darya (Cuttlefish bone), jangabeel (Zingiber officinale) etc.
  • Blood purifiers (Musaffi-e-dam Advia): Drugs of this category are used to remove the impurities within the blood. Some of examples are neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss.), chiraita (Swertia chirayita (Roxb. ex Flem.) Karst.), unnab (Zizyphus jujuba) etc.
  • Emollient (Murakkhi Advia): If the drugs of this category are applied locally they are having soothing as well as softening effect on skin. These drugs possess skin moisturizing properties. Some of examples are roghan badam (almond oil), roghan-e-kunjud (sesame oil), mom-e-zard (wax) etc.
  • Haematinic (Muallid-e- khoon Advia): Drugs of this category are used to increases the hemoglobin content in blood. Some of examples are khubsul hadeed (iron rust), anar (Punica granatum) etc.
  • Teeth and gum tonics (Muqawwi-e-dandan was lissa Advia): If the drugs of this category are applied locally in the oral cavity they provide strength and tone. They also used to clean the tooth and gums. Some of examples are shib-e-yamani (alum) post-e-anar (Punica granatum) etc.

Types of Unani cosmeceutical on the basis of site of application:

  • Face care cosmeceutical: This includes ghaza (face powder), ghalliya (Perfume powder), ubtanroshoya (face wash) and ghusool (wash) etc.
  • Body care cosmeceutical: Several body care cosmeceutical measures are mentioned in classical literature of Unani medicine, e.g. noora (hair remover), mane'y arq (anti-perspirant), tila (liniment).  The emollient is used in cracked lips, hand and feet.
  • Hair care cosmeceutical: This includes roghansabaghkhizabhenna paste application, ghusool-e-sha'r.
  • Eye care cosmeceutical: This includes surmakohalkajalanjanmascaraneela anjan etc.

List of single Unani medicinal plants commonly used in cosmetics

These medicinal plants are categorized according to their actions and preparations as mentioned in classics of Unani medicine.

A. Medicinal Plants used as skin moisturizers, tonics and posing Anti-Aging activities

  • Gheekawaar/Sibr (Aloe barbadensis Mill. Syn. Aloe Vera (L.) Burm.f.): It is a good moisturizer, sunscreen. Also acts as emollient.
  • Genda (Tagetes erecta): It has wound healing property.
  • Kasni (Cichorium intybus): It blemishes the skin.
  • Haldi (Curcuma longa): It has antiseptic, antibacterial and complexion improver properties.
  • Gajar (Daucus carota Linn.): It is natural toner and skin rejuvenator.
  • Asl-us-soos (Glycyrrhiza glabra):  It is skin whitening agent.
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum): It is good anti-aging, antibacterial and antiseptic.
  • Gulaab (Rosa damascene): It has toning and cooling activities.
  • Iklil-al-Jabal (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.): It is skin rejuvenator and cleansing.
  • Majeeth (Rubia cordifolia Linn.): It has wound healing and anti-aging properties.
  • Gandum (Triticum aesativum): It is antioxidant and anti-wrinkle. It also nourishes the skin.

B. Sun Screen

  • Gheekawaar/Sibr (Aloe barbadensis Mill. Syn. Aloe Vera (L.) Burm.f.): It is good moisturizer.
  • Gandum (Triticum aesativum): It is antioxidant.

C. Sun Tan

  • Nager motha/Saad Kufi / Sad Kufi (Cyperus rotundus Linn. / Cyperus scariosus R. Br. / Cyperus arundinaceum Baker):  Sun tanning
  • Shajana/Sohanjana (Moringa pterygosperma C.F. Gaertn.) Sun tanning

D. Astringents

  • Narmushk/ Nagkesar (Mesua ferrea Linn.): It is strong astringent.
  • Kakra singhi (Pistacia integerrima J. L.Stewart ex Brandis): It is rubefacient, astringent and anti-bacterial.
  • Halelah (Terminalia chebula Retz.): It is antibacterial, astringent, antifungal and antiseptic in nature.

E. Ingredients for Hair Care

  • Shikakai (Acacia concinna (Willd.) DC.): It is natural detergent and anti-dandruff.
  • Gheekawaar/Sibr (Aloe barbadensis Mill. Syn. Aloe Vera (L.) Burm.f.): It is good cleanser and revitalizer.
  • Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss.): It is anti-dandruff. Reduces hair loss.
  • Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri (Linn.) Penn.): It is good hair tonic. It promotes hair growth.
  • Deodar (Cedrus deodara (D.Don) G.Don): It is anti-dandruff.
  • Brahmmi Booti (Centella asiatica (Linn.) Urban): Darkening of hair
  • Bhangra (Eclipta prostrata (Linn.) Linn. Syn.: E. alba (Linn.) Hassk.): It reduces premature greying of hair, good remedy for alopecia
  • Aamla (Phyllanthus emblica Linn. Syn.: Emblica officinalis Gaertn.): It is toner and anti-dandruff. It protects hair and reduces hair loss.
  • Gul-e-Gurhal (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Linn.) It is a natural hair dye. It prevents hair fall. It is anti- dandruff also.
  • Kapurakachari (Hedychium spicatum Sm. in A.Rees): It promotes hair growth
  • Hina/Mehdi (Lawsonia inermis Linn. / Jasminum sambac (Linn.) Ait./Lawsonia alba): It is a natural hair dye. It is antidandruff and conditioner.
  • Iklil-al-Jabal / Libanutis (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.): It nourishes, soothens and restores the hair shapes.
  • Bunduq-e-Hindi/Reetha/Atamtoot/Rattah (Sapindus trifoliatus Linn.): It is natural detergent and cleanser.
  • Gandum (Triticum aesativum): It provides lubrication, nourishment and lustre.
  • Balela/Bahera (Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.): It prevents greying of hair.
  • Kunjad Siyah/Til/Sheeraj (Sesamum indicum Linn.): It promotes hair growth and prevents premature greying of hair. Also it blackens the hair.

F. Ingredients for Dental Care

  • Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss.): It is a potent antibacterial. Useful specially in toothache and dental carries.
  • Kikar/Babool (Acacia arabica/nillotica Willd.): Useful in dental swelling, bleeding gums and syphilitic infections.
  • Pya bansa/Jhinti (Barleria prionitis Linn.): Useful in toothache and bleeding gums. It also strengthens teeth.
  • Moolsari (Mimusops elengi): It is astringent. It keep gums healthy.
  • Anisoon/ Aaneesan (Pimpinella anisum Linn.): It is antiseptic having aromatic flavour.
  • Peeloo (Salvadora persica Linn.): It is potent antimicrobial.
  • Qaranful/Laung (Syzygium aromaticum (Linn.) Merr. & L.M. Perry): It is local anaesthetic. It relieves toothache.
  • Lodh Pathani (Symplocos racemosa Roxb.): It strengthens gums and teeth.

G. Ingredients for Dermatological Applications

  • Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss.): It is a potent antibacterial
  • Khulanjan (Alpinia galangal (Linn.)Willd.): It is good antibacterial
  • Seer/ Lahsan (Allium sativum): It is antifungal, antiseptic and Tonic
  • Karanj (Pongamia glabra or pongamia pinnata): Good remedy for herpes, scabies and leukoderma.
  • Malkangni/Nammilnaraa (Celastrus paniculatus Willd.): Used for wounds healing and eczema
  • Kalonji/Shooneez (Nigella sativa Linn.): Good antibacterial. Used in leucoderma
  • Babchi (Psoralea corylifolia Linn.): Good remedy for leucoderma, leprosy, psoriasis and skin inflammations

Ministry of AYUSH has constituted Drug Technical Advisory Board for Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha medicines under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act-1940 to control the standards of drugs, their manufacturing, sales and distribution.











  • PUBLISHED DATE : Dec 13, 2016
  • CREATED / VALIDATED BY : Dr. Mahtab Alam Khan
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Dec 13, 2016


Write your comments

This question is for preventing automated spam submissions