While a saunter through Sephora or Space NK does feel like a spiritual experience for many of us, these beauty shops don’t compare to Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a 600-year-old Florentine pharmacy founded by talented Dominican monks. Even though Santa Maria Novella has recently franchised around the world, the original headquarters in Florence is still open for business. The beauty mecca is set up next to the monk’s monastery, and prides itself on using many of the same techniques and recipes developed hundreds of years ago. The Balsamita vulgaris plant, for example, is still harvested between late June and early July, when its healing properties are most potent, and the bar soaps are still molded with nineteenth century equipment. The Dominican friars got it right — good beauty products take time and withstand time.
Here’s the fascinating history of the world’s longest-standing apothecary: