Pyramids at Giza
Pyramids at Giza, Egypt 1992

Wild Mary: A Journey Back in Time to the Ancients

I've always had a bit of a wild streak. In my early twenties, I dated the drummer of INXS and spent 7 years travelling the world on tour and living the typical rock-n-roll lifestyle. We went to parties and concerts all the time, so I was always shopping for new clothes and looking for ways to improve my appearance, especially my skin. Everything changed for me when I met a beautiful young model at an INXS record-release party in Sydney. She had the most radiant complexion and was kind enough to share her beauty secret passed down by generations of French women: you must cleanse, tone and moisturize every morning and night, no exceptions. I have lived by that mantra ever since.

The problem for me began when I wanted a facial toner with more than just astringent properties and started looking for one with rejuvenating benefits as well. Having struggled with allergies my whole life, I wanted a toner made with only the purest and most effective botanical ingredients. What I found was facial treatments that were either over formulated with dozens of ingredients or made from extracts with little or no therapeutic benefits. I realized if I wanted a cleaner, smarter and more effective toner, I would have to create it myself. Determined to find a solution, I immersed myself in the history of herbal medicine and set out on a journey that would take me back in time to the ancients. 

In my research, I came across a 14th-century beauty elixir made with rosemary and renowned for its skin rejuvenating benefits. According to legend, the recipe was given to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary by a hermit who promised that it would restore her youth and beauty, and allegedly it did. I searched for the elixir’s origin and found that it was most likely the invention of 17th-century Montpellier perfumers who were the first purveyors of the popular beauty preparation. Convinced there must be some historical precedence, I began to dig deeper. What I found was astonishing. 

Associated with beauty since antiquity, rosemary has been used in beauty preparations for more than 4,000 years. The history of rosemary’s use as a beauty elixir can be traced back to ancient Egyptian where the evergreen herb was known for its power to transform the old to the young, remove all signs of age and beautify the skin. In 2,000 BC, rosemary was used in beauty preparations made at the earliest-known cosmetic production facility just 50 miles from the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite in Cyprus. The island was renowned for their cosmetics and their trade throughout the ancient world most likely inspired the belief that rosemary was a gift from the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

Despite the widespread use of rosemary in ancient beauty preparations, the knowledge was lost for much of the Middle Ages. It was not until the late 13th-century that the ancient Egyptian beauty secret was first introduced to the West in a Latin manuscript on the virtues of herbal wine. According to the text, the recipe was passed down by Dioscorides, the father of herbal medicine, who learned the secret from a doctor in Cairo some time in the 1st century AD. Following its introduction into Europe, knowledge of the ancient beauty elixir spread and by the 17th century became legendary as Queen of Hungary Water, an elixir of youth and beauty whose popularity lasted for hundreds of years. 

Over the millennia, the beauty elixir was known by many names – Vinum de Rore MarinoAqua Mirabile and Eau de la Reine – to name a few. Now over 2,000 years since the recipe was first introduced to the West, I have re-envisioned the ancient formula as an Active Botanical Elixir powered by rosemary CO2 extract and made with the purest and most effective, time-honored botanical ingredients, suitable for all people – even those with the most sensitive skin. I couldn’t ask for more. What led me to Wild Mary was a vision of rosemary as a goddess of the sea, youth and beauty and the idea that “all good things are wild and free,” just like our beauty elixirs. I hope you love them as much as I do.

Lisa McCormick
Founder of Wild Mary

N.B. Mary comes from the Latin mari or ‘sea’ from the Latin for rosemary, ros marinus, meaning 'dew of the sea.' The Latin word for rosemary is most likely derived from the Egyptian word for green, wʒḏ, signified by a papyrus hieroglyph and associated with sea, youth and beauty as well as the Mediterranean, which was known as the 'Great Green.'

That's me riding an Arabian Horse across the Sinai Desert, Egypt 1992.