Thursday, December 29, 2005

Shampoos of Ages Past

I have ties to the salon industry, so I know a lot about shampoos. But what I want to talk about today is the Shampoos of Ages Past.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, but I had parents and grandparents that were very involved in my upbringing, so I was exposed to a lot of things that many kids my age weren't. I remember most of the stories my father's parents told of WWII (and I have them on tape).

My father's mother was an advertiser's dream. She read all the ads in her ladies' magazines and seemed to believe every one. So, of course, we used a lot of Breck and Prell shampoo when we were at Grandma's house. Grandma was also a firm believer in Creme Rinse (hair conditioner) and happily, Breck made that too!

Breck was famous for the Breck Girls. They would get various pretty girls or movie actresses to pose for a painted portrait and then triumphantly trumpet that their hair was thanks to Breck (it usually wasn't).

Prell used pretty girls, but advertised that their shampoo was different because it was rich and green and was a thick gel! And people bought into that, too.

What people didn't know then was that both formulas were very caustic and horrible for the hair.

Incidentally, I got Grandma to deviate once and buy me a red bottle of "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!" so I can't judge her. I was enticed by all the television ads where a woman is flouncing down the street, and men stop her (and almost haul her off the sidewalk) saying in amazement, "Gee! your hair smells terrific!" I figured if that many men were impressed by the smell, it must be something else! It wasn't. But that's when I realized how effective advertising was.

Another time she bought me "Body on Tap" shampoo because she grew tired of my begging. Although it was advertised as having beer in it, I'd challenge anyone to find it. The commercials featured very coy people wagging a finger at the screen and telling you "Now remember, don't drink it!" As if! The stuff was shampoo, and that's all it was. Anyone who drank it would be blowing bubbles out their butts for weeks.

Then there was Wella Balsam which had the fragrance of Pine-Sol. Your hair smelled like a clean toilet!

I love how pretentiously comical the old ads are, and how easily they preyed on the weak and uneducated consumer of that time. Our consumers today are much more sophisticated, and these old ads would go over like a lead balloon.

You had a sampling of the Breck Girls at the top (does anyone recognize Erin Gray of the TV series Buck Rogers?) Now here are my favorites:

The Prell ads:

Obviously this was such a miracle that women and girls were in hysterics over it. These ladies at the top look as if they just got out of a charasmatic tent revival meeting! I don't know how the young lady below can contain herself; valium, perhaps?

As you can see, another joyous group of women are celebrating the arrival of Prell (which is cleverly spelled out in green gelled letters). At the top, we have a woman straight off the set of The Sound of Music. Nearby, a brunette is smirking with the secret knowlege of Prell's Perfection. But best of all, we have the beautiful-but-down-to-earth blond looking to the skies and thanking God himself for her beautiful hair. Who knew that Prell was divinely inspired?

Here we discover that hair can be younger-looking. Now, I don't know about you, but I've never looked at a woman and said "Wow, she sure looks young, but her hair gives her away..." This is really tapping into the "fear of aging", isn't it? Again, the woman is thanking God himself for her hair. In fact, she looks so excited, I think she's about to burst into song!

Just in case you weren't sure, we have all elements combined in this one ad. Prell is fabulous! Women are still worshipping it! In fact, there may be a Church of Prell somewhere near you! Why, young bathing beauties use it! Don't you want to have radiantly alive hair, too? Even the stodgy, practical redheaded business woman is cracking a smile!

Of course when I hear phrases like "radiantly alive" and "hair" together, I think of Medusa. But not the consumer of the 1950s and 60s! Heck no! They want to worship at the Church of Prell, too!

And my grandmother (sensible soul though she was) bought it hook, line, and sinker. Just as most people did back then. Many of us who are, or have been, in advertising salivate for those days.


uncle joe said...

I salivate for the days when I actually had hair. These ads brought back some good memories. thanks.

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I absolutely love this post!

How I remember Brech and Prell, and these visuals are wonderful.

What is your favorite shampoo today? Any secrets? I tend to spend way too much money on shampoo, and buy Bumble and Bumble

Ted said...

We used to dream of having hair but my dad insisted that real men got their hair cut in the basement with the pro clippers from Sears. One style available, Buzz. When I was old enough to get my hair cut by (God forbid) beautiful woman, they convinced me to sport the blow dryed, parted down the middle,Bruce Jenner style also worn by Dorothy Hammel. I was now able to buy shampoo and conditioner and not use my Dad's Vitalis or Wildroot. Of course, that made me wild and start on the path of destruction. I know now that it was because of 70's advertising.

Fred said...

Baby shampoo. Used it then - use it now.

mal said...

Medusa has to be the ideal hair model! *L*

Reading the labels on Shampoos is interesting. Expensive or cheap, most general purpose shampoos are similar formulas. Active ingredients? Some sulfonated compounds (cleaner) surfactants (foam) and everything else (methylcellulose,dye, DI water etc) are there for "perception". Talking to compounding chemists is a world of interesting *L*

Me? I use VO5, cleans well, no dandruff and is cheap.

Captain Conehead said...


Excellent post. Not to make light of the seriousness of your suicide post but I went through a period in my life where my hair was unmanageable. Prell just made my curls drier and the dippity do, oh my.

In our hustle and bustle society many people don’t exercise proper hair care. Today the high-end salons have the products to take care of all hair issues. I wish I could get TC into a high-end salon.

Men face the biggest obstacles in hair care today. Most men skimp on hair care because of the cost of a professional style. Men would rather use this money on their family. It’s hard to argue with this mentality.

Unfortunately for men the stylists, oops hackers, at places like Sams, Supercuts, Sports Clips etc. were primarily trained in ladies correctional facilities. If we want to move forward as a nation we need to provide men with a place they can go and receive a professional cost efficient styling.

Sorry if I rambled, this is a serious issue to me.

Saur♥Kraut said...

King Triton / Mr. Gator, I hair you. ;o)

Mallory, I think Medusa represents Truth in Advertising. You're completely correct about shampoo ingredients. But it's a little more involved than that, because much is dependant on the balance of the ingrediants (more on that another time). However, more shampoos today are every bit as good as what you can buy in the salons, but most salons would rather you didn't know that.

Fred, no tears!

Ted, ah, the wanton hairstyles of the 70s and 80s. More people went to their ruin with hair-parted-down-the-middle-and-nicely-feathered.

Barbara, to be honest with you (don't faint) my favorite shampoo is currently the new Fantastic Sams formulation. It was designed by some experts with serious credentials and it's truly excellent! But, see my note to Mallory above...

Uncle Joe, you're welcome! Don't despair, there's always implants... ;o) Personally I like bald men.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I like the Breck chick with the long blonde hair the best. Not that I am obsessed by blondes or anything, I just seem to go for the long hair look. I really do not care too much what color it is.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy Iguana, what's really funny is that that particular girl looks almost identical to a friend of mine that was killed recently. She was very pretty.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Is it wrong that I find the ladies in the first picture really hot?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel, as long as you don't find Medusa hot, there's hope for you. Erin Gray was one of the most beautiful women of her time! I always thought she was gorgeous.

Saur♥Kraut said...

P.S. I put in a pic of her in her "spacesuit" from the 70s.

Lee Ann said...

Haha, I remember those shampoos.
I tried "Gee your hair smells terrific", it did smell good, but it wasn't a good shampoo at all.
Do you remember the prell commercials, they put a pearl in it to show you the thickness of the shampoo? I used that as a child and was always complimented on my shiny hair. That really is a good shampoo, I think my mom still uses it.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

LOL. I remember all this stuff! Fun.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lee Ann, well, Prell is pretty harsh, but if your mom has oily hair it's great! Otherwise, try to steer her into another line.

TLP, ;o)

Ellen said...

I remember all the shampoo ads, and was hooked on Herbal Essences for awhile back in the 70's. The choice now is TRESemme' ( oh la la!), as my "stylist" highly recommends it. She said the trick is to rinse the shampoo and conditioner in cold water.
I would probably use any shampoo if I could find one with a gardenia scent.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Saur!

~Deb said...

Now I have an excuse to put a fridge full of beer in my bathroom! WOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!

No--seriously, beer is great for your hair, but you'll end up smelling like Uncle Earl after he came swaggering back home from the saloon.

Anyway, this brought back memories for sure! Gee your hair smells terrific! hahaa!!!! OMG! I had it! I used it. I thought my hair was all that!

Too funny, I loved this post!!!!

michelle said...

Don't laugh Saur...My boss calls me the Breck girl! (yes, for real)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Kreml. Whatever happened to Kreml? And is Brylcreme still little dabbing?

You know what really works on hair? Soap and water.

FTS said...

I actually *prescribe* Prell in rare instances. I've had a handful of impatient clients who tried to color their own hair at home when I couldn't get them in, who would then call me with a "hair emergency."

"Is it still on your head?"

"Yes, but --"

"Is it chartreuse?"

"No, but --"

"Then you don't have an emergency. I told you not to do what you did but you didn't listen."

In most cases they grabbed a tube up dark brown and applied it to porous ends and it grabbed. I would tell them to get get a tube of Prell and wash their hair in very warm water 2-3 times a day (always conditioning afterward, of course LOL). That stuff will strip out color so fast it will make your head spin.

Once the color faded, I told them to throw the Prell away. Along with the home hair color. ;)

actonbell said...

Wow, that's a blast from the past--I remember Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific! How funny. Hair IS dead cells, right?

michelle said...

Yup, that picture looks like you! I like the whole new blog look!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Michelle, now we have to let everyone know that you've taken MY design, and I have a new one. I hope it's not too confusing. ;o) But at least we finally look like ourselves.

Aunt Jo said...

I use Dove shampoo and styling products.

I used to get so mad at my mother for buying cheapo shampoo by the gallon for me and my brothers. We never got to use the popular shampoos until we could buy them ourselves. *sniff*

michelle said...

That is so funny saur, the pics really do look like us. Thanks for changing everything!!!

dddragon said...

I had forgotten about those ads ... indeed, they were funny!

We buy generic-copying-professional shampoos and conditioners at a salon supply store, using the advice of the women who cut our hair as a guide.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

This post is like p0rn to me...

Brianne said...

Ack! Prell is so terrible for your hair and what's funny is, they still sell the stuff!

I've always been a Paul Mitchell fan... but the new Bed Head by TIGI stuff works wonders too!

Great post, Saur!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Brianne, Bed Head's hot. So is the Big, Sexy Hair line.

Daniel, *LOL* Hope it's not Medusa that's turning you on...

Dddragon, excellent choices.

Aunt Josefina, I'm not all that familiar with Dove but I'm sure it's just fine. Never tried it, tho!

Acton Bell, yup, hair's deader than a doornail.

FTS, isn't that the truth? It's also good for really, really oily hair.

Old Hoss, my ex father in law used Brylcreme!

Deb, ;o) Actually it's an old wives' tale that beer does anything for hair.

Ellen, As long as you're not using Prell... ;o)

Liquidplastic said...

My hair was more like Medusa, and we used lye soap because we couldn't afford to buy shampoo ...

Believe me when I say a straighten iron and lye perms were to die for. For those of us that didn't die from it, we lost a lot of hair. These days I am happy to be wearing dreadlocks.

Interesting post Saur!

The Lazy Iguana said...

I just thought of something. Can asians say "prell" without it sounding funny?

It would be like "prerr" or something.

I need to stop drinking.

Miss Cellania said...

Oy, when I was a kid, I thought Breck and Prell were the ONLY shampoos! Only until Herbal Essence went on the market.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Miss Cellania, and there weren't that many good brands/variations, either!

Lazy Iguana, OK, you really got me chuckling out loud in my study. The dogs are looking at me funny.

LP, the good news is that dreds are in!!!

Anonymous said...

anyone remember Luster Cream Shampoo.

Anonymous said...

I TOTALLY remember Lustre-Creme...and I loved it! I've been trying to find out what happened to the brand as I'd buy a tube today if I could find one! LOL

I really don't kmow if it was any good, but it was my Sunday night ritual as a child and I still remember the texture (LIKE IT!), and the smell, just seemed..."clean"!

I really like the concept of a "tube o' shampoo"...rather than pouring liquid into my wet hand and watching most wash away before it gets near my head...OH WAIT!?!?...That's the POINT! LOL...

Lustre-Creme RULES!!!

John Steed said...

It should be noted that almost all the shampoos of the time had formaldehyde in them. The only shampoo that I could find in the late 60's, early 70's that were free of formaldehyde, was herbal essence shampoo. The other shampoos caused sores to develop on my scalp. It is curious how many products of the time had formaldehyde in them. It was even used in beer as a clarifying agent, and I am thinking that is why heavy beer drinkers of the time didn't live so long, especially compared to richer wine drinkers, but then that is a different subject. Still, I should mention that one of the break down products in the human body of some artificial sweeteners, is formaldehyde. I always liked the garden scent of herbal essence shampoo and really missed it when it disappeared from the store shelves, especially since at one time it came in three varieties, oily hair, regular, and dry hair. You can still find a similar product at Walmart, called Vanart shampoo. It is made in Mexico.

kebhauck said...

Remember the pearls in the Prell bottles?? I had a small box full of them! Who knows where they went!