Itching to know the origins of Noxzema? There was a time when this facial cream, make-up remover and acne remedy in the distinctive cobalt blue jar was an ubiquitous fixture in medicine cabinets and vanity shelves.
Formulated in 1911 by physician Robert Townsend in Ocean City, Maryland originally as a sunburn cream for resort vacationers, it went by the rather unimaginative name of “Townsend R22.” It’s key ingredients were camphor, menthol, phenol and eucalyptus.
Townsend later gave the formula to Dr. George Bunting, who introduced it as, well, “Dr. Bunting’s Sunburn Remedy.” When a satisfied user exclaimed “You knocked out my eczema!”, it was repackaged as a soothing agent for skin itches and rashes, and inspired the name “Noxzema,” from “knock-eczema.” (Eczema is a medical condition where skin becomes rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding as a reaction to irritation or dermatitis.)
Noxzema achieved national popularity in the US in the 1940s, and spawned new uses like medicated facial cleanser, anti-aging cream and shaving ointment. The Noxzema Chemical Co. changed its name to Noxell Corp. in 1966 to reflect its wider product range. But its main product suffered a steady decline after its acquisition by Procter & Gamble in 1989, unable to compete with P&G’s Oil of Olay, which appealed to a much broader range of ages. You could say Noxzema got creamed by Olay; it just wasn’t up to scratch.
Noxzema continues to be produced in some countries as a skin cleanser by Unilever, which bought it in 2010, and is just itching to lead its comeback.
And that’s the skinny on Noxzema.
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