BALTIMORE – There were no big parades in Baltimore in 2014, when Unilever’s brand Noxzema celebrated its centennial. It was hardly noticed there, though there were ads for Noxzema cream in magazines and supplements across the nation.
Three years later, the brand is still around, and the spin-off shave cream is still selling at many grocery stores and drugstores, though the presence of the shave brand is much smaller and there is no advertising to speak of. The main Noxzema brand went from Procter & Gamble to Alberto Culver to now Unilever. Sadly, there is no use for the shave cream at the main Noxzema website; when you put the term “shave” into the search, nothing comes up.
That is a missed opportunity.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Noxzema shave was considered a premium brand, so much so that a college friend at William and Mary thought me a bit posh for using it. It was made famous by the nordic model Gunilla Knutson, in that “take it all off” ad that was a sensation across the U.S. By the late 1980s, there were multiple versions including a blue colored medicated version and a green version that contains aloe. Currently, the white can is the hardest to find.
Anyone over 50 remembers that you should Let Noxzema Cream Your Face, so the razors won’t. Who could forget Farrah Fawcett and Joe Namath?
Today, is unclear exactly what you get when you purchase Noxzema Shave Cream. At many grocery and pharmacy shelves, Noxzema is usually at the bottom of the shelf; it sells well by itself and requires little promotion. Unfortunately, the red “medicated” version is the one for sale, though the original white was medicated and so the message is confused. However, when you try to buy it online on Amazon, the product is sold at a high price. An Amazon review states the issue fairly well:
The order of the ingredients has been revised so that sorbitol, which was seventh in Noxell’s list of inactive ingredients, is now the fourth ingredient, after water, stearic acid, and isobutane. Some ingredients have been moved further down the list, and thus are present in lesser quantity, likely for the purpose of reducing production costs. The net result is a product with nowhere near its previous quality. Spreading it evenly on one’s skin takes an undue amount of time and effort, and the results are less than satisfying. The label still claims, “Thick Rich Lather,” but the product lacks the consistency of its former incarnation. The claim, “Dermatologist Tested,” is irrelevant without the test results, which could have been positive or negative.
In 2000, I interviewed George L. Bunting, grandson of the founder, for the Richmond paper Inside Business. Bunting, who lives in Baltimore and worked for the company beginning in 1966, had a long knowledge of Noxzema as a product. The original Bunting, the founder, was Baltimore pharmacist named George Avery Bunting, and his “knocks eczema” cream Noxzema was a hit, as it was a tingly cream with its main ingredient eucalyptus. The popularity of the product grew, and the company became the giant Noxell, which not only made Noxzema but Cover Girl, the great cosmetics brand now owned by Proctor & Gamble, and Lestoil. Currently, Cover Girl is still made at the Hunt Valley plant, and we hope that practice continues for the people of Baltimore.
The grandson, who is a civic leader in Baltimore after the sale of Noxell to Procter & Gamble, worked at the company beginning in 1966, and understood the appeal of the shave cream, which had a “halo” that came from the original Noxzema, which somehow magically deposited grease onto your face, yet washed away clean.
P&G sold to Alberto-Culver, which eventually sold to Unilever. Unilever sold the rights to the brand in Greece for a modest amount to the company Sarantis Group, which notes it was founded in Constantinople in 1930. One should admire any company that was founded in Constantinople. They have a clear, consistent version for the brand, and the U.S. version would do well to look at their packaging and marketing design to see how the shave brand might look here in the U.S.
Below, a bit more of advertising. Genius! Breeze fresh Noxzema skin cream. Cools as it cleanses.