It’s the mid-1980’s, before Proactiv, before even Retin-A. However, even
way back when Reagonomics was in full swing, women wore makeup (often
LOTS of it) and teenagers got acne. We needed products to cleanse our
pores, dry our pimples, and make us look all fresh and dewy and clean,
at least until we spackled on some more Maybelline.
I asked my husband this morning what products he used to wash his face in
the eighties. “Uh, soap...?” he responded, bemused. “Whatever was in the
Pfffft. “Whatever was in the shower” wasn’t going to cut it for
an eighties girl. We needed SERIOUS skin care, and it took some shopping
around and experimenting to find the skin care plan that worked for us.
pHisoderm didn’t thrill me, regardless of its pH balanced claims. This
commercial shows it getting all foamy, but that is not what I recall. It
was thin and runny, like watered down Elmer’s glue, and didn’t smell
good. My face felt uncomfortably tight after washing with it. Thumbs
Neutrogena’s clear orange soap bar left my skin feeling clean but not
stripped of all moisture, so that was good. Using a bar, however, was
less satisfying than a nice sudsy liquid or cream, and the bar tended to
crack and look grubby after a couple of weeks. Neutrogena soap didn’t
smell like much of anything, but at least that was better than
pHisoderm’s weirdly medical odor. Neutrogena eventually came out with a
pump, retaining the clear orange look, and I approved heartily. This ad
for the original bar soap is from 1983:
Both pHisoderm and the Neutrogena bar partnered well with the Buf Puf,
demonstrated by Sharon Stone in this commercial from 1987. Buf Pufs were
a thicker, gentler version of the pot-scrubby side of kitchen sponges.
As exfoliation tools, they worked great until they got all compacted and
grody, which happened pretty quickly as I recall.
Noxema was a beloved product, largely because of the smell. Mmm, Noxema.
It did seem awfully mild, not really big enough guns for my skin
once for-real acne sunk its teeth into my T-zone. But it sure did smell
and feel good to use, and was oh-so-soothing on sunburns. I still
remember the simple visceral joy of digging my fingers into a pristine
tub of the thick white stuff.
Here’s the 1985 version of Noxema, in a fancy aerobics-inspired pump:
Carol Alt is so fresh and pretty in this 1985 commercial for Noxema
antiseptic skin cleanser, a corollary to the skin cream:
Unlike the mildly refreshing Noxema astringent that Carol sold us, Bonne
Bell Ten-O-Six lotion was turpentine in a bottle. Based on peer reviews,
I insisted that my mom get me a bottle of the stuff, and it was a
completely negative experience. My eyes stung, my skin burned, my pores
screamed for mercy. I ended up saturating a cotton ball with water first
to dilute the Ten-0-Six before applying it to my face, but that got old
fast. The Ten-O-Six got shoved to the back of the bathroom cabinet. This
fresh-faced ad is from 1983:
After the Ten-O-Six debacle, I went right back to my old standby
astringent: Sea Breeze. Like Noxema, that scent is both nostalgic and
delightful. Sea Breeze was just strong enough; it felt like it was
indeed doing some deep cleaning, without actually doing nerve damage to
my skin. Sing along with me: “Beautiful skin can be a breeze, with Sea
When we got those really nasty pimples, we turned to Benzoyl Peroxide
products, like Oxy. This commercial just makes me wince to watch; could
this dude be any more irritating?
I don’t remember Topex personally, and it appears the product no longer
exists. I’m suspecting that failure was inevitable for a cream that
sounded like the love child of Tampax and
Toppik. NOT something a lady would want to put on her face:
Clearasil was my acne medicine of choice. I have no idea why I thought it
was superior to Oxy, although I suspect that Clearasil’s slogan
“Minimize the Wait!” appealed to fifteen-year old me more than Oxy’s
violent-sounding “OXYCUTE ‘EM!”
Exfoliation was key, of course, in pore cleansing and pimple prevention,
and my mom got tired of buying me Buf Pufs.
St. Ives Apricot Scrub was both awesome and inexpensive. The only
drawback was the huge jars it was packaged in. Nowadays, it’s in tubes,
but back then it came in big ol’ wide-mouth plastic tubs. But, whatever.
I loved rubbing that mildly scented gritty goo into my skin.
Aapri also had a great apricot facial scrub, sold here by a lady with a
brisk British accent, which made EVERYTHING sound fancier:
When I was in high school, I worked in a department store beauty salon. It
was an excellent job in so many ways, only ONE of which was that I got
to spend my breaks perusing the clearance racks and using my employee
discount to buy makeup. KA-CHING! Thus my introduction to Clinique
products. And yes, I’m still a sucker for Clinique Bonus Time. Clinique
was all “scientific” and “personalized”; it was (and is!) sold by
“professionals” in white lab coats, so you know it’s the real deal. The
extra-large bar soap was nothing to do flips over, BUT it came with that
awesome pale green slide-to-open soap box. This ad is from 1981:
Last but not least, we required weekly maintenance in addition to our
morning and evening rituals. In a way-less-gross precursor to those vile
Milk? ads, Mudd masks featured celebrities hiding behind their ugly
(but beautifying!) mud masks. I remember being both repulsed and
fascinated by the little speckles of oil that rose to the surface of the
clay mask as it dried on my face.
So, can you guess the identity of the masked woman in this 1986