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Did Vintage Shampoos Have the Right Idea?

vintage shampoos from the 1970s
February 10, 2015 Reviewed by Christina 32 Comments

The recent announcement that Vidal Sasson is bringing back the cherry almond scent of its original 1977 shampoo filled me with hair nostalgia. It seems that the 1970s was synonymous with hair — fluffy, bouncy, shiny hair cascading from impossibly gorgeous women like Farrah Fawcett, Jacklyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd, inspiring us to hit the closest salon and demand a "feathered" haircut. Hair commercials with silly-yet-catchy jingles filled the airwaves — to this day, I still remember Faberge Organics' "If you tell two friends, then they'll tell two friends, and so on and so on and so on." Yet this blogger's thoughts that scientific advances in cosmetic chemistry make those original formulas obsolete got me to thinking: Would we still really want to use those classic shampoos we remember so fondly? I decided to take a trip down memory lane and find out.

Wella Balsam

Wella Balsam

Its claim to fame: "It repairs split ends"

In 1972, Wella Balsam was the first shampoo specifically produced for retail sales. And they certainly knew how to work that market — the ad campaign grabbed people's attention by featuring the stars of Charlie's Angels. Wella Balsam claimed that its "special formula unites with the hair shaft," protecting strands and preventing damage and actually repairing split ends. In 1976, Wella developed the ingredient chitosan and launched "a new generation of styling products." A deacetylated form of chitin, a natural biopolymer, chitosan has a film-forming ability to bond to the hair. So it does appear that Wella's claims had some legs to stand on — though of course, we know it isn't really possible to repair split ends.

Your TIA update: Try Nutra-Lift Shampoo ($36), a sulfate-free and detergent-free shampoo in seaweed base with marine extracts. It gently cleanses, moisturizes and strengthens hair, while also restoring damaged hair and promoting healthy growth.

Breck

It's claim to fame: Breck Girls

Breck Girls

This shampoo's unforgettable ad campaign (which actually began in the 1930s and continued through the 1980s) featured beautifully illustrated portraits of "Breck Girls," who were meant to look like real-life women instead of glamorous models. (Real-life women with spectacular hair, that is.) Breck dismissed other leading shampoos as "basically synthetic detergent," promising that their natural formulas would not over-strip your hair. Their campaigns also focused on offering three formulas or "expressions" for dry, normal or oily hair. However, seeing that the ingredients list of Breck's Gold Formula contained ammonium lauryl sulfate, DMDM hydantoin, and FD&C Yellow No. 5, we're not quite sure we'd label this a "natural formula" today. Although, it was interesting to note the inclusion of benzophenone-4, a water soluble UVB absorber that offers broad spectrum protection against UV radiation.

Your TIA update: Try Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Co-Wash ($32 in the shop), which cleanses, conditions and detangles with natural vegetable derivatives, quinoa extract, shea butter and aloe.

Faberge Organics

Faberge Organics

It's claim to fame: The overwhelming urge to tell two friends about it

The "organics" in this brand's name was derived from its signature ingredients of pure wheat germ oil & honey. Ads proudly proclaimed their "exclusive patented ACP," but never spelled out exactly what that was. Tracking down a vintage bottle for sale on eBay (seriously, why do people still own 30+ year old shampoo?), I discovered that ACP stood for Allantoin Calcium Pantothenate, which is a soothing and healing conditioning agent in hair and skin products. Wheat Germ Oil and Honey were indeed listed in the ingredients, but after more questionable conditioning and antistatic agents like stearalkonium chloride and Quaternium-15. On the plus side, the shampoo was acid balanced and contained no phosphates, and promised not to strip color.

Your TIA Update: Try Osmotics FNS Revitalizing Shampoo ($21), which contains wheat amino acid, algae, vitamins and extracts of avocado, carrot, cucumber and ginseng.

Body on Tap

Its claim to fame: Beer

This beer-enriched shampoo debuted in 1978 had a formula that was 1/3 real beer. According to this article by the company's former purchasing manager, the beer used was none other than Budweiser, but it had to be denatured so as not to be taxed as alcohol. This was first accomplished with formaldehyde, but later changed to Bitrex after concerns were raised. See if you can recognize a young Kim Basinger in the shampoo commercial, which cheerfully warned people "don't drink it!"

Your TIA update: Try Broo Craft Beer Shampoo ($10), which uses real handcrafted beer made in the USA and is free of sulfates, synthetics, and silicones.

Clairol Herbal Essences

Its claim to fame: "A garden of earthly delights"

Clairol Herbal Essences

Although still manufactured, today's revamped formula of Herbal Essences is different from the 1972 original that claimed to be "the most beautiful shampoo experience on earth." The iconic original green-colored shampoo, with its commercials featuring a flower-laden wood nymph, was a non-alkaline pH shampoo made with natural protein and the essence of 17 herbs and wildflowers. Now owned by Procter & Gamble, Herbal Essences seems to have strayed from the forest with ingredients that include Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Sodium Xylenesulfonate and Tetrasodium EDTA.

Your TIA update: Try Yarok Feed Your Volume Shampoo ($28), which is all-natural, 100 percent vegan, and free of alcohol, parabens, and sulfates. It nourishes hair its aromatic blend of organic herbs, flowers, vitamins, minerals and essential oils.

Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific

It's claim to fame: Um... terrific smelling hair

Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific

This fragrance shampoo touted its flowery, spicy scent as its key selling point. Though many might remember it fondly, we probably would be less enthused about its key ingredient of deer musk that was responsible for its famous scent. Alas, deer musk has since been deemed an unacceptable ingredient by the International Fragrance Association (IFA), leaving us with less fragrant hair but much happier deer.

Your TIA update: Try Shielo Hydrate Moisturizing Shampoo ($24), which moisturizes and protects hair with organic extracts of white tea and shea butter, soothes the scalp with hibiscus and vanilla cactus and has a peachy, tropical scent.

  • October 1, 2017

    by Mugsy22

    These were all great! In today's market, Orzene (a Greek brand) is a beer shampoo that has an 80s balsam shampoo type of a scent. Farmona Herbal Care Nettle also is good and smells similar to Orzene (a Polish brand sold in Polish grocery stores and on Amazon). Ewa, another Polish brand, also has a Nettle shampoo, only that one has a green/ herbal scent.

    The ones listed here as replacements are all sulfate free and expensive, and not like I recall the shampoos of the past being. Those all cleaned well and didn't have a lot of extra ingredients in them. The international market is probably the best way to go to find comparable replacements.

  • July 8, 2017

    by Renee

    I truly loved Faberge shampoo and conditioner...no lies, my mom used this on my hair when I was little and it made my hair grow super long. Then no one carried it anymore. Then years later Big Lots sold it...then they stopped then I found Vermont county store sold it and I would order 3 bottles of each every month. It still made my hair grow. I am black, with curly hair. This was the best shampoo and conditioner EVER!!!! Please bring it back..and oh the smell was soooo yummy..

  • May 23, 2017

    by Johnny

    I always remember the Farrah facets shampoo it was. The best scent I I try all the time to try to find one that even comes close to it but I still haven't found one yet or the original video Sassoon shampoo I would love to see it back on the shelf

  • May 17, 2017

    by Donna

    Please, PLEASE...bring back Gee Your hair Smells Terrific! Best. Shampoo. And. Conditioner. Ever.

  • April 20, 2017

    by Lea

    I would love to see you guys. bring back some shampoos and conditioner ' s from the 19 70's , I especially miss the Farrah Fawcett shampoo and conditioner, I've used a lot of your products from the 70's, it's a shame that people in the high office's, don't see it from a customer's point of view.

  • March 29, 2017

    by Curtis

    The herbal essence shampoo original from the 70s was wonderful,it's all I bought and made hair smell and feel incredible!why fix something not broken!!now I won't buy there products..think it's really sad as all the wnderful products from the time!SAD

  • March 15, 2017

    by Trish

    Sure wish Clairol would bring back the Original Herbal Essence Shampoo...the new shampoos introduced a few years ago absolutely have NO RELATION to the fabulous fragrance of the Herbal Essence of the 1970s!! I use the 'Colour Me Happy' in the red bottle (have colour treated hair, and actually avoid using it most of the time....PLEASE bring back the original. Was it perhaps under a patent that can no longer be used?
    Also, looking at this page sure brings back memories: my mom brought me up on Breck and know I used the other shampoos shown...hair was really #1 then!!

  • November 27, 2016

    by Applegirl68

    I remember Timotei and Halo. I think in today's shampoos live-clean is not so bad and some of the herbal essences are pretty good too. From the professional brands ISO for color-treated hair leaves hair smelling nice. It is hard to find herbal/wildflower shampoos in the stores. I tried a shampoo made in Poland and it smelled very herbal. It is green and has a picture of horsetail herb on the bottle. They even have one with nettles. I think you can find those shampoos in a Russian or Polish store.

  • October 28, 2016

    by John

    I recently found a bottle of Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo from 1981. I grew up using this product and the conditioner. The bottle I found at an estate sale had never been opened. I used it tonight and I can't believe the memories it brought back. The most amazing thing was the difference it made my hair feel. I think that we should get together and demand that the people who make this should bring it back. If enough consumers demand that the original formula be recreated I believe they will want to make the sales. I can't understand why they would have ever stopped.

  • October 10, 2016

    by Branka

    I also remember that shampoo Protein 21. I used that as a teenager and I used Faberge Wheatgerm and Honey (it was a bit sticky if I remember correctly), Alberto VO5, Beerontap (didn't like that one so much). The best was definitely Herbal Essence.

  • October 10, 2016

    by Branka

    I also miss that original Clairol Herbal Essence Shampoo with the girl on the bottle. I haven't seen it in Canada for 35 years. I don't know why it is so difficult for the company to make it come back. I did find a shampoo recently that had a similar scent. It is called Martina Collection-Jojoba Shampoo. It has that herbal smell and the way you hair smells after is so nice and fresh. Some shampoos actually make your hair smell moldy like Finesse (not my favorite) but not this one from Martina Collection. I highly recommend it. It is not expensive either. Google it.

  • August 29, 2016

    by Yup Yup

    Yes, just like Afro sheen didn'the have any models with long flowing hair, only ones with naturals.

  • August 23, 2016

    by Robin

    Never a model with Afros. Products designed solely for straight haired people.

  • August 16, 2016

    by Jean

    Modern shampoos are loaded with body building waxes and are designed mainly for color treated (weakened) hair. But they don't CLEAN your hair, just give it static and residue build-up. I've been using diluted dish detergent and weekly white vinegar for years just to clean my hair. I then use a clarifying shampoo daily to leave it nice. I know it may sound like overkill, but my hair looks fab.

  • July 23, 2016

    by Alisa

    I loved Faberge Organics! I found this page today after randomly reminiscing how great it smelled and how I wish they still sold it.

  • July 19, 2016

    by Linda

    Well I found a product that is as close as you can come to the Original Herbal Essence. That product is Caprice Natural Shampoo. They have it available on Amazonor EBay. It does a good job on my hair and I use a unscented conditioner so I get to smell that great smell even when my hair is dried. It is reasonable in price and worth the try.

  • July 5, 2016

    by deanna

    Faberge Organics Should come back...It was the best for hair and contained no phosphates. My mom was a hair dresser and only used this on our hair. All us girls still have great hair.

  • March 7, 2016

    by kat

    Spring Feeling shampoo, I loved the spring water (ha, or whatever) scent. The original Silkience, Farrah Fawcet shampoo, Strawberry scented ones, Flex ( awful stuff) but my fave was the original Herbal Essence. oh, how I miss that.

  • February 20, 2016

    by Nancy

    anyone remember the shampoo and conditioner milk plus 6? Loved it? Yucca dew? Wish I could buy them now.

  • September 14, 2015

    by Rich

    You comments about the Yarok shampoo could not be father from the truth. Not anywhere close to the original Herbal Essence shampoo. Just another overpriced ripoff.

  • July 2, 2015

    by Preksha @TIA

    Hi Kimberly, The Nutra-Lift Shampoo and the Wen Cleansing Conditioner are similar in that they are both non-foaming. However, with that said, the Wen is more of a creamy conditioner that washes your hair, while the Nutra-Lift is far less so. You may not need to add in conditioner when using Wen, but from our experience, you will with Nutra-Lift.

  • June 3, 2015

    by Louisa

    Mary,

    Was it Faberge Wheat Germ Oil and Honey? That was sold in stores, though.

  • June 2, 2015

    by mary

    Anyone remember a shampoo and conditioner sold only in Salons in the 70's Wheat Germ Oil and Honey? I can't remember the manufacturer. It smelled so good and I bleached my hair and it kept it really healthy and shiny. I would so buy it if I could find it. Can anyone help my aging brain?? I'm from the 60's... Peace~~~

  • April 21, 2015

    by mimi

    My mom used to use "Lemon Up" shampoo that claimed to have the juice of one whole lemon in every bottle (the cap was shaped like a lemon, as well). That one I think is still available from Vermont Country Store, as is "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" and their own re-creation of the original Herbal Essences shampoo.

    I also remember another 70's 'poo that was a pale blue color and came in a clear bottle that had a handle on the side, with a kind of pitcher-shape. It claimed to contain real rain water (lol). I can't remember the name of that one, but it smelled really good. :-)

  • February 11, 2015

    by Patty

    Hi Barb. I vaguely remember Earth Born -- I thought of them when you mentioned the fruit scents and the jar-like bottles. I don't remember Sunshine Harvest -- why is it all the shampoos of the 1970s smelled so heavenly? LOL!

  • February 11, 2015

    by Kimberly

    Wow! That was a free ride on the way-back machine. LOL. I remember them all. There used to be a more expensive line carried in beauty shops, probably for teens. It had several scents, and the one that was to die for was the banana. Yes, I know that sounds gross, but it was great and smelled like real bananas! I think they had cherry and other fruits. My Mom had a red-faced fit over what I spent on it. HaHa. Those are WalMart prices now, Mom.

    Thanks for the article. I loved the subject matter and the nostalgia. Now I want some of that Nutra-Lift. Is it like Wen, only better?

  • February 11, 2015

    by Barb

    Sunshine Harvest shampoo made by Clairol. My olfactory memory tripped me from 43 years ago! They sold it in six fragrances, and apricot was not one of them. It must have been the peach that I loved so much. I remember having the tangerine too.

  • February 10, 2015

    by Barb

    No, Patty, that wasn't it. The packaging had a more sophisticated look to it. I don't remember Earth Born, do you?

  • February 10, 2015

    by Patty

    Oh my gosh, Barb, was the apricot shampoo you're remembering called "Earth Born"??

    http://mentalfloss.com/sites/default/files/styles/insert_main_wide_image/public/earth_born.jpg

  • February 10, 2015

    by Barb

    I am a true chlld of the 1970s having graduated from high school in 1974 and college in 1978. In high school I used a shampoo that I have been trying to remember the name of. It was national brand. Probably advertised in Seventeen magazine. The bottles were shaped like old apothecary jars--round, clear with little flat "winged" caps. There were several scents/formulas available, but the one I loved was the apricot. It had an amazing scent to it which smelled exactly like apricots, not a fragrance trying to smell like an apricot. I dream about that shampoo...

  • February 10, 2015

    by Christina @TIA

    Hi, Cathy. Wow, Protein 21 is one I don't remember, but I'm going to look it up! Thanks for taking the time to share your memories!

  • February 10, 2015

    by Cathy

    Wow! I so enjoyed this article! It sure brought back a lot of memories. I remember another shampoo, Protein 21! I used this one a lot as a teenager. I also used Faberge Organics Wheat germ oil & honey line. The picture of the bottles sure do take me back! Thanks to whomever took the time to do this article. I loved it!

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