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Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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Toothpaste and Shampoo and Soap... Oh, My! — The Truth Behind Those Wasteful Grooming Product Ads

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

If you're at least as old as Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp, or Madonna, chances are you also remember those vintage TV ads for a men's hair grooming product whose slogan was, "A little dab'll do ya!"

Brylcreem... 'a little dab'll do ya' was its slogan for years.
Brylcrem... 'a little dab'll do ya' was its slogan for years.

It was a stroke-of-genius slogan for Brylcreem — talk about truth in advertising. Rather than featuring clean-cut Ivy Leaguers slathering the stuff all over their heads, the company actually encouraged its customers to go easy on using their hair styling cream in its iconic jingle. Refreshing and memorable. And honest.

However, in many commercials, there was (and still is) over-the-top excess regarding the amount of hygiene and grooming products that advert models use on their hair, teeth, and everywhere else. Often, much more than is needed.

Toothpaste commercials and print ads have been particularly notorious, often showing a thick ribbon of paste stretching across the length of a toothbrush's bristles and then sweeping back over the first layer, much like old-fashioned Christmas ribbon candy. Shampoo ads and soap ads were equally excessive, with the "gotta be clean" actors covered in whipped cream-like caps and formidable body armor of froth.

Why would advertisements show this exaggerated overuse of their products?

Simple. People would use it up faster. And then they'd buy more.

 

How Much to Use?

Truth is, a wee squirt of toothpaste, only about the size of a PEANUT (about half the length of a tooth brush's bristles), is needed when brushing your teeth. It's the actual brushing action of the brush that removes food and particles. Toothpaste, because it tastes good with its various flavors, probably extends the amount of time you spend brushing brush, but some good ol' basic baking soda on the brush will usually do the same amount of cleaning, but for much cheaper. Just a little bit of either is needed to help lift up the debris on your teeth before you rinse it out.

Likewise with shampoos and soaps. When pouring shampoo into your hand, only about the diameter of a quarter (size of a dime for shorter hair) of shampoo poured into your hand is needed. Using more shampoo won't wash your hair any cleaner, unless you spent the day working in a coal mine or construction site. Same for soap. Only a small amount of soap is needed to get you clean. Most of the cleaning/removing action is from the flowing water and any scrubbing cloth, sponge, or brush you use. Extra froth will simply go down the drain.

Average people just don't get all that dirty in the course of a normal day. Overuse of shampoo and soap doesn't do anything extra except use up the products two or three times faster (or more). Thick, meringue-like lather is not necessary to thoroughly clean the average head of hair or average body. It's overkill and extremely wasteful. Using more obviously costs you more out of pocket. So, be sensible and don't imitate those ads. Think of how much money you and your family will save each year by not "over-frothing"!

These days, shampoo commercials don't always use the frothy-headed approach. Instead, gorgeous models with outrageously thick, fabulous, long hair are now hired for the ads, conveying the message that if you use that particular shampoo, you, too, will have gloriously thick, strong, long hair that rivals Rapunzel's or Cher's in the 1960s. When was the last time you saw a senior citizen lathering up in a shampoo commercial? We rest our case. But that's another side of advertising psychology for another post, another day.

Here are photo captures from commercial videos on YouTube to show you examples of some wildly wacky TV ads of product overuse.

 

This 2003 Crest toothpaste ad featured TV chef Emeril Lagasse. This 1980s toothpaste ad is from the UK. This 1970s ad featured newcomer actress Farrah Fawcett. It's not obvious from this photo capture, but that is a huge swath of toothpaste she's put on the toothbrush. And the brush seems too large for her mouth.
This 2003 Crest Whitening toothpaste ad featured TV chef-celebrity Emeril Lagasse. See the amount of toothpaste the "BAM! Man" is putting on the brush. This 1980s toothpaste commercial is from the UK. Look at how much toothpaste is on each of the three brushes. A few seconds later, the brushes then meld into one brush. That's a heck of a lot of toothpaste to subtly imply to consumers is needed. This 1970s ad featured then-unknown actress Farrah Fawcett. It's not obvious from this photo capture, but that is a huge swath of toothpaste she's put on the toothbrush. And the brush seems too large for her mouth.
New Zealand produced this 1991 TV ad with a double swoop of toothpaste for Close-Up toothpaste. Similar commercials aired in the U.S. Look at the frothy head of lather she has of Prell Shampoo!
It's difficult to see, but the amount of Pert shampoo being poured is about the size of a quail egg. All that is needed to get the job done is about the size of a dime or quarter.

New Zealand produced this 1991 TV commercial with a double swoop of toothpaste for Close-Up toothpaste. Similar ads aired in the U.S.

An overly frothy head of lather in this Prell Shampoo commercial. The tag line for this ad was, "Who put the 'Oooo' in shampoo?' Strange.

It's difficult to see, but the amount of Pert shampoo the model's pouring into the cup of her hand ends up being about the size of a quail egg. All that is needed to get the job done is about the size of a dime or quarter.
This Head & Shoulders ad was made in the US in the late 1960s. So much shampoo for so little hair. Way too much lather in this Vidal Sassoon shampoo ad. Significantly less shampoo would still clean her hair. Overkill and wasteful, and Sassoon's stuff is too pricey to waste. In this 1989 Irish Spring soap commercial, this man is covered head to foot in lather. He's also outdoors in the park, fully clothed, which is a tad bizarre.
This Head & Shoulders shampoo ad was made in the US in the late 1960s. So much shampoo for so little hair. Granted, he has 'embarrassing dandruff,' but then, he should be concentrating on massaging it into his scalp, not so much on his hair. Way too much lather in this Vidal Sassoon shampoo ad. Significantly less shampoo would still clean her hair. Overkill and wasteful, and Sassoon's stuff is too pricey to waste. In this 1989 Irish Spring soap commercial, this man is covered from head to foot in soap lather. He's also outdoors in the park, fully clothed, which is a tad bizarre.
Before lathering up, the woman in this ad poured nearly a quarter of the bottle of Clairol's Herbal Essences Botanical Body Wash on her sponge. The body wash has made her rather manic. This teen boy is not only super-lathered all over with Coast soap in this ad, but he's so elated, he's singing and juggling the bar of soap in the shower. Same Coast commercial as the one to the right, but this lathered-up man isn't juggling. He IS singing, though.
Before lathering up, the woman in this ad poured nearly a quarter of the bottle of Clairol's Herbal Essences Botanical Body Wash on her sponge. The body wash has made her rather manic. This teen boy is not only super-lathered all over with Coast soap in this US ad, but he's so elated, he's singing and juggling the bar of soap in the shower. Same Coast soap commercial as the one to the left, but this frothy-lathered-up man isn't juggling any soap. He IS singing, however.
In this upbeat, quirky 1980s ad from the UK, children are singing and dancing about the joys of Colgate Blue Minty Gel. The size of this toothbrush is downright scary. The kids are rather creepy, too. Caress is not a soap, but a beauty bar. Remember that... but lathering it all over like whipped cream, as this model does in this 1970s US ad, won't make you more beautiful than you already are. In this Italian ad for Palmolive Vitality wash, the woman has used so much product that she's blowing it about, and it's dispersing like dandelion 'wishies' in the shower... and down the drain.
In this upbeat, quirky 1980s commercial from the UK, children are singing and dancing about the joys of Colgate Blue Minty Gel. The size of this toothbrush is downright scary. The kids are rather creepy, too. As the ad gently admonishes the viewers, Caress is not a soap, but a beauty bar. Remember that... but lathering Caress all over like frosting on a cake, as this model does in this 1970s US ad, won't make you more beautiful than you already are. In this 2006 Italian ad for Palmolive Vitality wash, the woman has used so much product that she's blowing it about, and it's dispersing like dandelion 'wishies' in the shower... and down the drain.

 

One last note about toothpaste: Many dental experts are undecided if toothpaste even does what the manufacturers claim as far as adding vitamins and minerals to the teeth. Concerning fluoride and other good things penetrating the teeth enough to benefit them, the jury's still out on that.

One last note about shampoo: Many scientists are skeptical about the purported vitamin benefits for hair when added to shampoo or conditioners. First of all, each strand of hair is dead. Its follicle is alive, but that's down into the scalp. Absorption into the scalp is minimal, even if you leave the product on for a while. Secondly, any benefits to your hair derived from emollients, oils, or additives is short-term. They're merely coating the hair shaft to smooth or fill in the hair's cuticle layer (think shingles on a roof). Once you wash the product out, you're usually close to being back to square one concerning the natural condition of your hair, unless some of the product remains.

Back in the 1970s, there was a shampoo (to be unnamed, since they're still in business) that claimed to rid you of split ends. No kidding! It was wildly popular, especially with high school girls. Cool, no more split ends—I'll buy that shampoo!

But, it didn't "heal" or mend the splits, as it claimed, since that's physically impossible. Instead, it coated the hair shafts so the split ends weren't as noticeable. But, they were still there. That product suddenly stopped claiming anything about mending split ends, leading us to suspect that they were challenged. And they've never claimed it again since. For the record, split ends can't be permanently mended. They have to be trimmed off with a good pair of scissors.

Yeah, I was one of those dumb high school girls who bought that shampoo back then. And no, it did not work, even after washing my long, split-end-challenged hair with a hefty quail-egg's worth.

 

 

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