From Cold Cream to Colds — Ads for Kleenex and Pond’s Tissues

Cold and flu season seems an appropriate time for this bit of time travel.

Kleenex ad from Delineator, April 1925. “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.” Cellucotton Products Co.

Kleenex really was a new product, first appearing in 1924: “Kleenex — The Sanitary Cold Cream Remover.”

Among the things I took for granted was that a product whose name is now synonymous with “paper handkerchiefs” was invented for that purpose. Browsing through old magazines taught me that my assumption was wrong!

Online, Mary Bellis wrote about the surprising story of Kleenex tissues here.

Top of a Kleenex tissue ad, Delineator, August 1926.

According to Mimi Matthews’ book  A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, cold cream was applied to the face in the late 19th century as a moisturizer after washing with soap and water. However, since my background is the theatre, I know that after the 1860s, actors and actresses wore oil-based “greasepaint” and needed an oil-based remover: cold cream.

Broadway singing star Helen Morgan was one of the celebrities Kleenex used in their ad campaigns. Delineator, September 1930.

Helen Morgan endorsed Kleenex tissues for removing cold cream and makeup. Detail, ad in Delineator, September 1930.

By the 1920s, many ordinary women who wore powder, rouge, and lipstick had been convinced to clean their faces with “cold cream” instead of soap and water. However, washing a used facecloth with an oily product on it wasn’t convenient. And re-using it day after day without washing it was not very hygienic.

In 1924, cellulose-based Kleenex tissues were introduced as a more sanitary way to wipe off cold cream and makeup:  soft, disposable tissues.

“Two Beauty Crimes” could be avoided by using Kleenex tissues for cold cream removal. Detail of ad in Delineator, August 1926.

Bottom of Kleenex ad, Delineator, August 1926. “One of the most sensational beauty successes in years….”

By using disposable Kleenex tissues, women  avoided the beauty crimes of 1) re-using soiled towels and rubbing” the germs back into the skin,” and 2) using harsh cloth, which “injures delicate skin fabric — causes enlarged pores, skin roughness, etc.”

(I doubt the claims that using Kleenex tissues “lightens a darkish skin several shades or more….[Or] curbs oily skin and nose conditions amazingly.”)

Like any new product, “What it is” and how to use Kleenex tissues had to be explained. Free samples were distributed.

You could still order a free seven-day sample of Kleenex tissues in January, 1927. “Kleenex ‘Kerchiefs mark the only product made solely for the removal of cold cream.”

In 1927, one of those cold cream manufacturers began selling tissues, too.

Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream. ad from Delineator, July 1927. Vanishing cream, much lighter than cold cream,  was used as a moisturizer and base for face powder.

Ads for Pond’s cold cream began to include Pond’s Cleansing Tissues — disposable paper for removing the make-up dissolving cold cream.

Pond’s products and tissues in an ad from Delineator, August 1928.

Ads for Pond’s products often showed step by step illustrations. This one is from Delineator, November 1929.

For an excellent history of the Pond’s company, click here.

The battle of the tissues:

From an ad featuring Pond’s Cleansing Tissues, Delineator, May 1930.

Kleenex fought to keep its market by creating colored tissues:

Kleenex Tissues ad, detail; Delineator, June 1930.

Pastel tinted Kleenex tissues came in three colors, plus white:

Kleenex ad, detail; October 1929. This ad introduces the pop-up tissue box, as well as pastel colored tissues.

The tissue colors were “Sea Green,” “Canary Yellow,” and “Flesh Pink.” [This last was probably a pastel tint of orange,  rather than the color of freshly butchered beef….]

Applying tissues to a runny nose was apparently an afterthought — one discovered by users of Kleenex and suggested to the manufacturer. After taking a survey of Kleenex users in 1927, the company began mentioning this alternative use in Kleenex ads.

June 1927: Kleenex used as disposable handkerchief in ad.

According to Mary Bellis, consumers had been writing to the company which made Kleenex Tissues to say they had discovered another use for the Kleenex ‘Kerchief:  they were using them to blow their noses!

“A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex: either as a means to remove cold cream or as a disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond. Results showed that 60 percent used Kleenex tissue for blowing their noses. By 1930, Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled proving that the customer is always right.” — Mary Bellis

This Kleenex ad from Delineator, August 1928, mentions many new uses for the product.

Kleenex for Handkerchiefs ad, November 1930. “Rapidly replacing handkerchiefs among progressive people….”

Kleenex ad, detail, Delineator, November 1930.

Disposable Kleenex handkerchiefs were advertised for use in schools and offices, to stop the spread of germs. Ad, September 1931.

Pond’s cleansing tissues may have been used the same way, but their ads emphasized cosmetic use — with endorsements from prominent society ladies, not doctors and teachers.

Pond’s Cleansing Tissues in an ad from October 1930.

Kleenex ad from November 1931. Delineator.

I’m not sure what happened to Pond’s tissues. Many other manufacturers sell tissues today. I personally prefer the Safeway brand, but when I feel a sneeze coming, I still say, “I need a Kleenex!”

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8 Comments

Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Cosmetics, Beauty Products, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

8 responses to “From Cold Cream to Colds — Ads for Kleenex and Pond’s Tissues

  1. my grandma, mom and I are all dedicated Ponds users, and my grandma was an advocate for tissues when you were sick! she said she learned about it in a Red Cross class during WW II aimed at teaching housewives to keep sanitary, healthy homes. We all have great looking skin, btw, too!

    • When I started being in plays in college, we still used greasepaint, and there was a huge jar of Pond’s cold cream in the dressing room. Congratulations on good skin genes (and regular skin care!)

  2. zuleikaa

    I don’t remember tissues really being available in Australia until the 70s – maybe we weren’t as susceptible to advertising then.

  3. Thanks for the share – now I understand why they are called ‘Kleenex’ – the makers must have been delighted when they heard people blew their noses with them. My father always used cloth handkerchiefs and I know some older ladies used insist you should with not blow your nose with a tissue as it was rougher on the skin than the cloth handkerchief.

    • I can’t imagine that tissues would be worse than a saturated handkerchief crumpled in my pocket was. Wet hanky + cold weather = red, chapped nose. But I also remember tiny hankies that were so ornamented with lace and embroidery that they only served to wipe away the occasional tears of joy…. Those wild printed cotton handkerchiefs that decorated pockets in the twenties and forties were at least usable in a nasal emergency! I hope you don’t need either kind this winter.

  4. I had no idea! I’m an old person, but our family used kleenex from my earliest childhood, for nasal events. Not for removing cream. My mother thought hankies were disgusting, and she was correct if you blew your nose into it! Somewhere I have a book called “manners for millions” published I think in the 1940s, which as you may guess was all about good manners. One of the things it said never to do was pick up a hanky off the floor in a public place “no matter how tempting it may be.” Words to live by.
    bonnie in provence

    • Words to live by, indeed. But tough on all those ladies who used to drop a lacy hanky so some obliging gentleman could pick it up for them…. perhaps they never existed except in fiction. I do remember a Punch cartoon in which a tightly corseted lady is standing next to a tightly uniformed military man; they both stare at a handkerchief lying of the floor, and he explains apologetically that he can’t bend over, either.

      • Well, I forgot all about the dropping hanky thing. Sounds a bit gross. Manners for Millions advice was for ladies, and I just remembered the correct quote used the word “choice” instead of “tempting” which is even better.
        bonnie

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