The Wildroot Company was founded in Buffalo, New York, in 1911 by a man named Jim Brown. The company’s first product in history was Wildroot Hair Tonic, which was marketed to men as a way to promote healthy hair growth and prevent hair loss.
The original formula contained alcohol as one of its ingredients. The alcohol was likely used as a solvent for other ingredients and as a preservative to help extend the shelf life of the product. Alcohol can also help to dissolve sebum and other oils on the scalp, which can make hair appear less greasy.
Many other early brands of hair tonic also contained alcohol as a key ingredient. This was true of popular hair tonics like Vitalis, Brylcreem, and Murray’s, which were all introduced in the first half of the 20th century. In addition to alcohol, these hair tonics often contained a variety of other ingredients, such as mineral oil, lanolin, and various herbal extracts, which were intended to help condition and style hair.
Shift of Emphasis to Grooming
In more recent years, many hair tonic formulas have shifted away from using alcohol, due in part to concerns over its drying and potentially damaging effects on hair. Instead, manufacturers have turned to other ingredients such as aloe vera, glycerin, and various plant-based oils to help condition and style hair without relying on alcohol.
Wildroot over the Years
The ownership of the Wildroot brand has changed hands several times over the years. Here is a brief timeline of the major ownership changes:
1911: The Wildroot Company is founded in Buffalo, New York by a man named Jim Brown. The company introduces its first product, Wildroot Hair Tonic.
1934: The Wildroot Company is acquired by the Bristol-Myers Company, a pharmaceutical company that was expanding into the consumer goods market. Under Bristol-Myers, the Wildroot brand continued to grow, and in 1957, the company introduced a new product: Wildroot Cream-Oil. This product combined the benefits of a hair cream and a hair oil in one, providing hold and control while also nourishing and conditioning hair.
The company launched an advertising campaign featuring a character named “Wildroot Charlie,” a dapper, well-dressed man with slicked-back hair. The campaign included print ads, radio commercials, and later, television commercials, and featured a catchy jingle that became famous.
1959: Bristol-Myers sells the Wildroot brand to the American Home Products Corporation.
1979: The J.B. Williams Company acquires the Wildroot brand from American Home Products.
1983: The J.B. Williams Company is acquired by the Combe Incorporated.
1994: Combe sells the Wildroot brand to the Vi-Jon Laboratories, a private label and contract manufacturing company.
2020: Vi-Jon Laboratories sells the Wildroot brand to the Fine Fragrance and Personal Care division of Revlon.
By the 1930s, Wildroot listed the following ingredients on the bottle: liquid petrolatum, refined lanolin, oxycholesterol, and cholesterol. There is no longer any alcohol mentioned. What is also not mentioned – or even known at the time – was the surviving product’s potential relationship with dandruff. Until fairly recently, dandruff was blames on the flaking of dry scalp. The above ingredients were supposed to moisturize and help guard against dandruff. However, there were other factors that could cause dandruff:
Fungal overgrowth: Malassezia is a type of yeast that is normally present on the scalp. When it grows out of control, it can cause an inflammatory response that leads to dandruff.
Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a type of skin condition that causes the scalp to become red, itchy, and scaly. Seborrheic dermatitis can be a contributing factor to dandruff.
Skin sensitivity: Some people may have a sensitivity to certain hair care products, such as shampoos or hair dyes. This can cause the scalp to become irritated and lead to dandruff.
Poor hygiene: Infrequent shampooing or inadequate rinsing of the scalp can lead to the buildup of oil and skin cells, which can contribute to dandruff.
Many men using hair oils did not shampoo often for fear of removing its benefits. Unfortunately, this falls into the “poor hygiene” category. Excessive use of hair oils can lead to the buildup of oil and dead skin cells on the scalp, which can exacerbate dandruff symptoms. Additionally, it can leave a greasy residue on the scalp that can trap dead skin cells and lead to more dandruff. The residue can contribute to the “fungal overgrowth” part.
Suffice it to say that in recent times, men tend to shampoo daily and use hair treatments that leave less of an oily residue behind. This writer, who once experienced dandruff regularly in his hair oil days of the past, has never had a flake since the 1970s. Neither have I seen as many snow-covered shoulders as I once did. Is this due to less use of hair oil?
- Year Started: 1911
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Healthy roots / Bushy hair
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Wildroot Company
- Owner While In Use: Many
- Owner Successor: Revlon
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Wildroot Cream-Oil
- Naics Code: 423850
- Location Headquarters: Buffalo, New York, USA