Inside Clairol

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Since 1956, when we introduced the first at-home hair color kit, our heritage has been rich with innovations, giving generations of women results they love. Our mission is, and always has been, to make every woman feel beautiful, confident and help her live colorfully! See how our passion for hair color lead to some of the most breakthrough beauty innovations over the decades and continues to inspire us today.

Clairol through the Decades

1930's THE BEGINNING

The Beginning

If it wasn’t for Joan Bove, the wife of Lawrence Gelb, Clairol might still be the best-kept secret in Paris. In 1931 during the depression (which hardly seemed like a good time to launch a new business), the couple traveled Europe in search of a beauty innovation. Joan Gelb, a strikingly beautiful brunette with a strong fashion sense, immediately saw the potential for a new hair color product named Clairol. Unlike other hair dyes, which coated the hair, Clairol actually penetrated the hair shaft, producing softer, more natural tones. Moreover, this seemingly magical potion concealed grays!

"Middle-aged was not in the vocabulary of French women; they were at the height of their attractiveness and desirability when they reached 45". To me, they seemed ageless. I wondered why American women of the same age considered themselves past that stage."

And so,Lawrence & Joan Gelb purchased Clairol hair color from the Le Parfume de Mury and imported it from Paris. They rented a loft in New York City, where Lawrence and a small staff hand-filled small bottles of color.

Clairol started a whole new philosophy of hair coloring: The idea that beautiful hair was every woman's birth right, and that hair coloring was as basic to beautiful hair as cosmetics were to a beautiful face. Clairol hair color made it's first US debut!

1950's FACING TABOOS

Facing Taboos

Joan and Lawrence had a revolutionary beauty product on their hands, but there was one large hurdle to overcome. Up until the 1950s, hair color was stigmatized as a product used only by women who were stage performers or street walkers! Hair color was carried out with complete secrecy. Women would slip in through separate salon entrances into private booths. Appointment books were filled with pseudonyms like “Mrs. Smith.”

The solution? Shirley Polykoff, the only female copywriter at Foote, Cone & Belding was hired to change women’s perceptions of hair color.

1956 – Does She or Doesn’t She?

In 1956, Miss Clairol launched as the FIRST at-home hair color kit that could lighten, tint, condition and shampoo hair in one step!

Shirley Polykoff knew the best way to position Miss Clairol was to make sure women felt confident that their color would look so natural that nobody would question if it was her own. She busily started writing and penned the line “Does she...or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Even today, this line is still one of the greatest successes in the history of advertising. (Go, Shirley!).

Does she or doesn't she?

Significantly, through the years most of Clairol's copywriters have been women.

Unusual even in an industry that caters to women! In addition to Shirley Polykoff, such leading advertising figures as Mary Wells, Phyllis Robinson, Nadeen Peterson, Lois Wyse and Lois Geraci Ernst have made outstanding contributions to Clairol advertising.

Another notable campaign of the 1950s:

“Is it true…blondes have more fun?” A phrase we still use today!

1960s FIERCE & FEARLESS

Fierce & Fearless

Lawerence Gelb was never afraid to take a chance. A firmly-held attitude that still characterizes Clairol. Gelb himself was a never-ending source of creative ideas for products like the "hook & cap" method of at-home highlighting. “Frost and Tip” was the first highlighting home hair color kit to hit stores in the 60s.

In the same decade, Clairol launched the first-ever semi-permanent hair color that blended away grays with the tagline “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” Clairol’s opinion still hasn’t changed!

1964 – Clairol Carousel

Miss Clairol made a major investment in a unique carousel-shaped exhibit. Called the Clairol Color Carousel, it was open only to women, the only exhibit at The New York World’s Fair to be so exclusive. It featured one- way mirrors that allowed 

women to "try on" different hair colors, and a large staff of consultants who gave free advice on hair and makeup. The first of its kind!

1965 – It Let’s Me…Be Me!

With the first stirrings of female empowerment, Clairol’s campaign “It lets me…be me!” focused on self-fulfillment and self-expression.

In addition, other campaigns encouraged women to be whoever they wanted to be and feel comfortable in who they already were…

“If I’ve only one life…let me live it as a blonde!”

“The closer he gets, the better you look.”


“If I’ve only one life…let me live it as a blonde!”

For women in the 70s, the most important was choice. With a wide range of careers, from lawyers to laborers and sports superstars to scientists, fashion and hair followed suit. Clairol was the first hair color to be sold in supermarkets giving women more options than ever before.

In 1970, the first hair color hotline, 1-800-CLAIROL, was established to give free advice to women no matter what color she decided on.  

1 800-CLAIROL

1977 – Love and Care

The "back-to-nature" mood of the country manifested itself in a trend toward natural food, herbal teas, and herbal concoctions for the body and the hair. Clairol 

launched the industry’s first no-ammonia, shampoo-in hair color to be gentle and loving on hair.

 In 1979, to further help women with color care, the first conditioner to be included inside hair color boxes was Clairol Nice’n Easy Lasting Touch.

Love and Care

It’s All About the Hair

Clairol developed Shimmer Lights, the first shampoo to effectively brighten grays. In 1985, the first gel tube permanent hair color provided more precise color application.

Natural Ingridents

Natural Ingredients

The first hair color to include plant-derived and other natural ingredients was Clairol Natural Instincts. In 1998, Textures and Tones, specifically formulated for women with relaxed or natural hair, was launched to the market.

2000s INNOVATION

Innovation


Root Touch-Up was the first root touchup product to hit the beauty aisle. Clairol still offer more shades than any other at-home root-matching hair color. In fact, Root Touch-Up matches any brand, guaranteed, or you’ll get 3x your money back.

In 2008, the biggest advancement in hair color in 50 years was introduced, Perfect 10, the first 10-minute hair color. And in 2011, Nice’n Easy ColorBlend Foam offered unbeatable, fade-defying color in a non-drip foam formula for effortless application unlike ever before.

What’s Happening Now

Do you like our new look? We just got it done.

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We’re so excited to bring you our new site filled with products, tips and inspiration created especially for you. We hope you like what you see! While you’re here, visit our Beauty School to learn the best industry secrets straight from the color pros.

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