Cream Rinse

About a year ago, maybe more, a thought flashed through my head as I stood in the shower, musing over the packaging of my conditioner bottle.  As I stared at the bottle in my hand, pondering the choice of fonts, color, language, a new thought just smacked into me, filling me instantly with a vague sense of sadness, longing, nostalgia… Whatever happened to ‘cream rinse’?

Hmm, as I looked back I couldn’t quite put my finger on when it might have disappeared from use… The mid 70s maybe? The end of the 70s, when the world was just beginning to morph into horizontal stripes and vertical hair? Strange, how did this happen? Whose decision was it to make this big, forward-striding change? Nowadays companies are constantly tweaking their silly labels, adding tag lines that offer just a teensy bit more value in this particular bottle, trying new container shapes and sizes… But back then, things were constant and unchanging. And I found comfort in that. The sound of a tin band-aid box opening, and the crisp, sterile plastic-y smell that rose from it was a calming precursor to the relief the strip itself provided. That familiar carboard box with the round metal lid that Nestle’s Quik came in. I haven’t bought it in years (my kid’s never been a chocolate milk type) but I’m gonna guess that little round lid is made of plastic these days. Oh yeah, and it’s not ‘Quik’ anymore. It’s ‘Nesquik’. Nuff said.

Amused but not much inspired to investigate my thoughts on all this, I had long ago laid the ideas to rest in my mind’s closet for future introspection, when just the other day I was broadsided by another powerful link to my past. (Also in the shower.) This time, however, my memory was triggered by a scent. The scent of my less-than-$2-a-bottle Suave shampoo. I had acquired it on a recent toiletry run to the local Family Dollar with my 83 year old dad. And thanks to the constantly changing mini campaigns of Suaves’ product and development team, this bottle of shampoo was now being offered in a ‘new’ scent; mint and rosemary. The plan worked; whether it was the appealing green of the bottle, the botanical images of the plants themselves or the assurance that the shampoo included 100% natural mint and rosemary, I bought their product. Although it wasn’t quite it – its scent reminded me of something. I paused to consider what it was, then it came to me. Yes. Clairol’s Herbal Essence. In that tall, clear, round-shouldered bottle with the dark green cap and the drawing of a young woman cloaked in a swirling design of her own hair. If I remember correctly, she had a finger outstretched on which sat a butterfly. Or a bird. The scent brought me back to camp. A cabin in the New Hampshire woods for two weeks each and every summer of my girlhood. The feeling of water stuck in your ear after swim class. The squeak of the hinges on the latrine doors. And the smell of freshly showered hair. Yup. Herbal Essence. The drawing of the girl on the label was what every 70s girl aspired to – natural, long, thick and flowing locks to compliment her groovy, natural appeal. And the scent was quite nice. Appropriate for the natural surroundings.

My mind wanders around a corner… Oh! Yes! I remember a bottle of lemon shampoo too… its top was an actual plastic lemon. I remember how accurate it was, dimples and all. (What a lot of plastic, ugh, wonder if it’s part of that floating island of plastic in the pacific right now.) What was it called? – there were bold, sans-serif letters running sideways up its length – LEMON-UP! Yes! Lemon up. Wow. Is there even a lemon-scented shampoo on the shelves these days? Man, so many choices – too  many – yet I can’t recall a lemon shampoo. Maybe I’ve passed over it because it’s more than $2 a bottle. Hmm. Isn’t lemon supposed to be good at stripping away oil and dirt? Maybe too good… hmm. Wonder if I can find a bottle on ebay…

So, cream rinse. I remember it changing at some time into ‘creme rinse’. May even have been an accent over that first e. Sexy upgrade. And I remember some commercial about ‘the clean-rinse creme rinse’. So when did ‘creme rinse’ become ‘conditioner’? Perhaps the harshness of the Aqua Net era left us hungry for a more nourishing way in which to treat our post-shampoo hair. I guess. It makes sense. Geez, my hairdos would sometimes extend a good 6 vertical inches above my head, if not more. I was playing in a bunch of bands at the time for which I needed huge hair and I can remember when I got into my boxy little Toyota Corolla and my hair touched the roof, I knew I was stylin. Lookin good. Done up right. Can you imagine? So. My hair saw a lot of abuse, which might have appeared less harmful if I were to apply something like ‘conditioner’ to it. I didn’t need more ‘stuff’ ie, ‘cream’, but rather a nurturing, restorative aid for my hair. Ok. I’ve made my own case for the transition to conditioner. I’m good. I can move on to other ruminations now. There’s so much to be nostalgic about and there are enough vintage shops to cover all that backward longing.

For now, I’m rinsed clean.

4 thoughts on “Cream Rinse

  1. I also remember this transition not being clear. I always loved “Breck’s Creme Rinse” in the lavender bottle. NOTHING and i do mean NOTHING made my hair feel as soft as that. I also remember in the same thoughts of “PermaSoft,” which highlighted my natural curls. Everyone thought I had a perm after using it. both worked very well for my curly and dry hair.

    My one question that I cannot find on youtube or anywhere else…. What shampoo in the late 70’s “has beer in it, but don’t drink it” as it’s tag line? I remember a long haired blonde saying that, in a white shower. This was back in the Happy Days/Laverne and Shirley days on ABC-TV, when stations signed off the air after 12 midnight.

    Also, does anyone else remember V05 Hair dressing?

    1. Yep! Breck Cream Rinse. Always had the ‘Break Girl’ in their ads with shiny beautiful hair. My hair was long and I straightened it with the part in the middle and nothing got the tangles out like their Cream Rinse. The comb slid right through the wet tangles. Never found anything like it since. It’s probably there but I won’t pay the high price for what they now call “Hair Art” to get the same results. Sadly missed. Remember Pssst? Lol.

  2. Truly enjoyed this trip down memory lane as my daughter asked why I said “cream rinse” and I explained that actually it was a real thing once upon a time. 😃

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