More than 100 years ago Listerine was developed as an antiseptic. At first, surgeons used it in the operating room, but before long it became a household brand. The Lambert Pharmaceutical Company marketed Listerine aggressively to treat dandruff as well as bad breath.
One 1927 ad shows fingers pointing at the shoulders of a man wearing a dark suit. The copy reads, “Guilty! End dandruff. It offends all, this disgusting and common condition. Consequently, it affects your chances in love, society and business.”
Another ad of the same era reads, “Unwelcome! Dandruff is avoidable. What do all your graces and charms amount to if you have dandruff? Not much. Today, dandruff is an unpardonable social offense.You simply douse Listerine, the safe antiseptic, on your scalp full strength and massage thoroughly.”
These amusing ads have disappeared, in part because such a hard sell is no more socially acceptable than dandruff itself. In addition, the makers of Listerine no longer promote their product against dandruff.
This has not deterred readers of our column from touting the benefits of Listerine against dandruff. One reader confessed: “Back in the mid 1900s when Listerine used to be advertised to combat bad breath, it was also recommended to cure dandruff. I began massaging it into my scalp for 30 seconds every morning, and I still do. I have never had dandruff since then.”
Another reader reminisced: “I remember that years ago, the Listerine bottle included instructions for use in treating dandruff. I’ve used straight Listerine many times with 100 percent success within two to three days.”
We have also heard from animal lovers. One man said the vet had recommended a mixture of Listerine and mineral oil for hot spots in his dog’s fur. And a horsewoman in Washington said: “A newly purchased filly had rubbed her mane and tail off. My farrier recommended the Listerine treatment-1/3 Listerine (original), 1/3 baby oil and 1/3 water. Put in a spray bottle, shake well and spray it on. Within a few months, her mane and tail were growing out nicely.”
Other readers have exercised their ingenuity. Some have used Listerine as a lice preventive: “We were in the Army and moved a lot, but my kids never got lice. Teachers asked me why, since all the other children did. I put Listerine on their hair and scalp a week before school started. Be careful to keep it out of eyes.”
Others maintain that Listerine, with its combination of essential oils, works to discourage toenail fungus: “I applied Listerine to my toenail fungus twice a day. It was very bad, and now, after four months, it is 98 percent gone.”
Perhaps the most unusual use of Listerine is to calm the pain that follows shingles: “My aunt has had shingles and constant pain for ten years. Nothing her dermatologist or the pain management specialist prescribed has worked, but the first night she tried Listerine on her skin, she was pain-free for the first time in years. She is still pain-free after 6 days.”
Listerine has not been approved by the FDA for any of these novel uses. Nevertheless, many readers still value it as an inexpensive old-fashioned remedy.