Friday, January 14, 2011

Vaseline: Singing the Praises of an American Icon; A Cure for 'Winter Feet'; Seriously, Brooklyn?

If it's January, it must be 'Winter Feet'. Yes, I am among the afflicted and decided to do something about it. I turned to my medicine cabinet and spied my dusty but trusty jar of an old American icon: Vaseline.

I probably don't need to describe winter feet and there certainly won't be any photos of mine to illustrate here but you know you have it when your feet are so bad you're embarrassed to even get a pedicure! Truly, I have very sad feet.

Vaseline has been curing any number of maladies in my family for as long as I can remember and I wondered how this miracle product came about. You can read all about it on the Vaseline website ( a pretty slick-looking site) but I'll summarize a bit here.

Historic photo from Vaseline archives.
In 1887, a struggling chemist named Robert Augustus Chesebrough went to the oil fields in Titisville, Pennsylvania where he discovered a jelly-like residue collecting on drilling rods used in the process. This residue was actually hindering production but was being used by the oil men to heal sores and chapped hands. Chesborough took the residue back to Brooklyn, New York (yes, that Brooklyn!!) where he developed and purified it to a smooth product that he called petroleum jelly. He made so much of the product that he was using up all of the containers in is lab. He began using his wife's vases to hold the jelly and then adding the word 'line' which was a medical term back then, he named his product Vaseline, though this story is probably more 'folklore' than fact. Another source suggests the name was a combination of a German and Greek name. But the product was invented and the rest is medicine cabinet history!

American ingenuity....there's nothing like it!

But back to my feet. I decided to try coating my feet day and night with Vaseline using socks to seal it in. I'm happy to report that after just two days, my feet are back to normal: calluses have softened considerably and my toenails and cuticles are less brittle and sore. I've used and recommended Vaseline for chapped lips, hands and diaper rash but i decided to look up some other used for this amazing product. There are many but here are just a few from a couple of different sources.

  • Wipe petroleum jelly over your shoe to treat the leather, then remove any excess with a soft cloth.
  • If your ring gets stuck on your finger, try rubbing the finger with Vaseline to get it off.
  • Try putting a little Vaseline petroleum jelly above your baby's eyebrows, and the shampoo suds won't run into the eyes, but to the side.
  • Rub a little petroleum jelly on the light bulb threads and you won't have to worry about it sticking in the socket.
  • If you don't want candle wax sticking to the inside of your candle holders, just rub some Vaseline inside them.
  • Vaseline removes even the most stubborn mascara and soothes the eye area.
  • Mix with sea salt to make your own scrub.
  • Put a very thin layer on the area that needs shaving and shave. Don’t use water and don’t apply too much Vaseline or it will jam your razor.
  • Apply it on cheeks and under eye area for that dewy look.
  • Apply some Vaseline to elbows daily. It will soften them.
  • Apply some lipliner all over your lips and top it off with Vaseline for instant shine.
  • Vaseline on your wrist before spraying perfume will make the scent last longer.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to your lips and wait a few minutes. Then, use an old toothbrush and scrub your lips. This will exfoliate lips.
  • Apply some Vaseline around the hairline before coloring your hair to protect your skin from the harsh chemicals contained in the dye.
  • Put some Vaseline on your split ends, it will seal them in and make it look like they aren’t there. But don’t do this too often as it will take a couple of shampoos to remove Vaseline from your hair.
  • Mix some Vaseline with your lipstick to make your own cream blusher.
  • Vaseline removes makeup stains from clothes.
And there are probably many more than these...if you have any, send hem in to share with my readers.

Chesebrough Manufacturing Company distributed its product throughout the United States and England during the early and mid-20th Century and was productive even during the Depression years.  Chesebrough and Pond's Creams merged in June 1955. In 1987, Chesebrough-Ponds was acquired by Anglo-Dutch company Unilever though the jar says it is manufactured in the United States. 

We hear so much lately about American ingenuity. This is just one story of a man with an idea and the spirit and courage to risk failure in pursuit of success. It gives us much to be thankful for and much to aspire to.

Here's to happy feet!

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