Endorsed by princesses, the Koko hair tonic promised long, wavy locks and a stop to dandruff, greys and hair loss.
Endorsed by princesses, the Koko hair tonic promised long, wavy locks and a stop to dandruff, greys and hair loss.

Flashback: The cure-all hair tonic made with borax

A popular beauty product which was said to be used by every European princess promised to be the cure-all for lacklustre locks.

Sold in chemists and stores, Koko was advertised to cure dandruff, prevent greys and stop hair falling out while making it soft and glossy.

Advertisement for 'Koko for the Hair'. It would probably have been inserted in a popular magazine, in 1909. Picture: Wellcome Library, London.
Advertisement for 'Koko for the Hair'. It would probably have been inserted in a popular magazine, in 1909. Picture: Wellcome Library, London.

All with just one application.

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Use the entire bottle and you could expect your previously boring straight hair to turn into long, luscious wavy locks.

A vintage advertisement for Koko Maricopas Company's hair product, Koko.
A vintage advertisement for Koko Maricopas Company's hair product, Koko.

“You will be surprised to find Koko the cleanest and pleasantest preparation for the hair you ever used,” a 1912 advertisement in the Daily Mercury read.

“Without oil, grease, dye or odor. Makes the hair wave delightfully.”

An advertisement for Koko hair in the Daily Mercury, August 8, 1912. Picture: Archives
An advertisement for Koko hair in the Daily Mercury, August 8, 1912. Picture: Archives

But when the British Medical Association looked into the product in the same year, it found the tonic was little more than water, alcohol, glycerine, borax and formaldehyde solution.

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All of these ingredients are still used in beauty products today like shampoos, creams and toothpastes.

Do you have memories of beauty products that are no longer around? Email heidi.petith@news.com.au


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