For your salad and your skin?


It’s difficult to imagine a vegetable oil bottle offering a recipe for homemade cosmetics today. The line between “food” and “cosmetics” is well-defined in contemporary consumer culture, even if many of the ingredients are the same. Early cottonseed oil marketers didn’t want to leave any potential market untapped: this advertisement, circa 1895, encourages homemakers to pour oil on salads, and also mix it with sperm whale oil, and petroleum wax (“white wax”) to make a moisturizing cream. This sort of do-it-yourself advertising was abandoned by the early 1900s, as marketers separated branded food products from branded soaps and cosmetics, even if both were made in the same factory, with the same ingredients.

EDIT: As I considered this post, I realized that there really is a lively history of off-label use in American consumer culture. Think Coke as a rust-remover, or tennis balls in a clothes dryer. When was the last time you used duct tape on an actual duct? The thing that is unusual is corporate advertising that actually encourages alternative uses.

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